January 31, 2007

Cable News, Explained

From Eric Alterman's 1992 book, Sound & Fury: The Washington Punditocracy and the Collapse of American Politics:

Perhaps the most intriguing fact about [McLaughlin Group host] John McLaughlin was his own self-awareness. During one hectic afternoon when all of Washingotn seemed to be calling, McLaughlin explained himself. His assistant Kara Swisher asked him, "Why do so many people kowtow to you?" McLaughlin "got down really low on his desk, almost like he was a lizard," recalls Swisher, looked up at her, and replied, "They're all whores. Every one of them, they're all whores. And so am I. But I've got the TV show."

Of course, none of this changes Kenneth Pollack's observation that "We are part of the world's most vibrant democracy."

January 30, 2007


If you can't get enough discussion of that nonfunny Weekend Update material about the way Muslims luv terrorism, we're still blathering about it over at Rasputin Bigbodie. R. Bigbodie is a new blerf authored by alumni and staff of the Record, Yale's humor magazine, but anyone is more than welcome to drop on by.

Meet The New Saddam, Same As The Old Saddam

Now Issandr El Amrani is funny:

Since September 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior administration officials have made trips to the Middle East to rally the support of what Rice has described as the “moderate mainstream” Arab states against Iran. This group has now been formalized as the “GCC + 2,” meaning the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman) as well as Egypt and Jordan.

I suggest that this new coalition be renamed to something less technocratic: the Sunni Arab-Dominated Dictatorships Against the Mullahs, or SADDAM. I have to confess I was inspired by historical precedent.

While I enjoy funny things, I'm concerned Arthur and Issandr are trying to muscle in on my turf.

January 29, 2007

"A Pansy Responds"

Arthur Silber is funny:

As the bloody nightmare that is Iraq continues to worsen with every second that passes, and as it becomes even clearer that we have no idea what we're doing, that all our military strategies are futile, and that "victory" in any meaningful sense was always impossible and shall forever remain so (all of which was entirely clear before this criminal war began), I fear for Rush Limbaugh's health...

I only listened to a few segments of Limbaugh's program this morning; I was busy with other tasks. But more than an hour after his initial salvos directed at what Limbaugh views as Bell's traitorous, lefty thoughts, he was still at it. While making some additional comments about the LA Times article and the threat this kind of thinking represents to our nation's very survival, Limbaugh said, addressing the lefties who think as Bell does (this is almost word-for-word, I quickly made a note of it):

You have this stupid pansy little idea in your head that war is bad.

As a gay man who opposes both the war and occupation of Iraq and who generally rejects the foreign policy of the United States in its totality, I am ideally situated to respond.

That response is here.

In Fairness

According to Frank Rich, Saturday Night Live recently featured Hillary Clinton saying this when being asked about her 2002 vote on Iraq:

CLINTON: Knowing what we know now, that you could vote against the war and still be elected president, I would never have pretended to support it.

Now, that's actually funny. I wonder how it got on the air.

January 27, 2007

The Competition For Ugliest, Stupidest Material On SNL Is Ferocious

Yesterday I claimed to have identified the laziest, ugliest, stupidest, least funny material ever to appear on Saturday Night Live. However, I may have been too hasty.

Sam Husseini points out that on February 8, 2003—right after Colin Powell's presentation at the UN—SNL featured this cold opening:

Colin Powell: Distinguished colleagues, you have now seen the evidence. After twelve long years, the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein still refuses to honor its obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, and it is clear that, absent the threat of force, it has no intention of ever doing so. The time for delay has passed; it's time to act. Thank you.

Translator's Voice for German Delegate: Thank you, Secretary Powell, for a very compelling presentation. After hearing it, no member of this council can doubt the gravity of the situation in Iraq. Clearly, the most important thing right now is to do nothing. And the sooner, the better. Does the delegate from France wish to comment?

Translator's Voice for French Delegate: I, too, commend Secretary Powell on his program here today. Very enjoyable. And those weapons of mass destruction - so unnecessary. But, to conclude our business here today, my government would like to propose the following: That we adjourn this special session of the security council, and all go to lunch at an extremely expensive restaurant, with the U.N. picking up the tab.

