February 28, 2006

Why We Fight

"God help this country when somebody sits at this desk who doesn't know as much about the military as I do."
- Eisenhower

Bob Herbert says Ike Saw It Coming:
Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to a national television and radio audience in January 1961. "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience," he said. He recognized that this development was essential to the defense of the nation. But he warned that "we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications."

"The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist," he said. "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes." It was as if this president, who understood war as well or better than any American who ever lived, were somehow able to peer into the future and see the tail of the military-industrial complex wagging the dog of American life, with inevitably disastrous consequences.

The endless billions to be reaped from the horrors of war are a perennial incentive to invest in the war machine and to keep those wars a-coming. "His words have unfortunately come true," says Senator John McCain in the film. "He was worried that priorities are set by what benefits corporations as opposed to what benefits the country."

The way you keep the wars coming is to keep the populace in a state of perpetual fear. That allows you to continue the insane feeding of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the rest of the nation's needs...
UPDATE: A prime example of how the system gets abused here.
Is It Civil War Yet?

Given that up to 50 people a day have been dying regularly in Iraq for God knows how long, even people like Riverbend have been cautious about saying that Civil War has broken out...
I’m reading, and hearing, about the possibility of civil war. The possibility. Yet I’m sitting here wondering if this is actually what civil war is like. Has it become a reality? Will we look back at this in one year, two years… ten… and say, “It began in February 2006…”?
Some say Civil War has been raging for months. Who knows? We cannot trust our governments to tell us the truth and we cannot trust the media either.

Now we learn that Iraqi casualty figures since the bombing on the Samarra mosque are three times higher than the media has been reporting.

The WaPo is blaming Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army for the carnage. Unfortunately, we cannot take the WaPo at their word either: they have their own internal civil war raging in the newsroom.

UPDATE: Well, what do you know? UPDATE: Many Challenge 'Wash Post' Claims on Death Toll in Iraq:
A Knight Ridder report from Baghdad late Tuesday stated that an American military official in Baghdad said U.S.-led coalition forces had been able to confirm only 220 such deaths since last Wednesday’s bombing.

It added that morgue officials said that the Post's 1300 figure "was nowhere close to what they'd seen. Many others, including Shiite and Sunni politicians alike, said they hadn't heard of anything approaching that number."

... Appearing on MSNBC this morning, Jonathan Finer, a Post reporter in Baghdad, said the 1300 figure was determined at the morgue by another reporter. The two bylines on the Post's piece are longtime Iraq correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer and Bassam Sebti. But it also lists as contributors special correspondents K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad and Saad Sarhan in Najaf, staff writer Nelson Hernandez "and other Washington Post staff."
Seriously, the poor Iraqi people have suffered enough - let them be!

How Many People Will Bush Kill?

US President George W Bush says US greenhouse gas intensity, or the amount of greenhouse gas emission for every dollar of economic output, is falling. He is wrong:
The United States, the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, released about 7.075 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent last year, according to a draft report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The growth rate was stronger than in each of the previous two years with emissions rising 0.6 per cent in 2003 and 0.7 per cent in 2002.
This alone would be sufficient reason to throw the bastard out of office.
Bush In Freefall

The latest CBS News Poll shows Bush at 34 percent. That's an 8% fall in the past month alone. The stats are worth more than just a passing glance:
Two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims.

For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low. By two to one, the poll finds Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq are going badly – the worst assessment yet of progress in Iraq.

Even on fighting terrorism, which has long been a strong suit for Mr. Bush, his ratings dropped lower than ever. Half of Americans say they disapprove of how he's handling the war on terror, while 43 percent approve.
That "Terrorism" issue is a key pointer and has alwasy been the mainstay of Bush's base support since 9/11/01: a year ago, Bush was at 61% approval on terrorism, and even last month it was still 52%.

Obviously, it's hard to convince the USA that Bush's bogus "war on terror" is going well when their TV screens show Iraq (we fight 'em there so we don't have to fight them here, remember?) quickly going to hell in a handbasket. Of course, that hasn't stopped FOX News from trying...

UPDATE: Dan Froomkin gives an historical perspective:
To find other numbers that low in the CBS poll, you have to go back 14 years to Bush's father. Bill Clinton never had it so bad.

To find numbers even lower, you have to go back to Jimmy Carter's disastrous 1979 -- or to Richard Nixon in 1974, who Gallup-polled as low as 23 just before he resigned.
I Know The Truth

Thomas Wilner on Gitmo, the American gulag:
I represent six Kuwaiti prisoners, each of whom has now spent nearly four years at Guantanamo. It took me 2 1/2 years to gain access to my clients, but now I have visited the prison camp 11 times in the last 14 months. What I have witnessed is a cruel and eerie netherworld of concrete and barbed wire that has become a daily nightmare for the nearly 500 people swept up after 9/11 who have been imprisoned without charges or trial for more than four years. It is truly our American gulag...
The article details how the USA tortured prisoners to make them give up their hunger strike:
When I met with Fawzi three weeks ago, the tubes were out of his nose. I told him I was thankful that after five months he had ended his hunger strike. He looked at me sadly and said, "They tortured us to make us stop." At first, he said, they punished him by taking away his "comfort items" one by one: his blanket, his towel, his long pants, his shoes. They then put him in isolation. When this failed to persuade him to end the hunger strike, he said, an officer came to him Jan. 9 to announce that any detainee who refused to eat would be forced onto "the chair." The officer warned that recalcitrant prisoners would be strapped into a steel device that pulled their heads back, and that the tubes would be forced in and wrenched out for each feeding. "We're going to break this hunger strike," the officer told him.

Fawzi said he heard the prisoner next door screaming and warning him to give up the strike. He decided that he wasn't "on strike to be tortured." He said those who continued on the hunger strike not only were strapped in "the chair" but were left there for hours; he believes that guards fed them not only nutrients but also diuretics and laxatives to force them to defecate and urinate on themselves in the chair.

After less than two weeks of this treatment, the strike was over. Of the more than 80 strikers at the end of December, Fawzi said only three or four were holding out...

The government continues to deny that there is any injustice at Guantanamo. But I know the truth.

The Case for Impeachment (a preview): the March 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine will publish the full essay.
US Forces Planted Mosque Bomb

I am sure Mike Whitney at ICH wont mind if I reprint in full this important piece:
The AFP is reporting that the bombing of the Golden Domed Mosque “was the work of specialists” and that the “placing of explosives must have taken at least 12 hours.”

Construction Minister Jassem Mohammed Jaafar said, “Holes were dug into the mausoleum’s four main pillars and packed with explosives. Then charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance.”

Clearly, the bombing was not carried out by rogue elements in the disparate Iraqi resistance. This is the work of highly-trained saboteurs and bomb-experts who were executing a precision-demolition to incite sectarian violence. The blast bears all the hallmarks of a covert Intelligence-agency operation.

Who benefits from such a vicious attack on the foundations of Islamic identity and culture?

The AFP’s report is consistent with earlier accounts provided by a Baghdad blogger who demonstrates that the destruction of the mosque was a “controlled demolition” which required considerable time and professional expertise. http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m20950. The photographs of the nearby, but untouched, minarets provide a shocking example of the bomber’s skill.

Eyewitness accounts have appeared on various web sites claiming that there were “unusual activities” taking place at the mosque the night before the bombing. One witness reported that he heard their “cars the whole night until the next morning”. Another witness who lives near to the mosque says that at 8:30 that evening he was told “to stay in your shop and don’t leave the area” while Iraqi National Guard and American troops “patrolled the area until the next morning”. At 6:30 AM the American troops left.

At 6:40 the first explosion went off.

Almost immediately, the western media swung into high-gear producing over 1,000 stories containing the word “civil war” in the first 24 hours. As always, the media reliably regurgitates the narrative that best serves the interests of management and their political benefactors. In this case, it’s clear that ‘civil war’ is being used to divert attacks from occupation forces and pit Iraqis against Iraqis.

