December 30, 2006

Only Business

Yesterday I compared Saddam to Barzini in The Godfather. But on second thought it's really more accurate to compare Saddam to the Corleone family capo Sal Tessio (played by Abe Vigoda). Barzini headed a major crime family of his own, and was nearly as powerful as Vito Corleone. By contrast, Tessio merely worked for the Corleones, and was a loyal soldier for Vito Corleone for decades until he saw an opportunity to make more money by striking out on his own. But Michael (who is of course Vito's son) realizes what Tessio is doing, and has him executed by other family retainers.

Here's the impressively precise Iraqi re-enactment of that scene last night:

Actual Godfather lines:

TESSIO: Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.

TOM HAGEN: He understands that.

TESSIO: ...Tom, can you get me off the hook? For old time's sake?

TOM HAGEN: Can't do it, Saly.

December 29, 2006


Is Saddam headed off to hell tonight?

An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saddam would be executed before 6 a.m. Saturday, or 10 p.m. Friday EST. Also to be hanged at that time were Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, the adviser said.

I realize I shouldn't be shocked by anything anymore...but I am shocked and frightened by the way this has happened. I honestly never believed the Bush administration could get away with preventing Saddam from speaking about his longtime collaboration with the U.S., which started in the late fifties. (Of course, Saddam may have had his own reasons for not, uh, emphasizing this.) And I really didn't think they could off him with no trial for the large-scale crimes we assisted with. But apparently they can. It's just a few steps short of an intra-mob hit.

This is a scary, scary world.

UPDATE: "Foodrule" writes in to make this important point:

From: Foodrule@...
Date: Fri, 29 Dec 2006
Subject: Re: Saddam getting what he deserves: Please choke on your own tongue
To: tinyrevolution@...

Sorry to be so blunt! But on the bright side, you can add this e-mail to your self-congratulatory list of people who are responding to your self-evident moral bankruptcy. Stop breathing at your earliest convenience, dipshit.

What's particularly wonderful here is Foodrule's responding to something one inch above this. The only thing that could have made it better is if he'd used "inhuman barbarism" rather than "moral bankruptcy."

More From The Goebbels Archive

Wow, people can really deceive themselves:

...National Socialist Germany feels itself the leader of the entire civilized world. It would cease to exist were we to give up before the enemy's assault. We are God's instrument today, fulfilling a great historical mission. It cannot be postponed. We must do it, or humanity will collapse. We all know this. This is a struggle between light and dark, between truth and falsehood, between true humanity and inhuman barbarism. Germany carries the banner. All the oppressed and tortured peoples look to us in hope, because they expect from us alone a new order and the salvation of the world.

--Joseph Goebbels, January 2, 1944

Fortunately, of course, when OUR pundits say stuff like this it's really true!

December 28, 2006

How Depressing

I'm a big fan of Robert Smigel. In particular I enjoy his extraordinarily strange and tasteless (and hence short-lived) Comedy Central version of TV Funhouse.

But...this cartoon of the "Abu Dhabi Kids Network" (produced for SNL) is depressingly stupid and unfunny. There must be some great comedy to be mined out of the mideast's nutjobs, as is the case with nutjobs everywhere. But this isn't it. Since comedy depends on accurate observation, I'd guess this hypothetical great comedy would have to be produced by people who actually watch television in Abu Dhabi—which I suspect leaves out Robert Smigel.


Fortunately, you can wash that bad taste out of your mouth with some of the Comedy Central TV Funhouse:

December 27, 2006

"We Will Understand And Will Not Press You On The Issue"

So Gerald Ford is dead. Of all the mainstream stories about him, I wonder how many will mention that he gave Indonesia a green light to invade East Timor on December 6, 1975? And that Indonesia eventually killed more than 200,000 Timorese? (Ford's specific words to Indonesia's ruler Suharto were: "We will understand and will not press you on the issue.")

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess the number is zero.

However, Chris Floyd does have a non-mainstream perspective on it: "The Enduring Legacy of Gerald R. Ford." And Dennis Perrin chimes in with "The Great American Whitewash in Action."

December 26, 2006

If I've Learned Anything In Life, It's That Humans Always Respond Positively To Being Humiliated

Great news! We've humiliated Iran:

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to restrict Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and to freeze the assets of 22 Iranian officials and institutions linked to the country's most controversial nuclear programs...the Bush administration -- which favored tougher measures -- said it was still pleased with the final version, saying that it furthers Iran's growing international isolation.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns called the vote "humiliating" for Iran.

And according to Bob Woodward's State of Denial, the invasion of Iraq has served to humiliate "radical Islam":

“Why did you support the Iraq war?” Gerson asked [Kissinger].

“Because Afghanistan wasn’t enough,” Kissinger answered. In the conflict with radical Islam, he said, they want to humiliate us. “And we need to humiliate them.”

Yes, we're definitely going to win by humiliating large sectors of mankind—because as we know, the best way to get humans to do what you want is to humiliate them:

"What America is tasting now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. [The Islamic world] has been tasting this humiliation and this degradation for eighty years."

The only thing missing so far with Iran is kidnapping them off the street and giving them international top secret enemas. But I'm sure that's just an oversight that will be corrected quite soon.

December 25, 2006

Merry Stereotypical Dictator Christmas!


In a letter to Chileans written to be published after his death, Gen. Augusto Pinochet said he wished he hadn't had to stage the bloody 1973 coup that put him in power and called the abuses during his long rule inevitable...

The former dictator, who died Dec. 10 of heart failure at age 91, insisted that the military takeover avoided civil war and a Marxist dictatorship, and said his 1973-90 rule never had "an institutional plan" to abuse human rights.

"But it was necessary to act with maximum rigor to avoid a widening of the conflict," Pinochet wrote...

"How I wish the Sept. 11, 1973, military action had not been necessary!" Pinochet wrote.


