September 30, 2004
Didn't Watch Debate; Head Still Attached To Body
What did I think of the debate? Oh, I'm glad you asked! What I thought about the debate was: I didn't watch it because I could not endure it without pulling off my own head.
I just can't stand to listen to American politicians, in either party. Partly because they lie so much and partly because they're mostly so incompetent at (what you'd think would be) the most basic skill of a politician: communicating. I loathed Ronald Reagan, but he did once say something with which I agreed, in response to a question about how an actor could be president. Reagan replied: I don't think you could be president without being something of an actor. But most of these guys are such BAD actors.
Anyway, reading over the transcript I'm pleased to see George Bush stated "Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming." Excellent! Yes, Saddam had no intention of disarming, just like he had no intention of getting divorced from Madonna.
September 29, 2004
US Networks Continue to Protect Us With High Tech Shield
For almost a year and a half now American citizens have been in very grave danger. This danger, so frightening that it's difficult even to speak of it, is that we might hear an interview with Jafar Dhia Jafar, the father of the Iraqi nuclear program. If that had happened, we might have definitively learned that Iraq had had no nuclear program since 1991, and that as Jafar puts it, the US and UK governments "were lying to their people... I knew they knew they were lying." Fortunately, the US media has protected us with a high-tech, billion-dollar, satellite-based Shield of Ignorance.
This Shield of Ignorance took everything that was thrown at it, and it buckled -- but it didn't break. The first assault came when Jafar surrendered soon after the invasion, and hence could easily be interviewed by the networks. The second near-disaster occurred last March when Jafar presented a paper in Beirut, describing the end of Iraqi WMD programs in 1991. The next "Moment of Maximum Danger" came when Jafar was interviewed by the BBC last month. Without the constant vigilance of the US networks, this could have easily made it on the air here. Millions of Americans would have been horrifically educated in an instant.
But it's only now that we're learning of the closest call of all. It turns out the story CBS bumped for the infamous segment on George Bush's National Guard service actually included an interview with Jafar. But the Shield of Ignorance, working just as it was designed, swung into action at the last moment and saved us from knowing something about life on earth.
September 26, 2004
"Treachery" Is Just As Fantastic As You'd Expect
The journalist Doug Ireland has written some interesting stuff about this book Treachery with the title I find so funny. According to Ireland, Treachery is exactly the mountain of crap you'd expect from a national security reporter for the Washington Times.
Also interesting is that Treachery has a laudatory blurb from Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter probably believes the things he reads in Treachery -- but as Ireland has written elsewhere, many of Treachery's claims originate with the lie factory of which Hunter is a part.
Thus, I feel I can once again quote Karl Wiegand, an Austrian journalist who after World War I observed: "How are nations ruled and led into war? Politicians lie to journalists and then believe those lies when they see them in print."
Like High School With Nuclear Weapons?
Show business is often described as high school with money, and from what I've seen of it, that's exactly right. Similarly, I sometimes think politics is like high school with nuclear weapons, although I go back and forth on it. It may not be fair to people in high school, since they're generally far more intelligent and mature than the people who run this planet.
I mentioned before that almost all political leaders need to be surrounded by sycophants delivering non-stop ass-kissery. For instance, check out Alexander Haig's 1981 talking points for a meeting with President Reagan (as previously mentioned here). Here's Haig, pulling down Reagan's pants and puckering up (the underlining and ALL CAPS are in the original):
IT IS CLEAR THAT YOUR POLICIES OF FIRMNESS TOWARD THE SOVIETS HAS RESTORED SAUDI AND EGYPTIAN CONFIDENCE IN THE LEADERSHIP OF THE U.S. BOTH WENT MUCH FURTHER THAN EVER BEFORE IN OFFERING TO BE SUPPORTIVE... [SAUDI PRINCE FAHD WAS] VERY ENTHUSIASTIC TOWARD YOUR POLICIES... THE LARGER MESSAGE EMERGING FROM THESE EXCHANGES IS THAT YOUR POLICIES ARE CORRECT AND ARE ALREADY ELICITING THE ENTHUSIASTIC SUPPORT OF IMPORTANT LEADERS ABROAD.
