April 30, 2004

Welcome, Defense Department Employees!

A Tiny Revolution extends a warm welcome to our reader(s) from the Department of Defense. I was happy to see your IP address in our log, and I mean that in all seriousness. As it happens, my father used to work for the Defense Department. So I hope you come back often.

Speaking of the Defense Department, we now have a Department of Homeland Security, to secure the homeland. So, what is the Department of Defense currently defending?

INTERESTING HISTORICAL NOTE: The Department of Defense up until 1949 was called the Department of War. Maybe that's common knowledge and not worth mentioning, but I didn't know it until I was 25 years old.

In any case, make of this information what you will. This website would never suggest any particular interpretation.

April 29, 2004

George Bush, Least Powerful Man on Earth

There will be many new posts on the site soon. But as they gestate, here is humor from last fall. Because nothing is funnier than jokes about current events from seven months ago.


As the story about Valerie Plame, the outed CIA agent, intensified last fall, President Bush told reporters the source of the leak might never be found. Bush stated: "I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official... I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth."

This is enjoyable because, of course, if Bush wanted to he could find out "the truth" in fifteen minutes. All he'd have to do is require his staff to release any reporters to which they'd spoken about Plame from the reporters' pledges of confidentiality.

In other words, it's more difficult for Bush to find out who leaked this information than it would be for Bill Clinton to find out whether he had sex with Monica Lewinsky. But not much more difficult.

REPORTER: Mr. President, did you have sex with Monica Lewinsky?

CLINTON: I don't know if we're going to find out whether I had sex with her. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to find out the truth.

COMING UP: Humor about the Eisenhower administration.

April 23, 2004

Why This Is Called "A Tiny Revolution"

This site's name is a reference to something George Orwell wrote in a 1945 essay called "Funny but not Vulgar":

A thing is funny when it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution.

If you're interested in the intersection of comedy and politics, you should read all of the essay; it's still very relevant. In fact, it's alarmingly relevant. Here's another excerpt:

It would seem that you cannot be funny without being vulgar, that is, vulgar by the standards of the people at whom English humorous writing in our own day seems mostly to be aimed. For it is not only sex that is "vulgar." So are death, childbirth and poverty... and respect for the intellect and strong political feeling, if not actually vulgar, are looked upon as being in doubtful taste. You cannot be really funny if your main aim is to flatter the comfortable classes: it means leaving out too much. To be funny, indeed, you have got to be serious.

Orwell also says that "A willingness to make extremely obscene jokes can co-exist with very strict moral standards."

This website may or may not have strict moral standards, but it definitely has a willingness to make extremely obscene jokes.

Posted at 02:27 PM | Comments (7)

April 22, 2004

Why I Love Treason

Someday I will write a long article called "My Plan for World Peace," in which I will lay out easy steps mankind can take to eliminate war forever. Right now I can't disclose these steps, because someone might steal them and bring about world peace prematurely.

However, I can reveal that one part of the peace article will examine what it means, in every country on earth, when someone accuses someone else of "treason." It's this: in almost all cases, accusations of "treason" are actually accusations of "telling the truth."

For instance, in 1995 Saddam Hussein's son-in-law Hussein Kamel defected to Jordan. There he told the United Nations inspectors about Iraq's efforts in the previous four years to conceal some of their pre-1991 WMD programs. (He also told them Iraq no longer possessed any banned weapons, but that's another story.) He was telling the truth. And according to this fascinating Washington Post article, this of course meant to Saddam's regime that Kamel was "a traitor." Indeed, Kamel actually predicted this at the end of his UN debriefing.

