November 30, 2006


At HuffPo, John Seery innocently asks: What If Bush isn't a Complete Idiot?
Consider, for a moment, that he might be pursuing an agenda beyond mere ego and arrogance and idiocy.

The U.S. military hasn't been aggressively patrolling the streets of Baghdad of late. Recent reports suggest that they might be pulling out of al-Anbar province altogether. Sure doesn't look as if the purpose of the U.S. troop presence is to "stabilize" the country anymore. Pull back, lay low, and bide our time. In the meanwhile, let the Shiites kill the Sunnis and vice versa (an official version of Rush Limbaugh's recent call to let civil war proceed unabated). Let the bodies pile up. The Bush Doctrine at this point: Who cares? (Those dead Iraqis are but commas in the Book of History anyway.)

So why stay there? Sometimes you can tease things out by indirection, assuming that they do indeed follow and reveal some logic (a big if in this case, granted). Bush has never pledged that the U.S. would someday leave Iraq altogether, as an ultimate goal. Methinks those military bases are there to stay. "Completing the mission" and "achieving victory" are Bush code words for keeping a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq, a base for future operations.

And for oil. Bush and Cheney, as wily and wangling ex-oil executives, aren't simply going to walk away from those vast oil reserves without a fight.

Let's face it: Bush has no intention of leaving Iraq, but he isn't going public with his ulterior reasons. This is not now a War on Terror, if it ever was--and I suspect he and his advisers know that. This is U.S. imperialism--a geo-strategic land and oil grab. The War on Terror has been a pretext--all along...
Three years later, we are finally moving towards a grown-up discussion. America, what took you so long?

The funny thing is, this could work out to be the best news in months for Bush: just as John Howard has morphed from the "WMDs and terrrrsts" line to the "preserve the strong relationship with the USA" line, so Bush can morph from "spreddin' Democracy" to "in the USA's best strategic interest" line (without skipping a beat, of course).

His base will lap it up. "Brilliant!" they will cry. "You fooled all those dumb Democrat stooges (but not me)."

Just don't think about all the dead bodies.

And hey, buddy! You better be able to PROVE this is really in the USA's best interests.

From the comments at HuffPo:
B I N G O!

This is a probability I hear many people discussing, but it is completely ignored by the media. It makes perfect sense.

Bush and his installers have no shame, they have no principles. They have no ideology other than greed. No religion other than deceit. Neo-conservative? Christian? Pro life? It's all meaningless. Their only "political" philosophy is that they want money. Our money. Iraq's money.

If my friends were domestic oil producers, and their big problem was that their production costs were high and there was too much cheap, middle eastern oil on the market, depressing prices; what would be the best xmas present I could give them?
Me, I Never Liked Poodles

From The Times:
In a devastating verdict on Tony Blair’s decision to back war in Iraq and his “totally one-sided” relationship with President Bush, a US State Department official has said that Britain’s role as a bridge between America and Europe is now “disappearing before our eyes”.

Kendall Myers, a senior State Department analyst, disclosed that for all Britain’s attempts to influence US policy in recent years, “we typically ignore them and take no notice — it’s a sad business”.

He added that he felt “a little ashamed” at Mr Bush’s treatment of the Prime Minister, who had invested so much of his political capital in standing shoulder to shoulder with America after 9/11.

Speaking at an academic forum in Washington on Tuesday night, he answered a question from The Times, saying: “It was a done deal from the beginning, it was a onesided relationship that was entered into with open eyes . . . there was nothing. There was no payback, no sense of reciprocity.” ...

Dr Myers, a specialist in British politics, predicted that the tight bond between Mr Bush and Mr Blair would not be replicated in the future. “What I think and fear is that Britain will draw back from the US without moving closer to Europe. In that sense London’s bridge is falling down.”
Ouch! That's pretty damned calculated.

And you don't go that far out on a limb without the green light from the higher-ups. Or do you?
Last night Dr Myers, who is thought to have attended the discussions over the infamous Downing Street memo in 2002 before the Iraq war, was disowned by the State Department.
Sinking ships. Rats. Dirty business, innit? You almost wonder if the Times (Murdoch owned, by the way) paid him for the pre-retirement comments. Maybe he'll get a column...
Bush says Maliki is my kind of guy. Mind you, he said the same thing about Putin.

But if Bush is so close to al-Maliki, you have to wonder why his administration has spent the past month undermining him.

In related news, 86 Iraqi corpses have been found in the past 24 hours.
Impeachment Day Is Coming...

Go visit and get involved in the protests and other events across the USA.

These are real people making real efforts to create real change. You can be a part of the solution.

By way of example, here's a great piece from David Swanson:
I did something worse than St. Augustine did when I was a kid. I must confess I broke into a house on the other side of town, and I did it just because it was such an ugly beat-down house that needed work so badly. Well, that and I kind of wanted to move out of my parents'.

I broke in at night and I started the renovations. I smashed a lot of the furniture up and actually knocked out a couple of walls. I destroyed the electric panel and stopped up the toilets. The place was a serious, serious wreck, and I was pretty tired, and the owners came home.

They were an elderly couple, and they threatened me and threw stuff at me, but – I'm ashamed to say -- I got a little rough with them and put them in their place. The trouble was, there were two of them and the phone still worked. One of them called the cops, who showed up pretty fast.

I explained to the cops what a wreck the house had been before I'd gotten there, and that seemed to satisfy them at first. Eventually I had to slip them $200 before they would leave me alone. But they were the least of my problems. And when they left, I didn't know what the old man had given them.

It turned out the old folks had installed video cameras in the house, so they had tapes of me busting in and destroying the place, and boy did I come off looking like an idiot, not to mention a criminal. They showed the things on the TV news a little. Then the public debate began.

Most people said I had a moral duty to stay in the house and make sure it didn't get any worse, especially with those walls knocked out. It had been wrong for me to break in, they said, but now that I was there I had better stay until things were worked out properly.

But other people saw it differently. They thought the only way I could come out ahead would be to kill the old couple.

There was a third group too, although they never got mentioned on television. Those were the ones who thought I should just pick up and leave. Those were the ones who worried me. For one thing, if I ever did leave, I knew I would catch hell back home.

I didn't worry too much, though. All I had to do was make sure people knew that if I left, things would get worse...
Oh, Good Grief!

Michael Ledeen gets top billing on Google News.

Worse yet, Ledeen and I actually agree on something (I feel dirty). We both think the Hadley memo was a faked leak from a White House that has been an ardent subscriber to Machiavellian techniques.

Beyond that, however, I have no idea what Ledeen is talking about. He dismisses the memo as a fake, then spends the rest of his article talking about how stupid the people who wrote it are, as if they had actually written it in all seriousness. In sum, it seems to be yet another dummy spit about how all the people with real power are still not listening to Ledeen's advice. Maybe the pressure is taking a toll.

And yet that seems to be how Ledeen makes a living: give some ridiculous advice (e.g. "Bush must attack Russia and China simultaneously, tomorrow") and then spit your dummy when the advice is not followed (e.g. "if we had invaded Russia and China last week, nobody would be complaining about Karl Rove")*.

The same could be said of many Conservative pundits, IMHO. Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Jeffery Goldstein - all smart-assed know-it-alls who make a living being smarmy and ridiculing anyone else's opinion, on any topic you care to name. Their fans latch onto them like parasites, like kids with low self esteem who swarm around the playground bully.

Who cares if they are wrong? These people don't care about the truth, they just want to sound clever. More than that, they want to rub other people's noses in their manifest cleverness.

They will get what they deserve. These things have a way of working themselves out. Mark my words.

* The real agenda is all about moving the Middle Ground in your preferred direction, of course.
Baker's got nothing:
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group reached a consensus on Wednesday on a final report that will call for a gradual pullback of the 15 American combat brigades now in Iraq but stop short of setting a firm timetable for their withdrawal, according to people familiar with the panel’s deliberations...