But is this really the plan? After all, how does that make Iraq more governable?

By now, we should realize that the Bush administration has no plan to govern Iraq nor do they care a whit about the suffering of the Iraqi people. The only thing the matters is the extraction of petroleum from Iraqi oil-fields and its unobstructed transfer to the market. The rest is rubbish.

“We don’t do body counts”, boasted General Tommy Franks.

Franks could have added that we don’t do reconstruction, security or governance; all of which are sadly lacking in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration has no intention of rebuilding Iraq or establishing order. They’ll continue to operate as they have from the onset; blasting away erratically at the resistance while concealing the bloodshed behind an impenetrable wall of propaganda.

The present strategy reflects the growing desperation of the Pentagon planners and the civilian leadership. America is hopelessly mired in an “unwinnable” war. The choices for action have narrowed to either withdrawal or a stepped-up campaign of Black-ops designed to foment sectarian violence. The bombing of the Samarra Mosque fits perfectly into the latter category.

Henry Kissinger summarized the current Iraq strategy when he offered his opinion on the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. Kissinger callously averred, “I hope they kill each other.”

The former National Security Chief’s axiom has now been elevated to the level of state-policy. The Iraq strategy replicates the Kissinger Doctrine; manipulating chauvinism and cruelty to advance the imperial agenda.

The demolition of the sacred mosque was a deliberate assault on the foundations of Muslim identity. It was intended to undermine Iraqi tradition and culture and weaken confidence in the resistance.

Neocon Michael Ledeen might refer to this as “creative destruction” but, in fact, it is terrorism writ large; the calculated use of violence directed at civilians to achieve a political objective.
US Missions Accomplished

Iraq is turning into Lebanon.

The International Crisis Group (headed by Gareth Evans) has issued a report saying that Iraq is on the verge of breaking up:
Urging the outside world to brace itself for the collapse of Iraq, it warned: "Until now such an effort has been a taboo, but failure to anticipate such a possibility may lead to further disasters in the future."
More here.

Of course, Afghanistan has been Lebanon-ized for some time now. And speaking of Afghanistan, here's something else nobody wants to talk about:
Pentagon officials have often described Bagram, a cavernous former machine shop on a US air base 65 kilometres north of Kabul, as a screening centre. They said most of the prisoners were Afghans who might eventually be released under an amnesty program or transferred to an Afghan prison that is to be built with US aid.

But some prisoners have already been at Bagram for three years, and unlike those at Guantanamo they have no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as "enemy combatants", officials said.

Privately, some US officials admit the situation at Bagram has come to resemble the legal void that led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June 2004 affirming the right of prisoners at Guantanamo to challenge their detention in US courts.

Bagram has operated in rigorous secrecy since it opened in 2002. It bars visitors except for members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and refuses to name those held there. The prison may not be photographed, even from a distance.

Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages, sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for toilets. Before recent renovations they rarely saw daylight except for brief visits to a small exercise yard.

"Bagram was never meant to be a long-term facility, and now it's a long-term facility without the money or resources," said one Defence Department official who has toured the prison. Comparing it with Guantanamo, he said: "Anyone who has been to Bagram would tell you it's worse."
Also in Afghanistan, a little poetic justice (of the most grisly, violent type imaginable) may be getting played out in the Pul-i-Charki prison:
Shouts of "Allah Akbar (God is great)", "Death to America" and "Death to Karzai" could be heard as an American predator spy drone circled overhead....

Rioters in the criminal block are claiming to hold three US hostages. Jack Idema, a former member of the US Special Forces, jailed in 2004 for running a private prison in Kabul, and two accomplices are in Pul-i-Charki.

"The prisoners in that block shouted to us that they had the Americans and they would kill them if the police continued shooting at the block. We could not see the Americans with them, so we don't know if they have them hostage or not," an army officer said. An Afghan Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed the Americans were in the jail but said: "We don't think so far that the prisoners have got access to them."
Meanwhile, Halliburton gets paid to waste money:
The Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had identified more than $250 million in charges as potentially excessive or unjustified.

The Army said in response to questions on Friday that questionable business practices by the subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, had in some cases driven up the company's costs. But in the haste and peril of war, it had largely done as well as could be expected, the Army said, and aside from a few penalties, the government was compelled to reimburse the company for its costs...
Link via Shining A Light.

Latest US poll:
Do you think the United States should pull out of Iraq now?

Yes: 47.8%

No: 44.1%

Unsure: 8.1%
Finally, here's a rose.

February 27, 2006

Dealing With The Devil: A Transparent Farce

On behalf of all the Iraqi people (despite the fact that only 1% actually support him), Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi has agreed to continue buying Australian wheat - as long as the disgraced Australian Wheat Board (AWB) is no longer involved.

Australian Deputy PM Mark Vaile, who was trade minister at the time when the government-controlled AWB was busting sanctions to deal with Saddam, clinched the deal with his counterpart Chalabi.

Both Vaile and Chalabi know full well that the Australian government was well aware of the AWB's deals with Saddam. Both find themselves in a situation where they are under political pressure to Do Something. A deal is in both their interests, but particularly Australia's.

So the solution: blame the AWB, hide the evidence of government involvemnet, and kill the controversy. Then shake hands on more Big Money deals.

But I can't help wondering, how much did we just pay Ahmed Chalabi?

February 26, 2006

As It Was In Honduras, So Shall It Be In Iraq

Who says the USA has not done a good job of training Iraqi forces? It's just been revealed that the Iraqi military no longer has even one single brigade capable of fighting without US forces there to ... um... make sure they don't go join the insurgents.

But never mind. That's not the real game, is it? As those familiar with the dark past of US power-brokers like John Negroponte (former Iraqi czar, now US intelligence czar) know, there are other ways to get people to do your bidding.

While its grip may be slipping, the USA still controls the Iraqi puppet government, as numerous PR blips constantly reveal (Ahmed Chalabi is still Deputy PM - nuff said?). The USA is also secretly training and financing numerous death squads within Iraq to do their dirty work for them. That is hardly a secret.

This is the same formula that the USA's secretive pro-torture "parralel government" has been following for for the past 50 years. Heck, even failed Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi used to roam around Baghdad bombing innocent civilians for the CIA!

The USA controls the government, the government controls the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Interior control the death squads. Now it seems those death squads are going around torturing people at random and dumping the bodies...

From the Independent :
Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations' outgoing human rights chief in Iraq has revealed.

John Pace, who left Baghdad two weeks ago, told The Independent on Sunday that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the city's mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes. Much of the killing, he said, was carried out by Shia Muslim groups under the control of the Ministry of the Interior.

Much of the statistical information provided to Mr Pace and his team comes from the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute, which is located next to the city's mortuary. He said figures show that last July the morgue alone received 1,100 bodies, about 900 of which bore evidence of torture or summary execution. The pattern prevailed throughout the year until December, when the number dropped to 780 bodies, about 400 of which had gunshot or torture wounds.

"It's being done by anyone who wishes to wipe out anybody else for various reasons," said Mr Pace, who worked for the UN for more than 40 years in countries ranging from Liberia to Chile. "But the bulk are attributed to the agents of the Ministry of the Interior."
Now why is all this torture going on? Obviously, because certain people want to get information before they kill their captives.

But who are these people and what information do they want? Obviously, people on both sides - pro-US and anti-US - want to protect themselves and damage their enemy. But it's interesting that Mr Pace fingers the Shia rather than Sunnis as the main culprits. It looks like we have a clear chain of pro-torture command going from the PNAC to the WHIG to Gitmo to Abu Ghraib and onwards from there to "training the Iraqis so they can take over for themselves".

You can hardly point the finger at Saddam's old Baathist Sunni torturers, since a major plank of US invasion tactics was to disband and disempower these people. They are not even allowed to work for the government, and anyway it seems that the Sunnis are mostly being tortured rather than doing it.

