September 30, 2005

Judith Miller Goes Free

Which might not be as bad as it sounds. Via Eschaton:
WASHINGTON - Judith Miller, The New York Times reporter who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to identify a source, has been released, The Inquirer has learned.

Miller left an Alexandria, Va. jail late this afternoon, a jail official said.

She was released after she had a telephone conversation with the Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, sources said. In that conversation, Libby reaffirmed that he had released Miller from a promise of confidentiality more than a year ago, sources said.
Sound like Miller has finally agreed to testify. You have to wonder why a release from Libby now is enough to persuade her to give up the tragic heroine of democracy routine, when a previous blanket release from Libby was not. Could it have something to do with Miller freaking out in a cold cell? Did Fitzgeral convince her he was serious about putting her away for a whole lot longer? Or, in the wake of Katrina, Delay, Iraq, etc., is Miller too finally waking up to the smell of putrid Bush Co. offal?

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, saying Miller wanted to hear the release from Libby himself. Has it taken her this long to get a call from him?
Libby reaffirmed that he had released Miller from a promise of confidentiality more than a year ago, Tate said.

"She wanted to hear it directly from Mr. Libby," Tate said. "And he assured her that it was voluntary."
The real question here, as in the Katrina fiasco, is this: WHERE WAS THE LEADERSHIP????

Obviously, having a cheerleader for President can only get you so far....

UPDATE 2: Editor & Publisher has statements by Sulzberger (NYT publisher), Keller (NYT editor), and Miller herself on her release. Miller will testify to the grand jury tomroow, but her testimony will be "severely limited".

Sulzberger says:
We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify...
(italics mine) which suggests they were unable to obtain the waiver in writing previously.

Miller confirms that Libby's OK was the problem:
I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations relating to the Wilson-Plame matter. My attorneys have also reached agreement with the Office of Special Counsel regarding the nature and scope of my testimony, which satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources.
Bill Keller goes a little further:
At the outset, she had only a generic waiver of this obligation, and she believed she had ample reason to doubt it had been freely given. In recent days, several important things have changed that convinced Judy that she was released from her obligation.
So what were these "important things"? Is this change of heart from Libby related to internecine GOP wars in the wake of Katrina and Delay, or has Rove worked out how to put the fix into the Fitzgerald inquiry?

The NYT reports that Libby gave another release ten days ago but Miller would not accept it because she suspected it had not been freely given - what's that all about?

And what about this:
Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said that Fitzgerald had assured Miller's lawyer that "he intended to limit his grand jury interrogation so that it would not implicate other sources of hers."
Truth be told, Miller is the lady whose terrifying front page NYT stories hyped the whole Iraq WMD story's credibility to the point where it was widely accepted (I mean, the NYT is a left-wing publication, isn't it?). This whole Plame-Wilson scandal is really just a subtext of that one massive lie. If Fitzgerald is releasing Miller from further testimony for the purpose of his own inquiry, that is one thing. But eventually, Miller must still be forced to testify about the WMD lies as well.

Indictments are expected as early as next week. Things just got a whole lot worse for Bush & Co...

UPDATE 3: As you might expect, Arianna is all over this story. Just wait till Josh Marshall wakes up...
Feingold For Prez in 08?

Senator Russ Feingold has become the first senior Democrat to join the anti-war movement, calling for a pullout of US troops from Iraq by the end of 2006.
I cannot support an Iraq policy that makes our enemies stronger and our own country weaker, and that is why I will not support staying the course the President has set. If Iraq were truly the solution to our national security challenges, this gamble with the future of the military and with our own economy might make sense. If Iraq, rather than such strategically more significant countries as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, were really at the heart of the global fight against violent Islamist terrorism, this might make some sense. If it were true that fighting insurgents in Baghdad meant that we would not have to fight them elsewhere, all of the costs of this policy might make some sense. But these things are not true. Iraq is not the silver bullet in the fight against global terrorist networks. As I have argued in some detail, it is quite possible that the Administration’s policies in Iraq are actually strengthening the terrorists by helping them to recruit new fighters from around the world, giving those jihadists on-the-ground training in terrorism, and building new, transnational networks among our enemies. Meanwhile the costs of staying this course indefinitely, the consequences of weakening America’s military and America’s economy, loom more ominously before us with each passing week. There is no leadership in simply hoping for the best. We must insist on an Iraq policy that makes sense.
Feingold is the only likely Democrat contender for President in 2008 who did not vote to let Bush invade Iraq. He is also one of only 22 Senators who opposed new Supreme Court judge Roberts.
Pimping The Bush Propaganda

Aljazeera quietly ridicules the new US propaganda-whore-in-chief:
US goodwill envoy Karen Hughes was in the midst of explaining her "four E" strategy to an audience in Jidda when reality dawned.

"They probably don't translate very well into Arabic," she said with a laugh...

Hughes is a close confidante and image-shaper of President George Bush with no previous experience in foreign diplomacy other than accompanying him abroad during trips in the first years of his presidency...

Asked if her job were meaningless because she did not appear to have changed many minds, Hughes shot back: "Should I just throw up my hands and say I give up?"
Hold my hand, Daddy. I'm scared!

All for one and one for all? GOP leaders say DeLay remains a 'powerful' adviser. But yesterday Bush insiders were already saying that Dubya never much cared for Delay anyway... Daddy, are you there?
This Is War, I Tell You! War!

GOP fruitcakes at Blogs for Bush threaten Democrats with Civil War over the Delay indictment. Hunter at Kos takes it personally.
Business As Usual

And just for the record, the USA is NOT planning to establish a permanent military base in Paraguay. And it certainly won't be at Mariscal Estigarribia in the Chaco region, close to the border with Bolivia. So what if Paraguayan Vice-President Luis Castigliani did meet with Dick Cheney in July? Who cares if US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Paraguay in August? And so what if there are plans to open an FBI office in the US embassy in Asuncion next year? Do you really think the fact that neigbouring governments are becoming increasingly left-wing (and anti-US, and successful to boot) could have anything to with it? Come on! It's nothing... Trust us.
US Judge: You Can Judge For Yourself
"Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command. Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed."
The words come from a federal judge, ordering the release of Abu Ghraib photos today.
What is shown on the 87 photographs and four videos from Abu Ghraib prison that the Pentagon has blocked from release? One clue: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images, "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe." They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he added.

A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of "rape and murder." Rumsfeld then commented, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

The photos were among thousands turned over by the key "whistleblower" in the scandal, Specialist Joseph M. Darby. Just a few that were released to the press sparked the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal last year, and the video images are said to be even more shocking.
Able (And Willing) To Intrude On Your Privacy

It seems quite possible that the Able Danger project could have picked up Mohammed Atta and other terrorists simply because it had such a mind-numbingly huge database, containing just about every scrap of information related to anybody who ever live, anywhere.
LIWA's al Qaeda project collected 2.5 terabytes of "open source" information, Shaffer says, a ridiculously immense amount of data equivalent to 500 million pages of text or a pile of paper 30,000 miles high if it were all printed out -- court records, news databases, credit card and telephone records. "Anything we could get our hands on," says Shaffer.
Little wonder only 3 of some 80 employees can recall Mohammed Atta's name turning up!

As the WaPo article says, the real scandal here is not that they missed Atta and failed to stop 9/11, but that such an illegal project even existed within the US government heirarchy.
More Media Bushsh*t

"If I had a nickel for every No. 2 and No. 3 they've arrested or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'd be a millionaire."

- veteran counterterrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann.

Bush hyped the capture of yet another Al Quaeda Number Two in Iraq this week:
Iraqi and coalition forces tracked down and killed Abu Azzam, the second most wanted al Qaeda leader in Iraq.
Oh really? Scott Shields did a little DIY investigation:
On my own, referring to nothing more than the CENTCOM press release
announcing the warrant for Abu Azzam's arrest, I checked out the rewards being offered for certain figures linked to Zarqawi. It would make sense that the more important someone is, the higher the reward for his capture would be.