The report leaves unstated whether the 15 combat brigades that are the bulk of American fighting forces in Iraq would be brought home, or simply pulled back to bases in Iraq or in neighboring countries.
So was this just a ploy to buy time trhough the mid-term elections? Is that the real plan: stall for time for the next two years? Call me a cynic...
Gandhi Versus Howard

OK, folks, time to announce yet another new blog: this one is called... (dum de dum) ...

Howard Out.

From the opening post:
My primary goal is to ensure that John Howard cannot win re-election. My secondary goal is to hold him, and others who facilitated Australia's involvement in the Iraq War, accountable for past lies and misdeeds. Beyond that, I want to get engaged in the national debate about who we are and where we are going, and try to push that in a more positive direction.

It seems to me that as a nation, in terms of self-identity, self-belief and self-respect, we are pretty well lost right now. We need to pull back the curtains on the increasingly global politics-business nexus, and we need to inject a huge dose of idealism into the "story" that controls our national direction. As a melting pot of cultures, Australia has an incredible opportunity to stake out a key place in the globalization debate, the environmental challenge and other big issues. As the Yanks say, it's time to step up to the plate...
Please go visit Howard Out and add it to your bookmarks.

And don't forget to visit my other new blog too: Riding The Juggernaut. It's basically a return to the original question I posted on this blog:
Who built this cursed machine? Who controls it? Should we be trying to stop it, destroy it or re-direct it? Or should we just be jumping off?!?
So now Gandhi offers a choice of three blogs: one focussed on Bush, one on Howard, and one on more generic issues. Take your pick, or bookmark all three!
Al-Maliki's Catch 22

Bush's long-awaited summit with Iraq PM al-Maliki has been postponed 24 hours, following a leaked memo from the White House which seems to have been carefully timed to undermine al-Maliki's negotiating position.
"The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action," the memo said.
Here's a BUSH OUT EXCLUSIVE! A leaked memo from al-Maliki's office:
"The reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Bush is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action," the memo said.

Today's NYT editorial captures al-Maliki's Catch 22 situation:
Mr. Bush needs to make clear that Americans’ patience has all but run out and that he will start bringing the troops home unless Mr. Maliki moves to rein in sectarian bloodletting and Iraqi troops start shouldering more of the burden. Mr. Maliki needs to make Mr. Bush understand Iraq’s full desperation — and his own desperate political weakness. So long as Baghdad remains in chaos — and militias are better armed and more motivated than the Iraqi Army — he has no chance of ending the blood feuds or breaking the cycle of retribution.
The US wants al-Maliki to use his political influence to stop the violence or they will (they say) withdraw US military support. But al-Maliki can't stop the violence because he lacks political influence without US military support.

What to do? The NYT says it's time to start negotiating with terrorists!
Mr. Bush needs to start by giving the Iraqi leader a clear deadline for beginning national reconciliation talks, preferably as soon as Mr. Maliki returns to Baghdad.
Well, who would have ever imagined that it would come to this? Not just talking to Iran and Syria, but all the other bad guys as well! Next thing they will be going back and having a good look at what really pissed Bin Laden off!

To their credit, the NYT also mentions the big O word:
And he should insist that the talks continue until some agreement is reached on protecting minority rights, equitably dividing the country’s oil wealth, and demobilizing sectarian militias.
More of that please. But less of this:
Mr. Maliki needs to give his own deadline to the Americans for launching a truly make-or-break campaign to retake the streets of Baghdad.
We have already done that, folks. The streets of Baghdad, Falluja, Ramadi and other towns have been taken and re-taken and taken again. "Make or Break"? Give me a break! It's BROKEN!!!
Taking It To The Street

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an 18-page letter to Bush in May, which Bush never responded to (wishes he had?). So now the Iran president is writing to the people of the U.S.A.
Noble Americans,

Were we not faced with the activities of the US administration in this part of the world and the negative ramifications of those activities on the daily lives of our peoples, coupled with the many wars and calamities caused by the US administration as well as the tragic consequences of US interference in other countries;

Were the American people not God-fearing, truth-loving, and justice-seeking, while the US administration actively conceals the truth and impedes any objective portrayal of current realities;

And if we did not share a common responsibility to promote and protect freedom and human dignity and integrity;

Then, there would have been little urgency to have a dialogue with you...
Full text above, or key points here.

November 29, 2006

Bush the dickhead:
Webb, a decorated former Marine officer, hammered Allen and Bush over the unpopular war in Iraq while wearing his son’s old combat boots on the campaign trail. It seems the president may have some lingering resentment.

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.
Change Gonna Come: New Blog

As we move into the post-Bush era, I have set up a new blog, which I hope readers of this blog will enjoy: Riding The Juggernaut.

The opening post there explains the rationale behind the new venture. I will be keeping this Bush Out blog going, with a more Bush-specific focus, at least until Bush is out of office.
Phase One Of The Withdrawal?

Pentagon Considers Moving Troops From al-Anbar Province to Baghdad:
The region is a Sunni stronghold and the main base of operations for al Qaeda in Iraq and has been a place of increasing frustration to U.S. commanders.

In a recent intelligence assessment, top Marine in al-Anbar, Col. Peter Devlin, concluded that without a massive infusement of more troops, the battle in al-Anbar is unwinnable.

In the memo, first reported by the Washington Post, Devlin writes, "Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by al Qaeda in Iraq." ...

"If we are not going to do a better job doing what we are doing out [in al-Anbar], what's the point of having them out there?" said a senior military official.
Such a "tactical" retreat would be interepreted as a major loss for US forces, if not an actual win for Al Quaeda (if you believe the terrrrsts control al-Anbar, not ordinary Iraqi insurgents). US citizens had better get used to such things.
Jimmy Carter just called the Iraq War "one of the greatest blunders that American presidents have ever made". But he also said a very strange thing:
Well, you know, there's a difference between letting Iran play a role in the future of Israel, on the other hand, which would be completely out of the question, and including Iran and Syria in a conference of all of the surrounding nations, including those that are close to us, moderate Arabs like Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia and some of the other Gulf States.

But I think if they are included in a conference, that would reassure the Iraqi people that some day in the near future they're going to have complete control over their military and political and economic destiny, and Israeli and American occupation forces are going to be withdrawn. I think that would be something that the president should accept.
Are there Israeli forces in Iraq? Well, d'uh! But is this now a commonly accepted fact?
The Case For Impeachment

WorkingForChange-Tomgram: Bringing Bush to court:
Obviously, as a private citizen, I cannot simply draft and file an indictment. Nor can I convene a grand jury. Instead, in the following pages I intend to present a hypothetical indictment to a hypothetical grand jury. The defendants are President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The crime is tricking the nation into war--in legal terms, conspiracy to defraud the United States. And all of you are invited to join the grand jury.

We will meet for seven days. On day one, I'll present the indictment in the morning and in the afternoon I will explain the applicable law. On days two through seven, we'll have witness testimony, presented in transcript form, with exhibits...

On day seven, when the testimony is complete, I'll leave the room to allow the grand jury to vote.
Excerpted from United States v. George W. Bush et al. by Elizabeth de la Vega.

November 28, 2006


It seems events on the ground are now moving faster than the political spin-meisters can handle. From Time:
"Several officials who are in touch with commission members said that with violence appearing to spiral out of control in Iraq, the group has been flummoxed about finding a solution. "There's complete bewilderment as to what to do," one official said. "They're very frustrated. They can't come up with anything. For the last couple months, they've been thrashing around, calling people, trying to find ideas."
Via Juan Cole, who adds:
The real reason for the muddle is, as I said yesterday, that the Bush administration has not defined a realistic and achievable set of military goals in Iraq. Its original political goal of establishing a unified Iraq with a pro-US government that would let oil contracts on a favorable basis for Houston, would ally with Israel, and would form a springboard for further US pressure on Iran and Syria, is completely unrealistic. Cheney's inability to let go of those objectives is the biggest problem we have in Iraq. Move on.
Michael Moore calls for an immediate withdrawal:
1. Bring the troops home now. Not six months from now. NOW. Quit looking for a way to win. We can't win. We've lost. Sometimes you lose. This is one of those times. Be brave and admit it.