Dahr Jamail looks at who benefits from the latest violence. He says the timing of the Golden Mosque bombing is not insignificant: Iraqis were enraged by recent videos of British soldiers beating Iraqi youths, followed by more horrific photos from Abu Ghraib. Furthermore, the head of the Misan provincial council in southern Iraq had just announced his council's decision to lift immunity from foreign forces (an immunity ordered by Paul Bremer).

And lest you think that US and British forces are not capable of such atrocities, Jamail closes with this:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that those who committed the attack on the Golden Mosque have only one motive: to create a violent sedition between the Sunnis and the Shiites in order to derail the Iraqi rising democracy from its path.

Well said Mr. Blair, particularly when we keep in mind the fact that less than a year ago in Basra, two undercover British SAS soldiers were detained by Iraqi security forces whilst traveling in a car full of bombs and remote detonators.

Jailed and accused by Muqtada al-Sadr and others of attempting to generate sectarian conflict by planting bombs in mosques, they were broken out of the Iraqi jail by the British military before they could be tried.
Vietnam, Honduras, Iraq... Why do we seem to be so incapable of acknowledging the horrors are government forces are perpetrating in our names???
Only On FOX...

Media Matters:

Blame Bush

From Richard Dreyfuss at TomPaine.com:
With Iraq perched at the very precipice of an ethnic and sectarian holocaust, the utter failure of the Bush administration’s policy is revealed with starkest clarity. Iraq may or may not fall into the abyss in the next few days and weeks, but what is no longer in doubt is who is to blame: If Iraq is engulfed in civil war then Americans, Iraqis and the international community must hold President Bush and Vice President Cheney responsible for the destruction of Iraq.

The CIA, the State Department, members of Congress and countless Middle East experts warned Bush and Cheney— to no avail— that toppling Saddam could unleash the demons of civil war. They said so before the war, during it and in the aftermath, and each time the warnings were dismissed...

February 25, 2006

When Does The Long War End?

You're only 19 years old but you are already back from Iraq,with a Purple Heart medal to boot.

Your wife is only 18. She doesn't understand how you feel these days. She just wants to go out and have fun all the time.

Boy, does that ever make you mad!

So you stab the bitch 71 times with a knife, then mutilate her dead body with a meat cleaver.
"We all just dodged a bullet..."

Juan Cole explains why the price of oil nearly shot through the roof:
The good news is that the suicide bombing by unidentified radicals against the Saudi oil processing center in largely Shiite Abqaiq (Baqiq) was foiled, though bombs did go off.

Saudi Arabia, dominated by hard line Wahhabi Sunnis, produces about 9.5 million barrels a day of petroleum, and exports over 7 million barrels a day.

Folks, the world only produces about 85 million barrels a day. And most of that is used up by the producers so it isn't available for export. The US, for instance, produces 5.5 million barrels a day, but it uses about 20 million barrels a day. It uses all of its production and then 3 times that from other countries.

So the Saudi production is 11 percent of the world total, but it is far more than that of the amount of petroleum available for anyone else to buy.

If you took out the facility at Abqaiq, it would be very bad news...
It's time to work out what these terrorists really want.

Do they want a global Caliphate based on strict Islamic code? Or do they just want un-corrupted, representative government and an equal share of oil wealth for Middle Eastern citizens?

If the latter, it's time we started talking about real solutions.
"You break it, you own it."

Many blame the United States for the Askariya shrine bombing:
Even a supposed friend — a top Iraqi Shiite leader, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, who President Bush once praised at the White House — took a poke after Wednesday's attack on the Askariya shrine in Samarra, saying the U.S. ambassador ''gave a green light to terrorist groups.''

... With Iraq veering closer to civil war, many feel like Dr. Nabil Salim, a political science professor at Baghdad University who says U.S.-led forces share blame for the shrine bombing ''because they are in charge of security in the country. ... And they are not doing a good job of improving internal security or controlling borders.''

Beyond Iraq, there have been other controversies undermining U.S. stature here that no one could have foreseen...
No one could have foreseen 9/11 either. Or the breaching of the New Orleans levees. Shit happens and people die. No one is responsible. Ever.
"Abracadabra Economics"

Michael Kinsley slams Bush's prescription-drug program:
What's shocking about this, more than the numbers (hundreds of billions of dollars are hard to fathom), is that Bush's drug benefit comes without even a theory about how it will be paid for. Even after nearly three decades of Republican abracadabranomics, this may be a first. A transparently phony theory at least pays tribute to the hypothesis that money doesn't grow on trees. Not even to bother coming up with a phony theory is an arrogant insult to democracy. It raises "because I said so" to a governing philosophy.

February 24, 2006

Do They Think We Are Idiots? Yes!

Can you believe this:
A controversial counter-terrorism program, which lawmakers halted more than two years ago amid outcries from privacy advocates, was stopped in name only and has quietly continued within the intelligence agency now fending off charges that it has violated the privacy of U.S. citizens.

Research under the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness program -- which developed technologies to predict terrorist attacks by mining government databases and the personal records of people in the United States -- was moved from the Pentagon's research-and-development agency to another group, which builds technologies primarily for the National Security Agency, according to documents obtained by National Journal and to intelligence sources familiar with the move. The names of key projects were changed, apparently to conceal their identities, but their funding remained intact, often under the same contracts.
Link via Kos.
Losing The War Of Ideas

From a US military website:
Maybe it's the message, not the media, that's the problem.

Neither aggressive, skeptical reporting nor enemy propaganda is to blame for the fact that the Bush administration is still trying to explain why it invaded Iraq in the first place, and why it did so without making adequate preparations for the aftermath. Neither Osama Bin Laden nor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fed gullible officials the bogus notions that Iraq was in league with al-Qaida, was buying uranium in Niger and was in hot pursuit of a nuclear weapons program.

That nonsense didn't come from our enemies; it came from Mr. Rumsfeld's friends.
USA's Iraq Coalition Goes "Bye-Bye!"

The last great earth-shakin', democracy-promotin', terrrrst-scarin' Iraqi election was held way back on December 15th. That is now 71 days ago and yet what passes for the Iraqi government is still far from a substantial coalition of like-minded politicians.


Now, as full-blown Civil War looms, Australian, Japanese, US, and UK heads are meeting to discuss withdrawal strategies.

Given the levels of Japanese opposition to their involvement, it is perhaps no surprise that the Japanese media is the first to leak...
Mainichi newspaper reports the meeting will discuss the logistics of expected troop withdrawals from Iraq, but the agency spokeswoman refused to reveal further details of the talks, saying only that no announcement was expected to emerge.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing agency protocol. The Mainichi report did not cite its sources.
Key point:
Japanese government authorities have suggested that an eventual withdrawal would hinge on the formation of a stable government in Iraq.
The Japanese expect to hear Bush declare formation a full-fledged Iraqi government by the end of March. Then... Coalition Go Bye-bye!

Hey, we did what we could right? It's NOT OUR FAULT!!!

Expect to see more headlines like this in the coming months: U.S. Looks to Baghdad to Deal With Violence
The Gates Of Hell

Every time I've checked the news for the past 24 hours, the number of dead in Iraqi sectarian protests keep rising. It now stands at more than 130.

While politicians on all sides call for calm, it is not clear that ordinary citizens are prepared to listen any more. Baghdad's overnight curfew is being extended until 4 pm on Friday.

Riverbend has posted about the atmosphere:
There has been gunfire all over Baghdad since morning. The streets near our neighborhood were eerily empty and calm but there was a tension that had us all sitting on edge. We heard about problems in areas like Baladiyat where there was some rioting and vandalism, etc. and several mosques in Baghdad were attacked. I think what has everyone most disturbed is the fact that the reaction was so swift, like it was just waiting to happen...