Almost as good is the delight Haig takes in informing Reagan that Anwar Sadat kept Ed Muskie -- a former Secretary of State under Carter -- waiting so Sadat could keep talking with Haig's deputy Robert McFarland:
SADAT KEPT ED MUSKIE WAITING FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF WHILE HE EXTENDED THE MEETING.
And then, and then, I heard Anwar is totally going to dump Muskie and ask you to Sadie Hawkins!
McFarland, of course, later was Reagan's National Security Advisor and became well known for his prominent role in Iran-contra -- as well as his half-assed suicide attempt just before he was supposed to testify to Congress about it.
American society has already benefitted from the song "Teenage Suicide: Don't Do It." Perhaps we need a song called "National Security Council Suicide: Don't Do It."
September 24, 2004
America Is Certainly No Crazier Than Saddam Hussein
I recently mentioned a book by a Washington Times reporter called Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes are Secretly Arming Our Enemies, and pointed out that calling it "treachery" when our foes arm our enemies verges on being insane -- since you can only be betrayed by your friends, not your adversaries.
Now, you might say this is unfair to America, since many people in other countries see the world in the same way. And you'd be right! For instance, there's Saddam Hussein. I was just reading an old speech by Saddam Hussein from 1993 on the fifth anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq War. (It's not online, sadly.) Saddam angrily denounced Iran for various misdeeds, and then stated that Iran "played a treacherous, destructive role in the chapter of treason and treachery." Yes: those damn Iranians, always committing treason against the governments of other countries.
I believe shortly afterward this speech Saddam wrote a book titled Treason and the Treacherous Traitors Who Commit It. Which of course was shamelessly ripped off by Al Franken.
Anyway, the point is: we must rejoice, for America is no more nuts than Saddam Hussein.
Allawi Delivers More Shit To Shit-Hungry America
In honor of Ayad Allawi's visit to the US, let's recall it was his organization that claimed Iraq had WMD ready to fire within 45 minutes of the order being given -- and that after the war, Allwai's own spokesperson helpfully explained this was "a crock of shit."
Then last December, Allawi produced a memo purportedly written by Saddam's chief of intelligence in the summer of 2001 describing how Iraq was training Mohammed Atta to attack America. And as it happened, the same memo apparently referenced a shipment of uranium from Niger to Iraq. What a lucky break that Allawi found it! I was surprised the memo didn't also describe Saddam as being angry and jealous because he believed George Bush was much better looking than him.
So when Allawi tells America that Baghdad is "very good and safe," the only question is what type of container he's using to deliver his shit with now. Is it still a crock? Or has he switched to a bucket? Or perhaps a wheelbarrow, or a twelve ton crane? In any case, the Bush administration and their acolytes will crane their heads upwards with their mouths wide open like hungry baby birds, eager to eat it.
September 22, 2004
Buy This Book
Over the next few weeks I'm going to be writing a great deal about Secrecy and Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq by Robert Parry of Consortium News. I haven't quite finished it, but I've certainly read enough to recommend it to anyone who enjoys this website. You should buy it yourself, both because you need to know what's in it and because you should support Parry's work. After you buy it, you should then buy more copies, as I'm going to do, to give to relatives for the holidays. Then donate money to Consortium News and also buy Parry's previous books, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press and "Project Truth" and Trick or Treason: the October Surprise Mystery. Then drive to Parry's house and shake his hand to thank him for what he does. Then write a short song praising Parry's work and sing it on street corners. But don't do anything more than that, because it would seem weird.
I've previously mentioned Parry here. It's a sign of America's intellectual and moral malaise that he's not foreign editor for the Washington Post. On the other hand, in most countries the government would already have shot him in the head. So you take the good with the bad.
While you're waiting for your copy of Secrecy and Privilege to arrive, I recommend this article about the murky history of America's relations with Iraq. Note in particular that Parry dug up the top secret 1981 talking points of Alexander Haig (then Secretary of State) for a meeting with President Reagan after Haig returned from the middle east. One of the talking points was "IT WAS INTERESTING TO CONFIRM THAT PRESIDENT CARTER GAVE IRAQ A GREEN LIGHT TO LAUNCH THE WAR AGAINST IRAN THROUGH [SAUDI PRINCE] FAHD."