2. Apologize to our soldiers and make amends. Tell them we are sorry they were used to fight a war that had NOTHING to do with our national security. We must commit to taking care of them so that they suffer as little as possible. The mentally and physically maimed must get the best care and significant financial compensation. The families of the deceased deserve the biggest apology and they must be taken care of for the rest of their lives.

3. We must atone for the atrocity we have perpetuated on the people of Iraq. There are few evils worse than waging a war based on a lie, invading another country because you want what they have buried under the ground. Now many more will die. Their blood is on our hands, regardless for whom we voted. If you pay taxes, you have contributed to the three billion dollars a week now being spent to drive Iraq into the hellhole it's become. When the civil war is over, we will have to help rebuild Iraq. We can receive no redemption until we have atoned.
Bush-bashing is popular! Keith Olbermann, Talkin' Tough During Contract Negotiations With MSNBC.
Murdoch's Gotcha
“And to think that Murdoch was once a conservative.”
- Silvio Berlusconi
The new Prodi government in Italy has proposed new media laws which could weaken Berlusconi's control of Italian television. And Rupert Murdoch's Sky Italia (Italy’s sole satellite provider) looks set to be the big winner.

From the NYT:
In the past, Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Murdoch dined together and would collaborate on blockbuster deals [e.g. the Iraq War: gandhi]. Now they take jabs at each other through the press...

In last spring’s elections, Sky Italia played a subtle yet effective role by offering itself as a third-party news alternative to Italy’s traditional stations, which are notoriously beholden to Italy’s various political forces. And Mr. Prodi recently gave Sky an exclusive half-hour interview, later explaining that Sky was the only outlet that would give him the time and balance he needed.

Sky Italia declined to comment, but in a statement said it supported the new media law and any initiative that opened up the television marketplace. And in recent earning reports, Mr. Murdoch has singled out Sky Italia for special praise, noting that it has emerged as one of the News Corporation’s most profitable divisions.
So when media laws are relaxed, as in Australia, Murdoch wins. But when media laws are tightened, as in Italy, Murdoch wins again.

November 27, 2006

Spotlight on Cheney: Hail to the chief. The man worships power and thinks Presidential powers trump anything else.
AWB: Yet Another Shameful Day In Australian History

Let me just repeat my comment at Road To Surfdom:
The Australian nation is in a dysfunctional relationship with a cheating partner. He promises her security and prosperity, but he cheats on her repeatedly and then he lies about it.
“Where were you last night, darling?”
“I was in bed with the AWB, but don’t worry - nothing happened. I promise…”
She knows he is lying, but she doesn’t dare to challenge him, not wholeheartedly. She is scared of confronting the horrible truth, and she dreads the consequences that must inevitably follow.

If our government knowingly breached the UN sanctions program against Iraq, even while millions of innocent Iraqi children were dying as a result of it; if our government then knowingly participated in a pre-planned war, in defiance of international law and the UN, to seize control of Iraq’s oil fields; if our government lied through its collective teeth to hide these facts and then, under international pressure, set up an anodyne enquiry to absolve itself of any guilt; if, with half a million or more Iraqis now dead and their entire country teetering on the precipice of bloody chaos, our Government continues to put its own survival ahead of any moral consideration; if all this and more is true, then we as a nation have lost our way, we are in the hands of mobsters, we are ruled by War Criminals in shiny suits, we are worse than a laughing stock because we have voted for these people again and again and again, even while we watched other people suffer the consequences of our poor judgement.

The desperate refugee children fished from our heaving seas, the suicidal children locked behind razor wires in desert detention centres, the charred corpses of bombed children with blackened, burned out bubbles where their eyes should be… These are the victims of our terrible misjudgement.
The same could be said of the USA, of course, or the UK under Blair. But at least there are some vague stirrings of accountability in those countries. Australia's national apathy has become pathological.

It was 46 degrees celcius out at Birdsville today. The harsh light of the sun was scorching the barren earth. But nobody was breaking a sweat in the air-conditioned corridors of Canberra.
Does Anybody Out There Even Care?

War Protestor's Public Suicide in Chicago Went Unnoticed by Media:
At 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 3 -- four days before an election caused a seismic shift in Washington politics-- Ritscher, a frequent anti-war protester, stood by an off-ramp in downtown Chicago near a statue of a giant flame, set up a video camera, doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire.

Aglow for the crush of morning commuters, his flaming body was supposed to be a call to the nation, a symbol of his rage and discontent with the U.S. war in Iraq.

"Here is the statement I want to make: if I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country," he wrote in his suicide note. "... If one death can atone for anything, in any small way, to say to the world: I apologize for what we have done to you, I am ashamed for the mayhem and turmoil caused by my country."

There was only one problem: No one was listening.

It took five days for the Cook County medical examiner to identify the charred-beyond-recognition corpse. Meanwhile, Ritscher's suicide went largely unnoticed. It wasn't until a reporter for an alternative weekly, the Chicago Reader, pieced the facts together that word began to spread.
This story touches me deeply because I am personally aware of the pain that this unjust war has caused many good, caring souls. One friend had to stop blogging for months, he told me, because it was psychologically damaging.

Even bloggers get the blues. Here's Georgia10 from Kos, Atrios , Digby, and Eric Alterman.

Compare all that with this guy, 19-year-old history major at Wesleyan University in Connecticut:
“I definitely don’t know anyone who would want to fight in Iraq. But beyond that, I get the feeling that most people at school don’t even think about the war. They’re more concerned with what grade they got on yesterday’s test.”
Why Do They Hate US?

What's worse? The fact that the USA killed 82 innocent students when they intentionally bombed a Pakistan school (madrasah) last month, or the fact that the Pakistanis pretended that they did it:
“We thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US,” said a key aide to President Pervez Musharraf. “But there was a lot of collateral damage and we’ve requested the Americans not to do it again.”
Everybody hates Israel.
Tom Engelhardt asks Will Papa Bush's Old Pals Prolong the Iraq Occupation?:
Someday, when the full story is in, we're bound to be riveted. After all, Baker has managed in these months to gather in the wings something like an alternative State Department/National Security Council/CIA-in-waiting in the shell of the Iraq Study Group, which is filled with old movers and shakers going back to the Reagan administration. (He's even begun to conduct something akin to his own foreign policy, meeting with the Syrian foreign minister and Iran's ambassador to the UN, both no-nos for this administration.) The ten key ISG members, in fact, are largely not military strategists or geopolitical thinkers of a sort who might be expected to offer Iraq solutions. They are instead a who's who of establishmentarianism, extending back to the Reagan era.

Is this a major shift in Washington? You bet. How big remains to be seen. But here's the real question: Can the new crowd -- even if the President bows down to Daddy's Boys, which is hardly a given -- get us out of Iraq? Do they even want to? ...

Of course, as we learned in Vietnam, even the most permanent facilities can turn out to be impermanent indeed and even the best defended imperial embassy can, in the end, prove little more than a handy spot for planning an evacuation. But if the Iraq Study Group doesn't directly confront these facts-on-the-ground (as it surely won't), whatever acceptable compromises it may forge in Washington between an embedded administration and a new Congress, things will only go from truly bad to distinctly worse in Iraq.
Time For Panic?

The shit is definitely hitting the fan in Iraq.

