June 30, 2006
Let's Work Together To Obliterate Ourselves
On the night of September 11, 2001 I walked as far south down the Hudson as you could go, which was Canal Street. There was speculation the city government was going to use the warehouses along the river as morgues, though that turned out (I think) not to be necessary.
I remember thinking one thing in particular that, in retrospect, was incredibly stupid. It was: man, the U.S. will surely see NOW that we've got to stop supporting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
Over the two days I spent in the Jenin camp, I watched and occasionally talked to a 13-year-old girl...[H]er house had been destroyed and her father killed. She had an encyclopedic brain and an uncanny memory. She remembered what I wore in the camp a month before, though we had never met. She remembered conversations with her father from eight years ago and knew what all the politicians were saying or had said. She never smiled and told me that her father wanted her to be a doctor. She said she would prefer to study nuclear physics so she could blow up America. ''When someone comes to fight you in your home, you have to fight him back, isn't that true?'' she asked.
Of course, these are the words of an angry, hurt child. But in the mind of Serraj, the psychiatrist in Gaza, they may express a potentially terrifying illness, the fruits of 15 years of unending violence. ''We have seen the children of the first intifada become suicide bombers,'' he had said. ''You only have to wait and see these children of today, what kind of horror they will bring to the world.''
June 29, 2006
New York Times Strategy Of Cowering And Begging For Mercy Continues To Bear Fruit
Now seems like a good time to remember this section from Hard News by Seth Mnookin:
[A]ccording to half a dozen sources within the Times, Raines wanted to prove once and for all that he wasn't editing the paper in a way that betrayed his liberal beliefs... "My sense was that Howell Raines was eager to have articles that supported the warmongering out of Washington," former investigative editor Doug Frantz wrote in an email...Frantz, who personally edited some of [Judith] Miller's stories, went on to write, "He discouraged pieces that were at odds with the administration's position on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged links of Al Qaeda."
Let's see. How's that working out for them?
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee...said he will write Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, urging that the nation's chief law enforcer "begin an investigation and prosecution of the New York Times -- the reporters, the editors and the publisher."
"We're at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous," King said.
I think the lesson here is clear: the NY Times still hasn't proven, ONCE AND FOR ALL, that they're not dirty liberals. But once they do, America's right will surely leave them alone. That's because America's right is all about honest, fair-minded criticism.
June 28, 2006
More From Nir Rosen, World's Bravest Human
Here's more from Nir Rosen. Even if you've read a ton of reporting from Iraq, you haven't read this:
Americans, led to believe that their soldiers and Marines would be welcomed as liberators by the Iraqi people, have no idea what the occupation is really like from the perspective of Iraqis who endure it. Although I am American, born and raised in New York City, I came closer to experiencing what it might feel like to be Iraqi than many of my colleagues. I often say that the secret to my success in Iraq as a journalist is my melanin advantage. I inherited my Iranian fatherÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Middle Eastern features, which allowed me to go unnoticed in Iraq, blend into crowds, march in demonstrations, sit in mosques, walk through FallujaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s worst neighborhoods.
I also benefited from being able to speak ArabicÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âin particular its Iraqi dialect, which I hastily learned in Baghdad upon my arrival and continued to develop throughout my time in Iraq.
My skin color and language skills allowed me to relate to the American occupier in a different way, for he looked at me as if I were just another haji, the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œgookÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â of the war in Iraq. I first realized my advantage in April 2003, when I was sitting with a group of American soldiers and another soldier walked up and wondered what this haji (me) had done to get arrested by them. Later that summer I walked in the direction of an American tank and heard one soldier say about me, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s the biggest fuckinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Iraqi (pronounced eye-raki) I ever saw.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â A soldier by the gun said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t care how big he is, if he doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t stop movinÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m gonna shoot him.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
I was lucky enough to have an American passport in my pocket, which I promptly took out and waved, shouting: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œDonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t shoot! IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m an American!ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â It was my first encounter with hostile American checkpoints but hardly my last, and I grew to fear the unpredictable American military, which could kill me for looking like an Iraqi male of fighting age. Countless Iraqis were not lucky enough to speak American English or carry a U.S. passport, and often entire families were killed in their cars when they approached American checkpoints.
In 2004 the British medical journal The Lancet estimated that by September 2004 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the American occupation and said that most of them had died violently, mostly in American airstrikes. Although this figure was challenged by many, especially partisans of the war, it seems perfectly plausible to me based on what I have seen in Iraq, having spent most of the postwar period there...
It's a really long piece, but read it all.
Seriously, all of it.
I For One Refuse To Believe It
Atrios quotes Roll Call saying this:
Rumors were swirling around Capitol Hill and beyond Tuesday that Rush Limbaugh is dating actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays Chloe O'Brian on the Fox series "24."
This can't be true. Why? Because I simply won't accept it. Let's remember Mary Lynn Rajskub dated David Cross during the first few seasons of Mr. Show. Here's David Cross on his album It's Not Funny:
"The terrorists hate our freedom. They hate liberty"...
I don't think Osama bin Laden sent those planes in to attack us because he hated our freedom. I think he did it because of our support for Israel, and our ties with the Saudi family, and all our military bases in Saudi Arabia.
You know why I think that?
BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HE FUCKING SAID.
Going from that to Rush Limbaugh would give you some serious worldview whiplash.
June 27, 2006
Thomas Jefferson Weighs In
What does Thomas Jefferson have to say about the Kos & David Brooks & Newsweek & Jason Zengerle brouhaha? Let's ask him:
Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, tho' not the most wise depository of the public interests.
In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still, and pursue the same object. The last appellation of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.
That's all there is to say about this. The people who own the New Republic, Newsweek, the New York Times and the Democratic National Committee are Jefferson's Aristocrats. They fear and distrust regular people. So they'll attack anything that allows regular people to organize themselves and have some voice in how things are run.
That can be unions, or DailyKos, or the AARP, or in 2397 A.D. the Association of Alpha Centauri Moisture Farmers. It doesn't matter. The important thing, from their perspective, is to destroy anything that allows regular people to talk to each other, discover their common interests, and act. In this particular case, the Aristocrats will not stop trying to destroy the blurtosphere until they switch parties, the blurtosphere does, or the blurtosphere is destroyed.
Reality: The Satiric Exaggeration Of Satire
I've been told by some people who saw Dr. Strangelove when it came out in 1964 that they didn't find it funny at all. It didn't seem like satiric exaggeration to them. It seemed like a straightforward representation of reality.
I'm not sure they were right. Not because it was an exaggeration, thoughÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âbut because the reality was actually WORSE than the movie.
In Dr. Strangelove, General Buck Turgidson (the George C. Scott character) was supposedly based on Curtis LeMay, who headed the Strategic Air Command during the fifties. LeMay was notoriously insane, known for musing about nuking the Russians for no reason so they'd be "condemned to an agrarian existence perhaps for generations to come." Now, here's the famous exchange where Turgidson advises the president to launch a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union:
GENERAL TURGIDSON: Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing. But it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable, postwar environments: one where you got twenty million people killed, and the other where you got a hundred and fifty million people killed.
