July 31, 2006

So Much For Closing It Down...

Halliburton builds a new Gitmo:
Camp 6, a state-of-the-art maximum-security jail built by a Halliburton subsidiary, will be able to hold 200 prisoners. Commander Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said the $30m, two-storey block was due to open at the end of September.
Australian "Red Cards" And US War Crimes

Via Juan Cole, an important story in The Australian:
AUSTRALIA intervened to stop key US military strikes against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, fearing they might constitute a war crime.

Major General Maurie McNarn, then a brigadier and commander of Australian forces in Iraq, on several occasions played a "red card" against the American plans, which included hits on individuals. His objections drew anger from some senior US military figures.

In one instance, Major General McNarn vetoed a US plan to drop a range of huge non-precision bombs on Baghdad, causing one angry US Air Force general to call the Australian a "pencil dick".

However, US military command accepted Major General McNarn's objection and the US plans were scrapped.

The revelation of how Australia actively and successfully used its veto power in the 2003 invasion of Iraq is contained in a new book on the US-Australian alliance, The Partnership, by The Weekend Australian's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan...

Australia also argued for the US to try to involve the UN as much as possible after the war. However, in a frank conversation with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on April 1, 2003, US President George W.Bush said the US would get the blame for destroying Iraq and he did not want others coming to rebuild it.

"The UN can't manage a damn thing," Mr Bush told Mr Downer, recalling his visit to Kosovo, where the President found the UN personnel to be "a bunch of drunks".
So we helped perpetrate a few war crimes, but - hey! - we are still good guys coz we blocked a few more. And of course, there's the customary flag-waving sign-off at the end of all Australian military-related stories:
[Bush] expressed unqualified admiration for the "brave, skilled fighters" of Australia's elite SAS.
Whoo hoo! Principled war criminals rock!

Meanwhile, the Australian military is ignoring claims by an Afghan parliamentarian that Australian and US soldiers killed his brother-in-law and injured his wife and two children by firing on their car:
Mr Khaliq maintained that US and Australian forces, in a convoy, fired from the top of a hill on his family's car as it was travelling to the Kandahar hospital in southern Afghanistan. Mr Khaliq was not in the car at the time and the account came from his nephew, who was wounded in the incident.

Mr Khaliq said when his wife and children took cover in a ditch beside the road, the US and Australian forces kept firing. He alleged that the soldiers came up to the scene but even when they saw his wounded wife and children, they did not assist them.
Sounds a lot like that scene from Syriana, doesn't it? The US Military has at least had the decency to issue their standard premature "We Are Not Guilty" verdict after investigating themselves yet again.
Bush Neocons Want War With Syria

Nasty stuff, via Joshua Micah Marshall:
There's a mix of public and private communications going on between Jerusalem and Damascus. Israel is trying to assure Damascus that they don't plan or want to expand the war to include Syria. Syria is clearly worried that they will and has their troops on full alert. Israel is also warning in no uncertain terms that Syria getting involved will spark massive retaliation.

But there are persistent signs that the US is egging Israel on to bring the war to Damascus.

Here's a clip from the end of an article today in the Jerusalem Post ...
[Israeli]Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.
And there are other ominous indications of the US pressing for expansion the Israelis don't seem to want.

There's more here than the US not wanting a ceasefire before meaningful changes on the ground have happened in south Lebanon. Or at least I fear there is.
From that second URL above, a Ha'aretz article:
In the middle of the week, a close personal friend of U.S. President George Bush, who is also a generous donor to the Republican Party, called an Israeli friend who is a senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces. "What's happening with you?" he asked, as angry as he was disappointed. "The best army in the region, one of the best armies in the world, is messing for two weeks with a terrorist organization three kilometers from the border, and the rockets keep falling on its population centers? We sent our army to bleed 6,000 miles from home after September 11. What's stopping you?"
Like Josh says, the neo-cons see this whole thing as "an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they've created in the region":
Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can't solve.
And lest you think these failed neocons and their 29% President don't have the political capital for such a bold move, it's worth noting just why the recent Doha round of world trade talk failed:
In the hotly contested congressional elections in November, the Midwestern farming states could determine whether or not the U.S. Congress will remain under Republican control, and Karl Rove was not willing to let anything get in the way of continuing GOP dominance.

U.S. intransigence may well go beyond electoral considerations. It reflects Washington's unilateralist thrust since George W. Bush came to power in 2001. Like its refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. refusal to substantially cut its agricultural subsidies reflects a strategy of making others, including traditional allies, bear the costs of necessary adjustments in the global economy. Last Monday's unraveling of the Doha Round, in this view, was the death knell of multilateralism.
These ideologues still wield massive power and - unfortunately - they are foolish enough to use it. But I am having an increasingly difficult time understanding what their ultimate goal nowadays in the Middle East really is: recent history shows that, given a democratic vote, people in the region will vote for anti-US governments. So they will overthrow the governments of Syria and Iran and... what? Install Afghan/Iraq style puppet administrations? These are not faring to well, are they? On the other hand, Bush seems blind to reality and actually thinks Iraq is still going to be a model of success. So maybe that IS still their logic, ridiculous as it seems.

July 30, 2006

Where's Gandhi

Sorry for not posting much lately, I have been sick, my wife has been sick, my kids have been sick... Reading the latest news does nothing to improve it!

July 27, 2006

Karl Rove's Ultimate Wedge Politics

The BBC reports that the trial of Saddam Hussein will be delayed till October 16th, just when it was entering it's final phase. So all you red-blooded US voters can expect a good old-fashioned hanging, or a shooting, or some such public embarrassment, just in time fer yer mid-term elections.

What a dang coincidence! Tell me again, WHO is in charge of Iraq...???
Defying the Supremes

Latest plans are still not good:
Some Bush administration officials have drafted a proposal that would authorize the prosecution of detainees in the terrorism fight in trials modeled closely after the military commissions recently declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

The plan includes provisions that allow the use of hearsay evidence and the exclusion of some defendants from their own trials, government officials said yesterday.
The Bright Side Of Life

An attempt at optimism from Scotsman.com:
Having said that, in a lot of ways, visiting the States at the moment is a good way to reinforce your faith in human nature. In five days of travel, I didn't hear a single word of support for George W Bush. In fact, many of the people I spoke to were genuinely embarrassed by his attitudes and behaviour.

If this is a troubling time to be in a special relationship with America, it is even harder on those who call the vast country home...
But it's really not all that optimistic, as anyone familiar with Scots would expect:
All the American journalists I spoke to seem convinced Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice will have a shot at the presidency next time, at least breaking years of macho cowboy posturing. They might also introduce some female sanity to how America is run.

Stepping off the plane and approaching US immigration these days is an ordeal guaranteed to put anyone off the idea of a holiday in America. After an eternity of queuing you are confronted with government officials who seem to start from the standpoint that you have done something wrong and don't belong in their country.

Every airport and train station crawls with brusque officials desperate to exert their little bit of authority. Tannoy announcements warn anyone joking about anything to do with terrorism will now be charged with a federal offence carrying huge prison terms. After clearing Customs I was threatened with arrest by a little fat lady with a gun because I had chosen to wait for someone at the exit of the customs hall. Apparently, that was a severe breach of regulations. By stepping across an adjacent white line I was no longer in the customs hall so wouldn't have to be arrested or shot.

Of course, that kind of behaviour stems from the paranoia Bush has introduced into America as part of his campaign to try to keep the nation onside. Regardless of our special relationship, a white skin and Scots or English accent is no longer enough to win Brownie points with American bureaucracy. If you don't have a US passport, you are a potential security risk. It's as simple as that. What life must be like for American Muslims when confronted by officialdom doesn't bear thinking about.
Of course, modern readers demand a happy ending:
But then came Veronica. As I sprinted down the jetty on eventual arrival in Atlanta, she reopened the gate, found me a boarding pass and ushered me last onboard.

"Hey, you made it. Have a great flight and come back soon," she said. I will, because Veronica, not George W Bush, is what makes America great.
Hoots the noo! It's all shite and tollie! T'was a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht....
On The Up-Side

From Scotsman.com/a>:
Having said that, in a lot of ways, visiting the States at the moment is a good way to reinforce your faith in human nature. In five days of travel, I didn't hear a single word of support for George W Bush. In fact, many of the people I spoke to were genuinely embarrassed by his attitudes and behaviour.