Iraq's unpopular Shi'ite PM just got stoned by his own people:
The motorcade of Iraq's prime minister was pelted with stones by fellow Shi'ites in a Baghdad slum when he paid respects to some of the 200 who died there last week in the deadliest attack since the US invasion.
Mehdi Army leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who controls the slum in question, has warned al-Maliki (who is "working on a cabinet reshuffle") not to meet Bush at a summit in Jordan on Wednesday. Al-Sadr's follows previously took control of Iraq's state-run TV station:
"Al-Maliki's administration acknowledged it was powerless to interrupt the pro-Sadr program on the official Iraqiya channel, during which Sadr City residents shouted, 'There is no government! There is no state!' Several speakers described neighborhoods and well-known Sunni politicians as 'terrorists' and threatened them with reprisal."
The coming summit could be a final opportunity to avert civil wars across the Middle East:
King Abdullah of Jordan, who will host a summit in Amman, said "something dramatic" must come out of it because Iraq was "beginning to spiral out of control". He urged an inclusive approach across the Middle East to avert that and two other possible civil wars - in Lebanon and involving Palestinians.
There's an awful lot of movement in the hive: top Iraqi government officials (including Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi and US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad) held an emergency meeting at the home of Shia leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani begins a delayed visit to Iran today. Harith al-Dhari, head of the Muslim Scholars Association also recently went to Saudi Arabia. Then there's the Iranians:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was ready to help - if [the USA] left now: "The Iranian nation is ready to help you get out of that swamp on one condition ... You should pledge to correct your attitude," he said on television.

"Go back, and take your forces to behind your borders."

Iraq's neighbours will send foreign ministers to a meeting at the Arab League in Cairo on December 5, Egypt said.
Under the circumstances, it's worth asking: did Dick Cheney's undisclosed secret location move to Baghdad for a while last week? or not? On Friday, Cheney was in Saudi Arabia visiting King Abdullah. Laura Rozen has a pic from SA TV, which appears to show top Bush advisor David Addington also on the tarmac:

Meanwhile, the FBI was given a please explain for the post-9/11 evactuation of Saudis. Interesting timing.
Picking It Up A Step

Laura Bush calls Bob Woodward a liar:
Andy Card, also went on television and said that's not true. And let me just say the one thing about that book: Those quote of mine, were in quotes, and the author didn't call me and fact check. And it just didn't happen.
Woodward calls Laura Bush a liar:
Well, first of all, Andy Card, as you know, has gone on television and said the quotes are accurate. And that they did happen. And the first lady is saying that what she said and -- again, there is a way, and a habit they have in the White House of you write something and then they kind of pick it up one step, then they deny the version that they say you wrote.
Via Eschaton. That Woodward line about picking it up a step is pretty perceptive: it's the whole "you wish Saddam were still in power" technique in a nutshell.

November 24, 2006

UN Ambassador Knew Iraq War Details In Early 2002

This has gotta be big. [and it is: see updates below]

Newly released documents from the Cole Enquiry show that thirteen months before the Iraq War began, the Australian Ambassador to the UN told Trevor Flugge, a disgraced former chairman of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), that the war was "inevitable". He even predicted, with uncanny accuracy, how and when the invasion would take place.

The Ambassador also said "the Australian Government would support and participate in such action", even though PM John Howard has repeatedly claimed that he remained committed to a peaceful resolution until early 2003, a full year later.

[Background: the AWB paid Saddam Hussein millions of dollars in bribes and was the single biggest transgressor of the UN oil-for-food sanctions program. The Cole Enquiry was established to investigate the bribery, and it's results are now due.]

From The Sydney Morning Herald:
ONE year before the invasion of Iraq, Australia's then ambassador to the United Nations, John Dauth, confidentially told AWB's former chairman, Trevor Flugge, that the Howard Government would participate in military action with the US to overthrow Saddam Hussein, new AWB documents reveal.

Details of the extraordinary conversation undercut previous statements by the Prime Minister that Australia had not agreed to join the war in Iraq before the UN debate in late 2002 and early 2003.

The conversation between Mr Dauth and Mr Flugge took place in early 2002 - 13 months before the war - and the details are contained in confidential AWB board minutes that were released without fanfare yesterday by the Cole inquiry.

The minutes record Mr Flugge telling the board on February 27, 2002, that Mr Dauth confided in him "he believed that US military action to depose Saddam Hussein was inevitable and that at this time the Australian Government would support and participate in such action".

With astonishing accuracy, Mr Dauth also predicted that the Iraqi regime's offer to invite UN weapons inspectors to return would be "likely to stave off US action for 12 to 18 months but that some military action was inevitable". The ambassador also told Mr Flugge the operation in Iraq would operationally be similar to that in Afghanistan, with "heavy use of air support followed by deployment of ground troops".

Mr Dauth promised Mr Flugge he would ensure AWB had "as much warning as would be possible" of the action but that it was likely even the Australian Government would not know the timing.
It has already been shown that Trevor Flugge was well aware of the AWB's kickbacks to Saddam. He flew into Baghdad in the early weeks of the war with over $1 million in cash. Here's a photo of him in Iraq:

This latest revelation makes the Australian government's already shaky claims of innocence even more preposterous. They knew about the kickbacks to Saddam, and they were committed to the war plans.

Dauth's conversation with Flugge took place just prior to the UK meetings which were later disclosed in the Downing Street Memos. By this stage, the fix was already in and "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". A global pattern of complicity is clearly being established here. It is fanciful to imagine that Australia, whose SAS troops were first on the ground in Iraq, was not closely involved.

UPDATE: With the Cole Report due tomorrow, the AWB is suddenly facing a new shareholder class action:
A US lawsuit claiming up to $US1 billion ($A1.29 billion) in damages from AWB is on hold, but a shareholder class action against the disgraced wheat exporter is set to be filed in Australia within a month.
I suspect the US government will ultimately decide whether Howard and Downer get away with this AWB scam or not. It sucks that super-subsidized farmers in the US of A might end up taking ANYBODY to the cleaners for broaching fair trading policies, given their own record. But a fair cop is a fair cop, right?

The US legal process seems to be in synch with ongoing investigations by Democrat Senators (hence the delay) and is sure to shine a very embarrassing light on Howard’s dirty little AWB secrets. Good luck to them. Unfortunately for Johnny the Brown-Nosed Bush Lover, the Dems are mighty pissed at him. And the Dems are In Da House!

Howard has always reminded me of a snivelling little runt who sucked up to the playground bullies and eventually ended up in charge of the toughest gang (once the others had all matured, graduated and moved on). He then sucked up to the biggest bully of them all, George Dubya Bush. They went and kicked Saddam’s ass just to show how tough they were! Yee ha! But there is no honour among theives, as Howard is about to find out.

I am looking forward to watching that trembling, saliva-soaked bottom lip jutting out six inches from the non-existent chin as his eyes start tearing up behind the bifocals and he blabbers yet more excuses about why it wasn’t his fault, nobody could have known, nobody told him… Then I think it will be time to take him out to the back sheds for a bit.

UPDATE 2: A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman says the comments were clearly personal judgements by the UN ambassador.

If I were an ambassador to the UN and I told the chairman of a major national exporting body that a pre-emptive, illegal war was “inevitable” a full 12 months before it happened, I would want to know exactly what I was talking about.

If I further promised that “”the Australian Government would support and participate in such action”, I would realise that I was putting my job and my personal reputation on the line.

If, having made such bold predictions, subsequent events proved me right, all the way down to the timing and the dynamics of the opening salvos, I would consider myself a fucking genius on a par with Nostradamus.

But if circumstances proved my comments to be dead in line with the revelations of the Downing Street Memos, I would quickly forget about what a genius I used to think I was.

UPDATE 3: Time for some global attention. David Swanson has christened them The Melbourne Minutes:
Where have we heard that word "inevitable" before? Oh, yeah: the Downing Street Minutes: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." ...

The past six years of near zero Congressional oversight in Washington is one reason Americans' knowledge of the planning of the Iraq War comes largely from foreign sources. But, if members of the Australian government were passing word around, I shudder to think how many people in the right circles in Washington, D.C., knew the score but kept their mouths shut and are keeping them shut to this very day. It's clear that members of the U.S. corporate media elite were in the know. In fact, if you ask them to condescend to notice this Australian news, they'll almost certainly tell you it's "old news," that they knew it all four years ago. They did, but they didn't tell the rest of us.

Now, here we are years later, still killing and dying in Iraq, and proposing to attack Iran on the basis of lies almost identical to those used to justify the initial attack on Iraq.
A here are few good questions from Katz at John Qiggin's blog:
Thus the question rises as to the nature of Dauth’s conversations with AWB.