Strange, I don't remember seeing that on the evening news. You'd think that, since Disney and Viacom and General Electric all hate America so much, they'd want to mention it prominently.
UPDATE: I see Consortium News links to this site, which is flattering. I believe this is courtesy of Nat Parry, Robert Parry's son.
September 18, 2004
I'm amused and pleased to see that according to a recent Salon interview, Seymour Hersh has the same perspective on the Bush administration as I do -- ie, that we'd better pray that they're lying. In fact, he puts it in almost exactly the terms I have previously.
Except... Hersh doesn't feel God is answering his prayers:
SALON: Is there someone who is the Henry Kissinger in this administration?
Oh, believe me, I pray for one [clasps his hands and looks beseechingly upward]. Wouldn't it be great if the reality was that they were lying about WMD, and they really didn't believe that democracy would come when they invaded Iraq, and you could go to war with 5,000 troops, a few special forces, a few bombs and a lot of American flags, and Iraq would fold, Saddam would be driven out, a new Baath Party would emerge that's moderate? Democracy would flow like water out of a fountain. These guys believe it. They believe WMD. There's no fallback with these guys. These guys are utopians. They're like Trotskyites. They believe in permanent revolution. They really believe... these guys, do you realize how much better off we would be if they really were cynical, and they really were lying about it, because, yes, behind the invasion would be something real, like support for Israel or oil. But it's not! It's not about oil. It's about utopia...
SALON: So you don't think that this is some Machiavellian, cynical, manipulative...
I used to pray it was! We'd be in better shape.
September 17, 2004
I Have Been Betrayed By My Enemies!
America is a troubled country. America has significant problems. If America were a person, our friends would stage an intervention.
Take the new book by Bill Gertz, a reporter for the Washington Times, called Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies.
Do you see how that title is so strange it verges on insanity? If not, take out the words "Friends and." The title would then be:
Treachery: How America's Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies
And "foes" is synonymous with "enemies," so that's the equivalent of:
Treachery: How America's Enemies Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies
In other words, the book is claiming that if some of our enemies arm some of our other enemies, this constitutes "treachery." Obviously we won't like it when this happens. But you can only be betrayed by your friends, not your enemies. For instance, no French person would write a book called Treachery: How Germany Armed Italy During World War II. Likewise, Osama bin Laden is not going to write a book titled Treachery: How America Arms Israel.
Gertz's title illustrates something very deep in the American psyche. When others oppose us, we don't just dislike like it; we believe it is fundamentally against the rules.
September 16, 2004
I Am Surrounded By Ichthyophobes And Anthropophobes
This article from Salon mentions a movie called "The Siege of Western Civilization," directed by Herb Meyer. Meyer was vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council under President Reagan. Here's how Meyer explains his political perspective:
There are those who wish to turn us from a Judeo-Christian into a secular culture. This really is a kind of civil war. This is not normal politics. We are two cultures in one country. That's never happened before. I'm not sure we can survive where half of us think marriage is between a man and a woman and half think a man can marry his goldfish.
All I can say to Mr. Meyer is: don't knock it until you try it! I've never been happier since I married my wife Carol, who is two inches long and weighs an enticing 1/4 ounce.
The only difficult part is that -- while we knew we'd encounter humans like Meyer -- we did not anticipate the intolerance we would face from the other side; ie, the goldfish community. You'd think in this day and age everyone could see past the color of a man's skin and/or his lack of gills. Unfortunately, goldfish tend to be quite culturally conservative, particularly those from smaller ponds. I can't count the number of times I've been told, "If God had wanted goldfish to marry humans, he wouldn't have made it absolutely impossible for them to have sex with each other."
Granted, some of this backlash is my fault. When Carol's family put up resistance to our betrothal, I angrily told her father I wouldn't let him flush our love down the toilet. In retrospect that wasn't the most felicitous way to put it.
September 15, 2004
Do Not Despair! For Cheney Was Probably Lying!
By the way, I don't think anyone should be convinced Dick Cheney actually believes what he says. I know I'm not convinced myself. I think there's a good chance he's consciously lying, and as I say, that should make everyone more optimistic about the world's prospects.