PRESIDENT: You're talking about mass murder, General, not war!
GENERAL TURGIDSON: Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.
Ha ha ha! No more than ten to twenty million killed, tops!
But when Dr. Strangelove was released, LeMay was no longer head of SAC. His successor was Gen. Thomas Power, who was so crazy he scared EVEN LeMay. Here's something Power said in 1960 about nuclear war:
"The whole idea is to kill the bastards...At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win."
That's why I say that to understand reality, you have to take satire and then wildly exaggerate it.
June 26, 2006
We Write Letters
We write unpublished letters to the Washington Post:
To the editors:
In a recent column ["Culpability Deficit Disorder," June 20] Richard Cohen criticized American foreign policy for seemingly being afflicted with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Ironically, Cohen's column itself is a perfect example of such ADHD.
In a 1997 column Mr. Cohen wrote that the Gulf War lasted "just 100 hours." The Post later published a letter to the editor correcting this, pointing out that the ground war -- which indeed lasted 100 hours -- was preceded by 38 days of intense bombing in which the U.S. and others dropped more than 80,000 tons of high explosives.
In his column nine years later, Mr. Cohen again referred to the Gulf War. And he again informed readers it lasted "just 100 hours."
While this may seem like a small, easily-forgettable point to Americans, it likely does not to Iraqis who lived through it.
June 25, 2006
Ha Heh Ha
(Via Ed Page's Danger Blog!)
June 24, 2006
Big Brother? Ungood? That's Absurd!
Last Wednesday in Vienna:
Q: And if I may, to President Bush, you've got Iran's nuclear program, you've got North Korea, yet [according to a recent poll], most Europeans consider the United States the biggest threat to global stability. Do you have any regrets about that?
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's absurd...whoever says that is -- it's an absurd statement.
Q: Mr. President, recently, Amnesty International said you have established "a new gulag" of prisons around the world, beyond the reach of the law and decency. I'd like your reaction to that, and also your assessment of how it came to this, that that is a view not just held by extremists and anti-Americans, but by groups that have allied themselves with the United States government in the past...the United States these days, under your leadership, is no longer seen as the good guy.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world...It's just an absurd allegation.
It would have been possible, for example, to say Big Brother is ungood. But this statement... to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self-evident absurdity.
June 23, 2006
How Much Is Jim Henley Right?
There is nothing whatsoever uncertain about this war business. I personally believe that a swift strike through the Low Countries will knock France out of action so I can concentrate my forces against the Czar. I believe that once I get my army across this creek near Manassas Junction secession will crumble; you will probably want to come out and watch. I’m damned certain that the way to preserve the Hapsburg Empire is to show the freaking Serbs we won’t put up with their terrorist monkey business. I think I should be able to conquer Canada in a few months. I think that the time to grab the Fao Penninsula is now, while Iran is distracted and weak. And I know, just know, that there’s no history of ethnic strife in Iraq like there is in the Balkans.
To find out what moved him to write this, you must read it all.
What Kind Of Summer Is The Summer Of 2006?
It's a Summer of Soda!
To drink one non-standard soda per day for the entire summer, and report our findings without fear or favor, drinking as much of the grody ones as we can, while always keeping in mind the grodiness is in the tongue of the be-taster.
Previously on Summer of Soda:
June 22, 2006
Today Is The Day My Head Finally Explodes
Sen. Rick Santorum (R.-Coma) sez:
Congressman Hoekstra and I are here today to say that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons...Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent.
The information released today proves that weapons of mass destruction are, in fact, in Iraq. It is essential for the American people to understand that these weapons are in Iraq. I will continue to advocate for the complete declassification of this report so we can more fully understand the complete WMD picture inside Iraq.
You know, at this point any American who scoffs at Iran for electing a Holocaust-denying president has no basis for being smug. Because this is exactly the same level of nuts. It's one thing for weirdos with websites to talk like this, but it's really something else when prominent politicians jump into the pool of crazy.
For anyone who's confused by this, here's an explanation:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Between 1981 and 1991, Iraq produced almost 4,000 tons of chemical weapons agent, which they used to fill perhaps 130,000 munitions. This is obviously a gigantic amount, much of which they expended in their war with Iran as well as against Iraqis. (For more details, see here.)
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ After the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq was required to turn over all remaining chemical weapons to U.N. inspectors for destruction. UNSCOM received and destroyed 690 tons worth, as well as 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ UNSCOM determined Iraq hadn't turned over everything it has produced during the eighties. Iraq claimed it had secretly destroyed everything unaccounted for in 1991.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Essentially everything Iraq produced during the eighties was of low quality and decayed within a few years to near-harmlessness
That's where things stood when we invaded Iraq. I bet someone $1000 that Iraq hadn't intentionally kept anything. However, I assumed there would still be shells scattered all over Iraq that the Saddam regime had lost track of, so that was built into the terms of the bet.
Why did I assume this? BECAUSE IT WAS SO FREAKING OBVIOUS. Governments, as you may have noticed, don't do everything perfectly. According to its inspector general, the Defense Department can't account for $1 trillion in spending. The Army can't find 56 airplanes and 32 tanks.
But not just that: we're still finding misplaced chemical munitions in America from WORLD WAR I. In fact, some were discovered in a fancy Washington, D.C. subdivision in 1993. And these were never even USED in the U.S.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âimagine how frequently we'd find them if we'd actually fought battles with them on American soil.
Was this evidence America was secretly hiding a chemical weapons arsenal? The answer is no.
Likewise, I assume people will still be finding decayed chemical weapons in Iraq fifty years from now. The question was whether the Saddam regime actually had an arsenal it was aware of. The CIA's Duelfer report spent $1 billion to confirm that Iraq had been telling the truth when it said it had nothing from 1991 onwards. So, the answer is no.
But that doesn't matter. Rick Santorum, like all Holocaust deniers, Will. Never. Give. Up.
June 21, 2006
Has Satire Lost Its Lust For Human Blood?
Chevy Chase has long been absent from comedy's epicenter, mostly by choice, preferring to help raise his daughters far away from the Hollywood scene. But Chevy's always held political views, and he's had no problem stating them publicly, sometimes forcefully...Before a polite celeb audience, Chevy called Bush a "dumb fuck," adding "I'm no fucking clown either...This guy started a jihad...This guy in office is an uneducated, real lying schmuck...and we still couldn't beat him with a bore like Kerry."
...Chevy's mention of the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon is more than just political nostalgia; Chevy played a savage satirical role at that time, writing and performing impeachment-oriented material for the National Lampoon Radio Hour, the best routines of which were later collected on a Lampoon album, "The Missing White House Tapes." This was no Johnny Carson/Rich Little good-natured ribbing -- this was a full-frontal assault on Nixon's criminal enterprise by those who set the satirical standard for a generation, if not longer. Some of this energy burned into the early "Saturday Night Live," where Chevy, on Weekend Update, continued his political attacks.