1. Who initiated the contact?

2. Was Dauth a party to invasion planning?

3. If so, did his political masters authorise Dauth to divulge certain information?

4. What information was he authorised to divulge, and to whom?

5. When was this AWB Board Minute known to the Counsel Assisting the Cole Commission?

6. If it was known before the end of the hearings, why wasn’t Dauth required to testify to the Cole Commission?
Update 4: Kevin Rudd calls it the worst corruption scandal Australia's history and warns that our "long-term foreign policy reputation is at stake":
"The government got 35 sets of warnings over a five-year period that the AWB was up to no good and the government, at a minimum, is guilty of negligence and not responding to any one of those warnings."
Hear, hear.
The latest Evans-Novak Political Report suggests the way President Bush fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld caused considerable friction in the White House. "Even Vice President Dick Cheney is said to be profoundly disturbed by Rumsfeld's treatment."

"On the day after the election, Rumsfeld had seemed devastated -- the familiar confident grin gone and his voice breaking. According to Bush Administration officials, only three or four people knew he would be fired -- and Rumsfeld was not one of them."
The Chaser's War on Terror

Courtesy of Antony Loewenstein's YouTube of the Day.
Worst Golf Shot In History

Totally off topic, but strangely in tune with the times. Like they say, the best-laid plans...
Then, at 11.57am Sydney time, he made his one-handed shot. NASA had been nervous about the stunt, with engineers concerned that a fouled shot could send the ball smashing into the space station, or hitting a space walker.

The space agency predicted the ball would circle the Earth for about three days before falling back into the atmosphere and burning up.

But whirling around the world at more than seven kilometres a second, 16 times a day, the shanked shot could fly about 2 million kilometres before becoming a man-made meteor.

November 23, 2006

Who Will Stop Murdoch?

Richard Branson:
"All of us know governments are scared stiff of Murdoch. If The Sun, The Sunday Times, The Times, Sky, the News of the World - just to name a few of the things that Murdoch owns - all come out in favour of a particular political party, the election is likely to be won by that particular party.

"If you tag on ITV to that as well, basically we've got rid of democracy in this country and we might as well just let Murdoch decide who is going to be our prime minister."
Murdoch's British Sky Broadcasting recently bought a 17.9 per cent "blocking stake" in Britain's ITV network, out-bidding Branson's Virgin Media in the process. Britain's media regulator, Ofcom, has launched an inquiry.

From an Australian perspective, it sounds a heck of a lot like Murdoch's recent "blocking share" in Fairfax newspapers. Same story, different continent.

Branson is calling for bipartisan government resistance to the mogul:
"There comes a time when governments have got to draw a line in the sand. Every single time the Murdoch empire makes a move on more and more of the British media, governments don't have the courage to stand up to them."

With an election looming, all parties should put up a united front, he said. "It should be an all-party situation where nobody tries to score any political advantage. Labour, Tories, Liberals, should all stand as one and say enough's enough."
Nice dream, Richard.
US Working On Diplomatic Exit Strategy

Tom Hayden at the Huffington Post cites "credible Iraqi sources in London and Amman" who say the US is busily trying to broker a diplomatic exit strategy from Iraq.

Five key events:
First, James Baker told one of Saddam Hussein’s lawyers that Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister, would be released from detention by the end of this year, in hope that he will negotiate with the US on behalf of the Baath Party leadership. The discussion recently took place in Amman, according to the Iraqi paper al-Quds al-Arabi.

Second, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice personally appealed to the Gulf Cooperation Council in October to serve as intermediaries between the US and armed Sunni resistance groups [not including al Qaeda], communicating a US willingness to negotiate with them at any time or place. Speaking in early October, Rice joked that if then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “heard me now, he would wage a war on me fiercer and hotter than he waged on Iraq”, according to an Arab diplomat privy to the closed session.

Third, there was an “unprecedented” secret meeting of high-level Americans and representatives of “a primary component of the Iraqi resistance” two weeks ago, lasting for three days. As a result, the Iraqis agreed to return to the talks in the next two weeks with a response for the American side, according to Jordanian press leaks and al-Quds al-Arabi.

Fourth, detailed email transmissions dated November 16 reveal an active American effort behind the scenes to broker a peace agreement with Iraqi resistance leaders, a plot that could include a political coup against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Fifth, Bush security adviser Stephen Hadley carried a six-point message for Iraqi officials on his recent trip to Baghdad: include Iraqi resistance and opposition leaders in any initiative towards national reconciliation;general amnesty for the armed resistance fighters; dissolve the Iraqi commission charged with banning the Baath Party; start the disbanding of militias and death squads; cancel any federalism proposal to divide Iraq into three regions, and combine central authority for the central government with greater self-rule for local governors; distribute oil revenues in a fair manner to all Iraqis, including the Sunnis whose regions lack the resource.
Hayden says al-Maliki was unable to convince his (Iranian-backed?) Shiite allies to accept the American proposals, so he will be replaced.

No word on ending US permanent military bases, I notice. And no word on handing control of Iraq's oil resources over to the Iraqi people either. I continue to assume that those two options are off the table in the negotiations.

November 22, 2006

How Bush's Friends Manipulated Oil Prices For The '06 Mid-terms
"I mean if anybody says there's some magical solution to the high price of petrol in Australia, will you please ring the Lodge and I'll spend an hour all-ears listening to them."
- Australian Prime Minister John Howard, August 1st, 2006
It was August 1st, 2006, when Howard made this disingenuous remark. The oil market had soared to record highs (over $US78 a barrel) in mid-July. There was widespread consumer anger at ever-rising bowser prices and record oil company profits.

And yet, by the time US mid-term elections came around three months later, the oil price had fallen a massive 20 percent.

And now, with the US elections over, oil prices are on the rise again.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. The big question is, how did it happen, and why?

First, let's look closely at what happened. Here, courtesy of Blogging Stocks, are the average weekly U.S. average price for Super Unleaded for that period (based on data from the Energy Information Administration):
Aug 21, 2006: $3.08
Aug 28, 2006: $3.01
Sep 04, 2006: $2.90
Sep 11, 2006: $2.79
Sep 18, 2006: $2.67
Sep 25, 2006: $2.54
Oct 02, 2006: $2.48
Oct 09, 2006: $2.43
Oct 16, 2006: $ 2.40
Oct 23, 2006: $2.39
Oct 30, 2006: $2.41
Nov 06, 2006: $2.39
Nov 13, 2006: $ 2.42
Nov 20, 2006: $2.42
Note the low point of $2.39, achieved in the week just prior to the US mid-term elections, and held to the very day before the election. This fine tuning by US oil retailers was no accident, either. Can you say "price gouging"?
Specifically, on November 6th, the ratio of the price/barrel of gasoline at the pumps and price/barrel of crude oil fell to 167% -- significantly lower than the weekly average of 174% between August 21st and November 20th.
The conventional wisdom holds that the US government cannot significantly influence world oil prices, except through manipulation of the US strategic reserve. But in a globalized world, that sort of thinking is sorely out-dated:
During a meeting in the Oval Office, according to [Bob] Woodward, Bush personally thanked Bandar because the Saudis had flooded the world oil market and kept prices down in the run-up to the 2004 general election.
The remarkable link between the price of oil and Bush's popularity has already been well documented:

Many people reading this article will not be surprised by such data. A USA Today poll in September showed that a massive 42% of Americans thought the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this fall's elections." White House spokesman Tony Snow was forced to address the mounting speculation at a press briefing:
"I have been amused by ... the attempt by some people to say that the president has been rigging gas prices, which would give him the kind of magisterial clout unknown to any other human being. It also raises the question, if we're dropping gas prices now, why on earth did we raise them to 3.50 dollars before?"
Well, that was a stupid question from a stupid man. Obviously, if the oil industry is supporting Bush, it is expecting massive profits in return. And that is exactly what they have been getting. Well over a quarter of a trillion dollars, in fact.

The real question is not why they manipulate oil prices for political profit, but how do they do it?

