February 25, 2005

IMF Says Bush Deficit Could Trigger Global Economic Collapse

From Murdoch's "The Australian" newspaper today:
IMF managing director Rodrigo de Rato said urgent combined international action was required to head off the dangers.

The main cause of concern is the fact the US is running a trade deficit of about $US600 billion ($760 billion) and a budget deficit of about $US430 billion for 2005.

US imports are almost 50per cent greater than the country's exports, with the deficit being financed by international central banks and funds managers.

Despite signs that the deficit is getting bigger, money is pouring into the US from Asia and Europe at such a rate that the US has been able to keep its long-term interest rates steady at 4.2 per cent since the middle of last year.

Dr Henry said the flood of money was "worryingly reminiscent of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's warning in 1996 of irrational exuberance in US stocks".

He said that, as with the dotcom bubble in the 1990s, one could not tell how long it would keep going, but it would burst eventually.
The report prompted a response from Aussie PM John Howard, who says such alarmist talk is irresponsible. Of course, the same man said talk of ongoing violence in Iraq for years to come was irresponsible...

What price credibility?
Warbloggers Keep Attacking the Man, not the Message

In response to my criticism of the Fadhil brothers' bogus blog, Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine today branded me "a garden variety anti-Semite" (see the Comments here).

As one letter-writer at SMH said today:
The invasion of Iraq was wrong. It was presented under false pretences, undermining the body politic; it has seriously set back the global effort to curtail anti-Western aggression; and it has brought about the violent deaths of thousands who would otherwise be alive today.

I am sick and tired of hearing the supporters of the invasion attempt to justify their unconscionable position by vilifying and misrepresenting the millions of us around the world - conservative and liberal, right and left - who object to the war for pragmatic and moral reasons.

Jason Eyre, Houston (US)
Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly likely that the legacy of Bush's Iraq invasion will be a Middle East governed by religion, as Waleed Aly writes in the same paper:
Over the two years since the US-led invasion, the Shiite south has become a pseudo-Islamic state. Even in the more secular Basra, courts have been applying Islamic law, and religious leaders make many political decisions. The election results reflect this.
You reap what you sow, folks. It is well and truly time to stop sowing lies, hatred and violence.
USA Sanctions Televised Murder of Iraqi

CBS News reports that military investigators will not be charging the Marine whose videotaped murder of an unarmed Iraqi was broadcast around the world.

Apparently there was "not enough evidence"!!!

February 23, 2005

Bogus Bloggers and Bush's USA

A few people have asked why I seem to be obsessed with the rampantly pro-war, pro-US blog Iraq The Model (aka ITM). It's a fair question, particularly coming from innocent passers-by who believe everything they read on the Fadhil brothers' sites (Ali now posts at Free Iraqi).

It's not just that I have been banned repeatedly and without explanation by the Fadhil brothers for politely posting my anti-war opinions. Nor is it the endless torrent of crude, personal abuse I have received, such as this recent salutation from a long-time ITM regular:
Despite such disincentives, I have been an irregular visitor to the Fadhil brothers' blog almost since its inception. Call me a sucker for punishment if you like, but I think exposing this bogus blog is important because it encapsulates a lot of what is wrong with the world today. Like Bush himself, the blog is both more and less that what it seems.

I can understand that the three Fadhil brothers, who suposedly grew up under Saddam's regime, might have been delighted with the US invasion and might have welcomed US troops with open arms. Though I do not agree, I can understand why they might have believed that their own release from dictatorship more than compensated for the tragic human costs of the US invasion. I can even understand why, swamped with the horrors of war and US occupation, they might have wanted to create a blog that concentrates on the positives rather than the widely-reported negatives of daily life in Bush's Iraq.

But there are a few things about Iraq The Model that are more than a little strange. Added together, they reveal Iraq The Model for what it has become: just another brick in Bush & Co's wall of lies and propaganda.

By refusing to even acknowledge the negatives, the blog necessarily provides a warped view of what is happening in Iraq today. That wouldn't matter so much if US newspapers and people like US neo-con Paul Wolfowitz did not actively promote the blog for propaganda purposes, or if so many Bush-loving folk did not religiously read the damn thing every day, then go out and vote.

Reading the ITM Comments sections, you can almost hear these people's sighs of relief as they reassure themselves that their own warped vision of reality coincides with that of others. Many visitors claim to have loved ones serving in Iraq or Afghanistan: their need to believe the Bush propaganda is deep and personal. Others are just ignorant, mean-spirited bullies who delight in the right-wing team bonding experience, competing to see who can supply the most hurtful put-down of those who defy their Orwellian groupthink. These idiots fancy themselves as intellectuals because they can cut-and-paste links while repeating GOP talking points.

The important thing to understand about Iraq The Model and other so-called "War Blogs" is that reality does not matter. This is 100% a "vision thing" and if you do not share the vision, you are wasting your time even visiting the sites, let alone arguing with the locals.

When I first posted anti-war, anti-Bush opinions at ITM, I was ridiculed and labelled a fool. The arguments heated up. I posted URL links to support my claims. And that's where things got interesting. When my reality-based arguments began to garner some support from lurking spectators, I was labelled a troll and banned. The uncomfortable facts I had posted were removed. Even the comments discussing them were removed. I sought to defend my name by posting via other ISPs, but - in the eyes of the ITM mob - that only confirmed my status as a troll.

(NOTE: I am proud to say that later commenters bemoaned by absence, claiming none of the regulars had really been able to compete with me. In fact, the same voices complained that the ITM Comments section had grown boring now that all non-conformists had been driven out.)

It's a behaviour pattern that has since come to typify the warbloggers: facts are either flatly denied, or ridiculed in a very childish manner, or simply ignored in a general torrent of personal abuse. Threats are also common: warbloggers like to dig out your personal information so they can harrass you offline. This is the new McCarthyism, pure and simple.

For example, many ITM regulars (including the Fadhil brothers) are incensed at Michigan University's Professor Juan Cole for constantly posting FACTS that prove the USA's war in Iraq is not going well. Their response? An organised spam campaign against Dr. Cole, an organised email campaign to silence him (in concert with other warbloggers and GOP sites) and - perhaps worst of all - dangerous attacks on his integrity. Here's one recent comment from ITM:
"Juan Cole? Isn't he connected to Al Quaeda?"
I guess that's a logical extension of Bush's "for us or against us" policy. But coming from people who claim that anti-war bloggers have endangered the lives of the Fadhil brothers by calling them CIA spies, this is sheer hypocrisy.

So let's have a good look at these allegations.

People like Jeff Jarvis (who has a close personal relationship with the Fadhil brothers, having helped them get established) claim that the Fadhil brothers lives have been endangered by people like me who question the authenticity of Iraq The Model (never mind that any intelligent, free-thinking individual who visits the site quickly reaches the same conclusion). Jeff and his mates launched a concerted, hysterical attack on New York Times journalist Sarah Boxer for even canvassing such a possibility in print. They have now extended this criticism into a full-fledged crusade (in their own minds, at least) against the New York Times in particular, and the mainstream press in general.

Now, it's not that I am a big fan of the mainstream press, but wait a minute. The Fadhil brothers themselves actively promoted their blog and its pro-war, pro-US agenda all over the blogosphere. They were ecstatic when they were first interviewed by a reporter from USA Today. The article, which featured a large photo of the three Fadhil brothers frowing thoughtfully at a computer screen, helped launch them into the blogosphere's big time hit-parade. Two of them then went on a tour of the USA, funded by a supposed charity called Spirit of America, during which time they visited the Oval Office in the company of Paul Wolfowitz and met with George W. Bush himself! They also met with General Tommy Franks, former head of the US military in Iraq. You know, the guy who doesn't do body counts.

Yet they claim we, the anti-war bloggers, and journalists like Sarah Boxer, are the ones endangering the Fadhil brothers' lives?!?

What's more, the Fadhil meetings with Bush and Wolfie were widely publicized by the authors of all the same right-wing blogs that support Iraq The Model, many of whom had the delight of actually meeting the Fadhil brothers in person at a series of other meetings around the USA, all arranged by Spirit Of America.