Here's why: during the Cold War many US government officials consciously lied about our foreign policy. They were anxious to keep the world economic order as it was, which required stomping on countries all over the planet. Unfortunately, the only way to get Americans to go along with this was to claim all of our wars were a response to the dreaded Soviets, when in many cases they had nothing to do with them. Indeed, some of America's foreign policy cognoscenti were courteous enough to explain this at the time. Take Samuel Huntington, the Harvard professor and Mr. Trilateral Commission. In 1981, Huntington learnedly explained:
[Y]ou may have to sell [intervention or other military action] in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has done ever since the Truman Doctrine.
(Cited to Stanley Hoffmann, Samuel P. Huntington et al., "Vietnam Reappraised" [colloquium], International Security, Summer 1981, pp. 3-26 in Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky.)
Now compare that to what Donald Rumsfeld was saying to aides on September 11, 2001:
Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.
So if I had to guess, I'd say Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other assorted Superfriends see terrorism as they saw the Soviet Union -- a useful boogeyman to frighten Americans into letting the US government carry out policies it couldn't get away with otherwise. You might have seen 9/11 as a terrifying crime that killed 3,000 innocent people. But that's because, honestly, you're sort of simple-minded. If you were a sophisticated thinker like Condoleezza Rice, you'd see it as an "enormous opportunity":
...if the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11 bookend a major shift in international politics, then this is a period not just of grave danger, but of enormous opportunity. Before the clay is dry again, America and our friends and our allies must move decisively to take advantage of these new opportunities.
So let's get out and there and seize these wonderful opportunities! Which will require enormous amounts of lying!
Insane In The Dick Chene(y)
As I said below, Dick Cheney's comments about the recent terrorist attacks in Russia are quite alarming to people who enjoy not dying. Eg, me.
If I didn't convince you the first time, look again at what Cheney said:
I think a lot of our European friends have been somewhat ambivalent about this whole proposition with respect to how we deal with these terrorist attacks. I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target, that Russia, of course, did not support us in Iraq. They did not get involved in sending troops there. They've gotten hit anyway. And I think people are back sort of reassessing now, in terms of what the motives may be of the people who are launching these attacks or using these kinds of tactics against our people.
Now consider that with just a few changes, it could have come out of someone else's mouth... and would sound considerably more convincing to many more people:
I think a lot of our Muslim friends have been somewhat ambivalent about this whole proposition with respect to how we deal with these terrorist attacks against the Umma. I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Iraq now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. Iraq, of course, did not support us in our martyrdom operations against the Great Satan. They did not get involved in sending mujihadeen there. They've gotten hit anyway. And I think people are back sort of reassessing now, in terms of what the motives may be of the people who are launching these attacks or using these kinds of tactics against our people.
All this makes me wonder: has the deadline passed to transfer to a different planet?
Please Join Me In Prayer
As I always say, we'd better pray to god that George Bush, Dick Cheney et al are consciously lying when they talk about the world. Because if they truly believe what they're saying, we're in even more trouble than I think.
For instance, here's Cheney on Monday, referring to the recent Chechen terrorist attacks in Russia:
...in Europe, for example, I think a lot of our European friends have been somewhat ambivalent about this whole proposition with respect to how we deal with these terrorist attacks. I think some have hoped that if they kept their heads down and stayed out of the line of fire, they wouldn't get hit. I think what happened in Russia now demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target, that Russia, of course, did not support us in Iraq. They did not get involved in sending troops there. They've gotten hit anyway. And I think people are back sort of reassessing now, in terms of what the motives may be of the people who are launching these attacks or using these kinds of tactics against our people.
As you see, Cheney has redefined "keeping your head down" to mean "killing 50-100,000 civilians in Chechnya." Russia was just minding its own business, keeping its head down, when OUT OF NOWHERE they were attacked by Chechen extremists!
This is, of course, all part of the effort of right wing governments all over the world to claim that terrorist attacks occur for no reason whatsoever, rather than arising from specific grievances. (Or to be more accurate, large numbers of regular people have specific, legitimate grievances against US, Russia, Israel, etc., etc. And terrorists exploit these grievances to try to gain political support from regular people.)