In the case of the '06 mid-terms, it was a two-pronged attack. On the one hand, we had the Saudis and other pro-US players in the Middle East playing a delicate balancing game by promising their OPEC friends that they would cut production, but then failing to commit to the cuts and even raising production slightly instead. The market reaction was an interesting and significant factor here: none of the experts actually believed that OPEC would cut production before the US mid-terms, so the price never went up.

On the other hand, we had Goldman Sachs dumping more than $6 billion in gasoline futures contracts. This move was like a clarion call to the markets: when the big funds change their weighting, smaller funds quickly follow suit. Even if the move is actually contrary to market realities, it doesn't matter. As Lew Rockwell explains, what Goldman Sachs did is called "painting the tape":
Goldman doesn’t lose money. This is a managed commodity index. Goldman manages the index, but the actual money put up comes from institutions, hedge funds and other unlucky saps that trusted Goldman to manage the commodity index as a hedge against inflation – not to bail out of $6 billion in contracts over a few weeks. The result: Unlucky saps – Major losses. Goldman – Zero losses and their man running the Treasury. Which side of this trade would you want to be on?
It's worth noting here that Henry M. Paulson Junior, the 74th Secretary of the Treasury, appointed by Bush in June, 2006, was the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs. In Wall Street slang, he's now a big part of the US government's Plunge Protection Team.

If you want to understand how such people think, I recommend you read this speech by Dick Cheney in 1999, when he was still CEO of Halliburton. Here's an appetiser:
"I'm often asked why I left politics and went to Halliburton and I explain that I reached the point where I was mean-spirited, short-tempered and intolerant of those who disagreed with me and they said "Hell, you'd make a great CEO", so I went to Texas and joined the private sector."
Ha ha. But Cheney never took his eyes off the political ball:
Frankly the focus in today's economy on globalisation and emerging markets is old news to the oil industry. Ours are global companies investing outside the industrialised companies at the turn of the last century. People need to realise that the energy industry often represents the largest foreign investment in many parts of the world and its interest, insights and experience need to be considered. Oil is the only large industry whose leverage has not been all that effective in the political arena.
Cheney was effectively putting up his hand and shouting:
"You want political leverage? Pick me! Pick me!"
Cheney and Bush later became the first ex-CEO double act to control the White House, and both oil men to boot. One of Cheney's first acts was the convening of highly secretive Energy Task Force meetings with major Big Oil players. Bush then invaded Afghanistan, launched a failed coup in Venezuela, and occupied Iraq. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

People in the know do not seriously expect the USA to ever withdraw US forces from Iraq and lose control of that oil. Ever. All that talk about a military withdrawal was just window dressing for the electorate. Just like the oil prices. When you hear Bush talking about closing down the USA's permanent military bases and handing the Green Zone over to the Iraqis, let me know.

Many people criticize Bush as a bumbling incompetent, because they judge him as a supposed representative of the US public's interests. But Bush's masters are actually the richest of the rich, a global elite who flitter from country to country in private jets, and they think he is doing a fine job, a fine job indeed. As Bush famously told a charity dinner crowd in 2000:
This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.
In the same way, people often think of the Iraq invasion as an attempt by the USA to seize control of Iraq's oil, but in fact the USA just supplied the troops, the Big Media spin and the strident voices at the UN. The US tax-payers funded the project, but they will never really profit from it.

It was Global Big Oil who sought control of Iraq's oil. And the big deal is finally about to go down. When the Iraqi puppet government signs the Oil Law later this year, US-based Big Oil companies will be assured massive profits for generations to come. For more on this, read Joshua Holland's excellent two-part article at AlterNet.

Of course, the oil-price-fixing ploy was not 100% successful this time around: Bush was "thumped" in the mid-terms and his GOP party lost control of both the Senate and the House. With Democrats finally back in control, maybe we will finally get to see the minutes of Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings. But don't hold your breath. Big Oil has deep pockets and many friends in high places.

UPDATE: Joshua Holland points out that the Bush administration, with it's close links to Big Oil, can easily influence prices with a few quiet words over a few whiskeys at lunchtime. Then you have things like the White House's abrupt decrease in anti-Iran rhetoric, which eased market fears. And then there's this sort of thing:
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) today exposed internal oil company memos that show how the industry intentionally reduced domestic refining capacity to drive up profits...

The three internal memos from Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco (Click here to read the memos.) show different ways the oil giants closed down refining capacity and drove independent refiners out of business.
And this Senate report (PDF) about collusion on the refining end has been going nowhere fast since 2001.

UPDATE 2: Someone at Australia's Department of Defence takes an interest in this story:

UPDATE 3: India's Finance Minister calls for a global solution to Big Oil's price-fixing:
"We could have actually grown by 9-9.5 per cent, but for the increase in oil prices," he said at the India Economic Summit, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the World Economic Forum, here today.

"There has been no change in demand and supply. How did prices fall from $78 to $58 per barrel? We must come to terms with the fact that oil producing countries are exploiting developing countries. The world needs to come to a sort of understanding on this issue," he felt.
WaPo disgracefully ignores his pointed remarks.

Update 4: Also getting hits now from the US government departments of Health, Agriculture, Air Force and Army. Am I on some kind of list, or does this indicate a new culture of open-minded knowledge-seeking?
Coincidence? Election over, gas prices up again

From Salon's War Room:
If you were a little suspicious of the way in which gasoline prices just happened to dive just before this month's midterm elections, this bit of news won't exactly put your mind at ease: After dropping 84 cents between Aug. 11 and Nov. 3, gas prices are up five cents in the first Lundberg Survey released after the Nov. 7 election.

Trilby Lundberg tells CNN that the reversal in the 12-week pre-election slide shows that the market has "soaked up" a "mini-glut" of crude oil from August, causing a "normalization" of supply and demand.
War Is Always Wrong

WaPo's Richard Cohen:
"In a post-Sept. 11 world, I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic."
Comment from Obsidian Wings:
Richard Cohen: resign. Resign right now. You may, for all I know, have a talent for laying pipe or landscaping that might yet allow you to make a contribution to the world. Admittedly, no amount of carefully laid pipe or expertly transplanted salvias could come close to compensating for your part in enabling this administration and its ill-considered wars, but frankly, you're in no position to be picky.

A new poll from World Public Opinion shows Iraqis understand that a withdrawal of US forces could lead to further violence, but they want the US to withdraw anyway. And over 60% of Shiites now approve of attacks on US forces.

The World Feels Popppy's Pain

George H.W. Bush in Abu Dhabi:
"My son is an honest man," Bush told members of the audience...

"We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a woman in the audience bluntly told Bush after his speech.

Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval.

A college student told Bush his belief that U.S. wars were aimed at opening markets for American companies and said globalization was contrived for America's benefit at the expense of the rest of the world. Bush was having none of it.

"I think that's weird and it's nuts," Bush said. "To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money, I think that's crazy. I think you need to go back to school."

The hostile comments came during a quesion-and-answer session after Bush finished a folksy address on leadership by telling the audience how deeply hurt he feels when his presidential son is criticized.

"This son is not going to back away," Bush said, his voice quivering... "You can't be president of the United States and conduct yourself if you're going to cut and run. This is going to work out in Iraq. I understand the anxiety. It's not easy."
Bush Snr. was finally reduced to this old canard:
"How come everybody wants to come to the United States if the United States is so bad?"
We Fight Them Because They Fight Us

Blair again:
"That struggle is continuing because the people we are fighting want to fight us back. The only way we are going to beat them is to have the courage and the absolute will to make sure however much they fight us, we stand up and defeat them."
Peace is for wimps. If them Arabs would just lay down their arms and hand us the keys to the oil wells, this could all be over with very quickly.

And how's this for wedge politics, or false dichotomies, or whatever you want to call the new game:
"You either stick with it until the job is done, or you leave it to another generation. I am not prepared to do that."
You see, our enemies are like Hell Spawn: when one generation dies, an equally irrational, hate-filled mob of life-size insect robot jihadists is spawned.

We battle Evil itself. Logic has no place here. Only the purest form of unflinching willpower can save us. Say it, damn you, say it!
I do believe in fairies! I do believe in fairies! I do believe in fairies!