And here's something strange about that Spirit of America tour: SoA CEO Jim Hake made sure that everybody at the events was aware of his No Photos Allowed policy. He explained that the brothers lives would be endangered if photos of them were available to Iraqi insurgents, as these comments from one fan demonstrate:
I’m back from the event with SoA. It was held at the Loew’s Hotel in Santa Monica, a rather chichi spot for a meeting and right across from RAND. The emotions were rather high, as some of the people present were long time commenters over at Iraq the Model. Omar and Mohammed were in good spirits after so much whirlwind travel, and were very casually dressed. My wife had to gently dissuade a young woman, an elementary school teacher, from trying to get a photo with them because Jim Hake had asked for no photos–I don’t think the teacher really knew the risk these guys were taking to be here.
And here's another fan who can't take photos:
I am in L.A. with the Spirit of America meeting. No pictures, because Iraq the Model’s Omar and Mohammed are here.
And here's another, from Blackfive:
There were signs on the doors to our lecture hall - "No Photographs". The reason behind this is simple - there are dissident bloggers and bloggers who's lives may be in jeopardy who were in attendence - they don't want to go home and get killed, jailed, etc. Omar and Mohammed are in that category. Of course, several people still took pictures.

And, no, I didn't bust their chops. Probably should have, though.
But what about that photo in the much-publicized USA Today article? And what about the brothers' own much-vaunted (ahem!) "Iraq Pro-Democracy Party" website (in English and Arabic), which features a big photo and not much else of value??? Is this hypocrisy, scare-mongering, US PsyOps at work, or just plain stupidity?

By the way, here's another strange thing about the Fadhil brothers's site, and warblogs in general. I got those quotes above from the Roundup of the SoA tour at Kesher Talk - "the Jewish weblog". The site has links to 16 Jewish Publications, 5 Jewish Charities and 32 other Jewish Links. Now why is such a site promoting Iraq The Model?

You tell me.

Kesher Talk is hosted on the Web site of Howard Fienberg, a former (ahem!) "journalist" whose work includes "Global Warming Didn't Do It: The real threats against public health", "Nuclear, Free!", "Battling conspiracy theories, Internet innuendo is tough" and "Students Do Support War on Terror". If that doesn't sound like a resume from a man ready to tow the Bush propaganda line I don't know what does!

Feinberg spent 5 years working with the NGO "Statistical Assessment Service", presumably learning how to manipulate statistics to prove ideological theories. In January 2003 he became the new Legislative Assistant for Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA) handling "energy, science, and the environment, among other issues". Obviously he is well qualified for the job!

And so it goes, on and on and on... A sparkling golden money trail of lies, links and propaganda! That's the magic of Bush's America!

PS: Click here for a previous long-winded diatribe against Iraq The Model...
Bush to poor: Drop dead: "That's the deal: budget cuts if you're not rich, tax cuts if you are. Less money for those who don't have any and more to those who do. That's how President Fredo says we're going to get out of the giant deficit hole he's dug. You can't put it any more simply. Rich people richer. Poor people poorer. "
Tom Tomorrow: Further ways to argue like a conservative.
Bush admits the idea of the USA attacking Iran is 'ridiculous' - but he might do it anyway!
Bush tells Putin: "I like a country with a free press, an independent free press."

Oh really?
The Unbelievable Life Of The Brothers Fadhil!

What an amazing life the Fadhil brothers at IRAQ THE MODEL lead, eh? I mean, just look at all the wierd coincidences in their lives....

In today's post, they just happen to be chatting with a bloke who just happens to have grown up studying with... guess who? Al Quaeda's #2 wanted man, Al-Zawahiri! And this guy just happens to have opinions on the spread of Democracy across the Middle East that coincide with the Fadhils' beliefs (which just happen to coincide with the US neocons).

Before that, the Fadhils just happened to bump into a doctor who worked at Abu Ghraib, just when the scandal was at its peak. It was such an amazing coincidence that some US newspapers even reported the doctor's alleged words as "evidence" of what was really happening in Abu Ghraib. And this doctor just happened to reinforce the Fadhils' opinions about the detainees:
"... there could be some innocents among them, but I doubt it."

"... they are thugs, they swear all the time, and most of them are addicts or homosexuals or both."

"I’m sure that they are isolated and they are just very few exceptions that need to be dealt with, but definitely not the rule. "
In other words, there was no prisoner abuse, and if there was they probably deserved it anyway, and in fact most of them were being treated TOO DAMN WELL!

These are just two examples of the amazing people who the Fadhils bump into on a regular basis, and the amazing conversations they have with 100% unidentified people all over Iraq.

And in between all that, the Fadhil brothers just happen to have gone to the USA and met Bush and Wolfowitz in the Oval Office!!! And Tommy Franks too!!!

I mean, it's like a Hollywood movie, isn't it??? Just unbelievable...

Poor-quality US propaganda made exclusively for US domestic consumption - that's what we have here, folks.

HEALTH WARNING: Consuming such unadulterated crap in excess can damage your mind.

February 22, 2005

Howard Digs His Nose In Deeper

Bush's international coalition in Iraq is wilting into nothing following the Jan 30 elections, which signalled withdrawal time for many nations. Now Australian PM John Howard seizes the opportunity for some high-profile brown-nosing - whether the Australian taxpayers like it or not. Here's the latest: Australia steps up Iraq commitment.

Alan Moir's cartoons capture the popular sentiment beautifully.

UPDATE: Tim Dunlop has a complete list of printed lies from John Howard, Paul McGeogh questions the PM's rationale for the backflip, while Margo Kingston keeps hammering away at the doors of common sense and decency.
From the Sublime To The Ridiculous...

From the Washington Post today:
ATTORNEYS FOR the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another's arguments.
Bush's Bald Fetish?

Bush seems to have a fetish for bald heads, or is he "laying on hands" for some miracle-working magic? See these pics from JuliusBlog.

Given the ongoing revelations (or lack thereof) about the very bald Jeff Guckert/Gannon, perhaps Bush is just "looking for a good cowboy" (as he explained to Jaques Chirac today).
Europe Welcomes Bush With Dripping Sarcasm

This BBC report is a delightful piece of (very British) understatement and subtle innuendo:
In the major speech of his European visit, President Bush made some effort to accommodate European sensitivities - principally over the Middle East - but his main aim was to present his own agenda...

Whether Europeans respond with great enthusiasm remains to be seen.

The traditional EU approach to changing the world is less declaratory. It prefers to work by example and argument. For Mr Bush, that is not enough. He prefers pressure...

Europeans tend not to use phrases like: "Terrorists will not stop the march of freedom." Mr Bush does...

The biggest cracks have been over Iraq and here he sought to look ahead, referring rather blandly to the divisions as "passing disagreement of governments." There was no admission of any fault, over intelligence or invasion.

Indeed, Iraq was presented as the "world's newest democracy" in need of help - as if it had sprung up in peace and enthusiasm, like the countries of Eastern Europe after communism.

February 21, 2005

The Great Gonzo

Hunter S Thompson has committed suicide.

In the lead-up to Nixon's re-election, Thompson famously asked: "Jesus, where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to become president?"

He believed new lows had been met by the Bush Administration:
"Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? They are the racists and hate mongers among us - they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these nazis."
On the 2004 presidential campaign, he called George Bush a "treacherous little freak."

Observing Bush's poor performance in a debate with John Kerry: "I almost felt sorry for him, until I heard someone call him 'Mister President,' and then I felt ashamed."

Most of the quotes you'll be reading about Thompson today are coming from his last interview with Salon's John Glassie. Here are some of the best quotes:
Civil liberties are black and white issues. I don't think people think far enough to see the ramifications. The PATRIOT Act was a dagger in the heart, really, of even the concept of a democratic government that is free, equal and just. There are a lot more concentration camps right now than Guantanamo Bay. But they're not marked. Now, every jail, every bush-league cop can run a concentration camp. It amounts to a military and police takeover, I think...

The administration is using these bogeymen for their own purposes. This military law is nothing like the Constitution. They're exploiting the formula here: The people are afraid of something and you offer a solution, however drastic, and they go along with it. For a while, yeah. My suspicions are more justified every day with this manufacturing of dangerous killer villains. The rest of the world does not perceive, I don't think, that some tin-horn dictator in the Middle East is more of a danger to the world than the U.S. is. This country depends on war as a primary industry. The White House has pumped up the danger factor because it's to their advantage. It's to John Ashcroft's advantage. There have always been pros and cons about the righteousness of life in America but this just seems planned, it seems consistent, and it seems traditional...