The skit's not just that, of course. It also features the Chinese, Icelandic, Chilean, Russian, and Cameroon delegates saying exactly the same thing.

In any case, the show certainly did itself proud. Obviously the most fertile comedic territory regarding Powell's UN appearance was the way those cowardly foreigners all eat at expensive restaurants. Yes sirree, there was nothing else funny about it. Anyone who might think otherwise just doesn't have the talent to get those big checks from G.E.

BUT: To be fair, that wasn't the only political material on the 2/8/03 show. They also did a sketch about the way the dirty anti-war hippies were so hilariously disorganized.

January 26, 2007

Also Fueling A Backlash Against SNL? Not Being Funny

What's the laziest, ugliest, stupidest and least funny material produced by SNL in its 30 years of existence?



Also Bleh

I would write more about this, but I might break my keyboard with my angry typing.

Dominion Over The World; Also, Be A Good Person

If you haven't yet, I hereby assign you to read Arthur Silber's on-going series "Dominion Over the World":

Part I: "Iraq is the Democrats' War, Too"
Part II: "Why the Stories We Tell Matter So Much"
Part III: "The Open Door to Worldwide Hegemony"
Part IV: "A 'Splendid People' Set Out for Empire"
Part V: "A Global Empire of Bases"

And if you have it to spare, God will bless you if you slip Arthur a few bucks. There are few worthier causes in the blurfosphere.

January 25, 2007

"Let Our Children Live"

Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the daughter of Mattityahu Peled, a famous Israeli general. In 1997 her daughter Smadar was murdered in a Jerusalem suicide bombing. Peled-Elhanan later gave one of the most important speeches ever delivered about politics:

When my little girl was killed, a reporter asked me how I was willing to accept condolences from the "other side." I replied without hesitation that I refused it: When representatives of Netanyahu's government came to offer their condolences I took my leave and would not sit with them. For me, the other side, the enemy, is not the Palestinian people. For me the struggle is not between Palestinians and Israelis, nor between Jews and Arabs. The fight is between those who seek peace and those who seek war. My people are those who seek peace. My sisters are the bereaved mothers, Israeli and Palestinian, who live in Israel and in Gaza and in the refugee camps. My brothers are the fathers who try to defend their children from the cruel occupation, and are, as I was, unsuccessful in doing so. Although we were born into a different history and speak different tongues there is more that unites us than that which divides us.

Last week the Israeli army murdered 10 year-old Abir Aramin, daughter of a leader of the Israeli/Palestinian organization Combatants for Peace. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a friend of their family, and writes:

Abir Aramin has joined in the underground kingdom of dead children the thousands of other children killed in this country and the territories it occupies. She will be welcomed by my own little girl, Smadar...If her killer had survived, I know he would have been sent to prison for his crime and his house would have been demolished on the rest of his family.

In the meantime, I sit with her mother Salwa and try to say, "We are all victims of occupation." As I say it, I know that her hell is more terrible than mine. My daughter's murderer had the decency to kill himself when he murdered Smadar. The soldier who killed Abir is probably drinking beer, playing backgammon with his mates and going to discotheques at night. Abir is in a grave...Her small bones could not bear the burden of life, death, vengeance and oppression that every Arab child here grows up with.

The rest of the piece, called "Let Our Children Live," is here.

January 24, 2007

Remembering Howard Hunt Not Remembering

So Howard Hunt is dead. To the Washington Post's credit, they mention his role in the CIA's 1954 overthrow of the Guatemalan government. They do not, however, mention Hunt's denial that the ensuing genocide ever occurred.

January 23, 2007

The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis

Not only did I have no idea this 90 minute documentary had become available again, I actually didn't know Bill Moyers had done it in the first place back in 1987. It covers a huge swath of Forbidden History, and is REALLY worth watching—either below or full size here.

Many thanks to the King of Zembla for pointing this out. While he does of course rule as an autocrat in his own domain, he's surprisingly encouraging about open government elsewhere.