Or there's Mohammad al-Khilewi, a Saudi diplomat who defected to the UK in 1994. He brought with him documents showing Saudi Arabia had funded Iraq's nuclear weapons program during the eighties to the tune of billions of dollars. (This was apparently done with the knowledge and acquiescence of the Reagan and Bush I administrations, but again, that's another story.) So of course the Saudi-owned newspaper al-Hayat explained that Khilewi's activities "smack of outright treason" and that people like him "can only be described as traitors." And obviously there was "an Israeli hand" behind Khilewi's actions, since he was clearly "throwing [him]self into the arms of American-Jewish organizations." ("Saudi diplomat's charges fail to impress Saudi-owned al-Hayat," Mideast Mirror, July 25, 1994. Not online.)

But that's in the benighted dictatorships of the Middle East. In our proud Western democracies, things are different. In the sense that they're exactly the same.

Take Anthony Zinni. Since he was badly wounded in Vietnam and later became a general and the U.S. Chief of Central Command, you might not suspect he was a traitor. But that's how clever the traitors are. Fortunately Bill Luti, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, saw through Zinni's facade. So when Zinni was speaking out before the invasion of Iraq, saying that it might not be 100% easy, Luti was pointed that Zinni was a traitor. Was the hand of the Zionist terrormongers -- sorry, I mean the Saddamist Islamo-fascists -- behind Zinni's actions? Luti was too modest to say, but we can guess.

This brings us to Mordechai Vanunu, free after eighteen years in Israeli prison. Since he told the truth about Israel's nuclear program, we know one thing for sure: he's a traitor.

Anyway, I'm not kidding about "My Plan for World Peace." Watch this space.

(NOTE: Khilewi, Zinni and Vanunu are all admirable people. But Hussein Kamel was a disgusting human being and, unlike the others, was likely motivated to tell the truth by hope for personal gain.)

Posted at 09:45 PM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2004

17,000 Pounds of Irony

Looking over old news, I see that Al Hawza (the newspaper associated with Muqtada al-Sadr) was officially shut down for "printing lies that incited violence."

I hope this isn't an old, tired joke that everyone on Earth has been telling... but by that standard, shouldn't we also shut down EVERY SINGLE NEWS OUTLET IN THE US?

Also on this subject, I'm pleased to read of this exchange on the April 7 Lehrer Newshour:

COL. SAM GARDINER: The immediate problem we have to remember is we started this... with the aggressive policies towards Sadr that came from us, shutting down his press.

JIM LEHRER: The reason we shut down his press is because it was calling for violence and anti-American --


LEHRER: I just want to get that on the record.

Let's leave aside whether or not Lehrer was even correct to say the paper was calling for violence, rather than just "printing lies." (Norman Solomon, a valued friend of ATR, says all indications are that Lehrer was wrong.) Instead, let's focus on the teacher's pet quality of Lehrer's eagerness to "get that on the record" that the paper was calling for violence. Because it just seems particularly... ironic... given this:

Lehrer Newshour, February 5, 2003

JACK STRAW, UK FOREIGN SECRETARY: It is clear that Iraq has failed this test. These briefings have confirmed our worst fears that Iraq has no intention of relinquishing its weapons of mass destruction, no intention of following the path of peaceful disarmament set out in Security Council Resolution 1441. Instead of open admissions and transparency we have a charade where a veneer of superficial corporation masks willful concealment. If non-cooperation continues, the council must meets its responsibility.

Or this:

Lehrer Newshour, February 7, 2003

SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK, UK AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: You can always put off war in these circumstances by a week or a month or two or three months. But it's 600 weeks since we started the business of asking Iraq to disarm. And now it's time to cut the knot and take action.

Or this:

Lehrer Newshour, March 6, 2003

JAMES SCHLESINGER, FORMER US DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that the die is cast. Unless Saddam Hussein disarms or abdicates which is very doubtful, he will be removed from power... I want to emphasize that if this process of procrastination goes on indefinitely, it will be a debacle for American foreign policy. Osama bin Laden, who has pointed to the American capacity to retreat repeatedly, will be overjoyed. There will be chortling in the French foreign ministry. We will be seen once again to have retreated... Our credibility is at risk. We will not have 250,000 troops sitting endlessly in the desert. We are not going to back down on this one for the reasons that [Samuel Berger] mentioned, and he is quite right.