"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves."
—William Pitt, House of Commons, November 18, 1783

December 24, 2006

It's Me-Calling-You Eve

First, happy birthday to I.F. Stone, who would be 99 years old today.

Second, I will be placing lots of calls tomorrow to future recipients of Our Kampf. (And there's still time to add your name to the list!)

Just to give you a heads up, I have numerous bizarre fixations, and have a tendency to start talking about them given the least opening. For instance:

• the perfidy of the metric system

• my belief that my gall bladder is filled with communist insurgents

• why all federal holidays should be combined into one 10-day long Omnibus vacation called "The Festival of Slurk"

• I may be a Siamese demi-twin

• The moon landing was staged...ON MARS

Believe me, if I only mention two or three of these you should count yourself lucky.

December 23, 2006

Thank You!

Many thanks to everyone who's ordered Our Kampf. Mike and I truly appreciate it.

However, don't think if you haven't gotten it you're off the hook. No way. Essentially every religious and ethical tradition on earth demands that you get a copy. Buddhists and Catholics and Wahabbists and Flying Spaghetti Monsterists may disagree on many subjects. But on this they come together to speak as one: buy Our Kampf.

Remember that if you order it by Christmas, including on Christmas Day, you are eligible for one Apology Call to the intended recipient.

December 21, 2006

The Stories That Our Monkey Brains Like

Dear Internets,

I have a few questions. Has anyone ever written a good essay about the way the Lord of the Rings movies (even more than the books) use many of mankind's longtime favorite storytelling tropes? And what these tropes say about the way our monkey brains particular, what we find emotionally gratifying? And how this plays out in actual human wars?

The particular tropes I have in mind are:

1. We are pure Good, they are pure Evil

Our enemies want to destroy us all (and in some cases, eat us). This desire grows out of their very nature. Thus, our only option is to destroy all of them.

In stark contrast, we are reasonable and wish merely to live together with everyone in peace. The only trouble comes when Evil arrives from the outside.

2. Good is pretty and pretty is Good; Evil is ugly and ugly is Evil

Have you seen our enemies? They're HIDEOUS!

By contrast, most of us are quite attractive.

This means you can tell someone is Good or Evil just by looking at them.

3. To win we must only kill the Man at the Top

Our enemies are mindless automatons, directed by the One Big Brain in charge. Once we get him, they will all run away screaming.

4. Our Head Guy has been chosen by Destiny!

Elrond tells Aragorn in Return of the King: "This is your test. Every path you have trod, through wilderness, through war, has led to this road."

Compare with this, from Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:

After September 11, [LIbby] came to view Cheney as a historical figure who saw the dangers facing his country with greater clarity than anyone. In December 2001, during an interview with journalist James Mann, Libby read aloud a passage from Winston Churchill's memoir of the years leading up to World War II: "I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial." Libby told Mann these words could be applied to Cheney in the post-9/11 period.

I'm sure there must be other tropes that I'm missing. Anyway, what does the internet say?

Give Money To Everybody

Now that I've plugged Our Kampf, I urge anyone with some remaining cash to consider donating it to two of the best political websites anywhere:

1. Digby's Hullabaloo

Because you are a decent human being, you love Digby. I suggest you go visit and fork it over.

2. Consortium News

Robert Parry is one of the very best reporters in America. He should be Foreign Editor of the Washington Post, but he's not because he tells the truth. If you care about the truth—which you should, because your life depends on it—go contribute to their fundraiser. No one will pay for this kind of reporting but us.

Things To Read

1. Dennis Perrin has something he'd like to say to nice Democrats:

I hope that my liblogging buddies are finally waking up to this dreadful reality [of Iraq], but just in case they're still dreaming sweet dreams about all the wonderful things the Dems are going to deliver in '07, and especially in '08, allow me to raise my voice for a moment.


Sorry about that. Generally, I'm an easy going guy. But with a ten-year-old son, soon to turn 11, to think about, and watching these criminals plan for more chaos and agony, expecting my boy to sign on, I tend to come unhinged. And I trust this will become worse as the years drag on.

The rest.

2. The Nation has published a fantastic article by Mohamed Bazzi about the usually-overlooked ways the civil conflict in Lebanon is based in class (via Sam):

Ever since Hezbollah and its allies began an open-ended protest against the US-backed government on December 1, Beirut's gilded downtown--built for wealthy Lebanese and foreign tourists--has become more authentically Lebanese. Where Persian Gulf sheiks once ate sushi, families now sit in abandoned parking lots, having impromptu picnics, the smell of kebabs cooked over coals wafting through the air. Young men lounge on plastic chairs, smoking apple-scented water pipes, and occasionally break out into debke, the Lebanese national dance.

3. I've mentioned previously the whistleblowing WMD testimony of Carne Ross, former First Secretary in Britain's Mission to the UN. But also fascinating is a piece he wrote last year for the Financial Times; it's one of the most sensitive and intelligent accounts I've ever seen of how governments deceive themselves and others.

December 20, 2006

More Successful Kenneth Pollack Success

Justin Logan has dug up this excellent quote from Kenneth Pollack speaking a few days ago at the American Enterprise Institute about the dangers of getting out of Iraq:

"It would be a grand social science experiment. And given the history out there, I can’t demonstrate, I can’t prove to you that that social science experiment would fail catastrophically, but the risks, the warnings of history are stark enough to me that I would really prefer not to find out."

Here's Kenneth Pollack on page 338 of his book The Threatening Storm:

Imagine how different the Middle East and the world would be if a new Iraqi state were stable, prosperous, and a force for progress in the region, not a source of violence and instability. Imagine if we could rebuild Iraq as a model of what a modern Arab state could be, showing the frustrated and disenfranchised of the Arab world what they should be trying to fashion. Imagine if there were a concrete symbol demonstrating that America seeks to help the Arab world rather than repress. Invading Iraq might not just be our least bad alternative, it potentially could be our best course of action.