January 22, 2007

Jimmy Carter Sux Eggs

I haven't read Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, but judging by his TV appearances there's a real problem with his analysis—it's not radical enough. And because the radical analysis is in fact the accurate analysis, the non-radical story Carter tells has some gaping holes in it. For instance, here he is on Hardball back in November:

PRESIDENT CARTER: So the persecution of the Palestinians now in the occupied territories under the occupation forces is one of the worst examples of human rights deprivation that I know. And I think it's --

MR. SHUSTER: Even worse, though, than a place like Rwanda?...

PRESIDENT CARTER: I'm not going back into ancient history about Rwanda. Right now the persecution of the Palestinians is one of the worst examples of human rights abuse I know, because the Palestinians --

MR. SHUSTER: You're talking about right now. You're not talking about, say...

PRESIDENT CARTER: You can talk about Rwanda if you want to. I want to talk about Palestine. What is being done to the Palestinians now is horrendous in their own territory by the occupying powers, which is Israel.

This actually does seem shifty on his part, and leaves him open to criticism like that of Deborah Lipstadt:

Carter's minimization of the Holocaust is compounded by his recent behavior. On MSNBC in December, he described conditions for Palestinians as "one of the worst examples of human rights deprivation" in the world. When the interviewer asked "Worse than Rwanda?" Carter said that he did not want to discuss the "ancient history" of Rwanda.

To give Carter the benefit of the doubt, let's say that he meant an ongoing crisis. Is the Palestinians' situation equivalent to Darfur, which our own government has branded genocide?

Here's what Carter should have said:

While the situation in Palestine is very bad—far worse than most people in the U.S. know—it's true it doesn't compare to the genocide in Rwanda or Darfur.

But Americans should care about it, for several reasons. First, we're paying for it, unlike Rwanda or Darfur. It wouldn't happen without us. Second, it's the source for enormous hatred toward the U.S. in the Muslim world. This means would-be terrorists can think—as Osama bin Laden did with 9/11—that casting themselves as champions of the Palestinians will make them politically popular if they attack the U.S. So it's really a matter of life and death for Americans.

It's also important to understand why many in the third world, Muslim and not, feel so strongly about Palestine. Here in the U.S. people often ask exactly the question you just did about why it gets so much attention, when on an absolute scale it's not close to something like Darfur. No one here ever gives an honest answer, which leads some well-meaning individuals to believe there really is a double-standard for Israel, perhaps due to anti-Semitism.

So let me give an honest answer, even though it's one many people won't like. It's this—in Europe and the U.S., we look at the past few hundred years and see two great evils: fascism and communism. But for most places on earth, there have been three great evils: fascism, communism, and colonialism. The colonization of the world by Europe and the U.S. killed tens of millions, just as many people as fascism and communism. It was just as cruel. If you ever doubt this, read up on what Belgium did to the Congo, or the British to Tasmania.

And whether it's fair or not, to people in the third world, Israel is a symbol of colonialism. That's not going to change. And they see it just as the victims of fascism would see a fascist state, or the victims of communism would see a communist state.

I realize it's very difficult for Americans to get their minds around all this, but we have to, both for our own sake and the sake of the world.

Of course, Planet Earth would have exploded if a U.S president had said that on live national television. So maybe we should be grateful he didn't. Still, Carter's case will never be convincing as long as he leaves this out.

January 21, 2007

Rudy Giuliani, Mayor Of Cairo

I see Giuliani has been elected mayor of Cairo:

CAIRO, Egypt - The footage is shocking: A man lies screaming on the floor of a police station as officers sodomize him with a wooden pole.

Compounding the shock, it turns out that it was the police who made the film, and that they then transmitted it to the cell phones of the victim's friends in order to humiliate him.

For Egypt, the ordeal of 21-year-old Emad el-Kabir has been something of a Rodney King moment — a sudden, stark glimpse of a reality which authorities routinely deny, but which human rights groups say is part of a pattern of police brutality.

But unlike the tape of the Los Angeles police beating up King in 1991, which was aired almost immediately, the attack on el-Kabir happened a year ago, and has only became public months later after an Egyptian blogger posted it on his site and it reached YouTube.