Out of 29 wanted terrorists listed in the warrant, no one has a smaller reward offered for his capture than Abu Azzam. In fairness, he's tied for last place with ten others. However, the $50,000 offered for Abu Azzam pales in comparison to the $25 million, $10 million, $1 million, and $200,000 offered for others. If he was "the second most wanted al Qaeda leader in Iraq," as Bush referred to him, why such a small reward?

With Bush's poll numbers in the toilet and Tom DeLay about to be indicted, it wasn't at all surprising that this claim was made this morning. When Bush needs good news and there isn't any to be had, they just make it up.
Bush cited this capture as proof that the coalition tactics of never-ending offensive actions are working in Iraq. But surely the fact that all these other leaders remain on the loose - and let's not forget Bin Laden - is damning proof that the US tactics are still failing.

Bush's speech also included this little gem:
They can't stand elections. The thought of people voting is an anathema to them. You see, democracy and freedom are the exact opposite of what's in their mind, in their vision.
Got it? It's not the foreign occupation, it's not the insensate killing of innocent civilians, it's not the long-term military bases, it's not the returned-from-exile-puppet stooges looting the oil wealth... These bad, bad people just hate freedom. They hate elections. And rumour has it they might be susceptible to kryptonite as well.

September 29, 2005

Who Are The Real Terrorists In Iraq?
"There is a huge campaign for the agents of the foreign occupiers to enter and plant hatred between the sons of the Iraqi people and spread rumours in order to scare the one from the other... The occupiers are trying to start religious incitement and if it does not happen, then they will start an internal Shi'ite incitement."

- Fatah al-Sheikh, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly.
John Pilger takes a closer look at the mysterious events in Basra this week. He says both the Times and the Mail initially reported that the two captured Brits were carrying explosives, although this was later omitted from news reports. If it is true - as it increasingly seems - that coalition forces are planting bombs and killing civilians for propaganda purposes in Iraq, that is surely the most vile and reprehensible terrorism on the planet.
How Much Does It Cost To Cleanse Your Conscience?

Rupert Murdoch's take-home pay this year was $US4.5 million ($5.93 million) plus an extra $US18.9 million in bonuses.
Israel pulls out of Gaza, then bombs it.
Expect More Death

Bush tells US TV viewers.
Something Real To Be Afraid Of

If you are under 40, the Arctic ice cap is now due (at current, accelerating rates of shrinkage) to melt completely within your lifetime. This year saw the fourth massive loss of ice in a row, a loss equal in size to the state of Alaska. From ABC News Online:
Dr Mark Serreze from the NSIDC says he is alarmed that sea ice levels are not fluctuating like they used to.

"I'm flabbergasted, to be honest," he said.

"What we all typically see in the Arctic is we'll have a low sea-ice year, but we'll recover for next year - just natural variability.

"But we're not. Every year has less and less sea-ice."

His NSIDC colleague, Julianne Stroeve, says their satellite observations have been showing that Arctic sea ice is rapidly declining.

"This year in 2005 we reached our all-time minimum since we began the satellite observations in the late 1970s," she said...

"In the past, the temperatures would be cold enough to freeze the ice and the ice would grow again. This last winter, that didn't happen. We had record lows every month since last September, except during May."
Worse yet, Ms Stroeve says "it might not be possible for it to recover any more."

Now ask yourself, what is your government doing with your money? What is your country doing to reduce pollutions that are warming the atmosphere? And finally, what are you doing?
Qui Custodiat Custos?

An 82-year-old pensioner (and lifelong UK Labour party member) was ejected from the Labour Party conference by the scruff of his neck after protesting against Jack Straw's version of the Iraq War.
When Mr Wolfgang tried to re-enter the Brighton conference venue he found himself stopped by the police under the Prevention of Terrorism Act...
Just Who Does Care About Black People in Bush's USA?

Former Reagan administration Secretary of Education and pro-Bush talkshow radio host Bill Bennett suggests that in order to reduce crime you could
abort every black baby in this country.
"Is This A Problem Yet?"

How about a Medal Of Honour for Josh Marshall when all this nasty Bush Co. business blows over? After all his fine work yesterday, Marshall today is all over the Abramoff/DeLay story (so see for yourself).

Main points:

- House GOP Majority Leader Tom De Lay has been indicted.

- Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) was picked as his replacement. But then Dreier was pushed aside by Majority Whip Roy Blunt, which suggests De Lay is dead in the water (Dreier would basically have been a place-holder till De Lay got back: Blunt will own the job for keeps).

- Seven other Texas congressmen are still sitting in Congress because of what the Travis County grand jury calls a criminal conspiracy.

Not to mention:

- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is the target of an increasingly serious probe of potential insider trading.

- Rumors of October Rove indictment in the Plame case.

- White House procurement officer David Safavian was arrested last week on charges of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government.

- Abramoff, once one of Washington's top lobbyists, is being investigated for his lobbying activities on behalf of Indian tribes and his role in paying for overseas trips for DeLay.

And all this in the wake of the Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown scandal. As Marshall asks, "Is this a problem yet?"

UPDATE: De Lay plays the partisan politics escape card, saying prosecutor Ronnie Earle is a Democrat pursuing an anti-GOP agenda. Even Roy Blunt is still backing him: "Unfortunately, Tom DeLay's effectiveness as Majority Leader is the best explanation for what happened in Texas today." But Earle has previously prosecuted three times more Democrats than Republicans, including some of the biggest Democratic names in Texas. To quote Terry M. Neal in the WaPo today:
It is entirely possible both that your enemies are out to get you and that you did exactly what you are being accused of doing. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

Ask Bill Clinton.
Ritter: CIA Bungled 1996 Saddam Coup

Former UN WMD inspector Scott Ritter reveals the 1996 Iraq coup that wasn't:
The CIA coup plan went like this: if Unscom inspections could somehow be used to trigger a crisis, that would create a pretext for a US military attack against the Special Republican Guard, then Saddam's personal security force could be decapitated. This would clear the way for the plotters, led by Mohammad Abdullah al-Shawani, a former commander of Iraqi Special Forces who had defected to Amman in Jordan and been recruited by the CIA, to make their move.

But I had no idea of the CIA's ulterior motives for offering assistance when, on February 4 1996, I greeted the British eavesdropping team as they arrived at Washington's Dulles Airport to receive training and equipment from the CIA...

The White House was under political pressure to be seen to be doing something about Iraq. When the CIA said they had a plan - the "Silver Bullet" coup - to get rid of Saddam Hussein, the White House approved it. Of course, there was a political dimension: the upcoming presidential elections in November 1996...

The only problem was that this coup, supposedly planned in great secrecy, was well known to the Iraqi government. Many of the defectors being used by the CIA were actually Mukhabarat double agents. Then, through a series of tragic mistakes, the Mukhabarat took control of one of the CIA's secure satellite communications units used by the INA to communicate with the plotters in Baghdad. So the Mukhabarat learned every detail of the plan - including the fact that the CIA was linking the timing of the coup with the Unscom inspection in early June.
There's much more info here.
WP Police Abuse Sheehan, Others

John Conyers reveals that Cindy Sheehan and hundreds of other anti-war demonstrators were badly treated by Washington Police. He has some hard questions for Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford:
Yesterday 384 protestors, including peace activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested outside the White House and were brought to United States Park Police Anacostia Station. I was very surprised to learn that many of those arrested were kept handcuffed in vans and buses for up to 12 hours before they were charged and released. Some of those were released at 4:30 in the morning after being arrested at 4:00 the previous afternoon. Many of those held captive the longest were grandmothers and senior citizens. Those released after midnight were unfamiliar with Washington, DC and had no means to travel back to their hotels once the metro had closed. Anacostia is not frequented by taxicabs after midnight.

1. Why was the Anacostia Station chosen as the sole location to process all 384 arrestees when there were several other Park Police stations in the greater Washington, DC area?

2. In what other circumstances have arrestees been detained by U.S. Park Police for periods exceeding twelve hours before being charged with a crime?

3. In what other circumstances have arrestees been detained by U.S. Park Police, and kept handcuffed on buses for periods exceeding ten hours?