December 19, 2006


How can I buy Our Kampf?

Our Kampf is available via Amazon and Powell's, just like a normal book that doesn't kill you seven days after you read it. A limited number of copies are also available directly from me for $19.95 via Paypal, using the button below. The price includes shipping and an inscription of your choice.

What IS Our Kampf?

I appreciate that you asked how to buy it before asking what it is. This site needs more readers like you.

Anyway, it's a humor collection by Michael Gerber and me. Much of it first appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic, New York Times, etc. and on Saturday Night Live and NPR's The Next Big Thing. You can find some excerpts here, here, here and here.

To some degree it's in the tradition of Woody Allen's Without Feathers or Ian Frazier's Dating Your Mom. But unlike them, it's a big hodgepodge of different forms: along with New Yorker-style pieces, it has sketches, Weekend Update jokes, charts, forms, radio schedules, and the world's most difficult crossword puzzle. It may be closest to the Harvard Lampoon Big Book of College Life, if you've ever seen that.

Why is it called Our Kampf?

Well, certainly not because both Mike and I were cloned from one of Hitler's eyelashes, smuggled out of his bunker in the final days of the Third Reich. And even if that were true, there's no way you could make it stand up in court!

Also, it just made us laugh to compare the struggles we experienced trying to get our 750-word humor pieces published to the "struggle" of the 20th century's greatest psychopath.

What is Our Kampf printed on?

It may be printed on vellum, since I'm not sure what vellum is.

Why should I buy Our Kampf?

(1) Eternal life. I know other humor books promise this, but only Our Kampf delivers. Just please don't scream when you find out exactly how it works. (See the "seven days" part, above.)

seven days

(2) It's genuinely funny. And, by purchasing it you'll be supporting this site.

December 18, 2006

Powell Again Blames CIA For Fabrications And Lies-By-Omission In U.N. Speech

As much criticism as Colin Powell has received for his Iraq presentation at the UN, it hasn't been anywhere near what he deserves. While they've been little noticed, declassified memos from Powell's own intelligence staff at the State Department conclusively prove Powell was aware much of what he said was false or shaky. (I've previously gone through this in detail here.)

So far Powell has blamed everything on the CIA. He did it again yesterday when questioned outside Face the Nation by Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Here are the details, along with background and the actual video.

#1: Fabricated electronic intercept

According to some, the most impressive elements of Powell's speech came when he played intercepted radio conversations between Iraqi soldiers. According to Powell, this is how one of them went:

"They're inspecting the ammunition you have, yes.''


"For the possibility there are forbidden ammo."

"For the possibility there is by chance forbidden ammo?''


"And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there.''

Powell then explained:

This is all part of a system of hiding things and moving things out of the way and making sure they have left nothing behind.

In fact, Powell had simply made up the parts in bold. According to the official State Department translation, the Iraqi soldier merely said:

"And we sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas."

In other words, Powell took evidence of the Iraqis doing what they were supposed to do—i.e., searching their ammunition dumps to make sure they weren't accidentally holding onto banned chemical weapons—and doctored it to make it look as if Iraq were hiding banned weapons.

And this isn't just my interpretation; it was first reported in Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack. As Woodward writes:

[Powell] had decided to add his personal interpretation of the intercepts to the rehearsed script, taking them substantially further and casting them in the most negative light...Concerning the intercept about inspecting for the possibility of "forbidden ammo," Powell took the interpretation further: "Clean out all of the areas... Make sure there is nothing there." None of this was in the intercept.

When Sam Husseini asked Powell about this yesterday, this was Powell's barely responsive response:

POWELL: Everything that was in that presentation that I gave—

HUSSEINI: Do you acknowledge that you did that [i.e., add words the Iraqi soldier did not say]?

POWELL: You've asked a question. I'm about to answer it. Everything that was in that presentation that I gave was approved and edited by the intelligence community. The Director of Central Intelligence and the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and all of their principal assistants. And if there were anything in that the script that they didn't think was appropriate or was not accurate, it was removed. Thank you.

The video is below. And here are some obvious follow up questions, if there are any journalists in the D.C. area who feel like practicing journalism:

1. Do you acknowledge that what you said was inaccurate?
2. If you do acknowledge this, you must be furiously angry at George Tenet and the CIA. What actions have you taken to make sure the people responsible for this fabrication have been held accountable?

#2: Lie-by-omission

This appears in another section of Powell's presentation:

Iraq's record on chemical weapons is replete with lies. It took years for Iraq to finally admit that it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. A single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes. Four tons.

The admission only came out after inspectors collected documentation as a result of the defection of Hussein Kamal, Saddam Hussein's late son-in-law.

This was accurate. However, Powell left out some extremely important details. Kamel defected in 1995. Iraq had produced this VX before the Gulf War, in 1991—and according to Kamel, Iraq had secretly destroyed it soon after the war. Then they lied about ever producing it. But according to Kamel, they weren't lying when they said they no longer had it.

Indeed, in the U.N.'s notes from Kamel's debriefing, he says Iraq had no remaining WMD of any kind:

All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons -- biological, chemical, missiles, nuclear were destroyed.

And if that weren't enough, Kamel also said this in an interview on CNN:

SADLER: Can you state here and now -- does Iraq still to this day hold weapons of mass destruction?

KAMEL: No. Iraq does not possess any weapons of mass destruction. I am being completely honest about this.

But in 1996 Kamel returned to Iraq, where he was killed by Saddam's regime. Thus the U.S. could safely take a witness who truthfully had said Iraq had no remaining banned weapons, and pretend his testimony indicated the exact opposite.

Here's what Powell said on Sunday.

HUSSEINI: You cited Hussein Kamel in your U.N. testimony. Did you know he said there were no WMDs?

POWELL: I only knew what the intelligence community told me.