So what Cheney says makes as much sense as it would have for Putin to have said on September 12, 2001:
I think what happened in the US with the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center demonstrates pretty conclusively that everybody is a target. The US did not get involved in sending troops to Chechnya. They've gotten hit anyway.
In other words, if Cheney was being honest, he really does believe there's some sort of undifferentiated group of terrorists out there attacking targets virtually at random. If this view prevails among the people running the world, the chance of humanity surviving this century is about 1 in 100. So let us bow our heads and pray Cheney was lying through his teeth.
September 13, 2004
They Should Call It "The CBS Evening Stalinism With Dan Rather"
Like most gigantic corporations, CBS has a left-wing, socialistic agenda. That's obvious. Throughout history, huge corporations have been the prime proponents of Bolshevism. (In the present day, I'd say the most left-wing institution on earth is probably Wal-Mart. Either them or Lockheed Martin.)
Everyone now knows the lengths to which Dan "Trotsky" Rather will go in his attempts to destroy the president. But what some people may have forgotten is that this is JUST WHAT THEY DID TO NIXON.
Think back to 1973. The supposed Watergate "scandal" was running out of steam, no matter how hard it was pushed by Soviet dupes like Woodward and Bernstein. But then CBS sprang into action at the bidding of their masters in the Kremlin. They produced a two part special on the bogus charges. It was filled with the kind of distortion and groundless innuendo that comes naturally to those who learned their trade at Uncle Joe Stalin's knee. This was the beginning of the end for Richard Nixon and his courageous stand for individual liberty and eliminating the genetically unfit.
Of course, it wasn't long before the historical revisionism began. People who were "there" and had "firsthand" "knowledge" of what "happened" will tell you that this account is a total "fabrication." For instance, Walter Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hammer & SickleÃ¢â‚¬Â Cronkite claims the Watergate special was perfectly accurate Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but that after the first part was broadcast, William Paley, the Chairman of CBS, ordered that the second part be turned into a whitewash before it could be aired. They'll even tell you Paley did this as the result of pressure from Nixon himself!
This is just the kind of tall tale loved by the secular humanists and their natural allies, the Islamo-fascists. Whipped into a frenzy by their hatred of America, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll say the idea that any huge corporation is left wing is preposterous, and that in fact the corporate media is centrist or right wing -- just as you would expect, even without evidence like the Paley story.
This can be very seductive, because it "makes sense." After all, if the media is so liberal, it seems weird that they let all those people attacking it as liberal go on TV all the time. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d think that an actual liberal media would keep them off the air. You might even believe a real liberal media would be filled with people condemning it as too conservative!
Fortunately, with heavy doses of aversion therapy this type of critical reasoning can be overcome -- just as electroshock has helped me overcome my constant, overpowering desire to touch other men. Let me tell you, if I can get married and force myself to father several children, all the while engaging in anonymous gay sex on average only three times a month, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll certainly have no problem eliminating the parts of your psyche that cause you to think improper thoughts.
Where was I? Oh yes, Dan Rather and the liberal media. The point is, we must forget all American history and fill ourselves with irrational, bizarre hatred towards other Americans. It is only in this way that we can truly love America.
September 12, 2004
Our Reasons For Killing Your Family Have Not Stood The Test Of Time
Colin Powell said today that American intelligence on Iraq's purported WMD "did not stand the test of time."
That's one way of putting it, I guess. Another might be that the intelligence "did not stand the test of killing tens of thousands of people."
September 11, 2004
Now With 100% More Pictures Of Genocidal Killers
Recently in the comments Anna Ghonim joked about someone turning reality on its head by not just denying the Armenian genocide occurred, but claiming the real crime was that Armenians had killed huge numbers of Turks.
Unfortunately, we live on The Planet Where Jokes Come True. Thus there are numerous people who've made exactly this claim.
For instance, take the fellow in the snappy fez below:
(Picture swiped from The Burning Tigris)
Talaat was one-third of the Young Turk triumvirate ruling Turkey during World War I. In his memoirs, he explained that he (and his mustache) were "innocent of ordering any massacres." And there was more to it than just his innocence, he complained: "Armenian bandits... killed more than 800,000 Mohammedans."