If this is a troubling time to be in a special relationship with America, it is even harder on those who call the vast country home...
On The Up-Side

From Scotsman.com/a>:
Having said that, in a lot of ways, visiting the States at the moment is a good way to reinforce your faith in human nature. In five days of travel, I didn't hear a single word of support for George W Bush. In fact, many of the people I spoke to were genuinely embarrassed by his attitudes and behaviour.

If this is a troubling time to be in a special relationship with America, it is even harder on those who call the vast country home...
End Of Empire

OK, who is going to tell me that this has nothing to do with anything:
Obese Americans are increasingly proving too fat to fit into scanners or their fat gets in the way of X-rays and ultrasounds, according to a study...
Over-weight, over-sexed, over-estimated and over there... (the post WWI version used to say over here).
Ojala Que Si, Pero No

Robert Fisk dares to ask:
Is it possible - is it conceivable - that Israel is losing its war in Lebanon?
Sorry, Mr Fisk, but wishing will not make it so. The international community, such as it is, has given Israel as much time as it needs to finish off Hezbollah. The more rockets Hezbollahfire into Israel, the easier it is to target them.
Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?

Methinks this is Condi's "Colin" moment, when she finally loses all dignity (precious little remains)...

Unmarried career woman Condi Rice - surely one of the most a-sexual people on the planet - flies to the AsiaPacific region. With so much going on elsewhere, one must ask "why?" Attempted answeres from Reuters:
With the fighting in Lebanon threatening to spin out of control, sectarian violence approaching civil war in Iraq and increased militant activity in Afghanistan, a security conference in Asia might not seem to be Rice's top priority right now.

But her decision to pass on last year's ASEAN Regional Forum - the region's premier security forum including 24 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, and the European Union - upset many Asians, leading some to argue that Washington was not interested in the continent, so she can ill afford to miss this meeting.

Asia is also home to one of the world's biggest diplomatic headaches in North Korea...
And therein lies a tale.
Rice flies in for ASEAN security talks:
With the fighting in Lebanon threatening to spin out of control, sectarian violence approaching civil war in Iraq and increased militant activity in Afghanistan, a security conference in Asia might not seem to be Rice's top priority right now.

But her decision to pass on last year's ASEAN Regional Forum - the region's premier security forum including 24 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, and the European Union - upset many Asians, leading some to argue that Washington was not interested in the continent, so she can ill afford to miss this meeting.

Asia is also home to one of the world's biggest diplomatic headaches in North Korea.

July 25, 2006

Condi Goes To Beirut

Analysis from Informed Comment:
Rice's visit showed how low American stock has fallen in the Middle East, since she came virtually empty-handed, merely as a go-fer on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with little positive to offer. Berri thunderously rejected her ultimatums, or rather those of her political bosses. She came with nice words but Israeli bombs hit Beirut before and after her visit, according to my sources. Her professions of sympathy rang hollow, since her government was encouraging the bombing raids and blocking any UN or European move toward a cease-fire. She played no more exalted a role than Mafia enforcer, lifting her suit coat at the corner to display the loaded pistol as she discussed just how much the owner of the Lebanese restaurant would be paying per month for "protection" from certain of her "friends," or else, you know, something bad could happen to this nice restaurant of yours.
Also from Juan Cole, this timely parable:
Henry David Thoreau refused to pay the poll tax put in to support the immoral American-Mexican War, and was sentenced to a night in jail. His friend Ralph Waldo Emerson came to visit him and asked him "David, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau replied, "What are you doing out there?"
Max Hastings says the west's moral erosion has undermined the war on terror:
Morality in foreign policy is often subjective. The US administration is confident that it represents the forces of democracy and freedom, and thus feels free to do whatever it judges best to promote these fine things. Israel perceives Palestinians and Arabs as committed to its destruction, justifying any action taken against them. Some in the Muslim world see no prospect of frustrating western cultural, economic and military dominance on western terms of engagement, and so choose other methods - such as suicide-bombing - that better suit their weakness.

Many Americans and Israelis believe that virtue is anyway unimportant, that the Arab world - and indeed the world at large - chiefly respects the successful use of power. Yet the weakness of this argument is laid bare in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere. The US, Israel and their backers - prominently including Tony Blair, if not the British people - are perceived both as behaving immorally, and using force ineffectually.

In a recent article for the International Institute for Strategic Studies journal, Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the School of Public Policy at Singapore University, analysed the precipitous decline of perceived western legitimacy. His principal argument was that it is essential for the US and its allies to be seen to abide by the same rules that they seek to impose on others. He proposed a recasting of the post-1945 Truman consensus, within which most nations acknowledged that the US sought to exercise its might for the welfare of all. Urging the US to renew its commitment to making the UN a real force, Mahbubani acknowledged the justice of giving large powers large voices through the security council. He argued, however, that its members' special influence must be matched by a special sense of responsibility, which is today perceived as lacking.

The world is unimpressed, he said, by US attempts to limit the rising power of China. Osama bin Laden has "successfully delegitimised American power in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Muslims ... One of the key factors in the growing delegitimisation ... is [US] indifference to its impact and to how it is perceived in the eyes of the 6 billion people in the rest of the world." The principle of political and economic even-handedness is key, and is being flouted.
Bush Silence On Pakistan Reactor

Every para f this Wapo story, U.S. Says It Knew of Pakistani Reactor Plan, is basically horrifying:
The Bush administration acknowledged yesterday that it had long known about Pakistan's plans to build a large plutonium-production reactor, but it said the White House was working to dissuade Pakistan from using the plant to expand its nuclear arsenal.

"We discourage military use of the facility," White House spokesman Tony Snow said of a powerful heavy-water reactor under construction at Pakistan's Khushab nuclear site in Punjab state.

The reactor, which reportedly will be capable of producing enough plutonium for as many as 50 bombs each year, was brought to light on Sunday by independent analysts who spotted the partially completed plant in commercial-satellite photos. Snow said the administration had "known of these plans for some time."

The acknowledgment came as arms-control experts and some in Congress expressed alarm about a possible escalation of South Asia's arms race. Some also sharply criticized the administration for failing to disclose the existence of a facility that could influence an upcoming congressional debate over U.S. nuclear policy toward India and Pakistan.

"If either India or Pakistan starts increasing its nuclear arsenal, the other side will respond in kind," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-chairman of a House bipartisan task force on nonproliferation. "The Bush administration's proposed nuclear deal with India is making that much more likely."
Remember, Pakistan is a military dictatorship, and also most likely the place where Bin Laden is hiding.
American Chronicle says Bush's signing statements are disdainful of the Constitution:
George W. Bush, president of the United States and nominal leader of the free world, has issued more challenges to provisions of laws than all the other presidents in the nation's history combined.
Reality Media: The Game

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: You are a Murdoch Press reporter assigned to cover the final day of the Earth Dialogues forum in Brisbane, Australia. Delegates, including three Nobel Peace Prize laureates, have just agreed to an idealistic 26-point action plan. For example:
"There can be no sustainable peace while the majority of the world's population lives in poverty.

"There can be no sustainable peace if we fail to rise to the global challenge presented by climate change.

"There can be no sustainable peace while military spending takes precedence over human development."
YOUR CHALLENGE: Turn these lofty ideals into headline-grabbing entertainment, preferably with a subtle political slant dismissing the whole thing as a waste of time and money. Remember, you must still report on the actual event. Leave the full-blown critique for the OpEds!

SPECIAL HINT: Probe for weaknesses! Stay alert!

THE RESULT: Your headline steals the show!
Peace prize winner 'could kill' Bush.
THE MONEY QUOTE: Nobel peace laureate Betty Williams displaying "a flash of her feisty Irish spirit". You even get the bit about the poor, misled children in there! Nice!
"I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence', because I don't believe that I am non-violent," said Ms Williams, 64.

"Right now, I would love to kill George Bush." Her young audience at the Brisbane City Hall clapped and cheered.