I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth. The GOP is the party of capital. It's pretty basic...

I believe the Republicans have seen what they've believed all along, which is that this democracy stuff is bull, and that people don't want to be burdened by political affairs. That people would rather just be taken care of. The oligarchy doesn't need an educated public. And maybe the nation does prefer tyranny. I think that's what worries me. It goes back to Fourth Amendment issues. How much do you value your freedom? Would you trade your freedom for some illusion of security? Freedom is something that dies unless it's used...

This country has been having a nationwide nervous breakdown since 9/11. A nation of people suddenly broke, the market economy goes to shit, and they're threatened on every side by an unknown, sinister enemy. But I don't think fear is a very effective way of dealing with things -- of responding to reality. Fear is just another word for ignorance...

I don't know what kind of a role model I am. And not everybody is made for this life...

If you can't say you'd do it again, it means that time was wasted -- useless. The regrets I have are so minor. You know, would I leave my Keith Richards hat, with the silver skull on it, on the stool at the coffee shop at LaGuardia? I wouldn't do that again. But overall, no, I don't have any regrets.
Team Bush: Hypocritical Double Standards

So Bush smoked marijuana. I wonder how big a story this is going to be? Not much, I would guess. Like the GannonGuckertGate scandal, it should be big, but it won't. Here's why.

Democrats who accepted Clinton's admission of smoking a joint are not likely to make a huge fuss of this. The people who really should be making a fuss are the Conservatives. You remember, those same people who jumped up and down screaming about Clinton's bad example, his deception, lack of character, etc, etc.

Of course, they won't leap to condemn Bush for the same sin (if not worse: at least Clinton admitted it). In fact, they will be leaping to his defence and actually attacking anyone who dares broach the subject.

How do you achieve such mental turnaround without losing your sanity or self-respect?

As Robert Steinback complains at The Miami Herald, the people of the USA are learning to make 180-degree reversals of position without even the faintest suspicion of irony:
Just months after Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda attacked the United States, we were told that the "Axis of Evil," Iraq, Iran and North Korea, was our greatest menace -- and many Americans accepted this without question. We were told that weapons of mass destruction in Iraq posed such an immediate threat that crushing al Qaeda could wait -- and many Americans accepted that, too.

Then we were told to disregard that no WMDs were found in Iraq; bringing democracy to the Middle East was now our noblest mission. This, too, we accepted -- even though many of these same spread-democracy advocates not long before were howling that not a single American soldier's life should be lost in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo or Somalia.

Conservatives in the 1990s told us balancing the federal budget was so important, they included it in the very first principle of the 1994 "Contract with America" -- and we accepted that. Now, the conservative government is running the largest deficits in history, and we've accepted that. And Bush now wants to sell us a plan to overhaul Social Security that could force America to borrow another $2 trillion -- and he's counting on us to accept this as well...

It's hard to reason with people for whom grounded, unyielding truth can change so swiftly. But I figure I'd better go grab an order of French fries and a good Chablis while the coast is clear.
UPDATE: Just saw a TV news report which ended with the words "One thing the tapes DO reveal is that Bush is very much the same man in private as he is in public." Mon dieu!

February 20, 2005

Continental Drift: Communications Break Down

As Bush heads off on a "fence-mending" (who broke the fences, George?) tour of European capitals, a BBC correspondent looks at the growing divide between the USA and Europe:
America is fast becoming a nation of faith not fact. A nation where the unpleasant aspects of human existence are simply airbrushed away...

The talk of common values is increasingly just talk. On the big issues, issues governing proper human conduct, the two continents are utterly divided.
Bush himself talks about an "idealistic United States and a cynical Europe" even while dismissing such imagery as a false caricature. Most people in the world today, however, would rephrase that as a "deluded United States and a realistic Europe".

Here's what Bush had to say about the repeated threats of US military action against Iran:
"I hear all these rumors about military attacks, and it's just not the truth.

Listen, first of all, you never want a president to say 'never.' But military action is certainly not -- it's never the president's first choice. Diplomacy is always the president's first -- at least my first choice...

I believe diplomacy can work so long as the Iranians don't divide Europe and the United States."
In other words, it's up to the Europeans to agree with US plans or take the blame for whatever happens. Just like Iraq, where Bush's idea of "diplomacy" was to trash the UN and blame European countries for ignoring his squawking panic about non-existent WMDs.

It's still "with us or with the terrorists" in Bush's world. For those of us who wish to take neither side, mere communication with the Bushites remains surreally difficult.

February 19, 2005

Three Big Ifs...

If you have broadband (or a some time to spare) click here to listen to Jon Stewart's hilarious (coz it's true) take on blogs and recent journalistic scandals including Gannon/Guckert and Eason. (Thanks to the good folks at onegoodmove.org for the link).

If you have a brain that still functions after more than 4 years of Bush lies and misdemeanors, click here to read Naomi Klein's latest column. Here's an appetiser:
January 30, we are told, was not about what Iraqis were voting for--it was about the fact of their voting and, more important, how their plucky courage made Americans feel about their war. Apparently, the elections' true purpose was to prove to Americans that, as George Bush put it, "the Iraqi people value their own liberty." Stunningly, this appears to come as news. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown said the vote was "the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people." On The Daily Show, CNN's Anderson Cooper described it as "the first time we've sort of had a gauge of whether or not they're willing to sort of step forward and do stuff."

And if you can analyze complex data without recourse to a GOP-sponsored squawk box, click here to read more from the invaluable Juan Cole. For example:
As I predicted, the United Iraqi Alliance not only has 51 percent of seats on its own, but has already made a coalition [Arabic link] with some smaller parties. The three representatives of the Cadres and Chosen Party that is close to Muqtada al-Sadr will join the large coalition, as will the 3 deputies of the Turkmen National Front and a few independents. Only twelve lists were seated in parliament in the end, and most of them have joined the Shiite fundamentalist coalition. If the UIA can come to an agreement with the Kurds, it can easily form a government and then rule parliament.

In a startling development to which the Western press is paying little attention, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq has won the provincial governments in 8 of the 18 provinces in the country, including Baghdad...

February 18, 2005

Regaining Humanity

I was deployed to Iraq in April 2003 and returned home for a two-week leave in October. Going home gave me the opportunity to put my thoughts in order and to listen to what my conscience had to say. People would ask me about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the horrors—the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent man was decapitated by our machine gun fire. The time I saw a soldier broken down inside because he killed a child, or an old man on his knees, crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had taken the lifeless body of his son.

I thought of the suffering of a people whose country was in ruins and who were further humiliated by the raids, patrols and curfews of an occupying army.

And I realized that none of the reasons we were told about why we were in Iraq turned out to be true. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We weren’t helping the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people didn’t want us there. We weren’t preventing terrorism or making Americans safer. I couldn’t find a single good reason for having been there, for having shot at people and been shot at.

Coming home gave me the clarity to see the line between military duty and moral obligation. I realized that I was part of a war that I believed was immoral and criminal, a war of aggression, a war of imperial domination. I realized that acting upon my principles became incompatible with my role in the military, and I decided that I could not return to Iraq.

By putting my weapon down, I chose to reassert myself as a human being. I have not deserted the military or been disloyal to the men and women of the military. I have not been disloyal to a country. I have only been loyal to my principles.

When I turned myself in, with all my fears and doubts, it did it not only for myself. I did it for the people of Iraq, even for those who fired upon me—they were just on the other side of a battleground where war itself was the only enemy. I did it for the Iraqi children, who are victims of mines and depleted uranium. I did it for the thousands of unknown civilians killed in war. My time in prison is a small price compared to the price Iraqis and Americans have paid with their lives. Mine is a small price compared to the price Humanity has paid for war.

Many have called me a coward, others have called me a hero. I believe I can be found somewhere in the middle. To those who have called me a hero, I say that I don’t believe in heroes, but I believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

To those who have called me a coward I say that they are wrong, and that without knowing it, they are also right. They are wrong when they think that I left the war for fear of being killed. I admit that fear was there, but there was also the fear of killing innocent people, the fear of putting myself in a position where to survive means to kill, there was the fear of losing my soul in the process of saving my body, the fear of losing myself to my daughter, to the people who love me, to the man I used to be, the man I wanted to be. I was afraid of waking up one morning to realize my humanity had abandoned me.