HUSSEINI: But did you know that fact?

POWELL: Of course not!

HUSSEINI: You didn't know that, even though it was reported?

POWELL: I've answered your question!

The video is below. And here are some more obvious follow up questions:

1. When and how did you learn that Hussein Kamel said Iraq had no WMD?
2. Have you ever discussed this publicly before?
3. Again, you must be furiously angry about this. What actions have you taken to make sure the people responsible for this have been held accountable?

And that's it. I hope anyone reading this can see the possibilities for better journalism that exist with blogs, YouTube, etc. All that's required is effort and organization on our part.

Finally—don't miss other Washington figures being questioned by Sam Husseini at Washington Stakeout.

And Boy Is Your Country Grateful

From William Blum's always-excellent Anti-Empire Report:

General Augusto Pinochet, who escaped earthly justice on December 10, was detained in London in 1999 awaiting a ruling by a British court on whether he would be extradited to Spain on a Spanish judge's warrant to face charges of crimes against humanity committed during his rule in Chile from 1973 to 1990. "I tell you how I feel," he told a London journalist at the time. "I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country, who served Chile throughout his entire life on this earth. And what he did was always done thinking about the welfare of Chile."

P.W. Botha, former president of South Africa died November 1. He was a man who had vigorously defended the apartheid system, which led to the jailing of tens of thousands of people. He never repented or apologized for his actions, and resisted attempts to make him appear before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At one point he declared: "I am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for forgiveness. What I did, I did for my country."

As Pol Pot lay on his death bed in 1997, he was interviewed by a journalist, who later wrote: "Asked whether he wants to apologize for the suffering he caused, he looks genuinely confused, has the interpreter repeat the question, and answers 'No.'...'I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country.'"

"In these three decades I have been actuated solely by love and loyalty to my people in all my thoughts, acts, and life." Adolf Hitler, "Last Will and Testament," written in his bunker in his final hours, April 29, 1945.

The rest.

December 17, 2006

More Evidence On Whether Powell Is A Liar, Idiot, Or Lying Idiot

UPDATE: Videos here. Some of the sound is a little unclear, so hopefully there will be transcripts soon.

• • •

You may recall Colin Powell saying this during his U.N. speech:

Iraq's record on chemical weapons is replete with lies. It took years for Iraq to finally admit that it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. A single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes. Four tons.

The admission only came out after inspectors collected documentation as a result of the defection of Hussein Kamal, Saddam Hussein's late son-in-law.

This was true. However, there's one little thing Powell left out: when Hussein Kamel defected in 1995, he also said ALL IRAQ'S UNDECLARED WMD HAD BEEN SECRETLY DESTROYED IN 1991. In other words, Iraq had been lying about what it had done in the past, not what it possessed in the present.

Of course, to know this you had to have access to supersecret sources of information. For instance, CNN:

SADLER: Can you state here and now -- does Iraq still to this day hold weapons of mass destruction?

KAMEL: No. Iraq does not possess any weapons of mass destruction. I am being completely honest about this.

Or the U.N. notes from the debriefing of Kamel:

All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missiles, nuclear were destroyed.

This morning Sam Husseini caught Colin Powell as he was leaving an appearance on Face the Nation and asked him whether he was aware of this when he spoke at the U.N. Powell said he wasn't; in other words, he declared that he didn't know the most basic information about what he was saying, and apparently doesn't feel any responsibility for knowing it.

Check back later today for the video and transcript.

December 16, 2006

The Master Of YouTube Strikes Again

I've noted previously that Dennis P. has the world's greatest YouTube skillz. If you like Monty Python arcana, be sure not to miss these videos he dug up of Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman appearing with Tom Snyder on "Tomorrow" in 1979 to promote Life of Brian. (You'll have to scroll down past some cruel comments about James Woolsey and friends.)

How The U.S. Media Uses Its Enormous Resources And Technological Prowess To Be Wrong About Everything

Here's a great story from a talk by Robert Fisk:

How do we journalists get it so wrong?

What's gone wrong in the American press? I ask myself this, partly because I have a lot of friends among the American journalists working in the Middle East. I enjoy having dinner with them. But the odd thing is that when I'm having dinner with them I learn quite a lot, they know quite a lot...but when I open the paper in the morning it's so boring I could fall asleep. The knowledge isn't there.

My colleague Patrick Cockburn tells me that at one point of great violence in Baghdad he saw an American colleague crawling out on his balcony to use a satellite phone to talk to somebody. Afterwards he said -- because there were a lot of bullets flying around -- who were you talking to? And the reporter said, "I was ringing someone up from the Brookings Institution -- we needed a quote about what was going on in Iraq."

December 15, 2006

UK Whistleblower Testimony Released After 2 1/2 Years

A big story from England:

The Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

Carne Ross:

I was First Secretary in the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York from December 1997 until June 2002. I was responsible for Iraq policy in the mission, including policy on sanctions, weapons inspections and liaison with UNSCOM and later UNMOVIC...

I read the available UK and US intelligence on Iraq every working day for the four and a half years of my posting...

During my posting, at no time did HMG assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests. On the contrary, it was the commonly-held view among the officials dealing with Iraq that any threat had been effectively contained. I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed). (At the same time, we would frequently argue, when the US raised the subject, that "regime change" was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.)

Any assessment of threat has to include both capabilities and intent. Iraq's capabilities in WMD were moot: many of the UN's weapons inspectors (who, contrary to popular depiction, were impressive and professional) would tell me that they believed Iraq had no significant materiel. With the exception of some unaccounted-for Scud missiles, there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW, BW or nuclear material.

(via via)

December 14, 2006

The U.S. Government & Salvador Allende: Aren't They Actually The Same Thing?