"I don't know how I ever got a Nobel Peace Prize, because when I see children die the anger in me is just beyond belief. It's our duty as human beings, whatever age we are, to become the protectors of human life."
THE "FAIR AND BALANCED" BIT: Nicely buried in the guts of the text:
"My job is to tell you their stories," Ms Williams said of a recent trip to Iraq.

"We went to a hospital where there were 200 children; they were beautiful, all of them, but they had cancers that the doctors couldn't even recognise. From the first Gulf War, the mothers' wombs were infected.

"As I was leaving the hospital, I said to the doctor, 'How many of these babies do you think are going to live?'

"He looked me straight in the eye and said, 'None, not one'. They needed five different kinds of medication to treat the cancers that the children had, and the embargoes laid on by the United States and the United Nations only allowed them three."
CONCLUSION: Fantastic! Congratulations, Annabelle McDonald!
Desperate Bush Goes Begging For Votes And Money

I Get a Letter from President Bush:

Dear Rob, Join the RNC

Republicans have a record of dealing with some serious economic times during my presidency. We have had a recession, a stock market collapse, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals and major natural disasters.

Because Republicans acted and had an economic recovery plan, we have created strong economic growth and nearly 5.3 million new jobs in the last two and half years; the national unemployment rate has dropped to 4.6% -- that is lower than the average rate of the 1960s, 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s; productivity is up and household net worth is at an all-time high.

Republicans understand that by cutting taxes people will have more of their own money to save, spend and invest as they see fit, not as the government wants. So our Party and GOP members of the U.S. Congress stood squarely for tax relief for everybody who pays taxes.

We have a lot of work to do to make sure America remains a prosperous country, so that every single citizen can realize the great promise of America.

That is why your support as a Sustaining Member of the Republican National Committee is vital to our Party's success in the 2006 mid-term elections.

Rob, nothing threatens our hard-won reforms and economic prosperity more than a Democrat victory this November.

Today, many Democrats want the tax relief we passed to expire in a few years. Some even want to repeal it now.

The Democrat Party has a clear record when it comes to taxes.

In 2001, more than 71% of the congressional Democrats voted against cutting income tax rates. More than 90% of the Congressional Democrats voted against a bill that provided tax relief for married couples.

More than 71% of Democrats voted against a bill that would have put the death tax on the road to extinction. More than 71% of Democrats voted against a bill that doubled the child credit. In 2003, more than 96% of the Congressional Democrats voted against cutting taxes on dividends and capital gains.

And recently, during the budget debate, Democrats used the occasion to call for $173 billion in tax hikes and fee increases.

The difference is clear: if you want the government in your pocket, vote Democrat. If you want to keep more of your hard-earned money, vote Republican.

Republicans have the right ideas to keep our economy growing strong. The first thing is to make the tax cuts permanent.

Republicans are also working to cut the deficit. The best way to reduce the deficit is to keep pro-growth economic policies in place, and be wise about how we spend your money -- which is exactly what Republicans are doing in Washington. We are on our way to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

But to do that, Rob, we must re-elect Republican majorities to the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

Our GOP candidates need your support. Please send a contribution of $100, $50 or $25 to the RNC today to help elect more Republicans in 2006. You can make your donation on the RNC's secure website at www.GOP.com/Sustaining/c.

We have made remarkable progress enacting our bold, responsible agenda for America in the last five and a half years. Working together, we can continue to keep our nation moving forward to greater peace, prosperity and security.


George W. Bush

P.S. Rob, the 2006 elections will be close. Your support is critical to providing the resources our Republican candidates need to win. Please visit this secure website to send the RNC a special contribution of $100, $50 or $25 today. Thank you.
Supreme Court Gets More Work

Imagine a top Republican laying the groundwork for Congress to sue Bush. Imagine FOX News reporting it without undue bias. You are there:
A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush's signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court.

"We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional,"Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.

Specter's announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.

Bush has issued at least 750 signing statements during his presidency, reserving the right to revise, interpret or disregard laws on national security and constitutional grounds.
Opportunity Knocks

Strange to watch a right-wing UK paper getting stuck into Bush:
When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Reagan faced huge domestic pressure to rein in the Israelis. This time, however, there is barely a cheep of protest. Mr Bush's stance in the past 13 days has met more general approval than just about any foreign or domestic initiative since the war against Afghanistan.

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution offering staunch support for Israel by 410 votes to eight...

Of course, this is quite a gamble. Every dead Lebanese civilian is a boost to Islamist recruiting sergeants. Miss Rice's stop-off in Beirut reflected a belated awareness that the Israeli offensive imperils its fledgeling democracy.

She also announced a humanitarian effort. The intended message was "we care" about the Lebanese civilians; not that, to be honest, most Americans do.
History shows that a good war is the best way to boost your approval in the lead-up to US elections. Will the populace be fooled again?

The Telegraph says Bush is now reverting to Clinton-style "shuttle diplomacy" in a desperate effort to rescue his legacy:
If you doubt Mr Bush's determination, look at his holiday schedule: for the first time in five years, brush-clearing at Crawford, Texas, will not be his primary August pursuit.
Bush Blows Another $96 Billion To Save His Sorry Ass

Everything is connected:
Trade experts on both sides of the Atlantic say the Bush administration's unwillingness to risk alienating Farm Belt supporters with cuts in agricultural subsidies was a key factor in the collapse of weekend talks in Geneva...

The so-called Doha Round of World Trade Organization talks was aimed at securing agreement on what the World Bank estimated would have been $96 billion in lower tariffs, subsidy reductions and other steps designed to stimulate trade. That proposal itself was sharply scaled back from earlier efforts.

Chavez forges ties with Belarus
Mr Chavez is on a world tour, partly to win support for Venezuela's bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council.

From Belarus, he will travel to Russia, Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali.

He is hoping to sign an arms deal in Moscow worth around $1bn (£542m), correspondents say.
Do You Know Where We're Heading?

Lincoln Country Road or Armaggeddon?

UK Govt Sources Confirm War With Iran Is On:
Israel, with US and British support, is deliberately escalating the cycle of retaliation to legitimize the imminent targeting of Iran before year's end.
Before you dismiss this as alarmist Conspiracy Theory #1226, consider this:
Ha'aretz's Reuven Pedatzur calls for an external investigation into whether the IDF may have not taken adequate measures to prevent its soldiers from being kidnapped...

"Senior IDF officers are not accustomed to criticism originating outside the army's ranks, and normally enjoy great immunity from having to take responsibility for their failings. But there have been too many shortcomings and failures in recent weeks for them to be ignored. It is possible that this has been a matter of bad luck, but until the incidents are examined seriously by elements external to the IDF, there is an unpleasant feeling of a whitewash operation going on - and concern that something fundamentally bad is going on in the army."
It looks like those two Israeli soldiers were sacrificed to Hezbollah as an excuse for launching this war, which even wingnuts acknowledge was pre-planned for at least a year. And that was following Israeli provocation over several weeks, including the bombing of civilians on a beach and the abduction of two Lebanese.

The neocons have been agitating for war with Iran, which has been there major goal for a long time. Sy Hersh has closely documented the "attack Iran" debate within the administration and the army. People like Michael Ledeen are doing everything they can to push this violence as far as they can.

There there is this sort of thing:
I’ve been hanging with the Rapture crowd for a piece I’m putting together for my blog and apparently August 22 is the Big Day. The Rapturists are loving this Israel bloodbath. Armegeddon begins in Northern Israel, apparently, as per the prophecies or some crap.
More on a likely Iran invasion here and here.
At The Next Australian Election

Both major parties will be endorsing increased uranium mining. The debate, such as it was, is over.
Laura Rozen was right... Iran activist 'snubs White House':
[Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji] said he rejected the offer because he believed current US policies could not help promote democracy in Iran.

In a speech last week in Washington DC, he also criticised US policy in Iraq, saying: "You cannot bring democracy to a country by attacking it".

He added that the war in Iraq had helped Islamic fundamentalism and hampered the democracy movement in the region.

A group of Iranian dissidents met State Department official Nicholas Burns and Elliot Abrams, an adviser to the National Security Council, while Mr Ganji was in Washington last week.