This tradition of intellectual and moral integrity continues with a pamphlet produced recently by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations. It explains:
In recent years claims have been made by some Armenians in Europe, America, and elsewhere that the Armenians suffered terrible misrule in the Ottoman Empire. Such claims are absurd. Armenians were deported because they were a security threat and were massacring Muslims but great care was taken by the Ottoman government to prevent the Armenians from being harmed...
Then there's a 1995 book called Armenian Violence and Massacre in the Caucasus and Anatolia, written by Ismet Binark, director of the Turkish national archives. As Salon describes it,
...[Binark] argues that "the Armenian question" has been invented as part of a scheme to undermine Turkey in the world's eyes. "The Turks have always been fair and just and tender against the people and minorities under their patronage," Binark writes in the egregiously translated English edition. The Armenians, however, were guilty of "ingratitude and betrayal" during World War I. The book then offers page after page of examples of Armenian atrocities against Muslims.
Those damn Armenians! But you know, what really gets ME mad nowadays are all these claims that I've killed thousands of ants in my apartment with Raid. Why is no one willing to tell the TRUTH, which is that the ants have actually used Raid to kill thousands of me?
Dan Rather, My... Hero. Urgh.
Like anyone else, I have no idea whether the memos in the recent 60 Minutes II story about George Bush are real. If fact, I know less than many people, because I couldn't possibly care less and can't be bothered to learn anything about it. Given the forgery line is being pushed by the usual flock of shrieking cretins, I assume the memos are real. But who knows?
What I do think is important/terrifying/funny is it shows how powerful the right wing attack machine has become. It's worth remembering something Dan Rather said in a BBC interview in June, 2002:
It's an obscene comparison but there was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented. In some ways, the fear is that you will be neck-laced here, you will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck. It's that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions and to continue to bore-in on the tough questions so often. Again, I'm humbled to say I do not except myself from this criticism.
On the one hand, Rather is certainly right that this is an obscene comparison. He's not running the risk of dying of first degree burns; the only risk he ever runs is losing his $7 million salary. Boo fucking hoo. It's obscene in the other direction too, because the people making the threats here are billionaires, not living in townships under apartheid.
BUT -- on the other hand, it's critical everyone understands that the fear Rather mentioned is very real and usually justified, particularly for journalists less powerful than Rather; ie, all of them. Every day the media is filled with thousands of errors, some of them teeny-tiny and some the size of Gibraltar. However, the consequences of these errors depend completely on whether the story being told conforms to right wing ideology. If it does, you can be Judith Miller and screw up to your heart's content. If you'd like to help spread lies, start a war and kill thousands that's perfectly fine. But if you tell the wrong story and make any error whatsoever, you will be crushed. In fact, you'll probably be crushed even if everything is completely true.
la la la happy website happy
September 09, 2004
September 08, 2004
"We Will Never Understand People Who Wear Red Shirts," Said The Man In The Red Shirt
I didn't read The Threatening Storm by Kenneth Pollack before the war. (It's the book that many prominent liberals cited as persuading them the US had to invade Iraq.) But I'm reading it now.
These are my favorite two paragraphs:
One particularly dangerous method that many of the proponents of deterrence employ to make their argument is "mirror imaging." They essentially ask, "What would I do if I were in Saddam's shoes?" Similarly, they use their understanding of American decision makers... to ask how Saddam is likely to behave... While these are understandable approaches, they are also treacherous ones. We may not have a perfect understanding of how Saddam Hussein thinks, but one thing we know for certain is that he does not think like an American president... Assuming that Saddam Hussein will think and act like a Westerner -- indeed, like anyone but himself -- can only lead to disaster.
The inputs into Saddam's decision making are deeply suspect... What Saddam knew of America came mostly from his spies and diplomats who tailored their reports to his prejudices. Iraq's intelligence services do not provide Saddam with anything like a comprehensive or objective picture of his strategic situation... they have few assets overseas and little ability to gather information. Saddam has often gotten awful intelligence... that has led him to make terrible decisions... [O]peratives tend to write their reports based on what they believe Saddam wants to hear... [B]efore the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq had little information regarding developments in Tehran, the mood of the country, or the operational status of the armed forces and instead relied on the misinformation of former Iranian generals who had fled the Islamic Revolution and desperately wanted Iraq to attack to try to restore them to power.