4. What is the established U.S. Park Police procedure for processing large numbers of arrestees in the Washington, DC area?
Via Informed Comment.
George W. Bush: Dead Man Walking?

David Michael Green, a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York, gets excited at Common Dreams:
The Bush Administration has nowhere to go but down, and that is precisely where it is headed... With almost his entire second term still in front of him, Bush is poised to set new records for presidential unpopularity. That scraping noise you hear? It's the sound of sheepish voters creeping out to the garage late at night, furtively removing "Bush-Cheney 2004" bumperstickers from the back of their SUVs when no one is looking...

Bush has now lost everything that once sustained him. That includes 9/11, now safely in the rearview mirror for most Americans. That includes his wartime rally-around-the-flag free pass, as he has failed to capture America's real enemy, while lying about bogus ones to justify an invasion pinning our defense forces down in an endless quagmire. That includes, post-Katrina, the ridiculous frame of Bush as competent leader, and the former reality of the press as frightened presidential waterboys.

And that's the good news for W. The bad news is all the chickens coming home to roost...

In short, George W. Bush is toast, as is the whole regressive conservative movement of which he is but the most egregious exemplar. Not even another 9/11 would be likely to help him, as the security president who fails to provide security is the nothing (but simply failed) president.
Story via The Smirking Chimp. Don't count your own chickens yet, Dave...
GOP In Da Hood

NBA star Etan Thomas spoke at last weekend's anti-war rally. Here's what he had to say:
I'd like to take some of these cats on a field trip. I want to get big yellow buses with no air conditioner and no seatbelts and round up Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Trent Lott, Sean Hannity, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Bush Jr. and Bush Sr., John Ashcroft, Giuliani, Ed Gillespie, Katherine Harris, that little bow-tied Tucker Carlson and any other right-wing conservative Republicans I can think of, and take them all on a trip to the hood.

Not to do no 30-minute documentary. I mean, I want to drop them off and leave them there, let them become one with the other side of the tracks, get them four mouths to feed and no welfare, have scare tactics run through them like a laxative, criticizing them for needing assistance...
Story at AlterNet.
Cox's Boxes

Can we just agree that electronic voting is an inherently bad idea?
The documentary record shows that elections were run on software that was not only untested but also uncertified, that key components broke down during live elections, that county officials were left clueless on how to operate the new machines because of a breakdown in the training schedule, and that the cost of installing the electronic touch-screen system jumped dramatically beyond the advertised $54 million, without proper legislative oversight or approval. None of this has previously been made public.
And that's from a Democrat - Cathy Cox, the Secretary of State of Georgia!
Bush's USA: From Torture To Pornographic Snuff Pics

The US Army takes no action on Iraq snuff pics:
Some of the photos show dismembered corpses, described in accompanying Web postings as Iraqis killed in U.S. attacks. Some show what appear to be internal human organs; others show what look like charred human remains.

The Web site is owned by 27-year-old Chris Wilson, who oversees it from his apartment in Lakeland, Fla. He started it about 18 months ago as a place where men could post nude photos of their wives and girlfriends.

For the last seven or eight months, the site also has become a venue for soldiers serving in the war zones to post photos depicting their daily lives, including the grisly images of dead people identified as Iraqi and Afghani insurgents.

September 28, 2005

Dylan on Dylan

Via AlterNet:
"You don't sing protest songs anymore," a reporter asks.

"All my songs are protest songs," Dylan replies evenly. "All I do is protest."
Hurricane Katrina: Demand an Independent Inquiry

The latest piece from Arianna Huffington shows just how far the USA has declined:
The first of nine investigations into the failures that led to Pearl Harbor convened 11 days after that attack. And LBJ created the Warren Commission seven days after President Kennedy was assassinated.

But a full, public, and unbiased accounting is the last thing the White House and its Congressional allies want...

It took 14 months -- and a candlelight vigil outside the White House by the 9/11 families -- before Bush finally relented and the 9/11 Commission was created. Is that kind of public shaming what it’s going to take to get to the truth about Katrina? If so, let’s not wait 14 months to have the families of Katrina’s victims gather outside the White House demanding answers.

There is too much at stake to let Bush and the GOP Congress play politics with our lives.
Giant Squid

Nothing whatsoever to do with Bush.
You Decide

Lt. Col. Julian Alford, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment stationed outside the western Iraqi town of al Qaim, is either an idiot who just blew his military career, or he is part of the campaign for a neo-con invasion of Syria.
Bush Hits The Bottle Again

Here's the National Enquirer piece about Bush being back on the juice:
Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Bush, who said he quit drinking the morning after his 40th birthday, has started boozing amid the Katrina catastrophe.

Family sources have told how the 59-year-old president was caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze at their family ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he learned of the hurricane disaster.

His worried wife yelled at him: "Stop, George."

Following the shocking incident, disclosed here for the first time, Laura privately warned her husband against "falling off the wagon" and vowed to travel with him more often so that she can keep an eye on Dubya, the sources add.

"When the levees broke in New Orleans, it apparently made him reach for a shot," said one insider. "He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: "Stop George!"

"Laura gave him an ultimatum before, 'It's Jim Beam or me.' She doesn't want to replay that nightmare — especially now when it's such tough going for her husband."

Bush is under the worst pressure of his two terms in office and his popularity is near an all-time low. The handling of the Katrina crisis and troop losses in Iraq have fueled public discontent and pushed Bush back to drink.

A Washington source said: "The sad fact is that he has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him — but the word is his drinking has been going on for a while in the capital. He's been in a pressure cooker for months.

"The war in Iraq, the loss of American lives, has deeply affected him. He takes every soldier's life personally. It has left him emotionally drained.

The result is he's taking drinks here and there, likely in private, to cope. "And now with the worst domestic crisis in his administration over Katrina, you pray his drinking doesn't go out of control."

Another source said: "I'm only surprised to hear that he hadn't taken a shot sooner. Before Katrina, he was at his wit's end. I've known him for years. He's been a good ol' Texas boy forever. George had a drinking problem for years that most professionals would say needed therapy. He doesn't believe in it [therapy], he never got it. He drank his way through his youth, through college and well into his thirties. Everyone's drinking around him."

Another source said: "A family member told me they fear George is 'falling apart.' The First Lady has been assigned the job of gatekeeper." Bush's history of drinking dates back to his youth. Speaking of his time as a young man in the National Guard, he has said: "One thing I remember, and I'm most proud of, is my drinking and partying. Those were the days my friends. Those were the good old days!"

Age 26 in 1972, he reportedly rounded off a night's boozing with his 16-year-old brother Marvin by challenging his father to a fight.

On November 1, 2000, on the eve of his first presidential election, Bush acknowledged that in 1976 he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol near his parents' home in Maine. Age 30 at the time, Bush pleaded guilty and paid a $150 fine. His driving privileges were temporarily suspended in Maine.

"I'm not proud of that," he said. "I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much, and I did that night. I learned my lesson." In another interview around that time, he said: "Well, I don't think I had an addiction. You know it's hard for me to say. I've had friends who were, you know, very addicted... and they required hitting bottom (to start) going to AA. I don't think that was my case."

During his 2000 presidential campaign, there were also persistent questions about past cocaine use. Eventually Bush denied using cocaine after 1992, then quickly extended the cocaine-free period back to 1974, when he was 28.

Dr. Justin Frank, a Washington D.C. psychiatrist and author of Bush On The Couch: Inside The Mind Of The President, told The National Enquirer: "I do think that Bush is drinking again. Alcoholics who are not in any program, like the President, have a hard time when stress gets to be great.

"I think it's a concern that Bush disappears during times of stress. He spends so much time on his ranch. It's very frightening."
Old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times".
Mum Meets Warmonger

Cindy Sheehan meets John McCain, all to no avail. Cindy said:
"I don't believe he believes what he was telling me."
McCain said he only met with Sheehan because he (mistakenly) believed that some of his constituents were in her anti-war group.
God On Your Side? He Could Be A Liability..