Mr Ganji said he believed such meetings would undermine the credibility of the Iranian opposition.
How Do You Know When The World Is Truly, Deeply FUBAR?

This surely proves it once and for all:

American Idol Stars will "provide relief" at White House Middle East Talks.
Hicks and the other Idols are currently touring America on the Idols live tour and Bush felt sure their trip to the White House would provide a welcome break for himself and visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair as they tackle the crisis in the Middle East.
I kid you not. Tony Blair will be meeting Bush to discuss a Middle East crisis which he himself calls a "catastrophe". And yet even while civilians keep dying, Bush and Blair will be chilling out from the "hard work" with a couple of bevvies and the crooning sounds of Taylor Hicks. Beautiful! Nero had a fiddle, you know...

Is there nobody in the Bush White House who understands what a monumental PR disaster Bush's open-mike conversation at the G8 summit was? Is there nobody rushing some much-needed damage control to the fore? Apparently not.

Are these people all so ideologically blinkered and complacent that they really believe their "do nothing" policies will work?

It's not just the Middle East, either. As Ed Naha points out:
Don’t you love global leadership? Don’t you wish we had some? You know when Dubya is the leader of the free world, we’re dead meat. Actually, fried meat.

According to the U.S. Climatic Data Center’s Jay Lawrimore, the first six months of 2006 were the warmest, on average, since the United States started keeping records in 1895, and global warming is a contributing factor. Go, USA!

July, August and September are forecast to continue the hot trend over most of the United States, including the vast area of the country west of the Mississippi River, as well as New England, Florida and southern Alaska.

Pretty grim, eh? I mean, some experts are saying that polar bears may turn to cannibalism because there’s no food, anymore. Plus, the entire world is forecasted to become hotsie-totsie. So how did the G8 Summit react? Uh, just before diving into their private jets and heading home, the head honchos chose to “stay the course” and ignore what’s going on. You go, guys!
Follow the Money, Follow the Logic

So Bush's USA gives millions (or is it billions?) of dollars to Israel every year, then it sells US-made weapons to Israel, then it watches from the sidelines while Israel destroys half of Lebanon, then it pledges millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for Lebanon.

And all this helps the US taxpayer how???
Hold Them Accountable: A Tool For The Net

"Pop-Up Politician" Debuts from Sunlight Labs:
The links inside the Pop-Up go to the Member's page in Congresspedia (which is a wiki that Sunlight helped create that includes a great deal of factual and critical information on each Member), to their career campaign finance profile page on OpenSecrets.org, and to their current voting record as tracked by the Washington Post's Votes Database. To see an example of the Pop-Ups in action, go here.

July 24, 2006

From Laura at War and Piece:
The top Italian police investigator in the Abu Omar rendition case commits suicide [yeah, I bet it was suicide - gandhi]. Adamo Bove was an investigative cop whose expertise was telecom surveillance. "According to testimony by Bove's ex-colleagues in Milan, it was Adamo Bove who helped the Milan magistrates identify and reconstruct the mobile phone traffic during the kidnapping of Abu Omar in Milan on February 17, 2003. It was this crucial investigative work that led to arrest warrants for 26 American agents and many of their Italian accomplices." More.
Bush's Middle East Democracy Flop:
THE BUSH administration's plan to bring democracy to the Middle East is now in ruins. In a nation where political responsibility still counted for something, the architects of that strategy would be forced to resign.

Remember the argument for the Iraq war — that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would lead to a stable, democratic Iraq and bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians? Remember the argument that the key problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was lack of Palestinian democracy? Remember Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's promise that the U.S. would "support the new Lebanon"?

In truth, reliance on democratization was always not so much a strategy as an excuse for the lack of one. It provided a flimsy cover for the Bush administration's inability or unwillingness to address the key challenges and opportunities of the region. These failures included walking away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and refusing to consider deals with Iran and Syria when, in the wake of 9/11, these regimes were extremely eager for compromise. As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and Mideast scholar Flynt Leverett, among others, have argued, Bush forfeited the chance to recruit these two states as allies in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Sunni extremist world, which the Syrian and Iranian regimes have their own good reasons to hate.

Instead, the administration, backed by most of the Democratic leadership, has supported the Israeli government in its plan for a unilateral solution that would confine the Palestinians to Bantustans. It has treated Iran and Syria with unremitting hostility, trying to undermine the Syrian economy and impose sanctions on Iran, demanding concessions while openly proclaiming its desire to overthrow both states.

Not surprisingly, when the flare-up of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians provided an opportunity, Tehran and Damascus unleashed Hezbollah. This is an extremely risky and irresponsible strategy for Syria and Iran, but no serious student of the Middle East can claim that it is an unexpected one, given the situation in which the United States has placed them.

Far from promoting democracy in the region, the U.S. is being led closer to Israel's traditional three-part strategy toward its neighbors: reliance on deals with dictatorial regimes that fear their own people; promotion of divisions between different religious and ethnic groups; and, when necessary, war.

In Lebanon, Israel is justified in demanding that the Lebanese government exert more control over Hezbollah. But Israel must remember that Shiites represent more than 40% of the Lebanese population — and the vast majority support Hezbollah. Thus, the only way that Hezbollah can be controlled without massive violence is by integrating its members into the Lebanese state.

Crushing Hezbollah, by contrast, would require a military dictatorship of the Lebanese Christians and another horrendous Lebanese civil war with many thousands of deaths. Israel might be morally justified in promoting such a "solution" if Hezbollah represented a real threat to Israel's existence.

But Israel wants to pound the Lebanese state into cracking down on Hezbollah no matter the cost to the Lebanese population or to the hopes of a democratic future that Bush praised so highly only three months ago.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the failure of the Saudi, Jordanian and other regimes to speak out on behalf of the Lebanese has nothing to do with democracy. It results from two factors: their fear of the expansion of Iranian and Shiite influence, and their fear of militancy in their own states. In any of these countries, democracy would lead to very different policies, ones much more hostile to Israel and the U.S.

The neoconservatives who shaped Bush's "strategy" toward the Middle East always embodied a quite Orwellian contradiction. On the one hand, they professed to believe that early democracy is possible for the Middle East and that it would solve the region's problems, including the Israeli-Arab dispute. On the other hand, many made no secret of their belief that, as neocon scholar Michael Ledeen has written (quoting Machiavelli), "it is better to be feared than loved." Raphael Patai, whose book "The Arab Mind" influenced neoconservative thinking, argues that Arabs chiefly respond to the language of force.

But as the experience of Israel shows, rejecting compromise and relying mainly on force leads only to endless conflict. Now that the U.S. dream of combining democratization of the region with submission to Washington's policies is dead, the U.S. too is faced with a stark choice: seek genuine compromise with key regional actors, or be prepared to fight repeated wars.
Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times
Sources: Negroponte Blocks CIA Analysis of Iraq “Civil War”:
By Ken Silverstein.

I reported in May that despite the deteriorating situation in Iraq, no National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has been produced on that country since the summer of 2004. The last NIE, a classified document that the CIA describes as “the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue,” was rejected by the Bush Administration (after being leaked to the New York Times) as being too negative, though its grim assessment subsequently proved to be highly accurate.

The situation has gotten even darker since my initial story—a United Nations report cited in Wednesday's New York Times found that an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed each day in June—and I've learned from two sources that some senior figures at the CIA, along with a number of Iraq analysts, have been pushing to produce a new NIE. They've been stonewalled, however, by John Negroponte, the administration's Director of National Intelligence, who knows that any honest take on the situation would produce an NIE even more pessimistic than the 2004 version. That could create problems on the Hill and, if it is leaked as the last one was, with the public as well.

“What do you call the situation in Iraq right now?” asked one person familiar with the situation. “The analysts know that it's a civil war, but there's a feeling at the top that [using that term] will complicate matters.” Negroponte, said another source regarding the potential impact of a pessimistic assessment, “doesn't want the president to have to deal with that.”

The sources said that forces at the CIA have been lobbying for the new NIE for about six months. Not only is one overdue, but there's also a fear that if the Democrats win control of at least one chamber of Congress this November, the agency is going to get hammered for not having produced an NIE for so long.