September 07, 2004
Let's Enjoy Ourselves For Once In Our Goddamn Lives
As you may have noticed, I tend to focus on the grimmer aspects of human existence. I say this to give you a heads up, because for the next seven months I'll be writing solely about incurable tuberculosis.
Ha ha! No, just kidding. (It will only be six months.) Seriously, though, I want to recommend four websites that (1) I find truly funny and (2) often focus on the more pleasant aspects of this small, blue planet. Of course, you may be familiar with them already, in which case you'll have to find some other way to cheer up.
Mimi Smartypants doesn't need me to tell people about her, since she's probably one of the most widely read people online. That's because she's hilarious and a fantastic writer generally. Indeed, she's almost too hilarious and too generally fantastic, because it's hard to write anything after reading her website that doesn't sound like a watered-down version of her.
Her site, which deals mostly with her life in Chicago with her husband and daughter Nora, has become such a success that HarperCollins has published a collection of her diaries. I highly recommend it.
To get you started, here's one of my favorite entries. She won my heart forever with the phrase "Atrocious Diarrhea Underworld."
Finslippy is in many ways similar to Ms. Smartypants -- young urban mom, genuinely funny, etc. Indeed, I suspect her site was inspired and heavily influenced by the Smartypants diary. But that's okay -- so was this site. Really. As I say, it's very hard not to be influenced by the Smartypants style. First it was other people with websites, then it will be newspaper columnists, then novelists, and then even our most solemn international treaties will include the phrase "Atrocious Diarrhea Underworld."
Heather Armstrong, the proprietress of Dooce, is yet another young funny mom. And SO WHAT if you're beginning to believe this is an unwholesome fetish of mine. If God hadn't wanted us to indulge in unwholesome fetishes, he wouldn't have given us the internet.
Again, Dooce has no need of my hype, since she is already internet-famous for having been fired from a job several years ago because of some incautious entries on this site.
Rachel Arieff is a somewhat different kettle of fish in that she is a professional entertainer. Go visit her, and download the video of her song "Have a Baby."
September 06, 2004
Life Was Hard Until I Started Ignoring Reality
Via this this piece in Slate, I learned of a column by Collin Levey in the Seattle Times last April in which she claims that Scott Ritter "wants credit and glory as a prophet." Furthermore, she says, Ritter is "a kook."
This is fun! I thought that being completely right about an matter of life and death, and standing by your guns in the face of ridicule and smears by people who were completely wrong, meant you weren't a kook. And I thought that people like Levey, who from her column obviously doesn't know the first thing about Iraq's WMD programs, wouldn't get to write about the subject for major newspapers. How wrong I was! This makes evaluating people so much easier!
Now that we have all that straight, let's compare and contrast various individuals.
Scott Ritter: kook
Collin Levy: informed, insightful commentator on international affairs
Anthony Zinni: "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth," according to Tommy Franks
Douglas Feith: retired general and issuer of prescient warnings about invading Iraq
The Dalai Lama: former dictator of Iraq
Saddam Hussein: spiritual leader to millions
Stephen Hawking: embarrassingly stupid fixture on reality television
Jessica Simpson: one of the greatest physicists alive today
Vincent Bugliosi: vicious cult leader and murderer
Charles Manson: LA prosecutor who convicted Bugliosi of murdering Sharon Tate
Many Abu Ghraib Inmates Were Not Personally Tortured By George Bush
Believe it or not, I have yet more to say about the Armenian Genocide. But in the meantime, I thought I might mention something that happened more recently than 1915.
A few weeks ago Condoleezza Rice was on Sean Hannity's radio program. And she once again demonstrated something I've long suspected -- that when you become a high US government official you swear an oath to never, under any circumstances, tell the truth.
One thing she and Hannity discussed was Iraq's purported WMD. According to this NewsMax article (which appears to be a rewritten press release):
Rice... confirmed that Saddam had acquired the technology to enrich uranium sometime before the U.S. attacked in 2003, and had amassed a 1.8-ton stockpile of low-enriched uranium before he was deposed.