Here's another worthwhile bit from the post-mortem love bath the Washington Post gave Pinochet:

For some he was the epitome of an evil dictator. That was partly because he helped to overthrow, with U.S. support, an elected president considered saintly by the international left: socialist Salvador Allende, whose responsibility for creating the conditions for the 1973 coup is usually overlooked.

"Created the conditions" for the coup? Huh...where have I heard that exact same language before? Oh, yeah:

Declassified transcript of Nixon-Kissinger phone call
September 16, 1973

KISSINGER: The Chilean thing is getting consolidated and of course the newspapers are bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown.
NIXON: Isn't that something. Isn't that something.
KISSINGER: I mean instead of celebrating – in the Eisenhower period we would be heroes.
NIXON: Well we didn't – as you know – our hand doesn't show on this one though.
KISSINGER: We didn't do it. I mean we helped them. ______ created the conditions as great as possible.
NIXON: That is right.

So according to the Washington Post, Allende was responsible for "creating the conditions" for the coup. According to Kissinger, it was the U.S. government which "created the conditions." But these seemingly contradictory statements can be reconciled when you realize the U.S. government and Salvador Allende are in fact the same thing.

We Need More Comparisons Of Iraqis To American Indians

This, by James Woolsey in the recent Vanity Fair article about the chastened neocons, is a good start:

[Woolsey draws a] historical parallel, to the U.S. campaigns against Native Americans in the 19th century, to make another point: that the absence of Iraqi auxiliaries deprived coalition soldiers of invaluable local intelligence. "Without the trained Iraqis, it was like the Seventh Cavalry going into the heart of Apache country in Arizona in the 1870s with no scouts. No Apache scouts. I mean, hello?"

But we need much more where this came from. The lack of this is, I think, what has caused so much ill-will towards us among Iraqis. Only when they hear the United States constantly comparing them to Native Americans will they understand how truly glorious the future we have planned for them is.

December 13, 2006

Post: "Hey, This 'Pour Encourager Les Autres' Thing Really Works!"

I think this is my favorite part of yesterday's Washington Post misty-eyed tribute to Pinochet:

To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse.

Leaving aside the nineteen layers of bullshit about the Chilean economy, I enjoy the implication the policies haven't been reversed because they're just so damned popular. I mean, what other reason could there possibly be? Surely Chilean history shows that progressive politicians have nothing whatsoever to fear except losing an election.

December 12, 2006

New Achievements In Cat Vomit Journalism

I believe I have discovered how the Washington Post creates its op-eds. Here it is:

1. Donald Graham's cat is prone to hairballs, and throws up every morning.
2. They take this daily supply of cat vomit, smear it onto the page, and then publish it.

This morning the cat vomit formed patterns spelling out these words by "Michael" "Kinsley":

Comes now former president Jimmy Carter with a new best-selling book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." It's not clear what he means by using the loaded word "apartheid"...

I mean, what's the parallel?...

[illegible cat vomit]

...the most tragic difference: Apartheid ended peacefully. This is largely thanks to Nelson Mandela, who turned out to be miraculously forgiving. If Israel is white South Africa and the Palestinians are supposed to be the blacks, where is their Mandela?

I think the cat vomit's logic is very powerful here: for apartheid to be apartheid, there has to be a Mandela. Otherwise, no apartheid. Thus, if Nelson Mandela had died in an accident at two years old and therefore never appeared on the South African political scene, then the situation in South Africa wouldn't have been apartheid.

In such a situation, P.W. Botha would have made a speech making this simple point: "It's not clear what Carter means by using the loaded term 'apartheid'...If white South Africa is white South Africa and black South Africa is supposed to be the blacks, where is their Mandela?"

Well played, cat's vomit!

NEXT UP: How the Post creates in house editorials using moose snot.

December 11, 2006

Cheating The Hangman

Dennis P. examines the near-simultaneous passing of Augusto Pinochet and Jeane Kirkpatrick, here.

I'd forgotten this Jeane Kirkpatrick quote about the Maryknoll nuns raped and murdered by the Salvadoran National Guard in 1980:

"The nuns were not just nuns, they were political activists, and we should be very clear about that."

EVEN BETTER: During the eighties the U.S. encouraged Chilean arms manufacturers to help arm Saddam Hussein. This effort was spearheaded by a man now forgotten by history named Robert Gates.

Clinton Anxious To Assure World He Is Still Scum-Sucking Pig

Here's an excerpt from a speech Bill Clinton gave a few months ago to the United Jewish Communities' Lion of Judah conference in Washington (downloadable here):

...when Mr. Arafat rejected my last peace proposal late in 2000 and the Intifada had begun, it changed a feeling – the attitude that peace was possible because there didn’t seem to be any partner for peace anymore. It affected the psychology of the Israeli people, and I think of Jewish people of the world over, and people devoted to the security of Israel the world over. The big question seemed to shift from what the details of a peace plan ought to be to how can we insure Israel’s security in what may be a permanently hostile environment.

Elsewhere in the speech, Clinton also refers to "the rejection of my peace proposal by Yasser Arafat" and "the seminal events of Arafat’s rejection." this true? Did Arafat reject Clinton's peace proposal, generally known as the "Clinton parameters," late in 2000? Let's ask the the guy who said this on January 8, 2001:

Both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat have now accepted these parameters as the basis for further efforts. Both have expressed some reservations.

I'd really like to introduce Clinton to that dude. It shouldn't be too hard to get them in the same place at the same time.

It's hard to overstate how loathsome Clinton's behavior is here. The story told about the Camp David summit in 2000 and the negotiations afterward—that Arafat inexplicably turned down various proposals—did indeed "affect the psychology of the Israeli people, and of Jewish people of the world over." This in turn contributed to the dynamics that made the intifada so vicious, thus helping to cause the deaths of thousands of innocent Palestinians and Israelis.

The problem, of course, is that THAT STORY WAS FALSE. (Details on request.) And there's no one more responsible for spreading these lies than Clinton.