...where are this generation's satirical assaults? Yes, we have "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report"; and while a lot of their material is quite sharp and very funny, both shows evince an "ironic" detachment, especially Colbert's. Call me a retro-fart, but I'll take the Lampoon's direct and merciless attacks on our masters. At least the Lampooners showed heart, passion, and above all outrage, qualities that today are dismissed as too emotional by those with an eye on demographics. Sometimes it takes an old timer like Chevy Chase to remind us what teeth are for.
The rest is here.
And after reading Dennis' thoughts, Mike was moved to add this:
The satirists of the 60s and 70s had an immediacy, and a sincerity which energized their material. They had a personal commitment to reality as a place changeable for the better (and worse) that the current ones seem to lack. Was there ever any doubt where "The Vietnamese Baby Book" stood on Vietnam? Was there any doubt that Hunter Thompson HATED Richard Nixon? Does Jon Stewart HATE Bush? Or does he merely dislike him intensely, while remaining just a tiny bit grateful for the steady stream of material? I simply can't tell. When Stewart and Colbert dropped their "foolish humans" distance and showed the anger beneath, people went crazy for it. People crave that kind of honesty--why don't our comedians and satirists give it to us?
I blame irony...The ironic stance is based on a false knowingness, a sense of having done and seen it all which is excusable in an 18-year-old but shows ignorance, if not outright corruption, in an adult. Irony's not a worldview, it's a defensive crouch against being exposed as a fool, based on the belief that everybody gets exposed sooner or later. It insists that nothing ever changes, then its passivity makes that so. Irony's perfect mass-satire for our fractious times, because it's a way to comment without taking a stand--but it makes our times more fractious in the process. It's a unclear, excuse-making, self-serving form of communication, and as a form of satire, it's crap.
June 20, 2006
Let's Go Now To Richard Cohen For Some Imaginary History
I'm bored with all this reality crap. It's depressing. So, let's ask Richard Cohen to make up a happy fairy tale for us:
Allow me a suggestion that applies to the war in Iraq: Ritalin.
This drug for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is sorely needed. ADHD explains why few seem to challenge the call to continue the mission in Iraq, apparently forgetting that the mission has changed and no one is quite sure what it is now. It explains why after just 100 hours the first President Bush concluded the Persian Gulf War with Saddam Hussein still in power and his helicopters slaughtering rebellious Shiites and Kurds. And it explains why the Carter, Reagan and first Bush administrations so ardently supported Hussein and then -- an administration later -- made it U.S. policy to topple him. We were always forgetting the kind of guy he was.
Ahhh, that's nice. I like this story much more than the true one. Remember how Bush #1 let Saddam massacre Iraq's Shiites and Kurds after the Gulf War because he preferred to have Saddam running Iraq, instead of people who might ally themselves with Iran? And as was confirmed by the Duelfer report in 2004, Saddam actually used chemical weapons on them in 1991 while we stood by and watched?
That always makes me sad. So I like hearing about this alternate universe in which this just happened because we're really, really forgetful.
I also get sad when I think about the way we helped Saddam wipe out all those Iranians and Iraqis during the eighties for the same reasonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âbecause we were scared Iran might try to muscle in on our control of the mideast. I feel much better when Richard Cohen checks in from Bizarro World to tell us we just kept on forgetting how mean Saddam was.
What I really need now, though, is someone who can tell me a story about how America's newspaper columnists are actually wise and honest, rather than cartoonish buffoons who might as well be wearing red rubber noses and spraying each other with seltzer on Hardball.
June 19, 2006
The Specific People For Whom Accuracy Is An Unaffordable "Luxury"
It's rare that America's premier propagandists come straight out and say that, in these dangerous times, factual accuracy is a "luxury" we can't afford. But as I noted below, Eleana Benador of the PR firm Benador Associates did just that in an interview with the Nation:
Benador, who said her client [Amir Taheri] was "traveling in the Middle East," was impatient with dissections of his work. Terming accuracy with regard to Iran "a luxury," she said, "My major concern is the large picture. Is Taheri writing one or two details that are not accurate? This is a guy who is putting his life at stake." She noted that "the Iranian government has killed its opponents." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "says he wants to destroy Israel. He says the Holocaust never happened.... As much as being accurate is important, in the end it's important to side with what's right. What's wrong is siding with the terrorists."
Benador Associates, of course, represents many of the those who were most strident in calling for war with Iraq. Now their clientele is extremely strident in calling for war with Iran.
Do the factual standards Eleana Benador espouses apply to her clients besides Taheri? It seems fair to assume so, given their extremely impressive track record of lying. (For one example, involving Benador client Richard Spertzel, see here. If anyone feels like conducting a research project, I guarantee there are literally hundreds more.)
So who are these people for whom accuracy is a luxury? Here are a few of the most prominent, taken from the Benador website. No one who's spent any time awake since 1993 will be surprised:
Alexander M. Haig, Jr.
Victor Davis Hanson
Michael A. Ledeen
Richard O. Spertzel
(Note that Judith Miller, while no longer listed, is a former client.)
The entire list is below.
Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli
Arnaud de Borchgrave
Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Dr. Stephen Gullo
Alexander M. Haig, Jr.
Victor Davis Hanson
Stanley H. Kaplan
Herbert I. London
Lord Lamont of Lerwick
Michael A. Ledeen
Andrew C. McCarthy
Richard O. Spertzel
Let's All Chip In And Buy Eleana Benador A Copy Of My Favorite Book
How does the world look from inside the mind of propagandists? I.e., how do they justify it to themselves when they tell lies?
Take Amir Taheri, the exiled Iranian royalist who made up the crap about the Iranian government forcing Jewish Iranians to wear yellow badges. (Supposedly Christians and Zoroastrians were going to get badges too.)
Sadly, Taheri has since kept quiet, except of course for his visit to the White House to advise Bush. However, we can get a glimpse into the propagandist perspective from Eleana Benador, head of the PR firm Benador Associates. They represent Taheri as well as all the other A-list lunatics, such as James Woolsey, Richard Perle, etc. Here's what the Nation reports:
Benador, who said her client was "traveling in the Middle East," was impatient with dissections of his work. Terming accuracy with regard to Iran "a luxury," she said, "My major concern is the large picture. Is Taheri writing one or two details that are not accurate? This is a guy who is putting his life at stake." She noted that "the Iranian government has killed its opponents." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "says he wants to destroy Israel. He says the Holocaust never happened.... As much as being accurate is important, in the end it's important to side with what's right. What's wrong is siding with the terrorists."
This is admirably honest, and if rewritten slightly could stand for all time as the Propagandist's Creed. It's exactly what the editor of Pravda thought. It's exactly what the general manager of Iraq's state-owned TV thought under Saddam. (And in fact, Taheri was an editor at Iran's largest paper under the Shah.)
So now we know: accuracy is a luxury. The important thing is "the large picture." If you have tell a few lies along that way, that's just a regrettable consequence of having such vicious enemies. They're the ones responsible. In fact, when you think about it, didn't Iran essentially hold a gun to Taheri's head and force him to tell lies? Yes they did. THOSE BASTARDS!