"A lot of that enriched uranium comes from that period [before the first Gulf War]," Rice said.
1. ALL of Iraq's uranium -- enriched and non-enriched -- was acquired before the first Gulf War. (And this uranium was under IAEA seal and thus inaccessible to Iraq.) To say "a lot" of Iraq's uranium was from the period before the first Gulf War means that Iraq procured some of it after the first Gulf War. This is not true. Rice was lying, just as I would be lying if I said, "A lot of the inmates of Abu Ghraib were not personally tortured by George Bush."
2. Iraq "acquired the technology to enrich uranium" during the 1980s. Then all of this technology was destroyed by the IAEA during the 1990s. So in a sense it's true Iraq got uranium enrichment technology sometime before 2003. In another sense -- that of the Merriam-Webster dictionary -- Rice was lying because she was attempting to create "a false or misleading impression." Rice was trying, without quite saying it, to make Hannity's listeners think Iraq had a nuclear program after the first Gulf War in 1991. It did not.
Strangely, Rice didn't mention that the New Yorker reported in 1994 that during the 1980s Saudi Arabia gave Iraq $5 billion to subsidize its nuclear program, and the US knew about this:
According to a former high-ranking American diplomat, the C.I.A. was fully apprised. "I knew about it," the diplomat says matter-of-factly, "and so did they." A senior White House official, asked about the Saudi government's involvement and American complicity, told us, "They did spend billions on the Iraqis. It was a different world. We were ready to overlook a lot of things the Saudis were doing for the Iraqis. It's consistent with all the other terrible things we did at the time"Ã¢â‚¬â€to shore up Saddam.
We shouldn't be too hard on Condoleezza, though. How could she find out about that? I mean, it's not like she was Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Reagan administration and then on the National Security Council under George HW Bush.
September 05, 2004
It Turns Out It's An Armenian Genocide Fortnight
Whenever something frightens and/or angers me, I try to learn as much about it as I possibly can. Obviously this isn't unique to me; witness the nationwide upsurge in interest in the Middle East after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I'm not sure why we puny humans do this, but I assume it's because it gives us an illusory sense of control. I know for my part, when terrorists detonate a nuclear device ten blocks from my home in 2009, I plan to shout "I understand EXACTLY why this is happening!" just before I turn into a small puff of water vapor.
All of this is to say: do you find the Armenian Genocide terrifying and infuriating? And does this make you want to learn more about it? If so, I you suggest you check out the below books. I would also like to hear from anyone who has additional books to recommend.
This is of particular interest to Americans because -- as you can tell from the title -- it's about both the genocide itself and the response in the United States. I'd compare it to King Leopold's Ghost, in that it describes horrible crimes but also rescues from oblivion extraordinary efforts to stop them. For instance did you know that Julia Ward Howe -- lyricist of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the originator of Mother's Day -- spent much of the end of her life working for human rights for Armenians? Me neither.
I'd also compare it to King Leopold's Ghost because they're both fantastic books. You should read this, not least because it's one of the few books about genocide that leaves you with a small measure of hope for humanity.
2. Black Dog of Fate: An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past by Peter Balakian
This is a more personal book by Balakian (written before The Burning Tigris) describing his childhood in New Jersey in the 1950s and 60s, and how he gradually learned about the genocide and that much of his grandmother's family perished in it. At the beginning of the book he describes how his grandmother knew large chunks of the Bible by heart, and would tell him, "Words are friends. In bad times they keep you company." Later you learn just how bad the bad times she'd experienced were.
3. Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide by Donald and Lorna Touryan Miller
I love oral histories, and could read them until my eyes bleed. They capture the human elements of the past that otherwise would evaporate like dew. This is the only oral history I've come across about the genocide, and thus should be high on your reading list. (It also includes the basic historical facts, so it's easily accessible even if you don't know anything about the subject.)
4. Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide, Richard Hovannisian, ed.
This is a collection of pieces by various authors about different aspects of Armenian Genocide denial, including one chapter devoted to Bernard Lewis. Probably only for obsessives like myself.