The rest of the speech is Clinton's attempt to make the case Palestinians actually are interested in peace. In other words, he's trying to mitigate the horrendous damage he's done over the past six years with the bullshit fable he's created, while simultaneously bemoaning the fable's effects and telling it all over again.

BONUS CLINTON SCUMMINESS: From The Truth About Camp David by Clayton Swisher:

Saeb Erekat told me what Clinton had told him when the former president was visiting the region in the spring of 2001 and had dinner with Erekat, who asked Clinton why he falsely told the world that Arafat had rejected his parameters. "I was with [Arafat] when he told you 'I accept your parameters with the following reservations and qualifications'!" Erekat exclaimed to Clinton, who sheepishly replied, "I was told if I didn't say this there would not be a peace camp in Israel—that Barak would be over."

Clinton then added, still sheepishly, "I hope you don't mind if I keep on saying this. I just don't think my lies have killed enough people yet."

December 10, 2006

What Really Interests George Bush

So this is how interested Bush was in the Iraq Study Group report:

[Lawrence] Eagleburger said...that when the group met with Bush, "I don't recall, seriously, that he asked any questions."

The Iraq Study Group people shouldn't take it personally, however. Bush apparently has never had any interest in Iraq. Here's a passage from Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:

On the afternoon of July 28 [2003], Tenet told [David] Kay he should sit in on the CIA's daily morning briefing of the president the next day...

In the room with Bush were Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Tenet, Rice, Card and other aides...[Kay] couldn't avoid the bottom line: He had found nothing. As for the trailers, he said they were probably not bioweapons labs, as the CIA had claimed.

Kay discerned no disappointment coming from Bush...the president seemed disengaged. "I'm not sure I've spoken to anyone at that level who seemed less inquisitive," Kay recalled. "He was interested but not posing any pressing questions." Bush didn't ask, Are you sure? He didn't ask about the prospects of finding actual weapons. Or whether WMD had been hidden or spirited away.

It's tempting to joke that Bush acts like this because there are no stupid questions, and thus he feels he shouldn't ask any. But to be fair, there's at least one subject that Bush really IS curious about:

Der Spiegel: With all your access to high-level sources, have you come across anyone who still thinks it is a good idea for the US to torture people?

Suskind: No. Most of the folks involved say that we made mistakes at the start. The president wants to keep all options open because he never wants his hands tied in any fashion...

Der Spiegel: So the average interrogator at a Black Site understands more about the mistakes made than the president?

Suskind: The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators.


"He was interested in a very specific, granular way all the time. He was constantly asking folks inside of CIA, 'What's happening with interrogations? Are these techniques working? Can we trust what we get?' The president ... is involved -- some people say too involved -- in the granular day-to-day grit of this war on terror."

Not only is the president of the United States an eight year-old, he's an unpleasant eight year-old, the kind you'd want the guidance counselors to keep an eye on.

I Love People

Politics almost always shows humans at their worst. So if you pay lots of attention to it, it's easy to forget what humans can do at their best and start thinking we're nothing but disgusting split-brained apes with big thumbs.

That's really too bad, because at our best we do produce a lot of worthwhile, uh, stuff. For instance: this peculiar, profane video performed by Mike O'Connell with Dr. Ken. I think what really makes it is Dr. Ken's performance and silver unitard.

December 09, 2006

It's Hard To Stop Lying When Your Name Is "Lyin' Colin Powell"

So Colin Powell was in Dubai last week for something called the Leaders in Dubai Business Forum:

[Powell] said that if the US had known at the time there were no weapons of mass destruction 'it would have been a whole different equation' in Iraq.

'If Saddam Hussein had come forward with a full and complete declaration and he had not thrown the UN inspectors out, a war could have been avoided.'

You'd think eight years after the UNSCOM inspectors were withdrawn with the encouragement of the US, this particular lie might be showing signs of age. You also might think Colin Powell would occasionally slip up and tell the truth. But no, the Powell Lie Train keeps rolling along same as always.

December 08, 2006

The International Army Of Killer Billionaires

Be sure not to miss the stupidest thing ever written, produced by the Weekly Standard on April 21, 2003 (via Mahablog). It's their 1000-word sneer about all the soft-brained tree-hugging peacenik Saddam-lovers who'd claimed this wasn't going to be The Most Fun War Ever. For instance, it quotes what it calls "the world community of jackasses" saying preposterous things like this:

"[I]f President Bush thinks our invasion and occupation will go smoothly because Iraqis will welcome us, then [he] is deluding himself"—Nicholas D. Kristof, October 4, 2002

Wow, how humiliating for Kristof.

But while it's always tempting to sneer back at the 23 year-old Dartmouth Review alumni who produced this rancid offalicious brawn, I'm getting tired of that. The problem isn't the individual pinheads who wrote this. As my friend Rob says, they grow these people in vats. Maybe you could shame these particular ninnies into foreswearing all forms of communication with others until the day they die. But who cares? Rupert Murdoch would just go in the back and pluck a few freshly-hatched cretins.

In other words, the real problem is the International Army Of Killer Billionaires who own our media. When their lackeys write things like this, it isn't some kind of "mistake." They'll never be fired for being nimrods, because being nimrods is the job for which the Killer Billionaires hired them.

December 07, 2006

Happy 78th Birthday, Weirdo

Today is the birthday of one of the greatest and most wonderful weirdos in human history.

(Thanks to Dennis for the reminder.)

We May Be Literally Too Stupid To Live

According to this story, there's been some minor bedwetting in Washington because the Iraq Study Group mentions the "right of return" in its section about Israel/Palestine, advocating:

"Sustainable negotiations leading to a final peace settlement along the lines of President Bush's two-state solution, which would address the key final status issues of borders, settlements, Jerusalem, the right of return and the end of conflict."