Or, etc., etc., etc., etc.

There is a parallel universe in which Iraq invaded the United States on March 19, 2003. And in that parallel universe, Jim Lehrer is Iraqi and, just like here, has his own TV show. On that show the following exchange just occurred:

COL. OSAMA AL-GARDINER: The immediate problem we have to remember is we started this... with the aggressive policies towards PBS that came from us, shutting down the network.

ASSAD AL-LEHRER: The reason we shut down the network is because it was calling for violence and anti-Iraqi --


AL-LEHRER: I just want to get that on the record.

Posted at 03:30 AM | Comments (1)

April 18, 2004

Corrections to "Saddam Hussein & Charles Duelfer & Making Shit Up"

You would think I'd make sure the first real post on this site wasn't riddled with errors. However, you would be wrong. Thank god no one is reading this.

1. Glen Rangwala is an instructor at Cambridge, not Oxford. I have no excuse for this embarrassing mistake, except that I was assured by the CIA that my original information was correct. We've established a high-level commission to look into this intelligence failure.

2. I wrote that "the UN never... said that Iraq's UAVs were limited to a range of 150 km."

Glen notes in the comments below that this is incorrect -- as he writes, "Unmovic did [say this]." However, he further notes:

Blix engaged in a seemingly aberrant reading of the law in the Clusters document [an Unmovic report from March 6, 2003], pp.14-15. My brief account from the time is at the start of the evaluation section in:


There is no indication in any Unscom report, let alone any SCR [Security Council Resolution], that the range applicable to missiles is applicable also to UAVs. One argument used was that if it could fly more than 150km and release any weapon, then it was *like* a missile. Well, this would then read 687 as prohibiting Iraq from having planes at all (if it flies more than 150km, and the pilot could lob a grenade out the window, does that make having any plane equivalent to holding long-range missiles...?), which clearly hadn't been the intention then or a sensible reading of what a missile is.

So, I stand by the larger point. Charles Duelfer, like Saddam Hussein, claims that the relevant UN resolutions said something the actual words of the resolutions didn't say. That Blix sort of claimed the same thing doesn't change this. Moreover, I would contend Blix's position shows that Unmovic, far from mindlessly obstructing the US, was quite vulnerable to US pressure. But that's another subject.

3. I wrote that "according to several news reports," Saddam Hussein told members of the Iraqi government that the UN had not forbidden Iraq from having long-range missiles, as long as they didn't have WMD warheads.

I phrased this so vaguely because I couldn't remember where I read it. However, at Glen's prodding, I've dug up a story about it -- "Hussein Was Sure Of Own Survival," Washington Post, November 3, 2003 (no longer online):

[Tariq] Aziz, who surrendered to U.S. authorities on April 24, has also said Iraq did not possess stocks of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons on the eve of the war, an assertion that echoes the previously reported statements of other detained Iraqi leaders and scientists. Yet Hussein personally ordered several secret programs to build or buy long-range missiles in defiance of international sanctions, according to Aziz's reported statements.

The former deputy prime minister has described an argument he had with Hussein in 1999, in which the Iraqi president insisted that U.N. Resolution 687, enacted to limit Iraq's armaments, prohibited long-range missiles only if they were armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Aziz said he countered, "No, it's a range limit," and all Iraqi missiles able to fly beyond 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) were banned, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the interrogation reports. Hussein demanded in reply, "No, I want to go ahead," according to the senior official.

After nearly five months of prisoner interviews, document searches and site visits, "We know the regime had the greatest problem with the 150-kilometer limit" on missile ranges, said Hamish Killip, a former U.N. arms inspector now working with the Iraq Survey Group, a CIA-supervised body appointed by President Bush to lead the hunt for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Hussein and his most senior military commanders saw the range limit "as an invasion of their sovereignty," Killip added. They fumed because hostile neighbors might hit Baghdad with missiles, but Iraq would be unable to answer in kind.