When the topic of a new NIE was first raised, the Directorate of National Intelligence agreed to consider the matter, but advocates heard nothing back. They raised the topic again several months ago and were told that Negroponte was still mulling over the matter. Since then, there's been no indication that the DNI intends to authorize a new NIE. “He's not going to allow [analysts] to call the situation warts and all,” said one source. “There's real angst about it inside.”

A third source, a former CIA officer who served in Iraq, said he had no direct knowledge of Negroponte blocking the NIE but that it jibed with past practice. “The NIE is a crucial document . . . that tells you how to tweak your policy,” he said. “That's hard to do if you don't want to look at it.” He said he had two recent conversations with people in Iraq, one an official at the Ministry of Interior who told him that as of two days ago there were 1,600 bodies piled up at the central morgue in Baghdad. The second conversation, he said, was with an Iraqi general officer who told him, “I never thought I would see my capital like this. It's on fire.”

“[The administration] can call it whatever they want,” said the former CIA officer. “There's a civil war going on in Iraq.”
Funny how the source says "Negroponte... doesn't want the President to have to deal with that," not "The President doesn't want to have to deal with that." Bush is surrounded by people who make sure he doesn't know too much, and he is too damned arrogant and ignorant to go out and discover the truth for himself. He may not be stupid, but he certianly a fool.
If We Killed Them, They Must Be Guilty

Alan Dershowitz, the most vocal critic of Walt and Mearsheimer's report on the USA's pro-Israel lobby, argues (in the LA Times) that civilians being killed in Lebanon today deserve what they get:
The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit.
How Orwellian is this:
Every civilian death is a tragedy, but some are more tragic than others.
If, like me, you find such crap offensive, write to letters@latimes.com and ask them why they published it. For example:
Sir or Madam,

Alan Dershowitz's article "Civilian Casualty'? It Depends" is the most offensive piece of Orwellian dissembling I have read in a long time (and he has some very stiff competition these days).

Why on earth does an otherwise decent paper like the LA Times publish such blatantly racist nonsense?

Would you publish racist propaganda which took a similar stance against Israelis? Or against Americans? I don't think so. Yet Dershowitz's article is clearly on a par with the anti-Semitic texts disseminated by neo-Nazis, or the self-justifying propaganda of Osama Bin Laden.

Shame on you.

When two US academics recently criticized the excessive role of the pro-Israel lobby in US politics, Dershowitz was their most vocal public critic. I can only assume the same lobby has excessive sway in the LA Times newsroom as well.


(Story via Atrios and The Washington Monthly.)

UPDATE: This article is not just morally repugnant but also factually ignorant, given how Israel is deliberately targetting innocent civilians. Even white flags are failing to protect Lebanese families obeying the Israeli "order" to flee the south:
Reports continued to come in of Israeli targeted air strikes against civilians trying to comply with Israel's orders to flee their villages along the border.
The Hardest Word

Cenk Uygurposts an apology from a a conservative talk show host and long-time Bush apologist:
I watched and tried to justify the looting in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. I watched and tried to justify the dismantling of the entire Iraqi army. I tired to explain the complexities of building a functional new Iraqi army. I urged patience when no WMDs were found. Then the Vice President told us we were in the "waning days of the insurgency." And I started wincing again. The President says we have to stay the course but what if it's the wrong course?

It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. We're about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake. Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. It's unspeakable. The liberal media didn't create this reality, bad policy did.

After five years of carefully watching George W. Bush I've reached the conclusion he's either grossly incompetent, or a hand puppet for a gaggle of detached theorists with their own private view of how the world works. Or both.
In my mind, the first thing these people should do once they finish apologising (accepted, thank you) is to resign.
Black George W. Bush

Israel's Motivations

It's now pretty clear that assassination of Rafik Hariri was just a necessary pre-cursor to the invasion of Lebanon:
The real goal of the buffer zone will be to allow Israel to begin to siphon off greater quantities of Lebanese water.
The last 9/11 detainee goes free without charges:
The last detainee's odyssey began Sept. 5, 2001, when, after overstaying a six-month visa, he crossed the border near Buffalo to seek asylum in Canada. After the Sept. 11 attacks, his background as a Muslim man with flight experience prompted Canadian officials to turn him over to U.S. authorities.

He spent the next six months in solitary confinement in a federal jail in Brooklyn. Though the FBI concluded he had no links to terrorism, he was eventually charged with carrying false identification — a case that was dropped after a federal magistrate found his right to due process had been violated.

The magistrate wrote in a 2003 decision that Benatta had been "undeniably deprived of his liberty," and "held in custody under harsh conditions which can be said to be oppressive."
After nearly 5 years in a US jail, Benemar Benatta, 32, is now seeking asylum in Canada after successfully avoiding deportation to his native Algeria, where he believed he would be jailed, tortured, or killed.
Smells Like More Failed Diplomacy

Bush's USA blocked Russian entry to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), so Putin is now blocking US oil companies from Russian fields.
Igor Shuvalov, a Putin aide, warned in April that the US firms' chances of participating in the undersea drilling project were tied to US support for Russia's WTO bid...

... the Shtokman project is also important to Russia's long-term relations with the US, since most gas from the field is to be shipped to north America in the form of liquefied natural gas. Participation by Chevron or ConocoPhillips could help ease access to the US market.

From where I stand today, the end of the world is clearly visible. It is a desolate, lonely and empty horizon, beyond which lies nothing. To get there, all one needs to do is to keep smashing things.
Suicide? My Arse!

MP Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat, casts doubt on Kelly suicide:
Points raised by Mr Baker, whose centre-left party opposed the Iraq war, included the fact that Dr Kelly supposedly cut his ulnary artery in his wrist, a more difficult and painful option than the radial artery. In 2003, Mr Baker said, Dr Kelly was the only person recorded to have taken his or her own life in this fashion. Mr Baker said paramedics who attended the scene where Dr Kelly's body was found in Oxfordshire said he was "incredibly unlikely" to have died from the wound they saw.

Police said 29 tablets of a painkiller were missing from a packet in his home, but all that was found in Dr Kelly's stomach was the equivalent of one-fifth of a tablet, Mr Baker said.

Despite the stress he was under in the days leading to his death, Mr Baker said contacts with friends and relatives showed no sign that Dr Kelly had suicidal thoughts.

Mr Baker said the pathologist assigned to the case was one of the least experienced in the country, and that Lord Brian Hutton, who conducted the judicial inquiry, had never conducted one before.
Suicide? My Arse!

MP Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat, casts doubt on Kelly suicide:
Points raised by Mr Baker, whose centre-left party opposed the Iraq war, included the fact that Dr Kelly supposedly cut his ulnary artery in his wrist, a more difficult and painful option than the radial artery. In 2003, Mr Baker said, Dr Kelly was the only person recorded to have taken his or her own life in this fashion. Mr Baker said paramedics who attended the scene where Dr Kelly's body was found in Oxfordshire said he was "incredibly unlikely" to have died from the wound they saw.

Police said 29 tablets of a painkiller were missing from a packet in his home, but all that was found in Dr Kelly's stomach was the equivalent of one-fifth of a tablet, Mr Baker said.

Despite the stress he was under in the days leading to his death, Mr Baker said contacts with friends and relatives showed no sign that Dr Kelly had suicidal thoughts.

Mr Baker said the pathologist assigned to the case was one of the least experienced in the country, and that Lord Brian Hutton, who conducted the judicial inquiry, had never conducted one before.
Democracy? My Arse!

Bush's democracy project backfires:
Washington's Sunni client regimes - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the statelets of the Gulf - now cower in the face of a combustible cocktail of strident Shiite ambition and intense Arab resentment at their dependence on the US and at Washington's guardianship of Israel.

Over the weekend, the US Secretary of State presented the Lebanon crisis as "the birth pangs of a new Middle East".

By her own choice of words, Rice is midwife to a new order that some in the region see as the old order. They believed the US promise of democracy was about personal freedom rather than entrenching the autocrats who now plead to Washington that this democracy project wasn't such a good idea after all. Fawaz Trabulsi, a professor of history and international studies at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, told the Herald: "The slogan of the regimes now is stability. As guardians of the status quo, the US is their main source of legitimacy - not the people of their nations.