November 21, 2006


'War on terror' could last 30 years or more:
LONDON (AFP) - The fight against terrorism could last 30 years or more, according to a report published by a British think tank that specialises in international security.

"There is every prospect of the 'war on terror' extending for 30 years or more," said the report by the Oxford Research Group.

"What is required is a complete re-assessment of current policies but that is highly unlikely, even with the recent political upheavals".

The US Democrats triumphed in legislative elections on November 7 in which they reclaimed the House and the Senate, at the expense of President George W. Bush's Republicans.

"Most people believe that the recent elections mark the beginning of the end of the Bush era but that does not apply to the war on terror," said Professor Paul Rogers, who wrote the report, in a statement.

"In reality there will be little change until the United States faces up to the need for a fundamental re-think of its policies".

The report showed that the United States is now faced with a dilemma: if it withdraws from Iraq, insurgent groups will be able to operate freely in the biggest oil reserve in the world.

"If it stays, though, then US soldiers become an increasing magnet for radical factions, with Iraq becoming a training ground for new generations of paramilitaries, just as Afghanistan was in the 1980s against the Soviet occupying forces," the report said.

It said that the "fundamental mistake" was to remove the regime of president Saddam Hussein by force, which was a "gift" for Al-Qaeda and extremist groups because the deployment of 150,000 US soldiers in the heart of the Arab world is considered by many to be "an occupation force".

At the same time, the war in Afghanistan, that has so far lasted six years, has seen "a marked increase in Taliban activity at a time of record revenues from opium production" and the insurgency there "shows no sign of ending".

The importance of oil in the region "means that it would be entirely unacceptable [gandhi: to whom?] for the United States to consider withdrawal from Iraq, no matter how insecure the environment".

Professor Rogers has since May 2005 been studying the situation in Iraq and its impact on other countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East.
Wierd Scenes Inside The FOX Goldmine

Panic hits News Ltd after Fox ratings continue to drop. The O.J. Simpson book deal and FOX TV special have both been dropped under massive public pressure:
No one at the company would discuss on the record the exact details of how the project had been accepted in the first place. But one executive involved in the negotiations about the book and the television special said Mr. Murdoch had been aware of both deals before they were announced publicly last week.
Although the projects have been cancelled, OJ will still be taking home an unspecified pay packet.

Books are being recalled and pulped. But lest you think News Ltd has suddenly grown a social conscience, take note. A News Corporation executive is still talking about selling the rights to another publisher. The television interview could also be sold on, or it "might" turn up on the Internet (in which case FOX would surely feel obliged to report on it).

In related news, FOX is apparently planning their own version of the Daily Show. How many anti-Clinton jokes can you fit into 30 minutes?
For anyone with broadband, a global news source worth bookmarking: SBS World News.
Lessons from the Vietnam War

I sure wish Bush would read Keith Olbermann:
Mr. Bush, there are a dozen central, essential lessons to be derived from our nightmare in Vietnam, but “we’ll succeed unless we quit,” is not one of them.

The primary one — which should be as obvious to you as the latest opinion poll showing that only 31 percent of this country agrees with your tragic Iraq policy — is that if you try to pursue a war for which the nation has lost its stomach, you and it are finished. Ask Lyndon Johnson.

The second most important lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If you don’t have a stable local government to work with, you can keep sending in Americans until hell freezes over and it will not matter. Ask Vietnamese Presidents Diem or Thieu.

The third vital lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: Don’t pretend it’s something it’s not. For decades we were warned that if we didn’t stop “communist aggression” in Vietnam, communist agitators would infiltrate and devour the small nations of the world, and make their insidious way, stealthily, to our doorstep.

The war machine of 1968 had this “domino theory.”

Your war machine of 2006 has this nonsense about Iraq as “the central front in the war on terror.”

The fourth pivotal lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If the same idiots who told Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to stay there for the sake of “peace With honor” are now telling you to stay in Iraq, they’re probably just as wrong now, as they were then ... Dr. Kissinger.

And the fifth crucial lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush — which somebody should’ve told you about long before you plunged this country into Iraq — is that if you lie your country into a war, your war, your presidency will be consigned to the scrap heap of history.
Olbermann says the USA only succeeded in winning the Cold War because they quit Vietnam: the Russians, who subsequently got bogged down in Afghanistan, lost treasure, hearts and minds.
Wierd Little Story

Crew faulted in crash of plane due to fly Bush Sr. Was somebody trying to bump Poppy?
Bush in Indonesia:
He noted that it wasn’t the first time he had drawn protests.

“That’s what happens when you make hard decisions,” Bush said.
The Worst Place In The World

A new survey says Bush's USA is unfriendly to visitors:
More than half of the travellers surveyed said US immigration officials were rude and two-thirds said they feared they would be detained on arriving in the US for a simple mistake in their paper work or for saying the wrong thing to an immigration official...

The survey, of 2,011 international travellers in 16 countries, was conducted by the polling firm RT Strategies for the Discover America Partnership, a business-backed group launched in September to promote travel to the US and improve the country's image abroad.

"The entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is keeping foreign visitors away," said Geoff Freeman, executive director of the Discover America Partnership.

"The survey shows there is more fear of our immigration officials than of terrorism or crime."
Will Durst:
People always liked Bush because he seemed like a guy you could have a beer with. But now it's time to take away the car keys.
Blair in Afghanistan:
Here on this extraordinary piece of desert is where the future of the security of the early 21st century is going to be played out.
Ron Suskind:
The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators.

November 20, 2006

Sing A Song
Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?
Today would have been Robert Kennedy's 81st birthday. The world is crying out for a compassionate leader like him. If dark forces were behind his elimination, it needs to be investigated.
The author thinks he knows who killed Bobby Kennedy.
Morales died of a heart attack in 1978, weeks before he was to be called before the HSCA. Joannides died in 1990. Campbell may still be out there somewhere, in his early 80s. Given the positive identifications we have gathered on these three, the CIA and the Los Angeles Police Department need to explain what they were doing there.
The Ultimate Indignity: They Couldn't Even Get Saddam's Trial Right

Because they just don't care about law and justice any more than he did. As Reuters AlertNet reports it:
The trial of Saddam Hussein and seven other defendants before the Iraqi High Tribunal for crimes against humanity was marred by so many procedural and substantive flaws that the verdict is unsound, Human Rights Watch said in a 97-page report released today. The shortcomings of the trial, for the killings of more than 100 people from the Iraqi town of Dujail, also call into question subsequent proceedings at the tribunal. "The proceedings in the Dujail trial were fundamentally unfair," said Nehal Bhuta of the International Justice program at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "The tribunal squandered an important opportunity to deliver credible justice to the people of Iraq. And its imposition of the death penalty after an unfair trial is indefensible."
Bloggers V. Status Quo: The Spin Is Spun Out

This is hilarious-ish. The BBC talks to Matthew Taylor, Tony Blair's "outgoing" chief strategy advisor. First let's establish exactly who we are dealing with here:
Mr Taylor is Tony Blair's chief adviser on political strategy and the former head of the centre left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

He is leaving Downing Street next week, after three years, to become the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts (RSA).
In other words, he is Tony Blair's failed former spin-meister - the UK's version of Karl Rove, if you want to think of it that way - another failed PR rat jumping ship far too late in the day.

Taylor say the Internet is 'fuelling a crisis in politics'! He tries very hard to sound cool and hip, just like Montgomery Burns and T.B. himself, but it doesn't quite work:
The end of deference, the rapid pace of social change and growing diversity were all good things, he argued, but they also meant governments found it increasingly difficult to govern.

"We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government," Mr Taylor told the audience...

But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or "mendacious" by the media, which he described as "a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage".
Careful, dude. Rupert might hear you.

"Conspiracy"? Errr, I thought we were the "conspiracy" theorists, bub. Or are you saying that Rupert's latest reincarnation as an environmental activist with a social conscience is a betrayal of the cause?

And how exactly are people supposed to "work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders" when their elected leaders never, ever listen to them? There were millions in the streets protesting against war in 2003, if you remember.