Today's top Technorati-linked story is from the UK Times Online:
RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution...
Blowin' In The Wind

The NYT may have stuck her behind a nasty subscription wall, but it's still not that hard to get your dose of Maureen Dowd.
After his Pentagon remarks, W. looked at his vice president for approval and received a proud, avuncular smile that said, "You're the Man."

But before he chases any more wind tunnels, Stormy should heed the Bob Dylan line: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
The Cowtown Blogger also provides Paul Krugman's latest piece (which is really just about begging to be posted all over the blogosphere):
For the politically curious seeking entertainment, I'd like to propose two new trivia games: "Find the Brownie" and "Two Degrees of Jack Abramoff."

The objective in Find the Brownie is to find an obscure but important government job held by someone whose only apparent qualifications for that job are political loyalty and personal connections. ..

Two Degrees of Jack Abramoff is inspired by the remarkable centrality of Mr. Abramoff, who was indicted last month on charges of fraud, in Washington's power structure.

The goal isn't to find important political players who were chummy with Mr. Abramoff - that's too easy. Instead, you have to find people linked by employment. One degree of Jack Abramoff is someone who actually worked for the lobbyist. Two degrees is a powerful Washington figure who hired someone who formerly worked for Mr. Abramoff, or who had one of his own former employees go to work for Mr. Abramoff.

Grover Norquist, the powerful antitax lobbyist, is a one-degree man. Mr. Norquist was Mr. Abramoff's campaign manager when he ran for chairman of the College Republican National Committee, then became his executive director. And don't dismiss this as kid stuff: as Franklin Foer explains in The New Republic, the college Republican organization pays serious salaries and has been a steppingstone for the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

Mr. Rove, by the way, is a two-degree man. He hired Susan Ralston, Mr. Abramoff's personal assistant, as his own personal assistant. For those unfamiliar with what that means, Ms. Ralston became Mr. Rove's gatekeeper - the person who determined who got to see the great man.

Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, is also a two-degree man. Tony Rudy, who worked for Mr. DeLay in several capacities, left to work for Mr. Abramoff.

The point of my games - which are actually research programs for enterprising journalists - is that all the scandals now surfacing are linked. Something is rotten in the state of the U.S. government. And the lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that a culture of cronyism and corruption can have lethal consequences.
Glass of Vodka, Comrade?

Via TPMCafe: the Financial Times has called Karen Hughes "the new US minister for propaganda".

A close look at the low-life scum Bush & Co. get to go along to those anti-
Sheehan rallies.
Verminous, Breeding Scum

On a day when former FEMA head Mike Brown blames local leaders for his much-publicized failures, TIME has a lengthy look at up to 3,000 other corrupt, incompetent and inefficient Bush appointees.

I don't normally get too bogged down with lower-level US politics, but sometimes the scandalous corruption of these yes-men is just too outrageous to ignore. Josh Marhsall has been all over the Jack Abramoff case - now he has a new email linking Abramoff with former AG John Ashcroft (and hence to Karl Rove too). Marshall also links the arrest of two gangland killers to a former Abramoff business associate.

And meanwhile:
More than 80 per cent of the $US1.5 billion ($1.98 billion) in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were awarded without bidding or with only limited competition, including enormous deals with Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - the former employer of the Vice-President, Dick Cheney - and the Shaw Group. The lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, former campaign manager of the President, George Bush, and a former head of the agency, has represented both companies.

The inspector-general for the Department of Homeland Security, Richard Skinner, told The New York Times that 60 members of his staff were examining Hurricane Katrina contracts.
And would you believe Laura Bush is travelling to Biloxi, Mississippi, to film a spot on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I kid you not. Mike Moore thinks the idea of a Bush family member doing a reality show is pretty ironic.

UPDATE 1: ABC News calls Brown out on his lies - when was the last time you saw a media outlet doing that?
"I could not find out who was making decisions about what needed to be done," Brown testified.

UPDATE 2: The fact that Brown is still working for FEMA and making public pronouncements could have something to do with the rumour that Bush has started drinking again (did he ever stop? what about the cocaine?). Jane Hamsher lists a bunch of bloggers then says:
But one of the above-mentioned folks called me this afternoon to say that according to sources within the Enquirer itself, the source for Bush's drinking story is -- an incredibly pissed-off, recently scapegoated head of a federal agency who thinks that BushCo. done him wrong.
Did Brownie threaten to go public with insider info?

UPDATE 3: The Post has detailed coverage of the Abramoff killers story:
Police have long said they knew who killed Boulis but needed more evidence to bring a case. Late last week, police persuaded the Broward County State Attorney's Office that they had enough evidence to get a grand jury indictment. The indictment of the three men was handed up Thursday and remains under seal...
Bang, bang, George...
A Tortuous Silence

Ray McGovern:
Where do American religious leaders stand on torture? Their deafening silence evokes memories of the unconscionable behavior of German church leaders in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Despite the hate whipped up by administration propagandists against those it brands "terrorists," most Americans agree that torture should not be permitted. Few seem aware, though, that although President George W. Bush says he is against torture, he has openly declared that our military and other interrogators may engage in torture "consistent with military necessity."

For far too long, we have been acting like "obedient Germans." Shall we continue to avert our eyes – even as our mainstream media begin to expose the "routine" torture conducted by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo?...

The various rationalizations for torture do not bear close scrutiny. Intelligence specialists concede that the information acquired by torture cannot be considered reliable. Our own troops are brutalized when they follow orders to brutalize. And they are exposed to much greater risk when captured. Our country becomes a pariah among nations. Above all, torture is simply wrong. It falls into the same category of evil as slavery and rape. Torture is inhuman and immoral, whether or not our bishops and rabbis can summon the courage to name it so.
The article includes some important links:

- Sept. 24 New York
Times report
on the kinds of "routine" torture that U.S. servicemen and
women have been ordered to carry out.

- This week's Time article on the use of torture by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo.

- Latest Human Rights Watch report.

September 27, 2005

Following the US Lead on Corrupt Government?

At the risk of going off-topic, this is pretty relevant to any Australian readers. Crikey analyzes Peter Costello's lying budgets over the past decade:
On average since 1999-00 (when accrual accounting was introduced), his full year-ahead projections of the underlying cash balance have been out by more than 200%; the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook projections (typically made about 7 months before the end of the financial year) have been out by almost 200%; and the projections made in the budget for the following financial year (ie, about seven weeks before the end of the financial year) have been out by about 75%.
As they say, if this were a business, the man would be facing charges. Instead it's government and he is being championed for the top job.
Comical Scotty

If you really want a sign of the times, just take a look at today's Press Briefing by Scott McClellan. The White House press corps(e), no doubt stung by criticism of their pathetic role in the past four years, are looking for blood.

Here are the opening questions only (predictable, party-line answers removed):
Q Earlier today, the President said, and encouraged Americans to not use gasoline unnecessarily, to not take trips that were not absolutely necessary. Would the President curtail his own travel to the region, since he can be in touch by --

Q Is the situation with the gas supply really so bad that he needs to tell all Americans not to drive very much? I mean, that seems rather drastic.

Q If I can just follow up on what Kelly was asking. What the President did for the vast majority of the weekend was get briefings, many of them via videoconference, that he could have easily done here at the White House. Why is that not something -- why is that not the kind of -- just the kind of travel that could be curtailed?

Q And what's he doing tomorrow that makes it necessary travel?

Q Earlier today you said the President was thinking of suggesting trigger power for the military to take over in the most severe catastrophe. My question is, would he bypass our constitutional civilian rule over the military to get that kind of authority?

Q Wouldn't that be dangerous? After all, there is a precedent, isn't there?

Q But why bypass civilian control? You have instant communications, you can call the President.

Q Why? What --

Q I said, wouldn't we assume that the President would know immediately that there was something terribly catastrophic?

Q They couldn't even reach the President during Katrina.

Q Well, then, isn't that the lesson --

Q Scott, beyond the President's travel tomorrow, what is the President going to do to conserve his own gas use and energy use here by White House staff?