No one went to work today as the streets were mostly closed. The situation isn’t good at all. I don’t think I remember things being this tense- everyone is just watching and waiting quietly. There’s so much talk of civil war and yet, with the people I know- Sunnis and Shia alike- I can hardly believe it is a possibility. Educated, sophisticated Iraqis are horrified with the idea of turning against each other, and even not-so-educated Iraqis seem very aware that this is a small part of a bigger, more ominous plan.
The worst-case scenario is that this Sunni-versus-Shia violence could spread across the entire Middle East:
To the dismay of many Sunni Arab leaders, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent empowerment of the majority Shia through elections altered the regional balance of power.

In the words of King Abdullah of Jordan, who has expressed alarm at the growing influence of Tehran, this created a Shia “crescent” extending from Iran and Iraq into Lebanon.

One result has been that Shia populations in the Sunni-dominated Gulf have become more assertive in demanding their rights, both where they are in the majority but ruled by the Sunni, as in Bahrain, and in Saudi Arabia where they form less than 10 percent of the population.
Let us hope, as the Financial Times expresses it, that the bombers' attempt to drive a wedge between Islam’s two main sects will prove so transparent that it may have the opposite effect, and instead bring Sunni and Shia closer together (at least outside Iraq: internal divisions look set to suffer).
Crazy, Violent World

Meanwhile, in Nigeria:
Christian mobs, seeking revenge for the killings of Christians in the north, attacked Muslims with cutlasses, destroyed their houses and torched mosques in two days of violence in Onitsha, where at least 85 people have died.
It is all part of a wave of violence sweeping the country, where both politics and religion are cited as reasons for violence:
Thousands of people have been killed in religious violence in Africa's top oil exporter since the restoration of democracy in 1999. Killings in one part of the country often spark reprisals elsewhere.

The triggers for riots that killed 46 people, mostly Christians, in the northern cities of Maiduguri, Bauchi and Katsina at the weekend were different, but religious and secular leaders have linked them to political tensions.

In Maiduguri and Bauchi, the international row over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad and an alleged blasphemy started the trouble. In Katsina it was a constitutional review that many see as an attempt to keep Obasanjo in power.

Muslim rioters torched several churches and attacked Christians with guns, machetes and sticks.
And in the Darfur region of nearby Sudan, John Bolton's USA is isolated by the other UN countries after calling for a quick fix solution... three years too late:
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million herded into camps during more than three years of fighting in the remote western Sudanese region.

The United States, under growing pressure from religious groups to do more for Darfur, says genocide is taking place there with rape, looting and killing by Arab militias known as the Janjaweed.

The West accuses the government of backing the militias as proxy fighters against non-Arab rebels who took up arms in early 2003 after accusing the authorities of neglect.
This is obviously a situation where outsiders should be helping, not playing politics. See the Amnesty website for more background on the problems besetting these forgotten African nations.
Australia, Where The Bloody Hell Are You?

Yesterday Australian treasurer Peter Costello, the man who would be PM, tried to lessen the impact of the AWB Iraq sanctions-busting scandal by further alienating Muslims in this country:
Before becoming an Australian you will be asked to subscribe to certain values. If you have strong objections to those values, don't come to Australia.
Today, Pauline Hanson, a failed right-wing racist politician, claimed Costello's comments as vindication of her views:
If Peter Costello is wanting to be a future prime minister of this country he needs to take a tough stand on this. He needs to deal with it harshly. He needs to throw these people out of this country who do not embrace Australia.
Embrace Australia, Pauline? By my standards, it is you who do not embrace the mulitcultural and harmonious Australia that I want to live in. I would be more than happy to throw you out of the country, but where would I throw you? Austria, perhaps?

Richard Walsh describes debates like this as part of an epic struggle for the very soul of Australia:
It's a "Whatever it takes" world we live in now. If it takes lies to stay in power or bribes to sell our wheat, no matter.

We cling to our tenuous prosperity as though Howard were its only begetter and as if money really can buy us happiness...
All in all, I would say say the latest tourist advertising slogan is entirely appropriate for this new, meaner Australia:
"Where the bloody hell are you?"
This issue of broader values is something I have blogged about again and again and again and again! We get the governments we deserve, and our pro-Fascist, Big Business governments should been seen as a symptom of a wider social disease, both in the USA and Australia.

Of course, a compliant media reaping the financial rewards of $1.6 billion-a-year government propaganda campaigns doesn't help!
US Hypocrisy On Show

Hard to resist playing with the latest Bushism:
"This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security of the United States of America."
Michael Moore's response is a big headline:
War on Terror Over!
You wish!

Then there is this quote from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England:
If the furor over the port deal should go on, Mr. England said, it would give enemies of the United States aid and comfort: "They want us to become distrustful, they want us to become paranoid and isolationist."
As AMERICAblog notes, Bush & Co. spent the past five years making Americans paranoid for purely political reasons. Now they want US citizens to get relaxed and comfortable? I guess it is all part of being a rose-coloured-glasses Conservative... wheee!!!

Still on the subject of blatant hypocrisy, Condi Rice has been copping a blast or two in the Middle East:
"How is it possible to harmonize the U.S. position as a nation supporting freedom of expression and the right of people to practice democracy with your efforts to curb the will of Hamas and put pressures on other countries in this regard?" an Arab journalist asked Rice at a Wednesday night press conference in Riyadh.

"Why don't you give Hamas a chance to express the will of people?" the journalist asked, repeating a version of a question Rice faced earlier in Cairo...

Hala Mostafa, a dissident member of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, held up for Rice a copy of a state-owned magazine, Rose al Youssef, that attacked liberals by name. The practice is common in Egypt's state-dominated media.

"If you are really serious about (reform), you should criticize this," she told Rice.
No Permanent US Bases In Iraq?

Well, someone has finally said it, at least sort of...
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of plans and strategy for US Central Command, told reporters it 'would be a fundamental error' to keep a large number of ground troops 'garrisoned' in the region.

'After Iraq and Afghanistan are stabilized, we need ... a fraction' of the 200,000 US troops now stationed in the region, Kimmitt said in Washington.

A continuing US military presence in the region would only continue to serve as a provocation for al-Qaeda terrorist propaganda, he said.
So what is a "fraction"? Kimmitt is not saying:
He said the US would only consider keeping a permanent base in Iraq if asked to do so by the government.

'Iraq has not approached us about keeping permanent bases,' Kimmitt said.
And remember, he is only talking about "after Iraq and Afghanistan are stabilized". That could be about a thousand years, at this rate. No wonder Kimmitt is calling it "the long war".

The article is worth a read for its description of changing US attitudes on how to fight terror. There seems to be a realisation - at last - that sheer military brutality alone will not do the job. Gee, who woulda guessed, eh?
Globalization At Work

The Boston Globe reports that Jack Abramoff had ties to the Russian Government as well:
The subpoena seeks information about ties between Abramoff-related groups and a Moscow energy giant that is called Naftasib, a major supplier to the Russian military.

Investigators have asked for any information about Abramoff's dealings with two top Naftasib executives, Alexander Koulakovsky and Marina Nevskaya. Senior Naftasib executives helped arrange a trip Abramoff took to Moscow in 1997 with former House majority leader Tom DeLay, a longtime Abramoff friend.
In a sign of sheer desperation, DeLay is trying to distance himself from Abramoff with outright lies. It's all very bad news for Bush, who may be able to hide his relationship with Abramoff but is a long-time personal friend of DeLay.

February 23, 2006

You Are... So Beautiful...

To me...!

PS: Can I take a toilet break now?
US Bullying

USA seeks to block Aristide's return to Haiti:
The ousted leader said his supporters had voted for his return by electing Mr Preval, his former ally.

But the US State Department said Mr Aristide's return would serve no useful purpose and could destabilise Haiti.

"Aristide is from the past. We're looking to the future," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.
"We"? Who is "we"? Haiti's new President, Rene Preval says Aristide should be allowed to return. So what is this? A democracy or a protectorate?
What Would Happen If You Actually DID Something?