I'm sure it's difficult to see if you're el-Kabir, but this actually is good news. In order to do terrible things, gvernments must keep them secret—not just from their citizens but even from themselves. And it's harder and harder for them to do this. That's why I've always thought Peter Gabriel's Witness project is one of the most cost-effective ideas anyone's ever come up with to advance human rights.

ALSO: This reminds me of a humor piece Mike and I wrote about the Abner Louima incident in New York. It's not in Our Kampf because we felt that even for us it was a little...grim. It's true we were ridiculing the lies of the people who did it to Louima, but past a certain point it's arguably wrong for those who didn't go through it to find merriment in any aspect of this type of human depravity.

That said, if you want to read it, it's still online.

What You Should Do Today

FIRST, read this excerpt from Revelation X by the Church of the Subgenius:

Humans would rather fight their neighbors than the Conspiracy. That's been the key to Their success. Pinks prefer the familiar in everything, ESPECIALLY enemies. Colonialism never would have succeeded anywhere, had the natives not been so dedicated to fighting amongst themselves that they were happy to sell out to the invaders for a few extra blunderbusses. By the time any two given tribes of Normals stop hating each other and start organizing against the common foe, it's too late and they're BOTH under the jackboot. What's worse, the minute the genocidal conquerors finish looting and leave, the natives go right back to fratricide. This pattern repeats itself in all human systems, from nations down to kindergarten classrooms. You can bet that if any group of people are starving to death, their neighbors will be throwing food away in PLAIN VIEW.

Without divine intervention, we can probably look forward to an inevitable, perpetual apocalypse in which the "Enlightened Fascism" of a New World Order/Northern Hemisphere Conspiracy will be pitted against the more traditional Third World Fascism of a Southern Hemisphere Conspiracy...a planet where the loud hairy tribes of super-industrialized Northern Asia-America-Europe-Russia are a cancerous blight of asphalt and shotguns, paranoiacally guarding their soft, formica empires against the hard and hungry hoards from South America-Africa-India-and the Middle East...forever, and ever, and ever.

SECOND, watch the below "debate" on Al-Jazeera. The guests are (1) Mishan al-Jabouri, owner of Al-Zawraa, the TV network close to Iraq's Sunni insurgency, and (2) Sadeq Al-Musawi, identified as an Iraqi journalist. (Ignore that the translation and editing are the work of the loathsome MEMRI.)

THIRD, despair for humanity.

January 20, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Even Worse Than I Remembered

Bob has some thoughts on Hillary Clinton's announcement she's running for president:

In the wake of 9-11, it wasn't just George W. Bush telling the world "every nation has to be either with us or against us."  It was Hillary, as you can hear for yourself.

In October 2002, during the debate about giving Bush authorization to invade Iraq, it wasn't just Dick Cheney telling the world in that Saddam Hussein had links to Al-Qaeda.  It was Hillary, from the floor of Congress.

And in February 2005, it wasn't just John McCain claiming that democracy was taking root in Iraq, and that the insurgency was in its last throes.  It was Hillary, standing right at John McCain's side.

Yeah.  So President Hillary would be soooooo much better about Iraq.  Clap louder, everybody.  Make it come true.

I'd forgotten at least half of that. And then there are the other things Bob mentions. God, she's awful.

Anyway, be sure to read it all.

January 19, 2007

Why O Why

Brad DeLong likes to ask, "Why o why can't we have a better press corps?" Because I'm less elevated, I often wonder, "Why o why can't someone kick Richard Cohen square in the nuts?"

At least today we have the next best thing, in the form of some particularly fine writing by Chris Floyd:

"They were doing what they thought was the right thing." Has there ever been any faction in power anywhere in the world, in any state, at any time, who didn't think their policies -- however harsh, brutal and stupid -- were "the right thing" to do? And has there ever been any such clique or elite or Establishment that didn't have well-paid, well-wadded, comfortably ensconced courtiers and apologists ever eager to assert the essential goodness of the high and mighty, whatever unfortunate mistakes the great ones might make as they carry out their sacred duties?