Yet investigators have found no comparable evidence to date that Hussein was willing after 1999 to risk being caught in major defiance of U.N. bans on nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, officials involved in the weapons hunt said.

"They seem to have made a mental separation between long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction," Killip said.

Aziz's statements about the Iraqi missile program have been largely corroborated by documents and interviews with engineers and scientists, officials said.

4. Yes, I am aware of the irony that in a post titled "Saddam Hussein & Charles Duelfer & Making Shit Up," I apparently made shit up. Feel free to make jokes at my expense. You are particularly encouraged to do so if there are further errors in this correction.

Posted at 05:50 AM | Comments (1)

April 16, 2004

Saddam Hussein & Charles Duelfer & Making Shit Up

UPDATE: This post has several errors. A fuller explanation is here.

What do Saddam Hussein and Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, have in common? Besides the fact that they both have excellent mustaches?

The answer is: both have their own special way of interpreting international law. Most people believe laws mean what the laws say they mean. Hussein and Duelfer feel this is unfair.

At the end of the Gulf War, the UN declared that Iraq was forbidden from having biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, or programs to develop the same. It's now clear they almost certainly did abide by the relevant UN resolutions in these areas. But -- Iraq was also forbidden from possessing missiles with a range greater than 150 km. And while they did not have such missiles, they did engage in low level research on developing missiles with a greater range. It's unclear whether this in itself was illegal under UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (the one passed in the fall of 2002). However, it's definitely the case that they were required by 1441 to disclose this research, which they did not.

That's a pretty thin, almost meaningless indictment. Barton Gellman of the Washington Post reported that experts believe even without ongoing U.N. inspections, Iraq would have needed six years just to get to the point of flight testing the missiles. With inspections, it would have taken "considerably more" time. And that's assuming the missile design would have worked at all, which it might not have.

But what's interesting about all this is Saddam Hussein's decision to attempt to obtain long-range missiles. According to several news reports, members of the Iraqi government were unhappy about it, and told Hussein that the missiles would violate international law. They'd say to him: Look at paragraph 8 of U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, where it demands we "accept the destruction [of] all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres." That's pretty clear, isn't it?

Hussein would reply: No, no. That just means that we can't have long-range missiles with WMD. But missiles without WMD are a-okay!

Then the other people would say But... and then Saddam would look at them intently while stroking his moustache and then the discussion would end. [See here for a source on this]

Charles Duelfer deals with international law in the same creative way. For instance, in his March 30th testimony before Congress, Duelfer stated that "UAVs were flight tested [by Iraq] that easily exceeded the UN limit of 150 kilometers."

This would be a telling point, if the UN in fact had said that Iraq's UAVs were limited to a range of 150 km. Unfortunately, the UN never did -- the limit only applied to missiles. But Duelfer, like Hussein, didn't like what what the UN resolutions meant, so he decided they meant something else. [CORRECTION: Unmovic did say this re UAVs, although I believe the larger point stands. See here]

There IS one difference between Hussein and Duelfer, though -- Hussein didn't get away with it.

(Duelfer's deceptive statement has been pointed out by Glen Rangwala, an instructor at Oxford University. [CORRECTION: Rangwala is at Cambridge, not Oxford.] Rangwala repeatedly humiliated the Blair government by pointing out numerous glaring mistakes in its pre-war"dossiers" about Iraq. Rangwala became one of the world's foremost experts on Iraq's WMD by taking the drastic step of actually reading the UN's reports about them.)

Posted at 10:29 PM | Comments (1)

April 15, 2004

A Tiny Revolution is Born!

... and like so many infants these days, it is a clone. In its case, it was cloned from the basic Movable Type template. However, sometime soon the design will become more creative and it will develop its own unique, revolutionary, tiny DNA.

Posted at 07:33 PM | Comments (1)