Mike Ferner and friends from the Voices for Creative Nonviolence are staging a hunger stike in Washington CD. They have already been fasting for eight days:
Here is the reaction I’ve observed so far.

* To the overwhelming percentage of people, maybe 80%, we rate a quick glance or are completely invisible.
* The nattering nabobs of negativity, actually quite a small portion of the total, shake their heads, or glare, or protectively pull their children quickly toward them, or try to come up with some snappy remark to let us know our presence is not appreciated.
* Greater in number than the nabobs, although still a small part of the total, actually take a flyer if their path happens to intersect our location, or give us a “thumbs-up” from a distance, or blessedly, actually make a point of stopping, reading our banner, and come over to chat. I shudder to estimate what percent of total passers-by are in that last category – and keep in mind that not a small number of those good souls are tourists from other nations.
If you think of yourself as someone who might be in that last category, Mike has a message for you:
If you place yourself in that group of and have done something to make noise against this war, you must look into your heart, think, and determine what you can do that is more than you ever thought you could.

No matter what any of us has done, there is something more that we can do. If we believe this war is a criminal abomination, an ongoing atrocity in which we are each complicit, we simply must do more.
With His Deals Killing Me Softly...

From AP:
The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.
Worth A Read

WaPo looks at the Friends of Scooter Libby.
Bush's Iraq: The Shiite Hits The Fan


Now who would have - and could have - done this? It is obviously an attempt to trigger all-out civil war. But why?

A few questions to ponder: if Civil War does erupt, what will the USA do? Send in more troops (not likely)? Flee the country? Or (more likely) pull back to their huge military bases and use private contractors to secure the oil pipelines?

In whose interest is such a Civil War? Who would want to see even more long-term destabilisation of Iraq? Aside from promoting Al Quaeda's objectives, would civil war not also be the perfect excuse for the USA (or, more to the point, Cheney-Halliburton-BushCo Inc.) to maintain a military presence in Iraq for decades to come?

The USA will blame Al Queada, of course. But if it is reasonable to assume that Al Quaeda could be behind this sophisticated attack (four bombs with timed detonators, guards tied up in the early hours of the morning, no one harmed, attackers escaped), is it not also reasonable to assume that an undercover US-backed team could have been responsible?

As Juan Cole writes:
Iran is blaming Bush and the Israelis, which is ridiculous but already widely believed in Iraq and Iran.
Indeed, some crazy conspiracy theorists even assume that the Bush Neocon Cabal and Bin Laden are working in tandem, given how incidents like this one (and 9/11) seem to further the agenda of both.

Personally, I doubt that. But I think the fact that people can even say such things with any credibility at all is a damning indictment on how hopelessly misguided the whole Bush-sponsored "war" on terrorism has been. How on earth can you "defeat" an enemy when your every move makes him more powerful? Of course, the answer is that you do not really want to defeat him, since his every move also makes you more powerful.

Cole also explains the significance of the Askariyah shrine:
The shrine, sacred to Shiiites, honors 3 Imams or holy descendants of the Prophet. They are Ali al-Hadi, Hasan al-Askari, and his disappeared son Muhammad al-Mahdi. Thousands of Shiiites demonnstrated in Samarra and in East Baghdad, against this desecration.

The Twelfh Imam or Mahdi is believed by Shiites to have disappeared into a supernatural realm (just as Christians believe in the ascension of Christ) from which he will someday return.

Some Shiites think his second coming is imminent. Muqtada all-Sadr and his followers are among them. They are livid about this attack on the shrine of the Mahdi's father.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also a firm believer in the imminent coming of the Mahdi. I worry that Iranian anger will boil over as a result of this bombing of a Shiite millenarian symbol.

Both Sunnis and Americans will be blamed. Very bad.
UPDATE: Right-wing talkshow opinion-meister Bill O'Reilly says it's time for the USA to "hand over everything to the Iraqis as fast as humanly possible" because "[t]here are so many nuts in the country -- so many crazies -- that we can't control them."

Hmmn. O'Reilly gets his talking points straight from Karl Rove. So what's going on here?

Fly on the wall in the Oval Office hears:
Those frickin' Shiites think they can throw us out do they? They think they can run the damned country??? We'll show them! Donny, blow the fuck out of the place! Schools, mosques, whatever! Karl, tell your wingnut club it's all the stupid Iraqis' fault - we tried to help them but we are not going to keep wasting US dollars and US lives on this crap! George, ... George? ... Hey, where's the Chimp? Ok, never mind... Condi, you go do another tour of the Middle East. Tell 'em we're ready to pull out and get what you can in exchange. Just don't mention the bases... Andy, call my stock-broker. Long on KBR, OK? Scotty, get off your knees - I'm done. If anybody needs me, I'll be in my Secret Undisclosed Location with a bottle of Rotgut and a hot chick called Susan something...
Meanwhile, In Hell...

Force-feeding Gitmo prisoners with nasal drips was proving difficult (detainees were "deliberately vomiting or siphoning out the liquid they had been fed") so the USA has resorted to " more aggressive methods":
"The head is immobilized by a strap so it can't be moved, their hands are cuffed to the chair and the legs are shackled," the notes quote Mr. Hassan as saying. "They ask, 'Are you going to eat or not?' and if not, they insert the tube. People have been urinating and defecating on themselves in these feedings and vomiting and bleeding. They ask to be allowed to go to the bathroom, but they will not let them go. They have sometimes put diapers on them."
Verification of the use of such "restraint chairs" comes after Gitmo officials previously denied a NYT Feb 9th report on the subject.

A second Gitmo prison building is currently under construction.
Hey, I'm Just The Cheerleader, Not The Real Leader!

Bush Unaware of Ports Deal Before Approval:
"He became aware of it over the last several days," McClellan said. Asked if Bush did not know about it until it was a done deal, McClellan said, "That's correct."
And from TPM:
The NY Times reported today that the law governing this sort of deal, when "the acquiring company is controlled by or acting on behalf of a foreign government," requires a "mandatory," 45-day investigation. That was never done, and what's more, "Administration officials ... could not say why a 45-day investigation did not occur."
So Bush didn't know about this deal, which was done on the sly, yet is still up there in front of the cameras, aggressively demanding that it be passed.

You could almost shrug that off, except that there is definitely a pattern emerging here:
President Bush, on a three-state trip to promote his energy policy, said Tuesday that a budgeting mix-up was the reason 32 workers at one of the nation's premier renewable energy labs were laid off and then reinstated just before his visit.

Bush addressed the funding problem as soon as he began speaking here at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is developing the sort of renewable energy technologies the president is promoting.

"Sometimes, decisions made as the result of the appropriations process, the money may not end up where it was supposed to have gone," Bush said.
With Rove still fighting off the Fitzgerald enquiry and Cheney bogged down with good old-fashioned public accountability for shooting a man in the face, the level of incompetence in the White House seems to be plummeting new lows. So who's in charge these days?

No wonder increasing numbers of US citizens are worried about what happens when the next disaster strikes:
The AP-Ipsos poll, which surveyed 1,000 adults Feb. 13-16 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, also found a nearly mirror-image split between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of handling the next major disaster.

Nearly three in four Republicans, 70 percent, said they were confident in the government's readiness. Almost the same proportion of Democrats, 72 percent, said they were not confident.

But the poll also found a striking drop in confidence among Republicans in whether the federal money earmarked for Gulf Coast recovery was being spent responsibly.

In mid-September, 60 percent of Republicans said they believed that money was being spent wisely. That figure has now dropped to just 37 percent. For Democrats, the figure has dropped from 47 percent five months ago to 30 percent today.
Heckuva job, George...

UPDATE: Dan Froomkin doesn't hold anything back:
With President Bush's credibility damaged and his political clout eroded, maybe it was just a matter of time before "trust me" didn't hack it anymore -- even with his most loyal supporters in Congress...