I say without any pride that I did my job as a soldier. I commanded an infantry squad in combat and we never failed to accomplish our mission. But those who called me a coward, without knowing it, are also right. I was a coward not for leaving the war, but for having been a part of it in the first place. Refusing and resisting this war was my moral duty, a moral duty that called me to take a principled action. I failed to fulfill my moral duty as a human being and instead I chose to fulfill my duty as a soldier. All because I was afraid. I was terrified, I did not want to stand up to the government and the army, I was afraid of punishment and humiliation. I went to war because at the moment I was a coward, and for that I apologize to my soldiers for not being the type of leader I should have been.

I also apologize to the Iraqi people. To them I say I am sorry for the curfews, for the raids, for the killings. May they find it in their hearts to forgive me.

One of the reasons I did not refuse the war from the beginning was that I was afraid of losing my freedom. Today, as I sit behind bars I realize that there are many types of freedom, and that in spite of my confinement I remain free in many important ways. What good is freedom if we are afraid to follow our conscience? What good is freedom if we are not able to live with our own actions? I am confined to a prison but I feel, today more than ever, connected to all humanity. Behind these bars I sit a free man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience.

While I was confined in total segregation, I came across a poem written by a man who refused and resisted the government of Nazi Germany. For doing so he was executed. His name is Albrecht Hanshofer, and he wrote this poem as he awaited execution.

The burden of my guilt before the law
weighs light upon my shoulders; to plot
and to conspire was my duty to the people;
I would have been a criminal had I not.

I am guilty, though not the way you think,
I should have done my duty sooner, I was wrong,
I should have called evil more clearly by its name
I hesitated to condemn it for far too long.

I now accuse myself within my heart:
I have betrayed my conscience far too long
I have deceived myself and fellow man.

I knew the course of evil from the start
My warning was not loud nor clear enough!
Today I know what I was guilty of…

To those who are still quiet, to those who continue to betray their conscience, to those who are not calling evil more clearly by its name, to those of us who are still not doing enough to refuse and resist, I say “come forward.” I say “free your minds.”

Let us, collectively, free our minds, soften our hearts, comfort the wounded, put down our weapons, and reassert ourselves as human beings by putting an end to war.

This post is a full reprint of an article by one man who dared to say "Enough!"
Remembering The Real Vietnam War

From John Pilger, a man who reported it:
Only 10 years after the Vietnam war, which I reported, an opinion poll in the United States found that a third of Americans could not remember which side their government had supported... Amnesia ensures that, while the relatively few deaths of the invaders are constantly acknowledged, the deaths of up to 5 million Vietnamese are consigned to oblivion.

...the "democratic" regime in the south was an invention. One of the inventors, the CIA official Ralph McGehee, describes in his masterly book Deadly Deceits how a brutal expatriate mandarin, Ngo Dinh Diem, was imported from New Jersey to be "president" and a fake government was put in place. "The CIA," he wrote, "was ordered to sustain that illusion through propaganda [placed in the media]."

Phony elections were arranged, hailed in the West as "free and fair," with American officials fabricating "an 83 percent turnout despite Vietcong terror."
Pilger's essay revolves around an English textbook's selective use of language to teach new generations about these events. "How many more innocent people have to die," he asks, "before those who filter the past and the present wake up to their moral responsibility to protect our memory and the lives of human beings?"
US War Robots Will Decide Who Lives And Dies

Be afraid...
The Pentagon is spending $161 billion on a program to build heavily-armed robots for the battlefield in the hope that future wars will be fought without the loss of its soldiers' lives.

The scheme, known as Future Combat Systems, is the largest military contract in American history and will help to drive the defence budget up by almost 20 per cent in five years' time...

That human involvement has proved critical in convincing military lawyers that machines can be used on the battlefield. More advanced machines which can decide whether to kill would also be legal, says Mr Johnson.

"The lawyers tell me there are no prohibitions against robots making life-or-death decisions," he said.
Real Democracy Is Dying

While Osama bin Laden and his supporters call for "Death To America", the USA is slowly but relentlessly killing itself.

Every day I wake up thinking that things cannot possibly get worse, and every day they do. Today's news: Bush taps John Negroponte for the newly created position of US "intelligence" tzar. That's right - John "Honduran Death Squads" Negroponte!!!

Where are the Democrats on all this? In Bush's pocket.

Where is the press? In Bush's pocket.

Where is my own (Australian) government? In Bush's pocket.

Where's Bush? In bed with Big Business and Likud Party fanatics.

Where are YOU???

February 17, 2005

Is Torture Ever Permissible?

Kevin Carson submits A Modest Proposal:
"Upon certifying to the President its finding that a substantial likelihood or reasonable suspicion exists that a member of his Cabinet or personal staff is a lying bastard, or that his or her testimony is an utter pile of horseshit, Congress shall be authorized to insert sanitized needles under his or her fingernails, or to resort to whatever other coercive measures it finds necessary, to extract the truth. Of course, this still prohibits rendition of Ms. Rice to a jurisdiction beyond U.S. oversight and accountability, and would require compensation upon any finding that she had been, despite all expectations, telling the truth."
Given the likelihood that the White House is preparing an invasion of another sovereign nation (Iran or Syria), and the potential civilian death toll such an invasion would incur, I should think the whole Bush administration should be careful about what constitues legitimate grounds for torture. I mean, would it be OK to torture someone if it meant saving thousands of lives? Gosh, what do YOU think?!?
Terrorists On Both Sides

Sean Gosalves examines various definitions of "terrorism" and asks the obvious questions: "Is our 'war against terror' terrorism itself?"
Given that our political leaders recently coronated Alberto Gonzalez as U.S. Attorney General, the former Bush White House legal counsel whose efforts to water down the Geneva Conventions served as a legal precursor to the abuse at Abu Ghraib and Gauntanamo, I think it's time we reacquaint ourselves with the phrase: state terrorism.

Joke Of The Day

From WorkingForChange:
Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; it's conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?

February 16, 2005

Straight Talk From Chomsky

Democracy Now! has transcript of a speech from leading US dissdent Noam Chomsky: "U.S. Might Face Ultimate Nightmare in Middle East Where Shiites Control Most of World's Oil".

I recommend you read the whole talk (audio and video also available). Here are some key points:
"Old Europe, bad guys, were the country as where the governments took the same position as the large majority of their population. New Europe were the countries like Spain where the government overruled even larger majorities of their population -- huge ones in the case of Spain and Italy -- and followed orders from Crawford, Texas...

What followed were really serious outright war crimes. We have just seen one in the last few months: the invasion of Fallujah. In this case, the crimes were not concealed, which may be worse than passing them over in silence. They were openly reported, and then, in fact, proudly reported. You could see on the front page of the New York Times a big picture of the first victory in the conquest of Fallujah. The first target was the Fallujah General Hospital, and the Times featured a big picture on the front page of a soldier standing guard over people lying on the floor in hospital gowns with their hands tied behind their backs. The story explained that the American forces that went in forced patients from their beds, forced them to lie on the floor, and manacled them with their hands behind their backs. The story went on to say that this had had to be done because the Fallujah General Hospital was serving as a propaganda weapon for the insurgents by releasing casualty figures...

Clinton's policy was control of space for military purposes. The new announced policy was ownership of space for military purposes. Meaning, as they said, the possibility of instant engagement anywhere, with highly lethal offensive weapons, which can strike anywhere on earth without warning. The whole world is under surveillance by sophisticated satellite and other systems. Sophisticated enough that they can tell if a truck is crossing a street in Damascus or any other place that you pick. So, the world is at constant risk of instant destruction. That's ownership of space, and that's a natural spelling out of the national security strategy. This also was, as far as I know, not reported at all. Certainly not much. The -- a lot of this is called missile defense, but as everyone knows on every side, missile defense is not a defensive system, it's a first strike weapon...