According to the article, the right of return is some way-out crazy scheme the Palestinians dreamed up on their own. Here are some representative quotes:

"This report is worrisome for Israel particularly because, for the first time, it mentions the question of the 'right of return' for the Palestinian refugees of 1948," said a senior Israeli official, who was reacting to the US policy report on condition he not be identified.

A Middle East analyst who was involved in the Iraq Study Group discussions but did not participate in drafting the report expressed surprise when the reference was pointed out to him by a reporter...

"'Right of return' is not in Oslo I or Oslo II, it's not in the Bush Rose Garden speech, it's not even in UN 181, the original partition resolution -- it's part of the Palestinian discourse," said the US analyst.

You'd expect this from an Israeli official, of course. You'd also expect the AP AFP to exhibit this type of blinkered philistine pig ignorance. But I am a little concerned that among this group of ISG "experts" there was one who didn't know:

1. It would be a little weird for 181, the original U.N. resolution calling for the partition of Palestine, to say that refugees who didn't yet exist had the right to return to homes they were already living in.

2. THIS WASN'T JUST MADE UP BY PALESTINIANS. While it's been ignored for the past 60 years and will surely never be implemented except in a symbolic way, the right of return is, of course, derived from UN resolution 194, from after the war.

Not knowing this is like being a "Mathematics analyst" on a fancy government panel who isn't aware two plus two equals four. On the other hand, maybe the "Middle East analyst" was just lying and expected the AP AFP reporter not to know the difference. That would be reassuring.

December 06, 2006

My Prediction

I have a prediction: if the U.S. ever deteriorates to the point where we're rounding up Muslims in extermination camps, Victor Davis Hanson will criticize Americans who oppose this as "appeasers" who "haven't learned the lesson of Munich."

Apparently Kissinger Will Answer Questions In Some Circumstances

In response to this story—about Peter Jennings asking Henry Kissinger "What's it like to be a war criminal?"—DM writes in with this:

I attended one of those fancy schmancy New England prep schools. Every year we'd honor some alumni or other. One year while I was a student it was a guy Strobe Talbot. He was some foriegn service guy with lots of interesting things and accomplishments on his resume (think Joe Wilson before the events of the last few years). For much of his career Henry Kissinger was his boss. And so Kissinger gave his introduction speech at the school's (attendence required) ceremony.

After, and in a departure from normal practice given the guest, Kissinger took audience questions for about an hour.

Before I relate the interesting bit, keep in mind we were between 14and 18 years old. Anyway, one girl stood to ask the following question phrased pretty much this way: "I was barely born during the end of the Nixon administration and so my knowledge of those events is thin and dominated by the Nixon-as-criminal storyline. Since you were a key member of the administration I was wondering if you could explain what you think happened, what is right and wrong about the popular history of the fall of Nixon and your take on the crimes committed. Thank you."

Seems simple not to mention obvious - how often does a normal person much less a high school student get to ask such a big historical figure such a question? And given that this was coming from a high school junior, I was stunned even then by how delicately and politely the question was asked.

Kissinger's response stunned the room into silence (there were very few questions after). He TORE into this poor girl yelling at her, calling her ignorant and stupid, calling her rude and disrespectful and on and on. It lasted for about 10 minutes. Midway through the poor girl ran from the auditorium in tears but Kissinger kept going after and even helped chase her from the room by screaming some version of "That's right, get the hell out of here!!"

I guess he's only willing to answer those questions when it's a little girl.

December 05, 2006

Thanks To Technological Advancement, Pictures Of U.S. Officials Shaking Hands With Murderous Thugs Now Much Higher Quality

One thing always bugged me about that picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam: it was so fuzzy. Fortunately, better technology now allows us to see our leaders shaking hands with blood-spattered maniacs in fine-grained detail. E.g., Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq:

SEE ALSO: Robert Dreyfuss on Bush's Meeting with a Murderer

Handing Off The Weirdness From Generation To Generation

Dennis has a personal reminiscence of Great American Weirdo George W.S. Trow, here.

December 04, 2006

The Delicate Satire Of Tribalism

Jumping off from the freaky Michael Richards explosion, Dennis cogitates on one of the most difficult comedic endeavors: Laughing At Or With Hate?

Racism exists and probably will always exist in some form because humans possess tribalistic minds. The various social divisions we tolerate and help to enforce take on different features, depending on the level of society and the immediate need for distinction. It can be institutional or personal, but we all do it, no matter how "good" our overall intentions. At best, we can water it down over time, as Martin Amis once put it in relation to his father and to his son. His father was more racist than he, and through exposure, experience and education, his son will hopefully be less racist than he, and so on down the generational line. And that's just white people we're talking about here. a comedic context, there is ambiguity, especially if white performers and writers attempt to attack a racist word or set of beliefs. Are white comedians really trying to breakdown and expose hateful attitudes, or are they hiding behind the Rush/Coulter dodge?

The rest.

Great American Weirdo Dead At 63

George W.S. Trow, one of the world's oddest writers and author of Within the Context of No Context (excerpts here), died last week in Italy. A New Yorker obituary explains:

From adolescence on, George William Swift Trow was a cult figure of sorts, whose fame, though for a time considerable, was a lagging indicator of his influence, which made itself felt through his personal and literary impact on other writers and on certain institutions, notably but not exclusively this magazine. He was an essayist, aphorist, journalist, satirist, and analyst (and annalist) of what he once labelled, with characteristically arch capitalization, Mainstream American Cultural Artifacts. As one of the fathers of the school of furiously iconoclastic humor that continues to dominate American comedy, and as a screenwriter and playwright, he was also a creator of such Artifacts.

Victory! Through! Ignorance!

I didn't know this about Robert Gates, but I guess it could have been predicted:

In 1980, Gates became the national intelligence officer for the Soviet Union, although he did not visit the country until nine years later.