Q Will you consider fewer cars in the motorcade? We've asked you previously how much gas the motorcade uses and you guys won't tell us. So I'm curious, can you tell us how much gas the motorcade --

Q Will you tell us how much gas the motorcade uses?

Q Is the President paying any attention to this protest outside, that's happened over the last few days?

Q Is he worried that Americans have lost confidence in his ability to conduct the war?

Q Can I follow up?
The answer to the last question was - obviously - no.

The conference then moved back to the peace protestors:
Q Can I follow up on the demonstrations? Why were there arrests -- right now, of the demonstrators? And, also, has the President communicated with any of the demonstrators, especially those who support his cause?

MR. McCLELLAN: Connie, I don't know about what's going on out there right now. We've been focused a number of important immediate priorities. We've been at the Department of Energy, over there participating in briefings on Hurricane Rita and the response efforts. So those are questions you need to direct elsewhere.

Q Is he communicating with those -- especially those who support his cause? Has he said anything --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the American people recognize the importance of what we are working to accomplish in the broader Middle East. Iraq is a key part of establishing a foundation for lasting peace and security. What we're working to do is lay a foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren. And the President has made it very clear that his number one priority is the safety and security of the American people. And we are engaged in a global war. It is a war that is -- that continues. The President said after September 11th, that some would tend to forget. He will not. We are going to stay on the offensive until we win this war, and we're going to work to spread freedom and democracy to address the --

Q How many are you going to kill, in the meantime?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are saving lives. We have liberated some 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I'm sorry, go ahead...
To quote Vietnam commentator Daniel Hallin: "As you begin to get a breakdown of consensus, especially among political elites in Washington, then the media begin asking more questions."

Skipping to the chase:
High-profile Democrats and even some Republicans like to bemoan "mistakes" and bad planning and the absence of an "exit strategy." The prevailing version of Washington's debate over Iraq still amounts to disputes over how to proceed with the U.S. war effort in Iraq. Top officials and politicians in Washington won't change that. The journalists echoing them won't change that. The antiwar movement must.
Given Up on FEMA?

So has Bush.

Next time disaster strikes you and your family, know that your future will be secured by ... Donald Rumsfeld.
War Is An Out-dated Concept

As Bush might say, you're either with us or you are with the Dalai Lama:
The Dalai Lama told 36,000 people at Rutgers Stadium that the concept of war was outdated and young people have a responsibility to make this century one of peace.

"This whole planet is just us," the 70-year-old exiled monk said Sunday. "Therefore, destruction of another area essentially is destruction of yourself."

Tibet's spiritual leader also urged the audience to develop a wider world perspective, not just focus on "America, America, America."
Unbelieveable. Again.

Guess Who's a New FEMA Consultant? Just in from Daily Kos:
Mike Brown. Yeah, that Mike Brown. He's been hired by the agency as a consultant.

Bob Scheiffer announced this on CBS News moments ago, stating that Brown annouced his re-hiring to congressional staffers. Guess what he'll be in charge of? SIGH. He will help evaluate how FEMA responded to the disaster.

I wish I were making this up...
Spinning the Cindy Sheehan Arrest

By now you probably heard that Cindy Sheehan was arrested Monday while protesting outside the White House. What you might not have heard is that about three hundred and seventy other protesters were also arrested.
Over 500 demonstrators had gathered on the sidewalk near the main entrance to the presidential mansion. Each carried a board bearing the name of an American soldier killed in Iraq. About 300 moved away after police warned that arrests would follow. Police later said they had arrested 370 of the protesters.

As Sheehan and the others were slowly led away to waiting buses and police trucks, activists behind police lines shouted: "The whole world is watching". Five women went topless carrying boards proclaiming: "War is indecent".
Some of the Cindy-focussed reporting is worth a closer look.

The AP / MSNBCcalls her "the California woman who has used her son’s death in Iraq to spur the anti-war movement". While that may be factually correct, it's an interesting slant in the first para. And the last para could have been scripted by Karl Rove himself:
“I would like to say to Cindy Sheehan and her supporters, ‘Don’t be a group of unthinking lemmings.’ It’s not pretty,” said Mitzy Kenny of Ridgeley, W.Va., whose husband died in Iraq last year. The anti-war demonstrations “can affect the war in a really negative way. It gives the enemy hope.”
Baa-a-a-a!!! Terrorists are Fascists! Democrats are Nazis! We accuse you of whatever you accuse us of!

Reuters says Sheehan was "purposely courting arrest". That is basically a lie. Sheehan's declared intention for weeks has been to camp outside the White House just as she did in Crawford. If the local police wont let her camp on the footpath, that's not her fault.

All I can say is, expect more arrests. Maybe thousands of them, if that's what it's going to take. It's time the scum in the White House were forced to listen to "we, the people".
Staring Into The Abyss

Billmon says he was not ready to advocate immediate withdrawal from Iraq until he checked out the depraved images of butchered Iraqis on nowthat'sf*
As a nation, we may be so desensitized to violence and so inured to mechanized carnage on a grand scale that we're psychologically capable of tolerating genocidal warfare against anyone who can successfully be labeled a "terrorist." Or at least, a sizable enough fraction of the America public may be willing to tolerate it, or applaud it, to make the costs politically bearable...
One wonders if the MSM is ever going to pick up on the story of these grisly images, or if it is simply too horrible a subject to even mention on the evening news? You can bet your ass that people like Bin Laden are already using such photos as recruitment propaganda for suicide bombers.
US Empire: Endless War and Economic Hit-Men

Charley Reese on John Perkins' book, "Confessions Of A Hit Man":
In a nutshell, the game is played this way: People like Perkins work for consulting firms, and their job is to entice a foreign head of state to go deeply in debt. They do this by greatly exaggerating the economic returns on big projects such as dams and electrification systems.

The payoff comes in two ways. The foreign country hires American contractors to build the systems, and they make big profits. Then, mired in debt, the head of state will do what the United States government tells him to do. If he proves too independent or too honest to accept bribes, then he will be removed from power, either in a coup or in an accident.
For example:
Omar Torrijos, a Panamanian reformer, and Jaime Roldos, president of Ecuador who locked horns with big oil companies, both died in planes that exploded.

On the other hand, the ruthless and corrupt killers who play the game our way get rewarded with more loans and more aid. I know this sounds leftist and even, God forbid, liberal, but the more you get to know our government, the less you will think it's all sweetness and light. People fear the U.S. with good reason. We talk about spreading democracy, but what we do is extend empire and make war.

If you count the Cold War, we have been at war almost continuously. There was Korea, Vietnam, the invasion of Lebanon, the invasions of Panama and Grenada, the bombings of Serbia and Libya, our little misadventure in Somalia and two wars with Iraq, and now that the Cold War is over, we have replaced it with an endless war on terrorism. Sprinkled in between all of these overt wars are numerous covert operations.
Read the book. The publisher is Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

September 26, 2005

The south is a mess too:
Britain hopes to quit Muthanna, and perhaps Maysan, this year, and Dhi Qar and Basra next year. As this week's violence shows, it will not be a glorious exit: nowhere in southern Iraq is the central government in firm control. Yet with so few forces to control so vast and vexed a region, the British have never pretended to be doing much more than paper over the cracks.
From The Economist.
An Irresponsible Attitude To Government

Well that makes sense of the John Bolton UN nomination... Bush puts a veteranarian in charge of the women's health section of the Food and Drug Administration.
What's wrong with a vet? They know a lot about birth and udders and stuff. If the mother is having trouble giving birth, you grab the baby by the legs and pull it out -- it's not brain surgery. Then you worm 'em, you tag 'em and you spray for fleas. Why the fuss?
Sadly, this is all part of a pattern for Bush & Co. Molly Ivins calls it Government by temper tantrum:
You could, for example, put any number of people at the Department of Labor who are wholly unsympathetic to the labor movement -- Bush has installed shoals of them already. But there is a certain arch, flippant malice to making Edwin Foulke assistant secretary in charge of the health and safety of workers.