... recently, though it wasn't reported here, there were negotiations with Australia to establish what's called a free trade agreement. Nothing to do with free trade and certainly not an agreement, but that’s what those things are called. But the negotiations were held up for some time because the United States was objecting to Australia's highly efficient health care system, maybe the most efficient in the world. The prices of drugs are a fraction of what they are in the United States. Very same drug produced by the same corporation, which makes a ton of money in Australia, but makes maybe ten times that much for the same drug here. Why was the U.S. objecting to the Australian system? Well, because the Australian system is evidence-based. It's the phrase that was used. That means if a pharmaceutical corporation wants to advertise, you know, by showing sports heroes saying, you know, ask your doctor if this drug is good for you, it's good for me, or something like that, often not even telling you what it is, they're not allowed to do that. They have to provide evidence that the drug actually does something, that it is better than some cheaper thing that's already on the market. That evidence-based approach, the U.S. negotiators argued, is interference with free markets, because corporations must have the right to deceive. "
Corporate Lapdog

Almost every policy decision made by the Bush Administration has a silver lining in it that benefits those who are extremely wealthy at the expense of the average American...
Bush's ManDate
I want Georgie to know that his first time is the most important and who he shares it with is just as critical. He shouldn't just start cruising the clubs looking for Mr. 'Goodbar.' That's the mistake I made and it was terrible, honey. He needs a sensitive man the first time; he can get into the rough trade later on if that's his thing.
Full story at Unconfirmed Sources.
Privatized War Crimes

US contractors working in Iraq have made new allegations of war crimes committed by employees of Custer Battles:
The men claimed that on November 8, a Kurd guard traveling with them fired into a passenger car to move traffic out of the way.

He “sighted down his AK-47 and started firing,” former army corporal Ernest Colling told NBC.

The bullet “went through the window. As far as I could see, it hit a passenger. And they didn't even know we were there.”

Later that day, an Iraqi teenager walking on the roadside was shot, Colling said.

“The rear gunner in my vehicle shot him,” Colling told NBC. “Unarmed, walking kids.”

And a large Ford pickup truck crushed a smaller car with Iraqis inside.

“The front of the truck came down,” Craun said.

“I could see two children sitting in the back seat of that car with their eyes looking up at the axle as it came down and pulverised the back.”
Australia Was Involved In Torture - And The PM Knew It!

Four Corners has busted the lid on lies by PM John Howard and Defence Minister Robert Hill, who both claim Australia knew nothing about torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and was never involved.

Click her to read the Four Corners interview with Australian spy Rod Barton:
"If someone was brought to me in an orange jumpsuit with a guard with a gun standing behind him. Of course I didn't pull any fingernails out, but I think it's misleading to say that no Australian's involved. I was involved."

The Four Corners website also posts Barton's explosive letter of resignation after the work he performed with the Iraq Survey Group was undermined and re-packaged by the CIA for political purposes.

Margo Kingston's Webdiary has more on PM John Howard's complicity in this case, plus some additional background info.
"These Iraqi prisoners had hessian bags on their head and they were accompanied by Iraqi guards who had guns. If that's Senator Hill's definition of a bit of voluntary chit chat on the side about what have you been doing in Iraq for the last 30 or 40 years, I think we have passing strange definitions about what constitutes an interview."
Jobs For The ... Boys?

Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, has been appointed the second-ranking US diplomat for the Middle East.
They Died, Bush Lied, More Died
"Let me say one other thing about the 9/11. I told the commissioners right here in the Oval Office that had we had any inkling, whatsoever, that terrorists were about to attack our country, we would have moved heaven and Earth to protect America."
- George W. Bush, July 21st, 2004.
The warnings provided by intelligence agencies to the FAA were far clearer and more specific than suggested by Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission when she reluctantly conceded the existence of a presidential briefing that warned of impending Al Qaeda attacks. Rice had dismissed those warnings as "historical," but according to the newly released section of the 9/11 report, an astonishing 52 of the 105 daily intelligence briefings received by the FAA — and available to Rice — before the Sept. 11 attacks made specific reference to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
- former CIA agent Robert Sheer in today's LA Times.
Dave Lindorff: When Bush Came to My Neighborhood:
"Every police and emergency vehicle in the county seemed to have converged on this stretch of highway. Every driveway and intersection sported a vehicle blocking access. Bridges over the roadway each had what appeared to be a Secret Service SUV parked nearby, lights flashing.

This is clearly a popular fellow, this George W. Bush..."

February 15, 2005

Gambling On Iraq's Future

Tom Villars at Ali Fadhil's Free Iraqi blog has kindly provided a link showing that the Iraq Pro-Democracy Party did in fact receive 1566 votes.

Tom says the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party is List# 315. Comparing the Arab text in the PDF against the text on the Iraq Pro-Democracy Party website, this appears to be true. So what was the # 7461 that Omar/Mohammed Fadhil was trumpeting?
The world will remember the number "7461"; these were the candidates who didn't submit for blackmailing and decided to take the responsibility despite the threats and the dangers.
UPDATE 1: Tex at antiwar.com suggests 7461 could be the original number of candidates on the Iraq ballots (before many withdrew).

By the way, Tom Villars runs the Iraqi Bloggers Tech Support site, which helps transfer the funds to the Fadhil brothers. According to Tom, the reason why the Iraq Pro-Democracy Party did not receive all it's pledged funds on time was that Omar Fadhil turned up on the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) terrorist list!
Apparently someone close to the name of XXXX XXXX XXXX has appeared on the OFAC list. They need some additional information to say for certain whether his is the person in question is not eligible or eligible for a transfer.
C'est ironique, n'est-ce pas?

Never mind! Another US$9,000 was deposited into the Fadhil brothers' account on Feb 2nd, 2005. I wonder what they'll do with it, or what they did with the other US$16,000 for that matter?

Tom Villars, by the way, was obliged to declare a personal financial interest in the Iraqi elections:
Full Disclosure:
I am long 187 contracts on the IRAQ.ELECTIONS.JAN05 contract.
I am the Market Maker for the IRAQ.TURNOUT.+8.0M contract.
Yep, Tom has been trading on the Iraqi elections at Intrade. Talk about your true believers: Tom cashed in on "Elections for the National Assembly in Iraq to commence by Jan31 2005" and he cashed in again as the Market Maker for "Turnout for Iraqi National Assembly Election to be ON or OVER 8.0M". The final turnout was 8,456,266 people! Way to go, Tommy boy!

Warbloggers gambling on the destinies of ordinary Iraqis. Lovely, that. Call me a cynic, but I just can't help wondering whose money Tom was using...

Update 2: Tom Villars responds via the comments at ITM:
As to the money transfers, the complete timeline is here but briefly I started the money transfer Nov 16 and it took until this week for the money to arrive. I think what happened is the Feds put a stop on all transfers into Iraq until after the elections, but that is only a guess. I spent well over 25 hours on the phone with my bank and Western Union trying to find a way to get the money into Iraq but without success.

Ali is going to update me with campaign expenses and they should be posted on the accounting records page shortly. Since a significant amount of money does remain in the IDPD accounts, the party will need to decide how to spend if for the next elections scheduled for Dec 15th.

As to my activity with InTrade.com I openly posted my involvement and I make no apologies for separating fools from their money. Over $385,000 USD was put at risk on Iraqi contracts, and I estimate over $50,000 USD actually changing hands. If you want to bet against Iraq then suggest a contract and I'll be happy to take your bet.
Reminds me of the wager National Review talking head Jonah Goldberg offered Juan Cole - "making their own fortunes with a wager on the fates of others, whom they are treating like ants". No thanks, Tom.
Bush re-nominates 20 failed judicial nominees. "I'm a uniter, not a divider..." - I guess the hard right is pretty united.
US missile shield test fails again. If a company CEO had invested so much money in a failed system, they would be fired.
Is Moon's Washington Times OK With YOU?

Amid all the right-wing hysteria about the vast left-wing conspiracy mainstream media (MSM), SPLCenter.org has a good look at a publication few of them seem to object to, the Washington Times:
"Marian Kester Coombs is a woman who believes America has become a 'den of iniquity' thanks to 'its efforts to accommodate minorities.'

White men should 'run, not walk' to wed 'racially conscious' white women and avoid being out-bred by non-whites. Latinos are 'rising to take this country away from those who made it,' the 'Euroamericans.' Muslims are 'human hyenas' who 'smell blood' and are 'closing in' on their 'weakened prey,' meaning 'the white race.' Blacks, Coombs sneers, are 'saintly victims who can do no wrong.' Black solidarity and non-white immigration are imposing 'racial revolution and decomposition' in America.

Coombs describes herself as just 'a freelance writer in Crofton, Maryland.' But this is one writer who's a bit more well-positioned than she lets on.