...the intelligence estimates prepared under Casey and Gates about the Soviet threat -- now declassified -- were mostly unequivocal, though later they were shown to be largely wrong. Four years before the Soviet Union dissolved, for example, Gates warned in a memo that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was after power and not reform, leaving a "long competition and struggle ahead."

Then there's Kenneth Pollack, now an expert on the "Middle East; Military and security affairs; Persian Gulf" for the Brookings Institution and formerly Director for Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council (at the end of the Clinton administration) and before that an Iran-Iraq Military Analyst for Central Intelligence Agency. Here's his self-description, from his book The Persian Puzzle:

For the last sixteen years, Iran has always been one of the countries I have worked on...

I have never been to Iran...

I also do not speak any Farsi (Persian).

Here we see the mechanism through which power makes you stupid.

On plantations, slaves knew an enormous amount about their owners and overseers. They had to, because their lives depended on it. Meanwhile, their owners knew close to nothing about them, because, who cares what slaves think?

Likewise, less powerful countries simply can't afford to be this stupendously ignorant about the world. But here in the United States, who cares about what you could actually have seen with your own eyes in the Soviet Union? Who cares about the weird jibber-jabber the Iranians speak? It makes no nevermind to us here in the Big House.

December 02, 2006

Bush Administration Still Perplexed By Tendency Of Iraqis To Be Human Beings

There's lots of bitter merriment to be found in the recent Iraq memo by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley that was leaked to the NY Times. But this is my favorite part:

[Prime Minister Maliki] impressed me as a leader who wanted to be strong but was having difficulty figuring out how to do so. Maliki pointed to incidents, such as the use of Iraqi forces in Shia Karbala, to demonstrate his even hand. Perhaps because he is frustrated over his limited ability to command Iraqi forces against terrorists and insurgents, Maliki has been trying to show strength by standing up to the coalition. Hence the public spats with us over benchmarks and the Sadr City roadblocks...

(We want Maliki to exert his authority — and demonstrate to Iraqis that he is a strong leader — by taking action against extremists, not by pushing back on the United States and the Coalition.)

Let's see...the number of times in human history a government official has been popular and viewed as strong by his countrymen when he collaborates with and is propped up by a foreign occupation is...wait, let me get out my calculator here...uh, that number would

Fortunately, it will happen in Iraq for the time ever because "we want" it to.

''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

"I Tried To Change The Subject [Away From Reality]"

I assume this lapse in protocol occurred because Peter Jennings was Canadian:

Four years ago, Barbara Walters, who calls Kissinger "the most loyal friend,"was entertaining Kissinger and his wife at a dinner party for a D.C. politician when ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who died last year, suddenly piped up, "How does it feel to be a war criminal, Henry?"

The subject of Kissinger's past sins was very much in the air at the time. Judges in both France and Spain were seeking Kissinger for questioning as the long-simmering debate over his connection to Chilean general Augusto Pinochet's brutal killing of dissidents in the seventies returned with a vengeance...

The question stunned the dinner guests, who included Time Inc. editor Henry Grunwald, who also died last year, and former ABC chairman Thomas Murphy. Grunwald told Jennings the comment was "unsuitable," but Jennings persisted.

"I tried to change the subject, but it was a very uncomfortable moment," says Walters. "[Kissinger's wife] Nancy reacted very strongly and hurt."

Kissinger said nothing.

What I especially like is the editor of Time, Inc. telling a journalist that asking a powerful figure a question about reality is "unsuitable." Just imagine that said by hundreds of editors to thousands of reporters (as powerful new executives watch approvingly) and you will understand the U.S. media.

BONUS: Here's David Broder getting an award at the National Press Club in 1988:

"I can't for the life of me fathom why any journalists would want to become insiders, when it's so much fun being outsiders—irreverent, inquisitive, incorrigibly independent outsiders, thumbing our nose at authority and going our own way."

Broder then added, "I am Anastasia Romanov."

December 01, 2006

We Must Crush Political Correctness So That We Too Can Have Politicians Like This

At Doug Henwood's LBO-talk, Israeli peace activist Bryan Atinsky points to a recent controversy in the mixed Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli town of Ramle. Here's how Ynet reported it in English:

Arab Knesset members were furious Thursday over the remarks of Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavi, who referred to a request made by Arab residents to change the names of the streets they live in to Arab names.

According to a report published in Yedioth Ahronoth Thursday morning, Lavi said, "If they don’t like it, they should go and live in Jaljulia (an Arab village), which is an Arab name. What happened, what? Why should I change the name, because Jamal wants to change the name? He should change his Allah"...

Lavi's remarks were made after a reporter asked for his response for the fact that Ramle's Arab residents had asked to change the street names from Zechariah, Nehemia and Bialik to Tawfiq Zayyad and Emile Habibi.

Sadly, however, English-speaking readers have been denied the full range of the open and frank discussion of this issue. As Atinsky translates a Hebrew version of the story, the entire quote from Lavi was:

"Why should I change the name, because Jamal wants to change the name? Because Ahmad wants to change the name? He should change his god. They all should go get fucked."

Lavi also asked this piquant question of Jewish Israelis who questioned his statements:

“So, have you too become the bitches of every ass-fucking Arab? What happened? Don’t you have respect for the legacy of your own people?”

I think we can all agree this would be a better country if we could follow Lavi's example and smash the Iron Stalinism of Political Correctness, which has been imposed on America by the terrible might of Wellesley's English department. Then we could see exchanges like this on Meet the Press:

FRIST: Why should we change the name, because Pablo wants to change the name? Because Fernando wants to change the name? He should change his god. They all should go get fucked.

LEVIN: You know, that's really not constructive.

REID: I agree. Furthermore—

FRIST: So, have you too become the bitches of every ass-fucking Mexican? What happened?

Just a few years of this and I think we could get ourselves some of that massive sectarian bloodshed the rest of the world has been hogging for itself.