"These leaders spend time on cosmetic democratic reforms. But the concessions they make are to Washington, not to their own people." ...

Washington's client regimes came out directly against Hezbollah and obliquely against Iran last week.

However, despite their well-practised efforts to silence dissent, the backlash could be heard in the mosques of the region ahead of news of more bombs for Israel. "Our brothers are being killed in Lebanon and no one is responding to their cries for help," said Sheik Hazzaa al-Maswari in his Friday sermon at the Mujahid Mosque in the Yemeni capital, Sana.

"Where are the Arab leaders?" he said. "Do they have any skill other than begging for a fake peace outside the White House? We don't want leaders who bow to the White House." Broadcast live from the holy city of Mecca, a Saudi preacher, Sheik Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, challenged Washington directly: "Where are those who filled the world with slogans of freedom and democracy? Don't they fear that history will condemn them for their double standards?"
The worst part is:
as of last Thursday, we're still 2 1/2 years away from a new Administration.

July 23, 2006

MUST READ: Cheney and Rumsfeld Not Telling Bush Real Reasons For Crisis

From Juan Cole:
That this war was pre-planned was obvious to me from the moment it began. The Israeli military proceeded methodically and systematically to destroy Lebanon's infrastructure, and clearly had been casing targets for some time. The vast majority of these targets were unrelated to Hizbullah. But since the northern Sunni port of Tripoli could theoretically be used by Syria or Iran to offload replacement rockets that could be transported by truck down south to Hizbullah, the Israelis hit it. And then they hit some trucks to let truck drivers know to stay home for a while.

That is why I was so shaken by George W. Bush's overheard conversation with Tony Blair about the war. He clearly thought that it broke out because Syria used Hizbullah to create a provocation. The President of the United States did not know that this war was a long-planned Israeli war of choice.

Why is that scarey? Because the Israeli planning had to have been done in conjunction with Donald Rumsfeld at the US Department of Defense. The US Department of Defense is committed to rapidly re-arming Israel and providing it precision laser-guided weaponry, and to giving it time to substantially degrade Hizbullah's missile capabilities. The two are partners in the war effort.

For the Bush administration, Iran and Hizbullah are not existential threats. They are proximate threats. Iran is hostile to US corporate investment in the oil-rich Gulf,, and so is a big obstacle to American profit-making in the region. Rumsfeld is worried about Iran's admission as an observer to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is to say, that he is worried about a budding Chinese-Islamic axis that might lock up petroleum reserves and block US investments. If Chinese economic and military growth make it the most significant potential challenger to the Sole Superpower in the coming century, a Chinese alliance with the oil-rich Muslim regions, including Iran, would be even more formidable. The Shanghai group has already pulled off one coup against Rumsfeld, successfully convincing Uzbekistan to end US basing rights in that country.

Rumsfeld also believes, contrary to all available evidence, that Iran is actively destabilizing Iraq and is conniving with Syria and Hezbollah to do so.
(In fact, the Iraqis had shaped charges in their depots and did not need to learn about them from Iran or Hizbollah). At some points, the Pentagon has even tried to blame Iran for the radical Sunni Arab violence in Iraq, which makes no sense at all (and thus that propaganda campaign has been put on the back burner).

Rumsfeld is so eager to stop what he believes is an Iranian nuclear weapons program that he reportedly has considered using tactical nuclear weapons against it preemptively. After all, a nuclear-armed Iran would forestall American gunboat diplomacy in the oil-rich Gulf.

Iran also supports Syria, and Rumsfeld believes that Syria is helping destabilize Iraq, and is also a patron for Hizbullah.

Clearly, if one could get rid of Iran and Hezbollah, in Rumsfeld World, Iraq is much more likely to turn out a delayed success than an absolute disaster. And then the stalled-out rush to Bush's vision of "democracy" (i.e. Big Private Property) in the region could proceed. In fact, the instability in Iraq mainly comes from Sunni Arab guerrillas, who hate Iran and it is mutual.

The Bush administration's perceived economic and geopolitical interests thus overlap strongly with Israel's perceived security interests, with both benefitting from an Israeli destruction of Hizbullah. It is not impossible that the US Pentagon urged the Israelis on in this endeavor. They certainly knew about and approved of the plan.

What is scarey is that Cheney and Rumsfeld don't appear to have let W. in on the whole thing. They told him that Bashar al-Asad of Syria stirred up a little trouble because he was afraid that Iraq the Model and the Lebanese Cedar Revolution might be such huge successes that they would topple him by example (just as, after Poland and the Czech Velvet Revolution, other Eastern European strongmen fell). (Don't fall down laughing at the idea of Iraq and Lebanon as Republican Party success stories; people in Washington, DC, coccoon a lot and have odd ideas about the way the world is.) So, Bush thought, if that is all that is going on, then someone just needs to call al-Asad and reassure him that we're not going to take him out, and get him to rein in Hizbullah. And then the war would suddenly stop. No one told Bush that this war was actually an Israeli war of choice and that al-Asad had nothing to do with it, that, indeed, it could only happen because al-Asad is already irrelevant.
U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis

A hugely important story from the New York Times:
The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.
Heckuva Job, Bolton

White House moves to confirm John Bolton to his temporary U.N. post. Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich, once a harsh critic, now backs him for the job. Dems say he still has not turned over documents they sought last year.

NYT says Bolton is not popular at the UN, where diplomats see his as "a stand-in for the arrogance of the [Bush] administration itself".
But diplomats focus particularly on an area with less evidence of instructions from Washington and more of Mr. Bolton’s personal touch, the mission that he has described as his priority: overhauling the institution’s discredited management. Envoys say he has in fact endangered that effort by alienating traditional allies. They say he combatively asserts American leadership, contests procedures at the mannerly, rules-bound United Nations and then shrugs off the organization when it does not follow his lead.

Six ambassadors separately offered similar accounts of an incident in June that they said captured the situation. All were from nations in Europe, the Pacific and Latin America that consider themselves close allies of the United States, and they asked to speak anonymously in commenting on a fellow envoy.

Mr. Bolton that day burst into a packed committee hall, produced a cordless microphone and began to lecture envoys from developing nations about their weakening of a proposal to tighten management of the United Nations, his chief goal.

Gaveled to silence, he threw up his hands and said, “Well, so much for trying something different.”

July 21, 2006

Should Be Interesting...

Laura Rozen reveals that so many leading Iranian pro-democracy activists turned down invites to a White House meeting, the meeting itself was cancelled. No wait...
Late Update: A colleague at the White House midday press briefing today sends word that Tony Snow said, "The Iranian event I talked about in the gaggle actually is taking place today." Stay tuned. Latest word: It's on.
Gorby Goes To Oz

"The current violence in the Middle East is yet another demonstration of politics lagging behind the pace of global change.

"If the leaders of the world's most powerful states lapse back and again see military power as a viable means of resolving disputes, then we should not be surprised if other states also consider it a legitimate course."
Gorby also urged Australia to sign the Kyoto Protocol:
"It is true that historically the world has seen both the cold cycles and the warm cycles, the ice ages and the hot periods, but even if part of the reason for the current global warming is the natural cycle, we should do our best not to aggravate this problem with the human impact on global warming."
Australia and the United States are the only developed nations NOT to have signed Kyoto. Who's got your back, George?
The West Abandons Lebanon To Its Fate

It is becoming increasingly clear that Lebanon will never be the same again. Rather than calling on Israel to halt its attacks, Western governments are telling their own citizens to flee. This indicates:

1. The violence is likely to get worse,
2. Western governments do not have either the power or inclination to stop Israeli attacks,
3. Lebanese citizens are being abandoned to their fate.

Juan Cole today publishes a letter from Patrick McGreevy:
There are so many warships and cruiseliners in the sea in front of Beirut that it looks like a cross between the Battle of Midway and Aruba.
Indeed, the evactuation has become the preferred story for the Western media, focussing on their own citizens' plight while ignoring the broader context. Martin Rowson captures the moment:

Israel has now warned hundreds of thousands of people to flee southern Lebanon
preparing for a likely ground offensive to set up a buffer zone.
UPDATE: Israeli forces have now invaded Lebanon and are engaging with Hizbollah.
Now it seems the desired buffer zone will be provided by the USA and its "allies":
The Bush Administration is working with allies to organise a military force and a civilian international presence in Lebanon to strengthen the government and break the grip of Hezbollah, US and foreign diplomats say.