Republican appointees who oppose the agencies to which they are assigned are a dime a dozen, but Foulke is a partner from the most notorious union-busting law firm in the country. What he does for a living is destroy the only organizations that care about workers' health and safety.

Here's another PP pick: put a timber industry lobbyist in as head of the Forest Service. How about a mining industry lobbyist who believes public lands are unconstitutional in charge of the public lands? Nice shot. A utility lobbyist who represented the worst air polluters in the country as head of the clean air division at the EPA? A laff riot. As head of the Superfund, a woman whose last job was teaching corporate polluters how to evade Superfund regulations? Cute, cute, cute. A Monsanto lobbyist as No. 2 at the EPA. A lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute at the Council on Environmental Quality. And so on. And so forth.
Problem is, as Katrina proved, there are people's lives, careers and well-being at stake with this flippant nonsense.
Anti-Nazi, Anti-Saddam and Anti-American

An interesting comment from a post at The Road To Surfdom:
Yes, in a way I am smug at the catastrophes befalling the U.S. I can only be concerned for my fellow man for so long... so long as they have clean hands when it comes to their treatment of other parts of the world.

Their dependence upon oil, their irresponsible attitude to the taxing of gasoline (allowing the proliferation of Hummers and big SUVs, far more than anywhere else in the world), their assumption that they can invade other countries and spread death and destruction, that they can so generously make some other country the "central front in the war on terror" to the cost (the tragic cost) of that country's civilian population, that their system of government is so superior, so wonderful, that others should literally die for it, that their economic irresponsibility may well bring down the economies of the rest of the world, can only be sheeted home to those who voted for Bush and his cronies for a short time. That others - objectors, conscientious or otherwise, did not bother to vote, or to protest or to "do their bit" for changing this madness - have allowed this to happen through their inaction, eventually makes them as culpable as the direct supporters of the Bush administration.

It's only by America learning a lesson - a hard lesson wrought by repeated catastrophes that would have been ameliorated but for their stupidity and arrogance - that they will change their ways and give us all some relief from their madness and self-importance.

America is a wonderful place - I've been there many times myself and was surprised at how bad it isn't (or wasn't) - but things have really changed stateside lately and it's payback time. They can't go on winning their rotten, voluntary wars, they can't go on profiting from the misery of others (and other countries) forever. There must be a time when the chickens come home to roost, when the voting population over there will make sure that this time they get it right.

Anit-American? You bet. I'm sick and tired of apologists for Bush manufacturing increasingly convoluted arguments, more and more specious as time goes by, to support the unsupportable (the recent "Iraqi Constitution" thread here at Surfdom was a disgraceful example of this). I'm anti-American like was anti-Nazi, and anti-South Africa, and yes, anti-Saddam...

I say that if you sow the wind, then you reap the whirlwind. That this is coming literally true in the case of the present spate of hurricanes only adds a little icing to a miserable cake.
The writer's name is Aussie Bob and here's his blog. But before any patriotic American readers go and blow off at him as a racist, let me tell you that this kind of "anti-American" attitude is increasingly prevelant over here. And in the rest of the world, I dare say.
War On What The $%&*???

Here's a story that says it all. Or should I say, yet another story...

In the days after 9/11, the FBI sends a letter to British Intelligence advising that Lotfi Raissi, a man suspected of training the 9/11 terrorists, should NOT (black capital letters) be approached or otherwise alerted to government interest in him.

Four days later, British police smash down Raissi's door in the middle of the night and drag him away naked. They also grab his wife and brother.

The Brits hold onto Raissi for five months.

A magistrate then dismisses all charges against him.

So now this guy's career as a flight instructor has been destroyed, his personal reputation is smeared, perhaps forever, months of his life have been lost, and he still can't get an apology from the British government. So what's new in the War On Ahem!?

I mean, come on. If people like this have really done something bad, then prove it to us! If not, apologise to them and stop behaving like a bunch of Keystone Cops on steroids!
Another 500,000 (and that's in UK pounds!) disappears in Iraq.
Riverbend takes a second look at the draft Iraqi Constitution, including the bits left out of the English translation. More at Baghdad Burning.
Cruel Ironies Expose Harsh Truths

Robert Fisk is no fool, not does he suffer the foolish lies of the Bush and Blair governments gladly:
There is a beautiful, delicate, inevitably cruel irony at the way in which nature and man conspire to uncover the lies of the rich and powerful...

I speculated some weeks ago as to when the bubble will burst. With the insurgent capture (and massacre) of a US base in Iraq? With the overrunning of the Green Zone in Baghdad? Every day now brings Vietnam-style evidence of our collapse. The Americans batter their way into Tal Afar and kill, so they say, "142 insurgents". Get that? US forces manage to kill 142 of their enemies, not a single innocent man, woman or child among them!

But let's go back to the Brits. Remember how we were told that our immense experience of "peace- keeping" in Northern Ireland had allowed us to get on better with the Iraqis in the south than our American cousins further north? I don't actually remember us doing much "peacekeeping" in Belfast after about 1969--the rest, I recall, was about biffing the IRA--but in any case the myth was burned out on the uniforms of British troops this week.

Indeed, much of the war in Northern Ireland appeared to revolve around the use of covert killings and SAS undercover operatives who blew away IRA men in ambushes. Which does raise the question, doesn't it, as to just what our two SAS lads were doing cruising around Basra in Arab dress with itsy-bitsy moustaches and guns? Why did no one ask? How many SAS men are in southern Iraq? Why are they there? What are their duties? What weapons do they carry? Whoops! No one asked.

What we were actually doing to "keep the peace" in Basra was to turn a Nelsonian "blind eye" on the abuse, murder and anarchy of Basra since 2003 (including, it turns out, quite a bit of abuse by our very own squaddies). When Christian alcohol sellers were murdered, we remained silent. When ex-Baathists were slaughtered in the streets--including women and their children, a civil war if ever there was one--our British officers somehow forgot to tell the press. Anything to keep our boys out of harm's way.

But this is what has been happening in Basra. As the locally recruited police force (paid by the occupation authorities) sucked into its ranks the riff-raff of every local militia--as it did in Sunni areas to the north--we ignored this. Even when an American reporter investigating this extraordinary phenomenon was murdered--almost certainly by these same policemen--the British remained silent. We were "controlling" the streets. In Amara--by awful coincidence, the very same Kut al-Amara with whose name, I'm sure, my favourite prime minister will soon be ennobled--British soldiers now operate just one heavily armed convoy patrol a day. That is the extent of our "control" over Amara. Now we are reducing our patrols in Basra. You bet we are...

September 25, 2005


A massive thank you to all those who protested in London and Washington (and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Brussels, Florence, Rome, Paris and Madrid, not to mention Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax and Ottawa!) today.

Even the Police acknowledged that the crowd was at least 100,000 strong. Others put the figure at 300,000. Eyewitnesses report crowds streaming towards the White House for at least 20 blocks. Some photos here.
One sign said, "Bush is a Cat 5 Disaster," in a reference to the recent hurricanes that have hammered the US Gulf Coast.

Another said, "Make Levees, Not Humvees"..
I wonder if Karl Rove still believes "there is no real anti-war movement"? Cindy Sheehan:
"This war is immoral, it will end. The darkness will never overcome the light."
As a person who lives far away on the other side of the planet but still does whatever he can to bring the Bush regime to an end, a heartfelt Thank You once again to all who marched, for keeping this important issue from disappearing, and for re-affirming my own faith in humanity.

This is now the only way the war will be brought to a close. We have to keep doing this again and again until our governments stop the violence.

September 24, 2005

New US Prisoner Abuse Allegations

A decorated former Captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division releases his demons:
Prisoners were designated as PUCs (pronounced "pucks")—or "persons under control." A regular pastime at Camp Mercury, the report says, involved off-duty soldiers gathering at PUC tents, where prisoners were held, and working off their frustrations in activities known as "F____a PUC" (beating the prisoner) and "Smoke a PUC" (forced physical exertion, sometimes to the point of collapse). Broken limbs and similar painful injuries would be treated with analgesics, the soldiers claim, as medical staff would fill out paperwork stating the injuries occurred during capture. Support for some of the allegations of abuse come from a sergeant of the 82nd Airborne who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch quotes him as saying that, "To 'F____ a PUC' means to beat him up. We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs, and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them. This happened every day. To 'smoke' someone is to put them in stress positions until they get muscle fatigue and pass out. That happened every day. Some days we would just get bored so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did that for amusement.