Anyway, Benador walked right out of the pages of my favorite book, Life and How to Survive It by John Cleese and Robin Skynner. Specifically, pages 256-7. Read the excerpt below and you'll see they'll have to include a picture of her in the next edition:
June 18, 2006
Would Someone Please Correct Al Qaeda's Misunderstanding Of Why They Hate Us?
There's one thing I've discovered about al-Qaeda's leaders: they don't understand why they hate us. As President Bush says, they hate us for our "democratically elected government... freedom of religion... freedom of speech... freedom to vote and assemble and disagree."
Last week, though, the Washington Post ran an article about Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, apparently one of al-Qaeda's most important strategists. Just before he was captured, he wrote this online:
"I reiterate my call for mujahideen who are spread in Europe and in our enemies' countries or those able to go there, to move fast to hit countries that have a military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Arab peninsula or to hit their interests in our countries and all over the world."
Geez, what a dumbass! Obviously what he meant to say was:
"I reiterate my call for mujahideen who are spread in Europe and in our enemies' countries or those able to go there, to move fast to hit countries that have democratically elected government, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to vote and assemble and disagree or to hit their interests in our countries and all over the world."
How can we have a proper war with people who don't even understand their own motivation? This reminds me of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âaccording to the 9/11 commission reportÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âoriginally wanted 9/11 to include the hijacking of ten planes. He was going to pilot the tenth himself, land it at a U.S. airport, and make "a speech denouncing U.S. policies in the Middle East."
AgainÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âwhat an idiot! He doesn't even understand what he actually wanted to do was make a speech denouncing democratically elected government, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to vote and assemble and disagree.
We really need a higher quality of al-Qaeda leader, or we may have to call the whole thing off.
BUT SERIOUSLY: Al-Qaeda's leaders actually do misunderstand their own motivation. In their confused fantasies they're freedom fighters, battling for their oppressed brethren. In reality, they're simply trying to make themselves more powerful in their own societies, and see violence against the U.S. as a means to this end.
June 16, 2006
David Broder Continues His Long, Twilight Struggle Against Reality
David Broder on Meet the Press last November:
MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, is it possible for official Washington--the president, Democratic leaders, Republican leaders--to arrive at common ground, a consensus position on Iraq?
MR. DAVID BRODER: It's possible, Tim, but they won't get there by arguing about who did what three years ago. And this whole debate about whether there was just a mistake or misrepresentation or so on is, I think, from the public point of view largely irrelevant. The public's moved past that.
Reality, via a June 9-12 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (pdf):
Misty Water Colored Memories/Of The Way We Weren't
The antiwar movement can't simultaneously decry the United States for appeasing Saddam in the '80s and demand that it continue that policy today.
Boy, that takes me back. Who among us can forget Nelson Mandela's stirring speech during the worldwide protests on February 15th, a week before Beinart wrote that?
MANDELA: People of the world: I demand that the United States give Iraq anthrax, bubonic plague, and botulinum toxin! Also, the Americans must provide Saddam Hussein with Bell helicopters with which to spray Iraqis with chemical weapons made from pesticides manufactured by Dow!
Desmond Tutu, of course, led crowds in this stirring chant:
TUTU: One, two, three, four! Donald Rumsfeld should have several friendly personal meetings with Saddam while Iraq engages in what internal U.S. government documents call the "almost daily" use of mustard gas and nerve agents!
And certainly we all remember Jimmy Carter's call-and-response:
CARTER: What do we want?
CROWD: The United States to give Iraq billions in loan guarantees while killing all U.N. investigations into Saddam's genocide against the Kurds!
CARTER: When do we want it?
Good times, good times.
(All examples not just real but taken directly from the same column by Beinart.)
June 15, 2006
Don't miss this from Dennis Perrin. (It looks like the song has been removed now, however.)
But YouTube isn't *just* an opportunity for us to wallow in the most hideous aspects of human nature. For the more appealing side of homo sapien sapien, see here.
June 14, 2006
Fighting "The Good Fight" Apparently Doesn't Involve Hiring A Fact Checker
I know an embarrassing amount about the Iraq/WMD story. Hopefully I'll never learn this much about any other political issue. If I do, I hope someone will have the decency to (1) tell me I've wasted my life and (2) shoot me.
One side effect of knowing all this crap is I'm acutely aware of the precise way in which every claim made by war proponents was inaccurate. I mean that literally: every claim. Moreover, I don't mean in hindsight, I mean based on what was known at the time.
Sometimes their claims were 20% false, sometimes 80% false, and sometimes 100% false. But they never once got things 100% right. And curiously enough, every "error" always fell in the same direction, that of making their case appear stronger.
With that in mind, it's useful to examine more of Peter Beinart's interview with Kevin Drum (reg. req.):
BEINART: ...there is a bit of a tendency sometimes amongst liberals to think that because George W. Bush has hyped this so much that it's mostly hype. If you look at the Lugar poll, which I cite in the book, Senator Richard Lugar, who is not an ideologue, gets together all these non-proliferation types and basically says what are the chances we're going to be hit with a weapon of mass destruction attack in the next ten years? They say 70 percent. He says what are the chances we are going to be hit with a nuclear attack? They say 30 percent. And 80 percent say it is most likely that one of those will come from a terrorist group. And these are not people who are on Karl Rove's payroll.
I thought this sounded interesting, so I read the Lugar survey (pdf) myself. And it turns out Beinart's characterization of it is in shouting distance of reality. But what he said certainly isn't 100% accurate. Moreover, every error falls in the same direction: that of making Beinart's case appear stronger.
Let's take a look!
1. "...these are not people who are on Karl Rove's payroll"
Lugar received responses from 85 people; they're listed on page 4. At least one, Robert Joseph, is literally on Rove's payroll as a high-level Bush appointee. Joseph is a notorious hardliner who was on the National Security Council for four years before replacing John Bolton as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Joseph supervised the section on Iraq's WMD in the 2003 State of the Union, and was responsible for the uranium-from-Africa claim.
Quite a few others inhabit the Bush administration's Dr. Strangelove-flavored penumbra. There's Richard Allen, who's on the Defense Advisory Board; Frank Carlucci, of the Carlyle Group and Project for a New American Century; and James Woolsey, Patrick Clawson, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Fred Ikle, all well-known for their role with PNAC and similar places. Still more are on the standard conservative gravy train, such as Richard W. Fisher, Vice-Chairman of Kissinger McLarty Associates.
The rest are mostly Council on Foreign Relations-style centrists, with a smattering of genuine liberals.
An accurate way to express this would have been: "While a significant minority are on Karl Rove's payroll, figuratively and otherwise, the majority are not."
2. "[Lugar asked] what are the chances we are going to be hit with a nuclear attack?"
Lugar didn't ask specifically about a nuclear attack on America. The question was this: "In your opinion, what is the probability (expressed as a percentage) of an attack involving a nuclear explosion occurring somewhere in the world in the next 10 years?"
Of course, a nuclear attack on anyone would be very bad for America, as well as everyone else. But there's still a significant difference between what Beinart claimed and what the respondents actually were saying.
(Note that by "we" Beinart definitely does mean America. He says that explicitly when he mentions the poll in his book.)
An accurate way to express this would have been simply to quote the actual question.