Suddenly, it's Bush who is on the receiving end of scathing critiques that he is weak on terror and oblivious to post-9/11 realities...

So look for White House Plan B, which is to remain steadfast in public while crafting a private retreat that is ultimately spun as a Bush victory.

Not once in Bush's five years as president has he gone to Plan C -- a veto. And while Bush threatened one yesterday, using his very first veto in the face of so much public flak would be a dramatic political defeat. Having that veto overridden would be a debacle.

One question that kept coming up yesterday: Why is this so important to Bush? There's a lot of speculation below. Bush himself says it's about fair play. Some critics suggest he puts free-market corporate values ahead of literally everything else. Or could it be that the White House is concerned that any sign of backing down to Congress on anything right now would be seen as the official start of its slide into lame-duck status?

February 22, 2006

Death To The USA? Maybe Bush's USA Is Already Dead.

The latest news via ABC News Online:
Ninety-eight prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, the US-based Human Rights First organisation says.

Speaking on BBC television, the organisation says a report to be published by a group of US lawyers details at least 98 deaths, with at least 34 of them suspected or confirmed homicides.

Their dossier claims that 11 more deaths are deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12 prisoners were tortured to death.
You know, I hate to say it but gut-wrenching shit like this is just keeps coming out of Bush's USA day after day after day... Seriously, it makes my heart physically ache. It is like an illness upon the planet.

One has to begin to wonder whether the USA has always been as immoral and bloodthirsty as it appears today, maybe ever since the crazed, land-grabbing murder sprees of the Wild West?

Maybe few people in the rest of the world ever really noticed the full extent of US depravity until modern communication methods, like blogs and a digitized global media, allowed people to document the abuses and comment on them in real time, day after day after day...

Can you imagine if such instant global communication had existed during the Vietnam War or the Korean War? Imagine live-blogging from My Lai? Images reproduced on TV screens around the world before US political spin-meisters had time to formulate a canned response?

Let's just take a look at Bush himself as a symptom of the social illness affecting the USA today. Here is a man who is so totally out of touch with common citizens that he simply cannot understand, much less anticipate, widespread outrage at his Big Business policies. Here is a man whose failure to master English was surely a pretty clear warning of the abyssmal incompentence he would display as Dick Cheney's Puppet President. Yet the citizens of the USA elected him... TWICE!!!

I think you have to go back to Gordon Gecko's "greed is good" credo to understand what's wrong with the USA today (and maybe for the past 500 years). That may be the individual viewpoint from which all this other craziness springs...

In the USA today, everything can be justified in the name of profit. Big Business is necessarily (and obviously: there is no discussion) Good Business. Ethics are for losers, unless they are not going to impinge on the sacred Profit Line. And Foreign Aid??? Forget it!!! The USA is Number One (whoo hoo) and everybody else in the world, every man, woman and child, is somehow a lesser form of human being. Why should I care about homeless kids on the rubbish tips of Manila when my SUV is sucking gas at over two bucks a gallon, dammit!???

"The American Dream" is to make it rich (and powerful) - how you do it is your own business, buddy! As long as you don't get caught, you are a hero. And even if you do get caught (Richard Nixon, Oliver North, etc) there will still be millions willing to worship you.

Surely it is time for all the citizens of Bush's USA - even you Democrats and Independents and apolitical spectators - to take a long, hard look at yourselves.

Here in Australia, the "dream" is to own your own house. That's it. A simple and not ignoble ambition, surely shared by billions around the world. What's wrong with that? Why is that not enough for people in the USA?

I am struggling not to unfairly stereotype people here, of course. There are good and bad people everywhere, and like most countries in the world, John Howard's Australia is hardly un-touched by this US disease. Our kids, like yours, grow up with Hollywood, McDonalds and FOX...

But listen.

One day we will all be dead, whether we die gently in our sleep, surrounded by a loving family, or in shocking pain, shrieking for mercy during a military interrogation. And when that moment comes, if God grants us just a single moment's grace, we will all look back upon our lives... and what will we see? How will we judge ourselves?

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

America, have you lost your soul? It sure looks that way...

The "Direct Proposition To Impeach," A Way For Any One Congressman Or Delegate To Bring Bush Impeachment To The Floor Of The House.

Brought to you by the Impeach Bush Coalition.
SBS World Outrage

Crikey on SBS TV's Abu Ghraib world scoop:
Dateline's Abu Ghraib story is the biggest international scoop by an Australian media organisation for a long time. The story has spread like wildfire around the world, with the footage and photos running across Middle Eastern and Western TV stations and front pages worldwide. And the current affairs program has come under direct fire from the Bush administration as it criticised the program's decision to run the images.

This isn't the first time Dateline has hit world headlines; last October it broadcast images of US soldiers burning the corpses of two Taliban fighters. So did they anticipate such a massive worldwide reaction? "No, we didn't to be honest," Dateline's Executive Producer Mike Carey told Crikey. "It's an extraordinary response. It's gone everywhere. We're getting calls and emails from as far away as Hungary and Latin America, all over the world really."

"We didn't envisage that it would be like this," says Carey. "We can't have it both ways, we can't say that we didn't expect it to be as big as this and then" be accused of doing it for the publicity. "I didn't think it would create the same impact [as last time]. All we were concerned with was making sure that what we were doing was the right thing to do."

"We had hesitations over some of the images on the grounds of taste," such as the sexually explicit material, says Carey, but "the thing that really convinced us was the images of corpses…There are so many unanswered questions that we had a responsibility to show them, because of the level of depravity and unexplained questions. Surely these things should be addressed."

So how does Dateline respond to the fact that respected news outlets like The Washington Post have decided not to run the images? That's just "gutless," says Carey. "We do understand that some US magazines had the photos and have been sitting on them which I put down to self censorship."
Bush Co. Gets Ready To Overturn Roe v. Wade

Well, that didn't take long, did it? US court takes up abortion case.
US Out, UN In

Juan Cole argues for a UN takeover of the USA's role in Iraq:
1. The United Nations has political legitimacy in the Middle East. American unilateralism does not. The guerrillas would be humiliated to deal with Bush, who crushed them and marginalized them. They would be more likely to treat with the UN.

2. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has demanded greater UN involvement, and he has enormous authority with the Shiite majority.

3. No country is going to send troops to Iraq under a United States military command. There has to be a United Nations peace-enforcing command. Once that exists, it might become an umbrella for Arab League troops, e.g. Cheney was told as much when he was in Cairo, according to the Arabic press.

I.e., by keeping out the UN, the Bush administration is guaranteeing that it is mainly American (and British) blood and treasure that is spilt in Iraq for years to come.

4. If the United Nations could be mobilized to help Iraq through the coming years of instability and help shepherd it to independence from the US and UK, it would help to strengthen international, multilateral organizations generally and contribute to an institutionalization of international law.

5. The permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as all UN member states, have a keen interest in the fate of Iraq and the Gulf. They should be encouraged to deploy some of their treasure (and probably some blood) for the common benefit of Iraqis and the world.

6. The peace movement will be more credible if it has a program other than simple US withdrawal from Iraq. The US public is aware that an Iraq in flames at the head of the oil-rich Gulf could have a horrible impact on the US itself. A demand that the Iraq situation be internationalized is a responsible way of getting the US out, getting Iraq out of Bush's incompetent hands, and helping Iraqis move forward.

7. Bush invaded Iraq in part in order to destroy the United Nations. Forcing him to bring it in to Iraq would be a blow against American unilateralism and rightwing American aggression for decades to come.
Doing It For Themselves

WOMEN SAY NO TO WAR: Sign up for a Washington DC protest on March 8th.
What Are They Hiding?

The New York Times says Team Bush is not only classifying new documents at an alarming rate, but also re-classifying stuff which has been in the public domain for many years:
But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.