"On their day off people would show up all the time," the sergeant continues in the HRW report. "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport. The cooks were all U.S. soldiers. One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the cook."

The sergeant says that military intelligence officers would tell soldiers that the detainees "were bad" and had been involved in killing or trying to kill Americans, implying that they deserved whatever punishment they got. "I would be told, 'These guys were IED [improvised explosive device] trigger men last week.' So we would f___ them up. F___ them up bad ... At the same time we should be held to a higher standard. I know that now. It was wrong. There are a set of standards. But you gotta understand, this was the norm. Everyone would just sweep it under the rug ... We should never have been allowed to watch guys we had fought."
Stories from Time and the New York Times, plus this from Kos, who reminds us where all this state-sponsored US torture began.
New US Atrocities: Iraq Snuff Porn

You may have to force yourself to read this:
If you want to see the true face of war, go to the amateur porn Web site For almost a year, American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been taking photographs of dead bodies, many of them horribly mutilated or blown to pieces, and sending them to Web site administrator Chris Wilson. In return for letting him post these images, Wilson gives the soldiers free access to his site. American soldiers have been using the pictures of disfigured Iraqi corpses as currency to buy pornography.

At Wilson's Web site, you can see an Arab man's face sliced off and placed in a bowl filled with blood. Another man's head, his face crusted with dried blood and powder burns, lies on a bed of gravel. A man in a leather coat who apparently tried to run a military checkpoint lies slumped in the driver's seat of a car, his head obliterated by gunfire, the flaps of skin from his neck blooming open like rose petals. Six men in beige fatigues, identified as US Marines, laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black corpse lying at their feet.

The captions that accompany these images, which were apparently written by the soldiers who posted them, laugh and gloat over the bodies. The soldier who posted a picture of a corpse lying in a pool of his own brains and entrails wrote, "What every Iraqi should look like."

September 23, 2005

Why Immediate Withdrawal Makes Sense

Michael Schwartz and Tom Engelhardt explain:
Not long after Baghdad fell to American troops, it was already apparent that the United States was part of the problem, not part of the solution, in Iraq; and that, as long as the American military occupied the country, matters would just get worse. Every passing month has only predictably confirmed that reality...

It is now a commonplace in Washington to point out that the Bush administration had no exit strategy from Iraq, but to this day few bother to say the obvious: It had no exit strategy because its top officials never planned on or expected to leave that country...

The future, by definition, is unknown and so open to the unexpected. Nonetheless, it is far more reasonable, based on what we now know, to assume that if the U.S. were to leave Iraq quickly, the level of violence would be reduced, possibly drastically, not heightened. Here are the four key reasons:

1. The U.S. military is already killing more civilian Iraqis than would likely die in any threatened civil war;

2. The U.S. presence is actually aggravating terrorist (Iraqi-on-Iraqi) violence, not suppressing it;

3. Much of the current terrorist violence would be likely to subside if the U.S. left;

4. The longer the U.S. stays, the more likely that scenarios involving an authentic civil war will prove accurate.
This is a lengthy article and well worth a read if you are interested in this important topic.
When Did The USA Become A One-Party State?

For shame:
As the anti-war movement arrives in Washington this weekend, many top Democrats are leaving...

Spokesmen for the Democrats who are skipping the anti-war event all said they had schedule conflicts.
"Bastard Sons Of Whores"

The "other" Ali Fadhil (the nice one) goes back home to Baghdad:
As I stepped out of the plane at Baghdad military airport, the heat of the pavement smacked me in the face. It felt like a slap from an angry Iraq: "Why did you come back?"
Fool me twice...?
A Pledge To My Readers

(and that means both of you!)

I am going to assume that you understand that the only reason why crap like this and this makes the news is that the lying bastards who report it are only trying to let the lying bastards who say such things frame the story for the lying bastards who report it.

So I won't bother to link to such unadulterated crap, coz I know you are both so damned intelligent! M'kay?
What the hell are you reading this for?

John Bolton Is Already Nodding

OK, that's it. The world has gone totally nuts:
Israel is seeking to capitalise on what it sees as an increase in international contacts - including with Muslim countries - by seeking a place on the UN Security Council.
Katrina, Rita and Bush Co.

There's... err... no such thing as... um warming:
The growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, is very probably caused by climate change, said Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea, he said. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming."

In a series of outspoken comments - a thinly veiled attack on the Bush administration, Sir John hit out at neoconservatives in the US who still deny the reality of climate change.

Referring to the arrival of Hurricane Rita he said: "If this makes the climate loonies in the States realise we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation."

This is really un-frikkin-believeable. Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent for the London newspaper, The Independent, has been denied entry to the USA.

It seems Fisk's crime was to suggest that the US and Britain are instigating sedition and civil war in Iraq to create an atmosphere that would allow them to stay.

Of course, I have been canvassing the same option almost since I began this blog. Truth is, it's about the only way to make any sense whatsoever of the Bush team's ruinous "policies" in Iraq from Day One.

Juan Cole today tip-toes around the same issue:
Some kind readers have been asking me if it is possible that the British SAS operatives captured by the Iraqi police on Monday were agents provocateurs planning to blow things up and blame some Iraqi group. My answer is that while it cannot be absolutely ruled out, the theory has almost no facts behind it. It is not even clear if the British agents had a bomb in their car, and they may not after all have killed Iraqi police who came to grab them. Wittgenstein said that about that which we do not know, we must be silent. That's my policy, anyway. I'd need way more evidence than now exists to charge the British military with such a dastardly policy.
A Hard Rain's Gonna Come...

Some hard logic from Randolph T. Holhut at The Smirking Chimp
We keep hearing statistics about how well the American economy is doing and how it is growing, creating new jobs and shrugging off high energy prices.

We're hearing this despite the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States.

We're hearing this, despite seeing energy prices nearly double in the past couple of years.

We're hearing this despite being in the midst of an economy that doesn't seem to generate jobs that pay a living wage.

In the mind of soon-to-be-outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, the biggest threat to the U.S. economy is not the $200 billion or so it's going to cost to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Nor is it the money being syphoned out of people's wallets every time they fill up their cars with gasoline.

Nor is it the lack of jobs other than those that require you to ask, "Would you like fries with that?"

No, in Greenspan's mind, inflation is the threat. So this week, for the 11th time since June 2004, the Federal Reserve raised its short-term interest rates.

This is turn drives up the cost of credit for consumers - higher credit card interest rates, higher home equity loans, higher mortgages. A nation already overextended in debt gets another kick in the wallet.

But that doesn't matter to Greenspan and the Fed. As long as economic growth is sufficiently restrained to keep wages low and price growth minimal, who cares who gets hurt? Just keep the financial markets safe...

All this adds up to one thing - a major recession next year and a lot of Americans in financial trouble. And the new bankruptcy rules take effect next month, making it harder for people to seek relief from their debts.
If Bush was running against Jesus...
Bush OKs the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Basra Says No To Brits

Local Iraqis are boycotting the Brits in Basra:
Local authorities in southern Iraq said they would have no dealings with British forces who stormed a Basra jail to release two of their men, even as Baghdad and London sought to downplay the incident.

"All regular meetings between the governorate and British troops have been cancelled and we will not allow British soldiers into the governorate building or any other public office in Basra," Nadim al-Jabiri, spokesman for the provincial governor in Basra, told AFP on Thursday.
As usual, the Brits go into full deny,deny, deny mode while they await order from their spin-meisters:
"We are aware of reports of a boycott, but we are waiting until we can establish that is the case and come up with a plan," British army spokesman Major Steve Melbourne told AFP.
Expect the Brits to have a word with their Iraqi mates in Baghdad and try to force the locals into a back-down. And if that doesn't work... ?