3. "They say 30 percent"
The survey reports both the median and the average of the responses. Beinart is right that the average is 30% (well, 29.2%). However, the median is lower, at 20%.
An accurate way to express this would have been to give both measures, particularly since there were a cluster of very high responses (see below).
4. "80 percent say it is most likely that one of those will come from a terrorist group"
Question #6 on page 15 is "In your opinion, if a nuclear attack occurs during the next 10 years, is it more likely to be carried out by terrorists or by a government?" 79% said terrorists, 21% said a government.
SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
I certainly don't think it invalidates Beinart's point. Even if the respondents are overestimating the chances of a nuclear terrorist attack—which you might expect from people in their line of work no matter where they fall on the political spectrum—it's something to be taken very seriously, since the consequences would be so catastrophic. Besides all the dead people, we can be certain such an attack anywhere on earth would essentially kill democracy everywhere for the next 100 years or so.
This really, really irritates me.
A) I hate this kind of corner-cutting on principle. But it's particularly inexcusable when, like Beinart, you're being paid $600,000 for it. (He supposedly got that for a two book deal including The Good Fight.) At those rates you can afford to include actual accuracy.
B) When you're criticizing people for believing something is "mostly hype," it's polite not to hype it.
C) Most importantly, as I said a million words ago, Beinart et al did exactly this kind of thing regarding Iraq. You'd think he couldn't continue doing it now and still live with himself. Fortunately, every graduate of Stutts University like Beinart undergoes highly toxic chemotherapy to kill their sense of shame.
Whew! Well, that was something no one on earth but me will be interested in. But if on the off chance you're dropping in from Mars and want to dig deeper, the relevant page from the survey is below.
June 13, 2006
JAKE TAPPER IS AN IDIOT
Whoever said Cindy Sheehan et al were infallible? Not a single fucking person. MaxSpeak will donate $20 bucks to the charity of your choice (I'm no Bill Gates, so back off) for anyone who can produce a quote from someone not posting to Democratic Underground to the effect that Ms. Sheehan or the 9-11 widows are infallible or above criticism for their substantive remarks.
The real problem with said critics is that it is not so easy to immediately dismiss them with ad hominem, the preferred mode of discourse for jingoists, economic royalists, and other political prostitutes of the Right. Ann of a Thousand Remainders is really complaining that she can't employ her usual tools as easily, though for her it wasn't much more difficult, as we have seen.
The mainstream media pundit machine cannot disintegrate into a smoking pile of rubble soon enough for me.
You may read it all.
Happy Anniversary, Pentagon Papers!
Today is the 35th anniversary of the initial publication of the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times. The traditional gift on such dates is coral. Thus I'm going to give the Papers a plaque made of coral that says "I Don't UnderstandÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬ÂHow Could This Possibly Be Relevant To The Present Day?" This plaque also has a small button that, when pressed, produces the sound of two million Vietnamese peasants dying.
Now, here's an article from the LA Times by Daniel Ellsberg:
Today, there must be, at the very least, hundreds of civilian and military officials in the Pentagon, CIA, State Department, National Security Agency and White House who have in their safes and computers comparable documentation of intense internal debates ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â so far carefully concealed from Congress and the public ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â about prospective or actual war crimes, reckless policies and domestic crimes: the Pentagon Papers of Iraq, Iran or the ongoing war on U.S. liberties. Some of those officials, I hope, will choose to accept the personal risks of revealing the truth ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â earlier than I did ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â before more lives are lost or a new war is launched.
A U.S. News & World Report story on the anniversary is here. And the National Radio Project has produced a thirty minute segment of Ellsberg talking about civil disobedience in Crawford, Texas.
La la la la la:
Q What can you say tonight, sir, to the sons and the daughters of the Americans who served in Vietnam to assure them that you will not lead this country down a similar path in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: That's a great question. Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.... it's very clear what we intend to do. And our mission won't change. Our mission is precisely what I just stated.
June 12, 2006
Could I Have Been Mistaken About The Precise Nature Of Peter Beinart's Gibberish?
Below I enthusiastically made fun of Peter Beinart for saying this:
Jihadism sits at the center of a series of globalization-related threats, including global warming, pandemics, and financial contagion, which are powered by globalization-related technologies, and all of which threaten the United States more than other countries.
The "jihadism at the center of everything" part I still think is absolutely meaningless. But I believe Jethro, commenting here, is correct that I misunderstood BeinartÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âthat rather than meaning global warming et al are greater threats to the U.S. than they are to other countries, "Beinart was trying to say terrorism and global warming threaten the US more than any particular country threatens the US."
Of course, this is still nonsensical. Among Beinart's chorus line of catastropheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âterrorism, global warming, pandemics, and financial contagionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âonly global warming might compare to today's greatest threat to America, which is obviously nuclear weapons. The one thing that currently could actually obliterate us is ICBMsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âi.e., Russia's and perhaps someday China's nuclear arsenal. The #1 priority for any politicians who genuinely cares about U.S. security would be getting everyone's nukes off hair-trigger alert. We also should be giving them money so their early warning systems don't malfunction and lead them to mistakenly think we've launched a first strike. Beyond that we should ramp down our nuclear posturing and give up our attempts to militarize space.
So I may have wrong about the exact way Beinart wasn't making any sense. But I remain correct about the overall non-sense making.
Peter Beinart Finally Achieves 100% Gibberish
For years Peter "Pe-Nart" Beinart has attempted to speak in complete gibberish. And he's gotten close—70% gibberish, 86% gibberish, 93% gibberish. But it's only in a recent Q & A with Kevin Drum about Beinart's book The Good Fight that he's reached his goal of 100% (reg. req.):
Jihadism sits at the center of a series of globalization-related threats, including global warming, pandemics, and financial contagion, which are powered by globalization-related technologies, and all of which threaten the United States more than other countries.
This is outstanding work. The only way his point could be improved would be to put it like this:
Gerbil narcolepsy sofa-bed detritus squanders Bigfoot. Crapulent snurf machine? Crapulent snurf machine knob knobbler! Groucho lithe koala traipsing noreaster flange mucus. Mithril acne fluffernutter shamus fling-ding-a-ling-doo!
Seriously: in what sense can jihadism be said to "sit at the center" of global warming, pandemics, and financial contagion? In what possible way can these all be claimed to be greater threats to the U.S. than to other countries? (See update here for a consideration of whether I misunderstood Beinart's meaning.)
You may wonder, then, why Beinart's saying something so blatantly absurd. The answer is that the "liberalism" he espouses is incoherent. The Cheney platform—Let's Rule The World By Hate And Fear—at least has an undeniable internal logic. So too does a radical evaluation of U.S. foreign policy. They both tell coherent stories. But the mushy tale "I, Peter Beinart, will run the planet except I'll be nice" simply doesn't make sense. Thus he doesn't have any alternative to saying preposterous things.
This preposterousness reaches its noisy climax when he argues the Bush administration has become "sincere in its commitment to democracy." Specifically he has in mind Bush himself (!), Wolfowitz (!!), Elliot Abrams (!!!!!!) and arguably Cheney (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!$#@#$%#@$?????????).