Mr. Aid was struck by what seemed to him the innocuous contents of the documents — mostly decades-old State Department reports from the Korean War and the early cold war...
Remember, people like Cheney and Rumsfeld are old Cold War Warriors with long records going right back to the Nixon years...
Anyone Sense A Pattern Here?

Selected headlines from Antiwar.com today:

Iraq PM to US: Butt Out

Iraqi Province Cuts Off US Forces

US Threatens to Cut Aid to Iraq

US Experts Explore Iraq Exit Strategies

Three Years of War: Taking Stock

Democrats May Unite on Plan to Pull Troops

War Costs Irk Congress
"Gee, that's not what we ought to be doing!"

But we are still doing it.

Rumsfeld today changed his story about US paid propaganda in Iraqi news media:
Rumsfeld told reporters he was mistaken in the earlier assertion.

"I don't have knowledge as to whether it's been stopped. I do have knowledge it was put under review. I was correctly informed. And I just misstated the facts," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news briefing.
Rumsfeld also told reporters than he had no knowledge of the Dubai Ports Deal until a few days after it had been approved:
I am reluctant to make judgments based on the minimal amount of information I have because I just heard about this over the weekend.
But as Think Progress reports, the deal will directly affect Rumsfeld's Defense Department. And that's not all:
Donald Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, is a member of Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. As such, he was one of the people who, according to the Treasury Department, unanimously approved the sale on February 13. How could do that when he didn’t even find out about the sale until last weekend?
Serial liar, or just an incompetent ass?

As one TP commenter noted, this Dubai Ports deal has the fingerprints of Bush Snr's Carlyle Group all over it. There are also lots of ties between the Dubai operators and the Bush administration. No wonder Bush is threatening to - gasp! - use the veto:
Bush said that protesting lawmakers should understand his approval of the deal was final.

"They ought to listen to what I have to say about this," the president said. "They'll look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto."

Bush, who has never vetoed a bill as president, said on the White House South Lawn:

"This is a company that has played by the rules, has been cooperative with the United States, from a country that's an ally on the war on terror, and it would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through."
Ah, yes, friends...

NB: I believe the US spelling "ass" is appropriate in this case, as I am referring to a US citizen. Australia's John Howard is, of course, an "arse". Did you see that Canada just bagged our collapsed wheat deal with Iraq? Hilarious. So it's one, two, three: what are we fighting for?

February 21, 2006

Malaysian PM paid Abramoff for Meeting With Bush (arranged by Rove)

Daily Kos has the details.

Unfortunately, Mahatir has only marginally more credibility than Saddam, but that should not prevent a full and thorough investigation.

Expect to see a lot more of this lady on your TV screen:

Abramoff talked of his access to Rove and cited his relationship with Rove's secretary, Susan Ralston, who serves as Rove's administrative assistant. Before joining the White House staff, Ralston was an assistant to Abramoff. One of the former associates said Abramoff referred to Ralston as "my implant" in the White House.
Meanwhile, Back In Australia...

Funny, isn't it? One day John Howard says his government is ready to co-operate fully with the Cole Enquiry IF AND WHEN Commissioner Terence Cole asks for it, the next day (after Cole makes an informal request) he says his Government has handed over everything already:
"I mean, what more can I say?" he said.

"I've given him my documents, he's got my file, he's got Mr Downer's file, he's got the Defence Minister's file, he's got the Attorney-General's file, he's given notices to produce to all these government departments - and let him do his job."
If Cole has any decency he will publicly demand a broadening of his terms of enquiry.
Death Throes Of The US Neo-conservatives

Why on earth is an otherwise decent paper like the LA Times giving column space to Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (a.k.a. neo-conservative central)?

Pletka's article, It's no secret: The CIA plays politics, is an attempt to belittle anti-war criticism from disgruntled CIA informants (like Michael Scheuer, Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, and now Paul Pillar) as petty agency politics (never mind the fact that these guys are walking away from the CIA!).

Hope you still have those barf bags handy...
But in the case of Iraq, at least two bipartisan commissions have concluded that there was no such pressure to change conclusions on Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorists or his WMD program. In this case at least, much of the politics was inside the CIA....

Although Pillar and other self-proclaimed apolitical ex-spooks and bureaucrats now insist that the leakers were merely educating the public, it should be clear from the sheer volume of senior intelligence officials quoted regularly in the nation's newspapers that there was — and is — a specific agenda.
Got that? Bush's own hand-crafted reports said the intelligence was never fixed, therefore it never was. The more CIA people who say the intelligence was fixed, the more proof that it wasn't!

It gets worse. Pletka talks about "inaccurate warnings" of civil war in Iraq, and "the ridiculous and premature assertion that Iraq will have no value as a 'democratic exemplar.'" Does she seriously believe that Iraq, in its present state, is any kind of Democratic beacon? Does she honestly doubt that Shia-versus-Sunni civil war still looms dangerously close these days?

It doesn't really matter what Pletka thinks. What matters is that this is yet another deliberate neo-con attempt to further confuse the US public. It's classic Orwellian nonsense, straight from the Karl Rove copybook: the best form of defence is always attack. Therefore, anyone against the war must wish Saddam was still in power...
these CIA-sourced handwringers suggest that things would be better had we not invaded at all.
... and it's the CIA whistle-blowers themselves who are to blame for the faulty intelligence:
...the American people should be certain that their democratically elected leaders are making decisions based on unbiased intelligence. They won't get that from today's CIA.
What a load of hogwash!!!

The LA Times should be ashamed for printing such rubbish.

Anything published by a neo-conservative these days should be clearly labelled as such, as a warning to readers. Following on from Francis Fukuyama's recent NYT piece, this Pletka article suggests the discredited neo-conservatives are involved in one last desperate effort to clear their names (and hold on to power) before history, and the US public, writes them off forever.

Oh, the ignominy!
Mid-week Reading

Australian foreign policy and the management of intelligence post-September 11, by James Cotton, Asia Pacifiic Shool of Economics and Government, ANU (pdf here).
US Tribal Militias?

A strange comment from Informed Comment today:
Al-Hayat reports that the Americans have given up attempting to dialogue with the Sunni Arab Resistance, preferring instead to deal with the tribes. This attempt has not gone well. The Americans paid $20 million to set up something called "tribal militias," money that appears to have simply been embezzled.

Iraqi Accord Front member Shaikh Khalaf al-`Ulyan called on the US government to direct its efforts toward the Iraqi resistance groups, saying that it had been a huge error to focuse in Ramadi on tribal chieftains who in fact have no influence, and some of whom had not even been in Anbar province for years. Shaikh Farhan al-Sadid also emphasized that the Americans would get nowhere with security in Anbar until they talked directly to the armed resistance.
Sounds more than a little odd to me...
USA OUT... Of Japan!

Japanese want US marines out of Okinawa.

US government says it cannot afford to more them. It puts the cost of the move at $8 billion!

Japanese government says we will lend you the money - just GO!
Bob Dylan Tied to Cheney Shooting!
Hey, Rocky! Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Outta My Hat...

Bush says the USA is on the verge of 'startling' breakthroughs in energy technology:
"Our nation is on the threshold of new energy technology that I think will startle the American people," Bush said. "We're on the edge of some amazing breakthroughs, breakthroughs all aimed at enhancing our national security and our economic security and the quality of life of the folks who live here in the United States."
Hmmn... Does he actually know that something big is coming, or is he just spinning ("seeking to fuel his own agenda" as Forbes puts it)? I wonder if those "amazing breakthroughs" could be related to technolgy that the USA has been suppressing for years, such as Ralph Sarich's Orbital engine:
A conspiracy theory known to almost all mechanically-inclined Australians holds that the patent for the Sarich Orbital engine was exclusively licensed and then suppressed by Ford, perhaps in order to prevent a drop in oil prices, or simply to maintain the value of existing manufacturing facilities, should the highly-efficient engine displace conventional piston engines.
Conspiracy theory? Or just a conspiracy?
Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods But Bush's God

So it has come to this:
Mr Khalilzad says the US will not continue to pour money into a government and security forces that fail to represent all Iraqi people...