Cohen is a brilliant exemplar of this ubiquitous human phenomenon. The entire column radiates a self-satisfied yet self-abasing obeisance to the powerful. All tastefully done, of course: your middlebrow maven is not a base bootlicker like, say, Hugh Hewitt or Michelle Malkin or all the other frothing wretches on down the radical Rightist media food chain. No, your middlebrow -- especially those who actually sup on occasion at the tables of the great (or at least scoff weenies at the same parties) -- never licks the boots of power; he or she just...brushes the lint from power's collar, helps power adjust its tie, fetches coffee when power wants it, picks up power's laundry and brings it by the house on the way home from work.

Don't miss the rest.

AND: Chris also did a recent interview with Antiwar.com radio.

January 18, 2007

Condoleezza Rice Is Only Giving Encouragement To The Terrorists

After so many years of Condoleezza Rice telling us we're loser-defeatists who're only encouraging the terrorists to think they can beat us, I can't help enjoying this:

[S]tatements such as Rice's "give morale boosts for the terrorists and push them toward making an extra effort and making them believe they have defeated the American administration," Maliki said.

Yes, that's about as funny as anything can be that involves hundreds of thousands of corpses.

I Am In Love With Avedon Carol

Is it wrong for me to be in love with a woman whom I've never met, and who lives in another country, and who (I believe) is married? If so, being wrong never felt so right, because Avedon Carol has produced the clearest presentation ever of the anti-war case re Iraq. She did this by ignoring all the pointless side issues people often get ensnared by and going right for the jugular:

Any reasonably sane person over the age of 15 knows that war is dangerous, expensive, and terrible. You know that it kills lots and lots of people, leaves many others damaged, and makes new enemies with new grudges. It is profoundly destabilizing and carries with it the threat of wider, more devastating unrest. So you don't do it unless you absolutely have to.

In the run up to the invasion of Iraq, no one provided a credible justification for the war. It was obvious that we did not have to invade Iraq. This is the overriding fact: Invading a nation without cause (you can call it "preemptive", but that just means you don't have cause) is breathtakingly immoral and equally stupid and you do not do it...

A sane person starts from the position of not making war. The question of why not support starting a war should never even be raised—the reasons not to are always obvious...

Yes, we'd all like to be Superman, able to fly into countries and create freedom and justice for all. If I wake up tomorrow morning and discover I have become God, believe me, everyone will be hearing from me. But no number of weapons, and no army of whatever size, can compensate for the fact that human beings are not God and we can't just make everyone behave the way we want them to.

And there is more.

HOWEVER: Because I am so damn honest, I must point out that if I understand her correctly, Avedon is incorrect when she writes this:

[In 1998] Clinton decided to pull the inspectors out and bomb Iraq instead, destroying the hidden weapons...

[In 2002] Congress passed the Iraq resolution, which permitted Bush to use force if Saddam refused entry of the weapons inspectors into Iraq, or failed to cooperate with them. Fortunately, the use of force became moot, because Saddam did fully cooperate with the weapons inspectors, who found that Clinton had already destroyed Saddam's weapons.

In fact, all of Iraq's banned weapons had been turned over to UNSCOM or secretly destroyed more than a year before Clinton took office in January, 1993. True, Iraq was still hiding something then: voluminous records of their WMD programs, which they hoped to use to restart them later. But these records were surrendered to UNSCOM in 1995 after Hussein Kamel's defection. The 1998 Desert Fox bombing accomplished nothing in terms of Iraqi disarmament; moreover, disarmament probably wasn't even Clinton's goal. (More details here.)

But that is a small side issue, and has no effect on the fact that My Heart Will Go On.

January 17, 2007

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Dennis has some truly interesting and useful thoughts in response to an online dustup between liberal-ish bloggers and more radical types about the lessons of history.

EARLIER: Matt Stoller, then Super Max, then Steve Gilliard and then Max again, and more Max and Matthew Yglesias, plus surely many others I'm missing.

Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From Saddam Hussein

I really could spend the rest of my life doing this.