The peacekeepers would be positioned along Lebanon's southern border in an effort to prevent Hezbollah attacks on Israel, while the civilian officials would be located elsewhere to halt the suspected flow of military equipment from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah, officials said.

The move came as the United Nations human rights chief said the scale of killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territory pointed to possible war crimes.
Can I get me a Coalition of the Willing? Anyone??? You sir, in the front row! What's your name? John? John Winston Howard? Well, COME ON DOWN, MATE!!!

As with Iraq, where SAS soldiers parachuted into the country before war had even been declared, Australia is already sending in the first wave:
Canberra is moving in extra defence and diplomatic staff.

Nineteen defence personnel were already en route to Lebanon on Thursday and another 65 left Sydney on a chartered flight early on Friday morning.

A defence spokesman said the latest contingent included logistics experts, translators, medical personnel and staff to process evacuees, but there were no troops to provide security...

An extra 29 diplomatic staff have also been sent into Beirut and locations in Turkey and Cyprus.
It's really quite bizarre, isn't it?

How do you have a "buffer zone" in southern Lebanon when Hezbollah infiltrates, if not controls, the whole country? Given that Hezbollah rockets can now reach Haifa, the buffer zone will need to stretch halfway to Beirut. Is that really feasible? Is it going to yield practical results?

The real US-Israeli long-term strategy seems to be based on ensuring that no strong and stable Arab governments arise anywhere in the region. They are sowing chaos in Lebabon, Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously. These conditions, let us remember, provide the perfect ideological and logistical incubation environment for terrorism. But despite all the breathless rhetoric we hear on that subject, US-Israeli actions show that it really is the least of their concerns.

UPDATE: Antony Loewenstein asks What's Israel's real agenda?
Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese civilians are the victims of an Israeli defence establishment that still believes, despite decades of policy failure, that “terrorists” must be liquidated in every corner of the region, whatever the political cost. Isi Leibler, former head of Australia's Zionist lobby, recently argued in the Jerusalem Post that, “the responsibility for casualties, even innocent bystanders, will rest entirely with the terrorists and the Palestinian leaders who enable them to carry out their barbaric acts. And if by doing so we will create a new wave of international anti-Israeli condemnation, so be it.”

This arrogance can only breed because of seemingly open-ended US support, a situation that is unsustainable due to the growing political strength of the US Arab and Muslim populations. The clock is ticking on the blank cheque offered to every Israeli manoeuvre, no matter how provocative or illegal.

Australia, not unlike many other Western nations, still sees Israel as the plucky, defenceless nation in the heart of a dangerous Middle East. It is an illusion that holds no credibility. A negotiated settlement to the current crisis should be a priority, the release of untold number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails – many of whom are arrested and never even face court – and cessation of cross-border, state terrorism.

The uncontrolled policies of the Israeli government should now be seen as a danger to enlightened citizens and governments across the globe.
Meanwhile, Back In DC

Dan Froomkin asks: Cover-Up Exposed?
Amid all the other news yesterday, the attorney general's startling revelation that President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation into the administration's controversial secret domestic spying programs hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.

Bush's move -- denying the requisite security clearances to attorneys from the department's ethics office -- is unprecedented in that office's history. It also comes in stark contrast to the enthusiastic way in which security clearances were dished out to a different group of attorneys: Those charged with finding out who leaked information about the program to the press.
The Massacre Of Marwaheen

Robert Fisk has more details:
How soon must we use the words "war crime"? How many children must be scattered in the rubble of Israeli air attacks before we reject the obscene phrase "collateral damage" and start talking about prosecution for crimes against humanity?

The child whose dead body lies like a rag doll beside the cars which were supposedly taking her and her family to safety is a symbol of the latest Lebanon war; she was hurled from the vehicle in which she and her family were traveling in southern Lebanon as they fled their village - on Israel's own instructions. Because her parents were apparently killed in the same Israeli air attack, her name is still unknown. Not an unknown warrior, but an unknown child.

The story of her death, however, is well documented. On Saturday, the inhabitants of the tiny border village of Marwaheen were ordered by Israeli troops - apparently using a bullhorn - to leave their homes by 6pm. Marwaheen lies closest to the spot where Hizbollah guerrillas broke through the frontier wire a week ago to capture two Israeli soldiers and kill three others, the attack which provoked this latest cruel war in Lebanon. The villagers obeyed the Israeli orders and initially appealed to local UN troops of the Ghanaian battalion for protection.

But the Ghanaian soldiers, obeying guidelines set down by the UN's headquarters in New York in 1996, refused to permit the Lebanese civilians to enter their base. By terrible irony, the UN's rules had been drawn up after their soldiers gave protection to civilians during an Israeli bombardment of southern Lebanon in 1996 in which 106 Lebanese, more than half of them children, were slaughtered when the Israelis shelled the UN compound at Qana, in which they had been given sanctuary.

So the people of Marwaheen set off for the north in a convoy of cars which only minutes later, close to the village of Tel Harfa, were attacked by an Israeli F-16 fighter-bomber. It bombed all the cars and killed at least 20 of the civilians travelling in them, many of them women and children. Twelve people were burnt alive in their vehicles but others, including the child who lies like a rag doll near the charred civilian convoy, whose photograph was taken - at great risk - by an Associated Press photographer, Nasser Nasser, were blown clear of the cars by the blast of the bombs and fell into fields and a valley near the scene of the attack. There has been no apology or expression of regret from Israel for these deaths...

The Israelis constantly boast of their "pin-point" or "surgical" precision in air attacks. If this is true, then there are far too many civilians being killed in the Lebanese bloodbath to make every one of them an accident. And since Israel's target list now includes obviously civilian targets - deliberately bombed to punish the civilian population - the evidence is mounting that these air raids are intended to kill the innocent as well as the Hizbollah guerrillas whom Israel claims to be fighting...

Why, for example, did the Israelis attack and destroy the headquarters of the Liban-Lait company in the Bekaa Valley, the largest milk factory in Lebanon? Why did they bomb out the factory of the main importer for Proctor and Gamble products in Lebanon, based in Bchmoun? Why did they destroy a paper box factory outside Beirut? And why did Israeli planes attack a convoy of new ambulances being brought into Lebanon from Syria yesterday, vehicles which were the gift of the medical authorities of the United Arab Emirates? The ambulances were clearly marked as a relief aid convoy, according to an Emirates official. Were all these "terrorist" targets? Was the little girl in the field at Tel Harfa a "terrorist" target?

US Jews Call On Bush To Stop Israeli Violence

An online petition fromJust Foreign Policy:
Dear President Bush:

As American Jews, we are horrified by your apparent support for the bombing and destruction of Lebanon, and your opposition to international demands for an immediate ceasefire.

We condemn the violence by all sides, especially against civilians. But we cannot accept your attempt to justify and abet the collective punishment of the people of Lebanon -- including thousands of Americans trapped there -- as part of "Israel's right to defend herself."

The vast majority of Lebanese now suffering the destruction of their country, along with hundreds of civilian deaths from the Israeli bombing campaign, had nothing to do with Hizbollah's attacks on Israeli soldiers, nor subsequent rocket attacks on Israeli cities.

The same is true in Gaza, where the capture of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 25 -- the original alleged pretext for Israel's incursions and detention of the territory's elected leaders -- was preceded just the day before by the abduction of two Palestinian civilians from their home by Israeli forces, as reported by Gideon Levy in the Israeli daily Haaretz. Here, too, it is wrong to portray this ever-widening conflict as a "war against terrorism." According to the Israeli human rights organization B'tselem, more than 100 Palestinians who were not engaged in hostile actions were killed by Israeli forces since Israel withdrew from Gaza, and before the recent escalation of violence.

The idea that the cycle of violence will come to an end by means of more violence, and especially attacks on civilian areas, is wrong and immoral.