"We've spent a lot of blood and treasure here and we want Iraq's success to be our success, and God forbid, Iraq's failure will also be ours," he said.
This from a US administration which holds daily prayer meetings, hands out millions to "Faith-based" initiatives, and gets Presidential inspiration direct from God.

February 20, 2006

One Shambles After Another

The Dubai Ports contract looks like being another major Bush administration stuff-up: read Georgia10 at Kos for background then the New York Times for reaction.

And while you are at the NYT, former neo-con Francis Fukuyama has a new piece, After Neoconservatism:
As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly... There are clear benefits to the Iraqi people from the removal of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, and perhaps some positive spillover effects in Lebanon and Syria. But it is very hard to see how these developments in themselves justify the blood and treasure that the United States has spent on the project to this point.

The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration's first term is now in shambles...
Lest you get too excited by all that, Fukuyama reminds us all that he is still a true believer in the neo-con vision:
Were the United States to retreat from the world stage, following a drawdown in Iraq, it would in my view be a huge tragedy, because American power and influence have been critical to the maintenance of an open and increasingly democratic order around the world. The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them...
So the vision of a US Global Empire is fine, it's just a little fine-tuning that is required.

Fukuyama should really be hiding under a rock these days. Instead he gets paid to write six-page articles for the Times. Go figure...

I am tempted to say "F$%& You, Mr Fukuyama!" but that would be crass and vulgar.

What the USA needs to understand is that the rest of the world is made up of REAL PEOPLE!!! We have hopes and dreams and feelings just like you! Stop trying to conquer us or control us or blow us up, and just sit down and TALK TO US!!!
Cue The Bearded One...

As if appearing on cue to emphasize Donald Rumsfeld's recent remarks, that old sly dog Osama bin Laden has again popped up his bearded head to declare that his movement is gaining strength despite the barbaric methods of the USA and its partners.

Rather than devote time and energy to the agendas of either bin Laden or Rumsfeld, however, let's look at something Simon Jenkins recently wrote in the Sunday Times:
Were I Bin Laden I could not have dreamt that the spirit of 9/11 would be so vigorous five years on. I have western leaders still parroting my motto that “9/11 alters everything” and “the rules of the game are changed”. I have the Taliban resurgent, financed by Europe’s voracious demand for oil and opium. I have the Pentagon and Scotland Yard paying me the compliment of a “long war” of indefinite duration. My potency is said to require more defence spending than was needed to contain the might of the Soviet Union...

The 9/11 “changes everything” mantra began as an explanation of a national trauma and a plea for sympathy. It was hijacked to validate the latent authoritarianism of democratic leaders.

America asks the world to believe itself so threatened as to require the kidnappings of foreign citizens in foreign parts, detention without legal process, the curbing of free speech and derogation from all international law. It asks the world to believe that it must disregard the Geneva conventions and employ foreign dictators to help it to torture at random. It uses the same justification for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. The world simply refuses to agree...

Even America’s most robust champions plead that this is all grotesquely counter-productive. What is frightening is not the evil of much American foreign policy at present but its stupidity; the damage it does to its own objectives...

There never was a “terrorist threat” to western civilisation or democracy, only to western lives and property. The threat becomes systemic only when democracy loses its confidence and when its leaders are weak, as now. Terror attacks are for the police. For George Bush and Blair to demand a “long war” against Bin Laden and, by implication, a long suppression of civil liberty is ludicrous. Western civilisation is not some simpering weakling that cowers before a fanatic ’s might, pleading for leaders to protect it by all means, however illegal. It has been proof against Islamic expansionism since the 17th century. It is not at risk.

The American president and the British prime minister have spent half a decade exploiting Bin Laden for political ends, in thrall to their security/industrial complex. They have relied on terrifying their electorates with new and bloodcurdling threats, with what Runciman calls “spook politics”. But they will pass. The half-baked “message” laws passed by Britain’s limp parliament last week will fall in disuse. The vitality of British and American democracy has always been its ability to produce antibodies when truly challenged by an internal or external menace. The West will rediscover its self-belief and restore the liberalism, properly defined as freedom, that it once exemplified to the world.

Bin Laden is not going to win and never was. But Bush and Blair are giving him an astonishing run for his money.
Australia Marks Ten Long Years Of Howard

Look, Iraqis - this is what "Democracy" looks like:
Australia was not only seen to have become less fair, but 55 per cent of voters regard Mr Howard as a divisive figure instead of a unifying one.

Australia's role in the war in Iraq was by far the most commonly named "worst thing" Mr Howard had done. This was followed by criticism that he was too close to the US President, George Bush. Next came concern about his industrial relations legislation.

On voters' two key policy areas - health and education - Mr Howard is perceived to have done poorly, registering 73 per cent disapproval in health and 67 per cent disapproval in education. Voters also named - in order - the economy, jobs, the environment and terrorism as important issues.

But while they were nearly evenly divided on jobs (49 per cent approve, 51 per cent disapprove), voters overwhelmingly disapproved of the Government's handling of the environment, with 81 per cent critical.
The one positive for Howard - Australia's strong economy - can be summed up in one word: China. Without China's demand for Australian commodities, and the massive influx of cheap Cinese goods, Howard would probably be facing jail time by now as a war criminal.

Unfortunately, as the last two elections have shown, my fellow Australians place greed above ethics. We create the world we want to live in, folks.
"New Realities" On Planet Rumsfeld

Rummy has been spinning pure madness in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations. Get out your barf-bags before reading this little sample:
What complicates the ability to respond quickly is that, unlike our enemies, which propagate lies with impunity -- with no penalty whatsoever -- our government does not have the luxury of relying on other sources for information -- anonymous or otherwise. Our government has to be the source. And we tell the truth...

The conclusion is drawn that there is no tolerance for innovation, much less any human error that could conceivably be seized upon by a press that seems to demand perfection from the government, but does not apply the same standard to the enemy or even sometimes to themselves.
Among other shite, Rummy said the Pentagon program to plant propaganda in Iraqi newspapers was a mistake, that he personally was not initially aware of its existence (why not?), and that it had been completely shut down. The Los Angeles Times calls his comments "mistaken":
One person familiar with Lincoln Group's operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of an ongoing investigation, said the program in Iraq was still active as of a week ago.

Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said during a Dec. 16 news conference — more than two weeks after the existence of the operation was revealed — that it had not been shut down.
Scott Horton at the Antiwar.com Blog has a video and transcript of the speech, plus some suitably outraged response.
The Race To Clean Up The GOP Shop

Looks like everyone in the Bush White House and the GOP agree that the whole NSA wire-tapping scandal should be swept under a rug. But which rug to sweep it under?
Mr. Roberts spoke in an interview a day after announcing that the White House, in a turnabout, had agreed to open discussions about changing surveillance law. By Friday, with Mr. Roberts apparently stung by accusations that he had caved to White House pressure not to investigate the eavesdropping without warrants, it appeared the talks could put the White House and Congress on a collision course.

White House officials favor a proposal offered by another Republican senator, Mike DeWine of Ohio, whose bill would exempt the eavesdropping from the intelligence court. Mr. DeWine wants small subcommittees to oversee the wiretapping, but Mr. Roberts said he would like the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees to have regular briefings...

Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico and chairwoman of the House Intelligence subcommittee that oversees the National Security Agency, has pressed for a broad investigation, but Mr. Hoekstra's aides have said that any inquiry would be limited to an examination of the FISA law...

Another senior Senate Republican, Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has proposed legislation that would allow the FISA court to pass judgment on the program's constitutionality. And Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and a member of the intelligence panel, said Friday that she believed the eavesdropping must come under the purview of the judiciary.
One Congressional aide says the selection process is "sort of like snowboardcross, with four proposals shooting out of the gate, jockeying for position." Way to run a country, George.


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