Marian Kester Coombs is married to Francis Booth Coombs, managing editor of the hard-right newspaper The Washington Times. Fran Coombs has published at least 35 of his wife's news and opinion pieces for his paper, although his relationship to her is not acknowledged in her Times bylines.

And that's not all. Fran Coombs has presided over the Times' republication of articles taken from white supremacist hate groups, not to mention allowing a key employee at the paper to write fawning pieces about the same groups. "
A cartoon on the front page of The Australian today sums up US hypocrisy under G. W. Bush.

Note to self:

When you are arrested and taken to a US-allied country and tortured until you sign ludicrous confessions, then held without charge or access to lawyers or your family for most of three years, while suffering further torture and humiliation, the burden of proof will be on YOU to show that this actually happened.

February 14, 2005

Bush's Covert Propaganda Machine

Following the Armstrong Williams ($240,000 from the department of education to shill for George W's "No Child Left Behind") and Maggie Gallagher ($40,000 from the government to shill for Bush's "strengthening marriage") revelations, Jim Hightower at AlterNet has a good question about the media payola scandal:
It takes two to play the payola game - the corrupters as well as the corruptees. What we have here is Bush & Company routinely and cynically using your and my tax dollars to use the media to propagandize you and me. Where's the accountability for these corrupters? Which agency officials are diverting our tax funds into propaganda? Which Bush operative devised this system? And why aren't all of these Bushites being publicly castigated... and fired?
Bendib got it right.
A Ruse, A Crock Or A Scam?

Final Iraq elections results are in and it looks like our friends at IRAQ THE MODEL not only didn't win a seat in the new government, they didn't even spend the money that their US donors sent them:
Little parties like ours couldn't compete with the larger ones that own radio and TV networks and had their banners and posters filling the streets while I had to borrow from my friends to pay the 5000 $ registration fees of the party because the support we received for the party from our friends and supporters hasn't reached Baghdad till this moment because of some banking bureaucracy. All we had was 3000 $ to spend on advertising and publicity and managing all the party's affairs...
Remember, pro-war US visitors donated over US$10,000 to the Fadhil brothers, plus another US$14,000 for the brothers’ Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party. Not that this seems to be bothering the folks posting comments at Iraq The Model today - nobody is complaining, in fact they are all congratulating the Fadhil brothers on a fine result!

Well, I guess if you are happy that your government trashed international conventions, wasted over 100,000 lives and spent hundreds of billions of dollars to get an election result that confirmed exactly what everybody knew in the first place (majority Shi'ites back Shi'ite rule, Kurds want independence), I guess it all makes sense to you somehow.

If it was my money, I'd be asking for it back. But the regulars at ITM are advising the brothers to prepare a better campaign for the next elections, which they say will be the real elections.
The election you should have your sigts on is the first election for a permenant parliment, or what ever the legislative body of a free and democratic Iraq will be called.
So what was all this fuss about January 30, 2005, for which so many lives and so much money has been sacrificed? Wasn't this supposed to be the big moment? Isn't that why Negroponte is declaring it an Iraqi national holiday?

The Fadhil brothers also reveal (finally) that they were on election list number 7461. Interestingly, none of the regulars have ever asked about this either. My Google search brings up no information on this list - anybody got some links to more info? I'd love to know who these guys were in bed with...

Given that it seems possible that Omar Fadhil leads a double life as a German radio broadcaster, it's fair to ask whether the Iraqi Pro-Democracy even existed as anything more than a money-raising, US propaganda Web site. Anybody got any proof?

UPDATE: An ITM visitor called Wadard claims he checked the site meter shortly after Omar posted and saw the givewaway German domain suffix 'com.de'- he also cites US articles from the SoA tour confirming that German Omar's heavy smoking habit is shared by Baghdad Omar.

February 13, 2005

Riverbend Gets A Dressing Down

... from the religious extremists who are taking over Iraq:
Who did we want? We wanted to have some documents legalized by the ministry, I said loudly, trying to cover up my nervousness. He looked at me momentarily and then turned to the cousin pointedly. My cousin repeated why we were there and asked for directions. We were told to go to one of the rooms on the same floor and begin there.

Please dress appropriately next time you come here.” The man said to me. I looked down at what I was wearing- black pants, a beige high-necked sweater and a knee-length black coat. Huh? I blushed furiously. He meant my head should be covered and I should be wearing a skirt. I don’t like being told what to wear and what not to wear by strange men. “I don’t work here- I don’t have to follow a dress code.” I answered coldly. The cousin didn’t like where the conversation was going, he angrily interceded, “We’re only here for an hour and it really isn’t your business.”

“It is my business.” Came the answer, “She should have some respect for the people who work here.” And the conversation ended. I looked around for the people I should be respecting. There were three or four women who were apparently ministry employees. Two of them were wearing long skirts, loose sweaters and headscarves and the third had gone all out and was wearing a complete “jubba” or robe-like garb topped with a black head scarf. My cousin and I turned to enter the room the receptionist had indicated and my eyes were stinging. No one could talk that way before the war and if they did, you didn’t have to listen. You could answer back. Now, you only answer back and make it an issue if you have some sort of death wish or just really, really like trouble.
Who's going to tell her that freedom is on the march?
From Morocco to Pakistan, Osama bin Laden is as admired as Bush is hated. Fundamentalism is on the rise, even in Iraq. There is a deep sense that only by a return to the Islamic roots that once made their civilization supreme can the greatness of Arab peoples be restored. And there is both a revulsion in this region against what is perceived as a decadent and toxic American culture and a will to be rid of U.S. political and military domination.
A Tale Of Two Talking Heads

Interesting to compare the scandal-ridden resignation of CNN executive Eason Jordan...
"While my CNN colleagues and my friends in the US military know me well enough to know I have never stated, believed, or suspected that US military forces intended to kill people they knew to be journalists, my comments on this subject in a World Economic Forum panel discussion were not as clear as they should have been.

"I never meant to imply US forces acted with ill intent when US forces accidentally killed journalists, and I apologise to anyone who thought I said or believed otherwise."
... with the scandal-ridden resignation of bogus White House reporter James D. Guckert:
[Guckert] revealed that he'd used the Gannon name since 2001 and vowed to keep using it.

"Absolutely; it is my professional name,” he said. “I would be throwing away all of the things I built up over the past few years if I stopped using it..."

"Even though it has been very painful,” he said of the current uproar, “lots of opportunities have come forward journalistically. Once all of this blows over, I think it might actually help that I have gotten this attention."
I could care less about Eason Jordan as a person. He's just another corporate exec who has always put his company's stockholder's ahead of the truth.

The truth is, however, that of the 36 journalists and 18 "media support workers" killed in Iraq since the US invasion, at least nine have died as a result of American fire. Add to that the USA's declared intent to use Honduras-style "Death Squads" in Iraq, plus it's open hostility towards Arab media outlets like Al-Jazeera, and the chances are that what Eason Jordan said is quite right (whether he meant it or not).

I'm assuming CNN won't be covering that story any time soon. The White House press corps are also unlikely to ask any difficult questions on the subject.

February 11, 2005

Bush's USA: Ignorant By Design?

This carefully-written BBC report on a US school's challenge to Darwinism describes a quite incredible debate in Bush's USA. From an outsider's point of view, it is quite astonishing that US bible-bashers would want to turn their backs on hundreds of years of scientific study, then inflict that ignorance on their children and their grandchildren. But in the town of Dover, South Pennsylvania, more than half the population want to teach their kids that Darwin's theory of evolution is "just a theory", while their creationist Intelligent Design is "an explanation of the origin of life".

Here's a thought. Do you really think God wants us all to be wilfully ignorant?
Editor and Publisher revisits "The Battle of the (Bush) Bulge: Why Did the 'NYT' Kill Its Story?"
Rice Had EIGHT MONTHS To Act on 9/11

... did nothing and still gets promoted.

From The Australian: "EIGHT months before the September 11, 2001, attacks, the White House's then counterterrorism adviser urged then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to hold a high-level meeting on the al-Qaeda network, according to a memo made public today..."