We ask you to support an immediate cease-fire and a negotiated solution to the conflict.

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The View From Tel Aviv

SMH reports Little interest in deaths and no sense that Israel has gone too far:
When attention turns to the victims of Israeli missiles, the footage usually turns grainy. This is because Lebanon forbids Israeli reporters from entering, so most stories of the army's strikes are relayed via Arab television.

Alternatively, the footage of the strikes is Israeli-filmed and in black and white, shot through the sights of fighter jets.

Like the US in its Iraq campaign, the army releases such recordings to confirm a prevalent assumption about its campaign: the vast majority of Israelis believe that - unlike the Katyushas that fall haphazardly across the country's north - its missiles are aimed with precision at legitimate targets. The editor of the Israeli English-language newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, said Israeli media reflected the view that the military had responded appropriately to the threat from Hezbollah.

"As in any country, the major concerns are those closest to home," Horovitz said.

"But there is no sense here that Israel has gone too far. The Israeli narrative of the conflict is that six years ago Israel pulled back from Lebanon and now has its soldiers kidnapped and comes under unprovoked rocket attacks. There is much more of a concern that the army needs to be able to see the job through."

To provide relief from the bloodshed and to show normal life continues, the big-circulation tabloids, Maariv and Yediot Ahronot, run stories about births, weddings and circumcisions in bomb shelters. Inside, the toll in Lebanon is more difficult to find.
US Media Remains In Thrall To Bush Regime

The lessons of Iraq WMDs - and all the lies since then - have been ignored.

Two days ago E&P's Greg Mitchell wrote Few Editorials Find Fault with the Bombing of Beirut:
Amazingly, criticism of the extent of Israel's bombing -- and its policy of collective punishment -- has actually decreased as the carnage has mounted.

The editorial response is all the more scandalous because this is not some distant conflict where America is merely a third party. The U.S. is Israel’s prime (sometimes virtually its only) major ally, and the funder or producer of much of the armaments landing on Lebanon – though you’d never know of this special link from reading most of these editorials.

Even if readers here don’t fully appreciate it, the U.S. and Israel are indivisible in the eyes of many if not most in that region. Every bomb that kills civilians in Lebanon might just as well have emerged from our war planes or artillery, in their eyes...

Many editorials carry outright misinformation; others act as if the history of this conflict can be measured in weeks, not decades. And few op-ed columnists have condemned the over-the-top Israeli behavior...

Several leading newspapers that did express disapproval of the Israeli air war late last week, when it was still fairly minimal, then published editorials a few days later with hardly any mention of the attacks on Beirut – even though those shellings had increased dramatically. One had to wonder what sort of complaints or second thoughts the first editorials produced to slacken those spines.

While news pages in many newspapers have created a more balanced record, they have generally offered the image of equivalency of destruction in Lebanon and Israel which simply does not exist.
See Mitchells' full report for specific examples of one-sided US reporting.

Today Mitchell writes that nothing is changing:
As the current explosion of violence in the Middle East continues toward its tenth day, some U.S. newspapers on their editorial pages are now calling for a new diplomatic push — but almost none of them have condemned the Israeli attack on civilian areas and the infrastructure of Lebanon, which the country’s chief of state said Wednesday is “tearing the country to shreds.” At least 300 have died in Lebanon and the attacks have created over half a million refugees, roughly one in eight residents of the country.

An E&P survey of editorials in dozens of papers around the country during the past three days found almost none of them raising objections to the extent of the Israeli bombardment so far, though some expressed fears that it might go on too long.
The US media has been in thrall to their rogue government's morally bankrupt policies for a very long time indeed.

PS: This point from Mitchell deserves more attention:
The word “rockets” makes Hezbollah's terror weapon of choice seem very space age, but they are in fact crude, unguided and with limited range – nothing like the U.S. prime grade weapons on the Israeli side. The vast majority of them land in the water or an empty field or explode in the air.
Of course, Hezbollah did hit an Israeli warship with a single tele-guided missile (much to the Israelis' shock), but there is nothing "symetrical" about their arsenal in comparison with the US-made Israeli weaponry.
The Jewish Thing: Muddying The Waters

Just as the Pro-Israeli Lobby question starts to get some traction, here we go again:
On the July 18 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed that there are "a lot of Jewish liberals ... who basically feel that, you know, you don't have a right to go after terrorists because it's our fault, the United States' fault." O'Reilly added: "And some say it's Israel's fault because we've been mean to them, therefore they have a right to do whatever they want -- behead people on camera, all this terrible stuff."
And of course the Islamic radicals who oppose the Western Fascist global takeover are themselves (Islamo-) Fascists, and anyone who calls Bush a Nazi is themselves a Nazi,... Straight from the Karl Rove playbook, best form of defense is attack, who cares if it makes no sense whatsoever, we are playing to our dumb and ignorant base here, they love it and they lap it up.

Rinse, repeat, etc.

July 20, 2006

PlameGate And Worse: When Will The Penny Drop?

Good coverage of the Wilson/Plame news conference from Wonky Muse. I love this quote about wingnut attitudes from Mark Kleiman:
It doesn't seem to have occurred to them yet that their fantasy version of the events surrounding the outing of Ms. Wilson might be false...
In fact, their fantasy version of the past five years has been false... Can't wait for that little penny to drop!
Bush's USA: The View From Afar

This report from Al Jazeera, Watching American TV in Beirut, is really quite astonishing. It captures the pure bewilderment with which many Arabs watch ignorant and misleadingly biased US TV news reporting on the current conflict.
War in Lebanon has once again become breaking news on television screens across the world, but a growing body of distorted reporting is being disseminated just as rapidly as the country is being destroyed.

In recent days, many American news programmes have demonstrated an exceptionally weak knowledge of Lebanese politics, skewed further by a lack of access to areas that have been attacked in the country and their victims.

Take Monday's coverage of the conflict on NBC's popular Today Show with anchorwoman Nathalie Morales, who in introducing a report on Hezbollah, rhetorically asks: "So just who is Israel at war with in this latest chapter of an ancient conflict?"

Not only does the reporter assume that Israel's war targets only Hezbollah (and not the Lebanese civilians, government, private businesses and the military, which have all been attacked) but even contradicts earlier reports on her own network indicating Hezbollah's founding to be in the early 1980s; hardly considered "ancient" times.

Equally misleading were reports on the Today Show defining Hezbollah solely as the mastermind of the 1982 attacks on US marines and possessor of long-range missiles.

Absent in the reporting was any reference to Hezbollah's role in defeating the 22-year Israeli occupation of the country and its support among up to a million Lebanese, with many benefiting from an intricate network of social services and political representation.

Of course, failing to report such details contributes to the view that Hezbollah acts as merely a renegade organisation rather than a movement that encompasses roughly a quarter of the country's population.

On the other hand, when it comes to reporting the situation in Israel, anchors on sister network MSNBC seem to boast an intimate knowledge of the population, even a bit of psychoanalytical skill.

During his show Hardball with Chris Mathews, the host describes the Israeli town of Haifa as being similar to a city in California, "very modern, very debonair".

Anchorwoman Rita Cosby, who freely dubs Hezbollah as "rag-tag" terrorists, would later describe an attack on "Holy Nazareth" as an assault on "the home town of Jesus", and erroneously as his birthplace - of course no reference to the multitude of biblical cities in Lebanon.

On Hardball, Mathews asks a reporter on the scene how Israelis are coping with "vacation plans" considering the war situation. Mathews concludes that a resilient character among the Israeli people, will "keep that country around for a very long time".

Later in the show there is analysis with field reporters and political pundits, many blatantly supportive of Israel's fight against "terror acts" and the "worldwide Islamic threat" - still no mention of the widespread devastation and human loss in Lebanon.

Mathew’s questions include: "How do you get Hezbollah to stop? Will Israel get the job done? How broad a goal is Israel setting?" And finally: "What’s a bigger threat to the United States? Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah?"

Lebanese have no warning of or proper shelter from air raids Mathews makes reference to the plight of the Lebanese only once during his show, when a reporter raises the possibility of a "bloody mess" for Israel.


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