SURE. They've spent their entire careers thwarting democracy in the United States. This indicates their commitment to democracy. Elliot Abrams lied to Congress about Iran Contra. Why? I guess because of his commitment to democracy. Paul Wolfowitz berated the Turkish army, with its long history of coups, for allowing Turkey's parliament to vote against assisting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That's thanks to his commitment to democracy. The entire administration lied us into war, then ferociously covered it up. It's the ultimate commitment to democracy.
Power really does corrupt. And we've been so powerful for so long there's very little left in our political classes but intellectual and moral corruption. That is to say: we're really in trouble.
BONUS: Beinart also informs us "understanding intellectual history is important not because the historical analogies are exact, but because most people don't think of great ideas de nouveau."
That's right, de nouveau. As long as we have generals who talk like this, I can't see anything but overwhelming political victory ahead.
AND: Tristero at Hullabaloo is beautifully unkind to both Beinart and Joe Klein.
June 11, 2006
Other Ways They Are Waging Asymmetrical Warfare Against Us
Duncan C. emailed me to point out that, as the three recent suicides at Guantanamo have shown, our enemy is even more devious and ruthless than we supposed:
Military officials on Saturday suggested that the three suicides were a form of a coordinated protest.
"They are smart, they are creative, they are committed," Admiral Harris said. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."
But this doesn't exhaust the asymmetric tactics they've adopted. Reliable sources indicate our terrorist foes are also using these even more appalling methods to attack us:
2. Begging for Mercy
3. Getting Tuberculosis
4. Forcing Us To Torture Them
5. Not Being A Terrorist
June 10, 2006
O Wad Some Pow'r The Giftie Gie Us
Both the King of Zembla and I are fans of "To a Louse", the 1785 poem by Robert Burns. It's about how the high and mighty tend to be hilariously oblivious to how ridiculous they appear to everyone else.
For some reason I'm often reminded of it whenever I read the pronouncements of America's foreign policy elite. For instance, here's a Weekly Standard piece by Reuel Marc Gerecht about Zarqawi:
Always looking outward toward the larger Sunni Arab world (and away from the Shiite Arabs and Sunni Kurds, who comprise about 80 percent of Iraq's population), Iraq's Sunni Arabs were playing catch-up with their foreign brethren, who had already downgraded, if not buried, secular Arab nationalism as an inspiring ideology and given birth to bin Ladenism.
Let's see, what's missing from this brief history of the death of secular Arab nationalism? Oh yeah—the sixty years the United States spent doing everything it could to kill it. I'm sure this just slipped Gerecht's mind. It's easy to see how that could happen, since he worked in the Middle East for the CIA for ten years and thus was intimately involved in the killing process. I often forget decades of my life myself.
Also nice is Gerecht's counsel to Iraq's Sunnis to "stop using the specter of violence as a negotiating strategy." Right. I'm sure they'll get right on that just as soon as the U.S. does—i.e., shortly after the sun explodes.
But this is the very best part:
...the surrounding Arab Sunni world seems quite willing to accept that decent men and women should experience frissons whenever bin Laden launches lethal attacks on the United States.
Gerecht then added, "Now if you'll excuse me, me and my friends at Project for a New American Century have to go clean up from having jizzed all over ourselves when the U.S. invaded Iraq."
June 09, 2006
Nir Rosen, World's Bravest Person, on Zarqawi
Here's Nir Rosen on Zarqawi. Rosen is almost unique among Western journalists in having direct contact with the Iraqi insurgency:
So time to dispel some myths. Zarqawi did not really belong to al Qaeda. He would have been more shocked than anybody when Colin Powel spoke before the United Nations in the propaganda build up to the war and mentioned Zarqawi publicly for the first time, accusing him of being the link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein...He had nothing to do with al Qaeda until December 2004, when he renamed his organization Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, or Al Qaeda in Iraq as it has become known.
Why did he do this? It was a great deal for him and Bin Ladin. Zarqawi needed the prestige associated with the Al Qaeda brand name in global jihadi circles....For Bin Ladin and his deputy Zawahiri it was also a great deal. Al Qaeda was defunct. Its leadership hiding in the Pakistani wilderness, completely cut off from the main front in today's jihad, Iraq. When Zarqawi assumed the al Qaeda brand name he gave a needed fillip to Bin Ladin who could now associate himself with the Iraqi jihad, where the enemy was being successfully killed every day, and where the eyes of the Arab and Muslim world were turned to, far more than Afghanistan.
Zarqawi was not very important in the first place, and hardly represented the majority of the resistance or insurgency...It took the United States to make Zarqawi who he became. Intent on denying that there was a popular Iraqi resistance to the American project in Iraq, the Americans blamed every attack on Zarqawi and his foreign fighters, and for a while it seemed every car accident in Baghdad was Zarqawi's fault. The truth was that much of Iraq's Sunni population, alienated by the Americans who removed them from power and targeted them en masse during raids, supported and participated in the anti American resistance. Even many Shias claimed resistance. Muqtada Sadr, the most powerful and popular single individual leader in Iraq, led two "intifadas" against the Americans in the spring and summer of 2004, and his men still rest on their laurels, claiming they too took part in the Mukawama, or resistance. But by blaming Zarqawi for everything the Americans created the myth of Zarqawi and aspiring Jihadis throughout the Arab world ate it up and flocked to join his ranks or at least send money. Zarqawi was the one defying the Americans, something their own weak leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and elsewhere, could not do, having sold out long ago. It was then comical when the Americans released the Zarqawi video out-takes and mocked him for fumbling with a machine gun. Having inflated his reputation they were now trying to deflate it. But it was too late.
As you'll see, Dollard is a bigtime Hollywood manager who decided it was absolutely critical for him to go to Iraq and make this. You may also note the trailer seems to be less about Iraq and more about how much Pat Dollard hates anti-war Americans. Or maybe it's about how much he hates Americans generally; he appears to be a bit confused. He's certainly very angry about...something...but it doesn't seem to have much to do with Iraq.
In any case, this is all to be expected. As I've said before, to truly love America you must hate other Americans.
June 08, 2006
Red State Son Benefit Day
Most people here are already familiar with Red State Son, Dennis Perrin's unique blog. But for anyone who isn't, you owe it to yourself to check it out. In particular, DO NOT MISS "Atoning at Night: A Janitor's Tale".
Then after this checking out process, I hope you can contribute to Red State Son's current fundraiser. I've been trying for seeming years to persuade Dennis to promote himselfÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âjust getting him to put up a paypal button has been like pulling teeth. Now that the teeth/paypal button has been successfully extracted, let us move quickly to complete whatever action is implied by the clumsy dental metaphor I've constructed here but that now that I'm so deep into this sentence I can't extricate myself from. Ahem.
AND SOME MORE RED STATE SON GREATEST HITS: "Reggie White Wash", about Reggie White's heart full of hate; "Punchy", about Christopher Hitchens' propensity to rewrite his own past; "Sad Libs"; "Damn You, Democracy!"; "Freedom Granted, Freedom Won"; and more!