Taylor's choice of words reflects his own out-dated mindset:
"The internet has immense potential but we face a real problem if the main way in which that potential expresses itself is through allowing citizens to participate in a shrill discourse of demands.
"Allowing"? Hello?! Since when has free, democratic communication ever had to be "allowed"? It doesn't need to be allowed, bub, it's just a part of life. Whether it's on the Internet, on the street-corner, or on the floor of your local Stock Exchange, what's the difference?

You can just guess where all this is leading, can't you?
"What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It's basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.

"The internet is being used as a tool of mobilisation, which is fantastic, but it only adds to the growing, incommensurate nature of the demands being made on government."
Err... dude? Your boss helped launch an illegal, pre-emptive war which killed over half a million people, and he is still in denial about it. But we are the ones who are "hostile"?

If your boss is "venal, stupid, [and] mendacious," and we bloggers dare to point that out, how does that make us "hostile"? HINT: If the truth is "hostile" to you, that probably means you are wrong.

More interesting word choices from Mr "Hip-to-be-sqare" Taylor:
"I want people to have more power, but I want them to have more power in the context of a more mature discourse about the responsibilities of government and the responsibilities of citizens," Mr Taylor told delegates.

Part of the problem, he added, was the "net-head" culture itself, which was rooted in libertarianism and "anti-establishment" attitudes.

He told delegates: "You have to be part of changing that culture. It's important for people who understand technology, to move from that frame of mind, which is about attacking the establishment, into one which is about problem-solving and social enterprise."
So according to Mr Taylor, anyone who criticizes the established order is not "mature", even though the established order is so far up their own Khyber Passage it's just not funny any more. And it is the all-powerful "net-heads" who are expected to not just bring a stop to any criticism of the poltical elites, but also provide politically convenient solutions to the same politicians' self-generated problems. Again, this demand applies even if establishment politicians never, ever, ever listen to them.

It all sounds a lot like the old "liberal media bias" meme, doesn't it? But now it's a vast left-wing blogger anti-social bias. Even if nobody ever listens to us.

PS: The BBC article above comes via the ever-valuable Daou Report.
So Is An Iran Attack Now Off The Table?

A big part of the post-mid-terms relief was the thought that an attack on Iran was now un-thinkable. I would have thought that headlines like these would spell the final nail in the Let's-Attack-Iran coffin:
CIA Analysis Finds Iran Not Developing Nuclear Weapons
But the headlines come from a new article by Sy Hersh in The New Yorker, and Hersh himself is not so sure:
If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put “shorteners” on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way...
As always with Hersh, the full article explores lots of angles, reveals lots of little nuggets, and is well worth reading. For example:
Another critical issue for Gates will be the Pentagon’s expanding effort to conduct clandestine and covert intelligence missions overseas. Such activity has traditionally been the C.I.A.’s responsibility, but, as the result of a systematic push by Rumsfeld, military covert actions have been substantially increased.
Hersh cites US and Israeli support for a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, which has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran. The group has been given a hit-list of targets, says Hersh. And because such covert operations are now run by the Pentagon, not the CIA, Congressional support is not needed.

It's still not clear just what Cheney & Co think an attack on Iran might accomplish. Here's one former CIA official:
“An American attack will paper over any differences in the Arab world, and we’ll have Syrians, Iranians, Hamas, and Hezbollah fighting against us — and the Saudis and the Egyptians questioning their ties to the West. It’s an analyst’s worst nightmare — for the first time since the caliphate there will be common cause in the Middle East.”
This Moir cartoon is three years old... what have we learned?
"Consider helping out your favorite bloggers..."

Says Atrios:
I know people think this blogging thing is easy. Aspects of it are. But it takes a long time to not just build up traffic, but reputation. To not just have a readership, but hope to have a wider influence, you have to demonstrate that you're not nuts, that your judgment about what is and isn't important is pretty consistent, that your bullshit detector is pretty good...

Most bloggers have to work for a living, their blogs are just a side thing. Few are hoping to have blogging be a full time thing. But every second spent blogging is time away from spouse, away from kids, away from advancing career, etc. Sure, it's "just a hobby," but it's shame if people who have spent time building their sites and reputations, building their networks, eventually recognize that it's something they have to step away from.
I'll have more to say on this subject soon. Keep your eyes open for a Paypal button or something similar.
Monday Run-Down

Juan Cole at Informed Comment focusses on the stupid things Bush and Rice are saying in Vietnam:
AP says that Secretary of State Condi Rice asserted Saturday that Iraqis only have a future if they stay within a single state. She pointed to Vietnam's success in reforming its economy and making up with the United States and held it out as a model to Iraq.


Rice surely knows that the way in which Vietnam achieved national unity was . . . for the radical forces to drive out the Americans, overthrow pro-American elements, and conquer the whole country. They only went in for this capitalism thing fairly recently. Rice, a Ph.D. and former Provost of Stanford University, shouldn't be saying silly things like that Iraq should emulate Vietnam. I guess if you hang around with W. long enough, you catch whatever it is that he has...

Bush went to Vietnam and boasted about how we would have won if we had not quit. This was, he said, the lesson for Iraq of the Vietnam War. He managed to be wrong about two wars at once and to anger both his hosts (how churlish!) and the Iraqi public. The American Right never admitted that they lost in Vietnam, thus the Rambo movies and, Melani McCallister argues, the US admiration for Entebbe. Iraq was their chance, they thought, to get it right. Bush had also said insulting things to the Philiippines about how wonderful it was thst we had colonized them (and killed 400,000).

Colonialism is over with. When will they get that through their heads?
I think it's worth quoting Rice's own words here, since she may well end up eating them:
It is up to Iraqis to "face up to their differences and realize that they only have one future, and that's a future together," Rice said. "They don't have a future if they try and stay apart."
If you saw her screeching these words out from here little podium on TV, she looked quite demented. I guess that's what happens if you hang around with W. long enough.

Other demented former Bush associates are quoted in this WaPo piece, which focusses on the continued bleating of Kenneth "Cakewalk" Adelman. Their admissions reflect the huge political cost of the Iraq War, a cost which has not yet been fully reckoned by the media. As Adelman says:
"The whole philosophy of using American strength for good in the world, for a foreign policy that is really value-based instead of balanced-power-based, I don't think is disproven by Iraq. But it's certainly discredited."
And here's another neoconservative on their original belief that Iraq would serve as a democratic beacon for the Middle East:
"That part of our plan is down the drain," Muravchik said, "and we have to think about what we can do about keeping alive the idea of democracy."
So not only have they lost the war militarily (as even Kissinger now admits), not only have they lost the hearts and minds of the Middle East, not only have they poisoned global opinion with a fearful strain of quite justified anti-Americanism, but they have also stained the whole concept of "Democracy", and maybe even killed off the very idea of a values-based US foreign policy.

Speaking of values going down the toilet, Josh Marshall this weekend has been posting some informed readers' comments on torture. The posts came in response to comments by Ed Meese, a former AG and now member of the Iraq Study Group, including this gem:
Jefferson wrote, "All men are created equal," not "all Americans." He said that men are "endowed by their Creator" with these rights, not endowed by "the Constitution." But that doesn't have to do with enemy soldiers.
Marshall examines how US soldiers were trained on the use of torture, and trained to resist it, during the Cold War. He says the current debate on torture runs counter to decades of U.S. military training:
Imbued within this training during the Cold War was the sense that part of what set us apart from our communist adversaries was our adherence to the Geneva Conventions, and that the inhumane tactics used by those adversaries was part and parcel of the totalitarianism that we were combating. There was also the sense--a point of pride really--that we could and would prevail despite holding ourselves to a higher standard. It was, in fact, the higher standard that we were fighting for.
The reader responses are very interesting, including thoughts from former torture instructors, and former trainees who underwent simulated torture. You can read a few here, here and here.

In other news, a Democrat war veteran explains how instating a military draft will actually deter wars:
``There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way,'' Rangel said.
Lunatics running the asylum.


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