Buzzflash today leads with an explosive story claiming a GOP "reporter" using the pseudonym "Jeff Gannon" and linked to US military porn sites has been admitted to White House briefings for the past two years:
Gannon resigned late Tuesday amid a flurry of accusations about his professional credentials and links to the Republican Party....

liberal bloggers allege that Gannon is, in fact, James "J.D." Guckert, and that Web sites such as hotmilitarystud.com, militaryescorts.com, and militaryescorts4m.com, are registered to the same owner as Gannon's Web site, jeffgannon.com.

All the sites are down and not accessible.

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz told CNN on Wednesday that the liberal bloggers may have gone "too far" in investigating Gannon's personal life in the weeks since he asked a question at a presidential press conference that included criticism of Senate Democrats and, thereby, attracted national attention.

But John Aravosis, who operates the AMERICAblog Web site, where the allegations about Gannon are summarized, said in response to Kurtz that his probe of Gannon was motivated by "the family values hypocrisy."

He also condemned him regarding the outing of Valerie Plame. According to the Washington Post, Gannon's name was among those of journalists targeted for questioning by the federal prosecutors investigating the White House leak of an internal CIA memo that named former U.S. ambassador and Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson's wife as a covert CIA agent...

Aravosis also questioned why the White House, with the country at war, would allow almost daily access to press briefings to someone using a pseudonym. "Isn't that a national security threat?" he said.
Follow the developing story here at AmericaBLOG.

February 10, 2005

Bush Budget is "a multi-trillion dollar decade long scam"

Noriel Roubini, Associate Professor Economics, NYU, responds to Bush's budget figures:
Who are these accounting scam artists trying to deceive? Do they think everyone in America and around the world is a mathematically challenged total idiot or an accounting moron? 

The reality is, that based on realistic scenarios outlined last week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the deficit by 2009 will be close to $600b (or 4.0% of GDP) rather than falling to $233b; and the deficit will reach over $1,100b (or 5.5% of GDP) by 2015. 

How do they create the false $233b deficit by 2009? 

1. They assume spending cuts that are, by any historical and political standard, impossible to achieve. 

2. They assume revenue growth that is altogether wishful thinking and false based on current trends. And they do not consider the long-run costs of making all the Bush tax cuts permanent. 

3. They do not count the ongoing costs of the continued defense and homeland security spending and of future military and homeland security build-ups. 

4. They phase-in a budget busting social security privatization (that will cost alone $4.5 trillion in the next 20 years) only starting in 2009. 

This is worse than dishonesty; it is the most squalid manipulation of budgets ever seen aimed at pretending to achieve a budget figure that is utterly unrealistic and false in every possible dimension. 
An Iraqi Doctor Reports From Falluja

Via Dahr Jamal:
"One story is of a young girl who is 16 years old," he says of one of the testimonies he video taped recently, "She stayed for three days with the bodies of her family who were killed in their home. When the soldiers entered she was in her home with her father, mother, 12 year-old brother and two sisters. She watched the soldiers enter and shoot her mother and father directly, without saying anything."

The girl managed to hide behind the refrigerator with her brother and witnessed the war crimes first-hand.

"They beat her two sisters, then shot them in the head," he said. After this her brother was enraged and ran at the soldiers while shouting at them, so they shot him dead. "


“One of my colleagues, Dr. Saleh Alsawi, he was speaking so angrily about them. He was in the main hospital when they raided it at the beginning of the seige. They entered the theater room when they were working on a patient…he was there because he’s an anesthesiologist. They entered with their boots on, beat the doctors and took them out, leaving the patient on the table to die.”


“During the second week of the siege they entered and announced that all the families have to leave their homes and meet at an intersection in the street while carrying a white flag. They gave them 72 hours to leave and after that they would be considered an enemy,” he says.

“We documented this story with video-a family of 12, including a relative and his oldest child who was 7 years old. They heard this instruction, so they left with all their food and money they could carry, and white flags. When they reached the intersection where the families were accumulating, they heard someone shouting ‘Now!’ in English, and shooting started everywhere.”

The family was all carrying white flags, as instructed, according to the young man who gave his testimony. Yet he watched his mother and father shot by snipers-his mother in the head and his father shot in the heart. His two aunts were shot, then his brother was shot in the neck. The man stated that when he raised himself from the ground to shout for help, he was shot in the side.

“After some hours he raised his arm for help and they shot his arm,” continues the doctor, “So after awhile he raised his hand and they shot his hand.”

A six year-old boy of the family was standing over the bodies of his parents, crying, and he too was then shot.


“You must understand the hatred that has been caused…it has gotten more difficult for Iraqis, including myself, to make the distinction between the American government and the American people,” he tells me.
Invade Iran To Keep Oil In US$

It's still all about oil and money, as this article from TheInsider.org shows:
"In 2005 Iran will launch a new oil exchange that is expected to put an end to Western domination of the international oil trade. The US and UK, currently home to the world's largest oil markets, are unlikely to allow Iran to undermine their control of the oil trade without putting up a fight..."

February 09, 2005

God bless Michael Leunig.
An interesting debate today on Margo Kingston's Webdiary:
"I often used to ask myself - how could the German people have allowed the terrible events of Nazi Germany to occur? Well, at the last election in Australia we saw that when people are frightened, and told blatant lies, they will prefer to look away from the truth, take the easy path, and absolve themselves from guilt by putting trust in their leader. "
Bush? Intellectual? Hah!

The Economist magazine is often a good read, although its big-business readership should be kept in mind when browsing their stories. The current edition includes an article looking at Bush's infatuation with Natan Sharansky, a minister without portfolio in Ariel Sharon's Likud government. The opening para got me hooked:
"INTELLECTUAL" is hardly the first word that springs to mind when you contemplate George Bush. Mr Bush glided through the best education that money can buy without acquiring much in the way of "book learning". At school, he formed a stick-ball team called the Nads (providing him and his pals with a chance to shout "Go Nads"); at Yale, he was famous for doing the alligator, a dance that involved falling on the floor and rolling around; at Harvard Business School, he wore cowboy boots and chewed tobacco, a strutting provocation to the lefty penseurs who dominated Harvard Yard."
I recomment the article, although there was one comment that annoyed me:
... the Michael Moore crowd claim that Mr Bush doesn't really believe any of this claptrap about democracy—a charge that seems absurd, given the blood and treasure America has spent bringing elections to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Why is that so absurd? The "blood" being spilled for Bush's foreign adventures is not his own blood, nor his family's, while the "treasure" being spent belongs to US taxpayers and is going straight into the coffers of Bush's business associates. For example, one of the biggest profiteers in Iraq is Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) - the "Brown" in that name belongs to a wealthy US family with direct links to the Bush-Walker clan.

Still, it's hard to complain about the article's concluding para:
The trouble with Mr Bush's new doctrine is not that he has naively embraced freedom and democracy, but that he hasn't embraced them tightly enough.
USA Supported Oil-for-food Corruption

George Monbiot debunks the myths about the UN Oil-For-Food scandal:
"A report by Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US federal reserve, was meant to have proved that, as a result of corruption within the UN's oil-for-food programme, Saddam Hussein was able to sustain his regime by diverting oil revenues into his own hands. But Volcker came up with something else.

'The major source of external financial resources to the Iraqi regime,' he reported, 'resulted from sanctions violations outside the [oil-for-food] programme's framework.' These violations consisted of 'illicit sales' of oil by the Iraqi regime to Turkey and Jordan. The members of the UN security council, including the United States, knew about them but did nothing. 'United States law requires that assistance programmes to countries in violation of UN sanctions be ended unless continuation is determined to be in the national interest. Such determinations were provided by successive United States administrations.' "
USA Supported Oil-for-food Corruption

George Monbiot debunks the myths about the UN Oil-For-Food scandal:
"A report by Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the US federal reserve, was meant to have proved that, as a result of corruption within the UN's oil-for-food programme, Saddam Hussein was able to sustain his regime by diverting oil revenues into his own hands. But Volcker came up with something else.

'The major source of external financial resources to the Iraqi regime,' he reported, 'resulted from sanctions violations outside the [oil-for-food] programme's framework.' These violations consisted of 'illicit sales' of oil by the Iraqi regime to Turkey and Jordan. The members of the UN security council, including the United States, knew about them but did nothing. 'United States law requires that assistance programmes to countries in violation of UN sanctions be ended unless continuation is determined to be in the national interest. Such determinations were provided by successive United States administrations.' "
This is hilarious - play the BUSH BRAIN GAME.