June 07, 2006
May The Road Rise To Meet You, Smug Barking Cow
I've had a crush on Bumiller for some time, but she truly won my heart when she explained why reporters asked Bush no hard questions at his press conference just before the invasion of Iraq. You see, they're cowards:
ELISABETH BUMILLER: I think we were very deferential, because in the East Room press conference, it's live. It's very intense. It's frightening to stand up there... You are standing up on prime time live television, asking the president of the United States a question when the country is about to go to war.
There are several entertaining things about this:
1. I'm sure it's scary to ask the president a question on live national TV just before a war. But...
(a) If you can't handle it, maybe you should get another job. It's also "intense" to be an NFL quarterback and, whenever you drop back to pass, have six men weighing a collective ton trying to crush you. But if this makes you stay at home in bed on Superbowl Sunday, perhaps professional football is not for you.
(b) As scary as it may be to ask the president a question just before a war, I've heard tell it's even scarier to FIGHT IN A WAR. It may be scarier still to be in a country about to invaded by the most powerful military in human history, and know you and your family may soon be converted into scraps of red, wet flesh. Perhaps Bumiller could think of this at such times and fucking get ahold of herself.
2. The New York Times has been owned by the same family for 108 years. When they bought it, the new publisher Adolph Ochs wrote a famous front page editorial:
It will be my earnest aim that The New York Times... give the news impartially, without fear or favor...
"Without fear or favor" is so much a part of the Times self-image that it was used as the title of an authorized history of the paper. Yet Bumiller explicitly acknowledges giving the news with fear. And we can throw in favor too, because "favor" is quite close to "deference," as thesauruses will tell you.
So Bumiller very publicly whizzed all over her employers' founding credo. For this, she retains one of the New York Times' highest profile and most prestigious positions. But I guess this makes sense in a country where you can only be Attorney General if you hate the Constitution.
"LOOKED LIKE A SMUG, BARKING COW": This was Matt Taibbi's characterization of Bumiller when when he crowned her winner of 2004's Wimblehack competition.
AND SERIOUSLY: I do respect Bumiller for being honest about the fear felt by reporters like herself. The Bush administration and its lovely friends certainly do try to generate this fear, and I'd far rather have journalists speak openly of it than continue their standard pose of being courageous crusaders for truth.
June 06, 2006
So Many People So Coincidentally Shot In The Head
Yesterday was the 38th anniversary of Robert Kennedy's shooting by Sirhan Sirhan. (Kennedy lived for a few more hours, and actually died 38 years ago today.) Mike has some compelling thoughts about that and the rest of the greatest hits of the sixties:
When I think of the assassinations now, there is no curiosity or nostalgia; because they have never been definitively solved, I feel that they are still with us. History is fact robbed of its ability to injure; these events still bite. And so, when I saw RFK on Slate today, the long-haired, doom-etched RFK of '68, I felt the bite again, and not a little dread. JFK's death was about the unthinkable happening, but his brother's murder was the world confirming the terrible fact of what it had become. Or maybe, what it always had been.
Forty years on, Kennedy-King-Kennedy looks to me like the moment things started going bad, when control really clamped down from above, and apathy really took root below. Our country is headed in the wrong direction, and without a shred of romanticism, I think that direction was set by the assassinations of the 60s--not only by the loss of those people, their ideas and their ability to inspire, but also by our getting used to unsolved public murder as business as usual. That is a coarsening equal to any suffered by the Roman Republic. Is it merely coincidence that we've turned from a country of possibilities to one grinding out the same tragic, hoary imperial script? The country is traumatized, directionless, hurt; and a generation of politicians have risen who are experts at keeping us that way.
We go around in circles, searching for Kennedy-manques, a right wheel turning around a chewed stump where the left wheel used to be. If you don't like metaphors, here's a fact: All of the "lone nuts" of the 60s weakened one side of the spectrum, in favor of the other. We may think that's a mournful coincidence now, but I doubt future generations will.
And as Mike and I discussed, that's not even mentioning Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and quite a few others who, out of the purest coincidence, all got shot in the head. The rest of Mike's thoughts are here.
In response to our previous digressions about his name, Sam Husseini explains:
At 18 when I applied for US citizenship (they have a space on the form for this, or did at the time), at my father's urging, I changed my name legally to Samuel Hennessy. Crazy guy wanted his son to have a relatively easy life -- racism against Arabs is hardly a post-9/11 phenomenon. Around the time of the Gulf War, I partly went back to Sam Husseini in my writing and activism. Now I suppose I'm gradually "reverting" back to the original, Osama (or, more properly, Usamah) Husseini (Hussayni, really). I should say that in some places, where I felt comfortable, like the Park Slope Food Coop, in the early '90s I'd always been Osama Husseini.
Sam also plaintively asks:
Anyway, so were it not for my name, would there be any discussion here on the, um, substance of my article?
Norman Solomon Is Smart Because He Agrees With Me
Here's a genuinely interesting take on Tariq Aziz from Norman Solomon, who (as he mentions) met Aziz in pre-war trips to Iraq. Note in particular the part in bold:
As Iraq's most visible diplomat, Aziz was a smooth talker who epitomized the urbanity of evil. Up close, in late 2002 and early the following year, when I was among American visitors to his office in Baghdad, he seemed equally comfortable in a military uniform or a business suit. Serving a tyrannical dictator, Aziz used his skills with language the way a cosmetician might apply makeup to a corpse.
Aziz glibly represented Saddam Hussein's regime as it tortured and murdered Iraqi people. Yet after the invasion, news reports told us, a search of his home near the Tigris River turned up tapes of such Western cultural treasures as "The Sound of Music" and "Sleepless in Seattle."
The likelihood that he enjoyed this entertainment may be a bit jarring. We might prefer to think that a bright line separates the truly civilized from the barbaric, the decent from the depraved.
But the man could exhibit a range of human qualities. Reserved yet personable, he could banter with ease. His arguments, while larded with propaganda, did not lack nuance. Whether speaking with a member of the U.S. Congress, an acclaimed American movie actor or a former top U.N. official, Aziz seemed acutely aware of his audience. He would have made a deft politician in the United States.
We like to believe that American leaders are cut from entirely different cloth. But I don't think so. In some respects, the terrible compromises made by Tariq Aziz are more explainable than ones that are routine in U.S. politics.
Aziz had good reason to fear for his life -- and the lives of loved ones -- if he ran afoul of Saddam. In contrast, many politicians and appointed officials in Washington have gone along with lethal policies because of fear that dissent might cost them re-election, prestige, money or power.
I agree with all this, although the motivations of Aziz may have been even closer to those of our own lovable leaders than you'd think. Aziz of course lied constantly (to others and surely himself), but this is how he described his situation according to the Duelfer Report:
Tariq ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Aziz said that he opposed the invasion of Kuwait, but could not dissuade Saddam. Asked why he did not resign in protest, he denied he thought he would be killed, but said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œ . . . there would be no income, no job.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
At least he didn't talk about how he could have more influence "on the inside."