Meanwhile the US is bombing an entire Iraqi town (another one) after four US contractors were killed there. Juan Cole calls it a "simple sort of tribal revenge". So much for the Bush team's stratergery...
Storm Warning

A reader writes to Talking Points Memo:
All the freeways and highways leaving Houston are at a dead standstill as of 11am Thursday. People have been in their vehicles as long as 12 hours without traveling more than 40 miles. Now they are running out of gas and there will soon be another chaotic storm evacuation situation. The local government and the mayor of Houston don't seem to realize that cars need gas and folks need facilities. The city has waited too long to open all freeway lanes to outbound traffic. The truth is, the feds, state, and locals do not know how to evacuate a major metropolitan area. Another catastrophe is only a day away.
Pic from Kos:

Surely this time they will get it right... ?
Oz V. US

A new study looks at Australian Labour Party attitudes to the USA:
One in five Labor Party candidates at the last federal election believed the United States was a threat to Australian security...

When asked in the study about US President George Bush, 91.5 per cent of Labor candidates said they disliked him.
The Labour Party is likely to get a public hammering for this, but the fact is that their views are really not so out of touch with the Australian public as our pro-Bush PM's.

Be afraid:
Global media baron Rupert Murdoch is steaming ahead with plans to dominate the internet, telling investors to expect his strategy for conquest to be unveiled within weeks.

The chairman and chief executive of News Corp told a US investors conference that the internet was still his number one priority and its revenue potential was enormous.

Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen said Mr Murdoch expected News Corp's internet revenue to grow from $US100 million ($A131.39 million) this fiscal year to between $US500 million ($A656.94 million) and $US1 billion ($A1.31 billion) in five years.

September 22, 2005

"America is committed to the defense of South Vietnam until an honorable peace can be negotiated... We shall stay the course."

- Lyndon Johnson, March 1967.

"We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. And the job is this: We'll help the Iraqis develop a democracy."

- George W. Bush, August 2005.

Courtesy of the Seattle Post.
Squawk! Conspiracy Theory! Squawk!

So the Pentagon is blocking further discussion of the 100% illegal Able Danger program which may or may not (will we ever know?) have identified Mohammed Atta as a terrorist long before 9/11.

This comes at the same time as The Stakeholder publishes new revelations about links between prominent Republicans and terrorist groups.

So what's new? Look at Bush Senior's involvement in Watergate, the Bay of Pigs and the assassination of Kennedy. Bush and fellow CIA agent Felix Rodriguez are the only people in the USA who can't remember where they were on the day Kennedy died.

Who trained Bin Laden? Who sold chemical weapons to Saddam?

UPDATE: A pretty amazing headline on this issue from "Don't let Clinton get away with it!"

Say what?!? Here's the spin:
We now know that Clinton or at least his Pentagon, through a program code named "Able Danger" knew about Mohammed Atta and what he was up to long before 9-11, but chose to do nothing about it. We also know that, for some reason, this was not investigated by the 9-11 commission. Curt Weldon has tried to make this important story public for some time. Now it looks like some Clintonesta hold-overs at the Pentagon are going to do all that they cann do to hamper the investigation. Don't let them...
And who exactly are these "Clintonesta hold-overs"? Well, one of them is a guy called Donald Rumsfeld:
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon considered Able Danger to be a classified matter and declined to participate when the judiciary committee chose to hold an open hearing.

"We have to obey the laws with respect to security classifications," Mr Rumsfeld told reporters.
We don't have to obey the law with respect to torture, international conventions or a host of other issues, but the red tape of security classifications is clearly sacrosanct. Even if US lives are in danger.
Meanwhile, Back in Oz...

Margo Kingston's Webdiary, Australia's first mainstream, interactive media blog, gets ditched by the Sydney Morning Herald but moves into new, independent territory. Good on ya, Margo!

Also in Australia, Crikey looks at the Latham diaries and asks if anyone in the media is going to take his serious allegations seriously...? For example:
Did Paul Armstrong, editor of The West Australian, really say the following to Latham: "I can make or break the West Australian Government, just as I can make or break the Opposition Leader, Colin Barnett, if I choose to."
Financing The Warfare State

"Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron."

- President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953.

There are no longer any voices to enunciate such logic, not even the editors of the New York Times. Norman Solomon writes in Dodging the Costs of the Warfare State that the pugblic is now well ahead of both politicians and the media, and the anti-war movement actually has an historic opportunity to force cutbacks in military spending.
Contradictions between humane rhetoric and death-machine spending are more glaring than ever.
Solomon is also the author of a new book, "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."
The "We Can't Leave Now" Lie

Simon Jenkins sticks it to Tony Blair:
The British government - and opposition - is in total denial. Ministerial boasts can't conceal the gloom of private briefings. Blair has done what no prime minister should do. He has put his soldiers at a foreign power's mercy. First that power was America. Now, according to the defence secretary, John Reid, it is a band of brave but desperate Iraqis entombed in Baghdad's Green Zone. He says he will stay until they request him to go, when local troops are trained and loyal and infrastructure is restored. That means doomsday. Everyone knows it...

British soldiers are in a war over whose course, conduct and outcome their leaders have no control. Their government's exit strategy is no longer realistic, indeed is dishonest. Talk of reducing troop levels from 8,000 to 3,000 next year has been abandoned. Everyone seems on the wrong planet...

Signalling withdrawal would, it is said, give a green light to the gangs and private militias, to revenge attacks, ethnic cleansing and even partition. That threat is no longer meaningful since these are all happening anyway...

America left Vietnam and Lebanon to their fate. They survived. We left Aden and other colonies. Some, such as Malaya and Cyprus, saw bloodshed and partition. We said rightly that this was their business. So too is Iraq for the Iraqis. We have made enough mess there already.
Cleaning Up After Bush

"The pay is good."
So how bad are things in Afghanistan, really?
The Biggest Theft In History Has Not Been Reported

One billion dollars in US taxpayer funds gone missing. Or was it two billion dollars? Who knows? Who cares?

Patrick Cockburn asks What Happened to Iraq's Missing $1 Billion?:
"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq's Finance Minister, told The Independent...

The report of the Board of Supreme Audit on the defence ministry contracts was presented to the office of Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Prime Minister, in May. But the extent of the losses has become apparent only gradually. The sum missing was first reported as $300m and then $500m, but in fact it is at least twice as large. "If you compare the amount that was allegedly stolen of about $1bn compared with the budget of the ministry of defence, it is nearly 100 per cent of the ministry's [procurement] budget that has gone Awol," said Mr Allawi.

The money missing from all ministries under the interim Iraqi government appointed by the US in June 2004 may turn out to be close to $2bn...

The fraud took place between 28 June 2004 and 28 February this year under the government of Iyad Allawi, who was interim prime minister. His ministers were appointed by the US envoy Robert Blackwell and his UN counterpart, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Among those whom the US promoted was a man who was previously a small businessman in London before the war, called Hazem Shaalan, who became Defence Minister.

Mr Shalaan says that Paul Bremer, then US viceroy in Iraq, signed off the appointment of Ziyad Cattan as the defence ministry's procurement chief [gandhi: does that job title sound familiar?]. Mr Cattan, of joint Polish-Iraqi nationality, spent 27 years in Europe, returning to Iraq two days before the war in 2003. He was hired by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and became a district councillor before moving to the defence ministry.

For eight months the ministry spent money without restraint. Contracts worth more than $5m should have been reviewed by a cabinet committee, but Mr Shalaan asked for and received from the cabinet an exemption for the defence ministry. Missions abroad to acquire arms were generally led by Mr Cattan. Contracts for large sums were short scribbles on a single piece of paper. Auditors have had difficulty working out with whom Iraq has a contract in Pakistan.

Authorities in Baghdad have issued an arrest warrant for Mr Cattan. Neither he nor Mr Shalaan, both believed to be in Jordan, could be reached for further comment. Mr Bremer says he has never heard of Mr Cattan.
Now that's on top of the billions spent to find WMDs which the US and UK governments knew did not exist.


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