February 08, 2005

The Emperor Has No Clothes - And He's An Idiot!

Could this be the moment when everybody finally wakes up? Bush explaining his Social Security changes:
"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

Okay, better? I'll keep working on it."
Quote courtesy Daily Kos and many, many others today.
Whack! Pow! Zam! Tim Dunlop Rocks!

This post right here from Tim Dunlop at The Road To Surfdom says everything that has long been needed to be said about the Bush-loving, right-wing warbloggers:
You gave up any right to claim solidarity with the Iraqi people when you excused at every opportunity their abuse and torture in the prisons of Abu Ghraib. When that story broke, it wasn't the side of the Iraqi's you took, it was the side of the Bush administration, and you mouthed all their pathetic rationalisations from "a few bad apples" to "not as bad as Saddam." When the Iraqi people demanded action, you joined the likes of Alberto Gonzales and argued that the international sanctions against such treatment didn't apply to the Iraqis in Abu Ghraib, that such measures were quaint and obsolete.

You gave up any right to claim solidarity with the Iraqi people when you refused to acknowledge how many people had been killed in this little adventure by attacking every legitimate attempt to put a number on the deaths. It wasn't the methodology of a survey like the Lancet study that caused you concern; it was the very existence of such a study that caused you all to freak out. So you sought to smear and downplay the result instead of trying to understand it or perhaps even insist that the administration make an effort itself to count the casualties.

In other words, your concern then, like now, was domestic politics not Iraqi lives. All you had was denigration for anything that didn't comply with your fantasy picture of post-invasion Iraq.

You gave up any right to claim solidarity with the Iraqi people when you joined those like Donald Rumsfeld who denied the very existence an insurgency, when you mocked people for being concerned about the post-invasion looting, and when you insisted that all this fighting stuff and other bad news coming out of Iraq was just a ploy by the liberal media to mislead the world.

Again, you had a choice between the reality in Iraq that ordinary Iraqis were facing or the spin the administration applied to that reality and at every turn you chose the spin.

And what about your so-called concern about democratic government and the rule of law that allows you to claim the election as a personal victory? Well, you've shown your true colours on that score too.

You gave up any right to gloat about democracy when you refused to hold the administration accountable for the bogus rationale it used to launch the invasion in the first place. You showed your true colours when for month after month you kept up the pretence that WMD were bound to be found any day now. You showed your true colours when you repeated every lie and exaggeration the administration made in trying to connect Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden and/or the attacks of 9/11.

Having failed every test of democratic citizenship at home you now claim to be champions of democracy abroad. It is to laugh.

In other words, your concern was not about democratic governance and transparent deliberation but about partisan advantage. Each time you were given the choice of accepting the administration's claims or challenging them and demanding answers you chose passive acceptance, weaselly rationalisation or silence.

And the rule of law?

You showed your true colours about your commitment to the rule of law when you excused and cheered on all attempts by the Bush administration to lock up without charge or trial anybody they deemed to be a "terrorist". Instead of arguing about the sanctity of the US constitution and the norms of western democratic legal practice, you were willing to suspend each and every protection rather than speak out against your side of the political aisle.

What a record: at every step along the way when you have had to choose either between solidarity with the Iraqi people, dedication to the basic premises of democratic government, support for the rule of law or siding with the Bush administration come what may, you have assumed the role of partisan apologist on every count.
For the first time in a long time, I'm almost proud to be a fellow Australian.
People Power Speaks Out!!!!

One in five consumers polled across the globe showed their discontent with recent American foreign policies and military action by consciously avoiding American brands.

Whoo hoo! As El Busho himself would say, that's the free market in action, folks....
$150,000 incentive to stay in US elite forces:

"The Pentagon is offering six-figure bonuses to members of the special forces in an attempt to stop the haemorrhaging of America's ?lite military units to far better paid jobs as civilian 'mercenaries'.
About 1,500 NCOs will be eligible for a range of incentives depending on how long they re-enlist for. The highest payments of $150,000 will go to the most experienced NCOs who pledge to serve six more years."

February 07, 2005

By Their Fruits Shall Ye Know Them

If it wasn't so sad it would be funny. The USA has 150,000 troops in Iraq and has killed over 100,000 Iraqis to establish a pro-Iranian Islamic theocracy.
Iraqi Election Hype V. Reality

From Arianna Huffington at WorkingForChange:
Let's not forget that for all the president's soaring rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy, free elections were the administration's fallback position. More Plan D than guiding principle. We were initially going to install Ahmed Chalabi as our man in Baghdad, remember? Then that shifted to the abruptly foreshortened reign of "Bremer of Arabia." The White House only consented to holding open elections after Grand Ayatollah Sistani sent his followers into the streets to demand them -- and even then Bush refused to allow the elections until after our presidential campaign was done, just in case more suicide bombers than voters turned up at Iraqi polling places.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that despite the hoopla, this was a legitimate democratic election in name only. Actually, not even in name, since most of the candidates on Sunday's ballot had less name recognition than your average candidate for dogcatcher. That's because they were too afraid to hold rallies or give speeches. Too terrorized to engage in debates. In fact, many were so anxious about being killed that they fought to keep their names from being made public. Some didn't even know their names had been placed on the ballot. On top of that, this vote was merely to elect a transitional national assembly that will then draft a new constitution that the people of Iraq will then vote to approve or reject, followed by yet another vote -- this time to elect a permanent national assembly.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that many Iraqi voters turned out to send a defiant message not just to the insurgents but to President Bush as well. Many of those purple fingers were raised in our direction. According to a poll taken by our own government, a jaw-dropping 92 percent of Iraqis view the U.S.-led forces in Iraq as "occupiers" while only 2 percent see them as "liberators."

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that the war in Iraq has made America far less safe than it was before the invasion. According to an exhaustive report released last month by the CIA's National Intelligence Council, Iraq has become a breeding ground for the next generation of "professionalized" Islamic terrorists. Foreign terrorists are now honing their deadly skills against U.S. troops -- skills they will eventually take with them to other countries, including ours. The report also warns that the war in Iraq has deepened solidarity among Muslims worldwide and increased anti-American feelings across the globe. Iraq has also drained tens of billions of dollars in resources that might otherwise have gone to really fighting the war on terror or increasing our preparedness for another terror attack here at home.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget the woeful lack of progress we've made in the reconstruction of Iraq. The people there still lack such basics as gas and kerosene. Indeed, Iraqis often wait in miles-long lines just to buy gas. The country is producing less electricity than before the war -- roughly half of current demand. There are food shortages, the cost of staple items such as rice and bread is soaring, and the number of Iraqi children suffering from malnutrition has nearly doubled. According to UNICEF, nearly 1 in 10 Iraqi children is suffering the effects of chronic diarrhea caused by unsafe water -- a situation responsible for 70 percent of children's deaths in Iraq.

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget the blistering new report from the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, which finds that the U.S. occupation government that ruled Iraq before last June's transfer of sovereignty has been unable to account for nearly $9 billion, overseeing a reconstruction process "open to fraud, kickbacks and misappropriation of funds."

And the election doesn't change that.

Let's not forget that we still don't have an exit strategy for Iraq. The closest the president has come is saying that we'll be able to bring our troops home when, as he put it on Sunday, "this rising democracy can eventually take responsibility for its own security" -- "eventually" being the operative word. Although the administration claims over 120,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained, other estimates put the number closer to 14,000, with less than 5,000 of them ready for battle. And we keep losing those we've already trained: some 10,000 Iraqi National Guardsmen have quit or been dropped from the rolls in the last six months. Last summer, the White House predicted Iraqi forces would be fully trained by spring 2005; their latest estimate has moved that timetable to summer 2006.

And the election doesn't change that.

And let's never forget this administration's real goal in Iraq, as laid out by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and their fellow neocon members of the Project for the New American Century back in 1998 when they urged President Clinton and members of Congress to take down Saddam "to protect our vital interests in the Gulf." These vital interests were cloaked in mushroom clouds, WMD that turned into "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities," and a Saddam/al-Qaida link that turned into, well, nothing. Long before the Bushies landed on freedom and democracy as their 2005 buzzwords, they already had their eyes on the Iraqi prize: the second-largest oil reserves in the world, and a permanent home for U.S. bases in the Middle East.

This is still the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the election, as heart-warming as it was, doesn't change any of that.


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