June 05, 2006
Torture Awareness Month
June 26th is the date that the United Nations has marked as the International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims of Torture. This year a coalition of human rights, civil liberties and faith organizations have joined TASSC International, a leading survivors organization, in declaring June ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œTorture Awareness Month." This awareness raising month is an effort to respond to the growing evidence that the United States government is engaging systematically in the use of torture and inhuman treatment as part of the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œwar on terror.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Follow the link to TortureAwareness.org for lots more information, upcoming events and suggested action. People with blarfs may also wish to visit Blarffers Against Torture and join up. Even the blarf-less will find it has a fantastic round-up of blarfosphere anti-torture writing.
June 04, 2006
Pacifica: Can It Be Actually Good?
In response to my endless carping, sk points out that Sam Husseini has written here about Pacifica, one of the most important existing alternatives to our current media. Sam asks: "Can Pacifica Live Up to its Promise?"
Imagine a Pacifica that has reporters going to the major news conferences: At the White House; at City Hall; at the State Department; at the Pentagon; at the place they call the Department of Justice; at the big think tanks. All asking tough, timely questions...
Imagine a Pacifica that does not merely pretend to be brave, that and that avoids the cheap shots of demonizing Bush supporters as "brownshirts"; instead, actually building a news and information infrastructure that will help change the world for the better -- by providing information that changes hearts and minds.
Imagine a Pacifica with programmers who have the knowledge and wit to regularly bring on officeholders, mainstream pundits and others and expose their fallacies on the air.
Imagine a Pacifica that, rather than bringing on people who agree with each other, or at least pretend to, actually have open discussions. Advocates of different movements, say liberalism and socialism, can and should be in dialogue; should be critically examined, including by each other. The worst elements of all should be exposed; the best aspect of each should proliferate...
Imagine a Pacifica and WPFW that helps organize people around Washington, D.C. so that the collective conscience of the people around the nation's capital is felt on a daily basis by federal government officeholders. Imagine WPFW being used to announce timely protests at crucial events and places in DC...
Imagine a Pacifica that organizes "town hall" meetings between the people of various cities in the U.S. and the people of cities around the world where our government is exerting its violence and threats of violence. Imagine a Pacifica that builds on this and uses the power of the Internet effectively, that builds local and global connections.
The rest is here.
June 03, 2006
Let's Try Hard To See What's Right In Front Of Our Face
What is it that the U.S. media is trying to accomplish? If the main, overriding purpose of the mainstream press is to help people learn about the world, we'd be seeing headlines like this:
70 Members of 'Wash Post' News Staff Accept Buyouts Over Flawed Pre-War Iraq Coverage
By contrast, if the main, overriding purpose of the press is to make as much money as possible for its owners, we'd see headlines like this:
70 Members of 'Wash Post' News Staff Accept Buyouts (So Post Corp. Can Cut Costs and Enhance Profits)
Which of these headlines is real, and which is a made up fairy tale?
Which of these possible purposes of the press is real, and which is a made up fairy tale?
I hate to yammer about this over and over and over again, but progressives are never going to get anywhere with the media if we keep believing in fairy tales. It's not enough to criticize Santa Claus for not bringing us presents. We have to face the fact that, no matter how many thoughtful debates the Ford Foundation hosts on "The Role of Santa Claus in Democratic Societies," THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS.
I realize this makes everyone sad. It makes me sad too. I don't really miss god, but I sure miss Santa Claus.
Nonetheless, if we truly want the presents, we have to face reality. And the reality is we will only get the presents if we make them for ourselves.
June 02, 2006
Santa Claus Still Inexplicably Failing To Come Down Chimney With Presents For Us
Disney and other movie studios are seeking Republican support for repealing a provision in last monthÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s tax bill that costs the industry $181 million over a decade. The provision narrowed the benefits of a manufacturing tax break to companies with wage earners; since movie stars work as independent contractors, Hollywood would lose much of the benefit.
Industry lobbyists were once confident that they could repeal the provision as part of a follow up tax bill planned for June. But ABCÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Hastert story has made the parent companyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s lobbying task more difficult.
I've wondered something about corporate law for a while. It's this: my understanding is the management of publicly-held companies are legally obligated to maximize shareholder value. So, could shareholders in a media conglomerate sue its management for allowing employees to conduct investigative journalism? On the merits, I think you'd often have a good case. Genuinely hard-hitting journalism will generally be a net loss for a company.
June 01, 2006
Only So Many Ways To Be Crazy
On the day when Ann Coulter and Pat Robertson finally send the death squads to kill you and me and our families and everyone we know, whose fault will it be? Well, that's obvious: it will be our fault.
Glenn Reynolds learnedly explains this for us here:
Peter Ingemi writes that the antiwar left has made Haditha morally irrelevant:There is one aspect about Haditha that seems to be ignored by everybody.
Our press and the anti-American left both in this country and outside of it has been reporting "Hadithas" over and over again over the last three years.
Time and time again our friends have accused us of every possible atrocity that there is to the point that internationally people are already able to believe this or the 9/11 stuff or all the rest.
Because of this, internationally it is totally irrelevant if the Marines actually violated the rules of war. Our foes are going to say that we've done things if we do them or not, so the only people that it really matters to will be the people killed (and family) and the people in our own country who support the military.
The real danger is that we who support the war will reach the point that we say "we might as well be taken as wolves then as sheep". At that point the left can celebrate that they have made our military and those who support it the people they claim we are. Once that happens however any compunction about respecting them will be gone, and remember one side is armed and one is not.
That is a fate that I don't wish on any of us.
Neither do I.
It would be easy to say this is straight out of Nazi propaganda. So let me say it: this is straight out of Nazi propaganda. If anyone with time on their hands wants to look through this archive, I guarantee you'll find a dozen statements just like it—the same weepy self-pity and righteous sense of victimization from people with all the power, the same warnings that the powerless are soon going to get what they've been asking for FOR SO LONG, etc.
However, in fairness to Professor Reynolds and Mr. Ingemi, I'm sure you could also find this in the propaganda of the Soviet Union, the Iraqi Baathists, the Ottomans during World War I, etc. There are only so many ways to be dangerous authoritarian psychopaths. It's really not right to expect Reynolds and Ingemi to come up with anything new.
(Via Matt Barganier at Antiwar.com.)
HOLY CRIPES ALMIGHTY: Reynolds has updated the post with this:
Some people, judging from my email, are misjudging -- or deliberately misconstruing -- Ingemi's point. Ingemi's point, as I took it, is that crying wolf leads in the end to moral callousness, as people assume that there's no point in behaving morally when they're going to be called monsters anyway. This seems rather uncontroversially obvious to me.
I almost never look at Instapundit, so I actually had been concerned I might have been a little unfair to Reynolds. But, uh, not anymore.
It would take five years to untangle every thread of his Crazy Yarn, so let me just concentrate on this: what kind of person believes it's "uncontroversially obvious" that human beings work like this? Read that again: "people assume that there's no point in behaving morally when they're going to be called monsters anyway."
You know, Professor Reynolds is welcome to call me a babykiller every day until the sun explodes. Yet somehow I still won't come to his house and shoot his children.
That's just the way my species is, here on the planet we call "Earth."