This is from a 2004 article in Rolling Stone:

Over at Defense, competent intelligence professionals were purged in order to ease the way to war. Douglas Feith, brought in under Rumsfeld to serve as undersecretary of defense for policy, applied an ideological test to his staff: He didn’t want competence; he wanted fervor. Col. Pat Lang, a Middle East expert who served under five presidents, Republican and Democratic, in key posts in military intelligence, recalls being considered for a job at the Pentagon. During the job interview, Feith scanned Lang’s impressive resume. “I see you speak Arabic,” Feith said. When Lang nodded, Feith said, “Too bad,” and dismissed him.

From an Atlantic article about U.S. government Arabists:

"Arabist" is among the most loaded words in America's political lexicon...In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries an Arabist was a student of the language, history, and culture..."It became a pejorative for 'he who intellectually sleeps with Arabs,'" said Richard Murphy, a former assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs.

From the Pentagon's Iraq Perspectives Report, p. 11-12:

Instead of accurate reports of the realities around him, Saddam received increasing amounts of flawed assessments and lies that only served to strengthen his preconceptions. Real knowledge was not a prized commodity in Iraq, and its final worth was established by the dictator himself when, in front of a group of senior officers, he singled out a future Republican Guard Corps commander, known to read widely in military history and theory, and publicly ridiculed him for "thinking like an American."

January 16, 2007

Down The Rabbit Hole

I remember seeing this ad in the classifieds a few years back:

WANTED: Liberal hawk to write regular column for Los Angeles Times. Must be willing to say things that are 100% insane in attempt to redeem discredited political philosophy. Ability to do so without apparent sense of shame a +

As we now know, Jonathan Chait got the job. In his most recent column he disparages the idea that anyone who was right about Iraq should be listened to in the future. His particular whipping boy here is Jonathan Schell:

Being right about something is a fairly novel experience for Schell, and he's obviously enjoying it immensely. But before we genuflect to Schell's wisdom, it's worth recalling that his own record of prognostication is not exactly perfect...

Schell insisted [in 1990] that we could force Iraq to leave Kuwait with sanctions alone, rather than by using military force. But the years that followed that war made it clear just how impotent that tool was. Saddam Hussein endured more than a decade of sanctions rather than give up a weapons of mass destruction program that turned out to be nonexistent. If sanctions weren't enough to make him surrender his imaginary weapons, I think we can safely say they wouldn't have been enough to make him surrender a prized, oil-rich conquest.

Sure, the sanctions motivated Saddam to get rid of his real WMD. But did they force him to get rid of his imaginary WMD? Clearly not!

Likewise, perhaps sanctions and regional negotiations could have forced Saddam out of the real Kuwait in 1991. But what good would sanctions have been in getting Saddam to leave the imaginary Kuwait? No good at all!

Thus, sanctions were "impotent." QED.

BUT: Seriously, though, the people who run the United States are dangerously insane.

January 15, 2007

Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From Saddam Hussein

Here's the transcript from the famous "Wolves" ad run by the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign:

ANNOUNCER: In an increasingly dangerous world... Even after the first terrorist attack on America ... John Kerry and the liberals in Congress voted to slash America's intelligence operations. By 6 billion dollars ... Cuts so deep they would have weakened America's defenses. And weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm.

(On screen: Several wolves eye the camera, as if preparing to attack.)

BUSH: I'm George W. Bush and I approve this message.

You can watch the whole thing here.

Now, this appears on page 91 of the Pentagon's Iraq Perspectives Project, based on captured recordings of Saddam speaking with subordinates:

...as [Saddam] often reminded his close advisers, they lived in a very dangerous global neighborhood where even the perception of weakness drew wolves.

Every Damn Year

It's always worth rereading "A Time to Break Silence" on Martin Luther King Day, since every year since 1967 we've been blowing up somebody:

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality...and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

ALSO RECOMMENDED: Bernard Chazelle's new essay "Bush the Empire Slayer"

January 14, 2007

Right On, Henry Miller

I've been watching Reds, which finally came out on DVD. It's beautifully made and completely absorbing, although for complex reasons it also makes me want to punch Warren Beatty in the face.

In any case, one of the "witnesses," Henry Miller, says one of my favorite things ever right at the beginning:

A guy who's always interested in the condition of the world, and changing it, either has no problems of his own, or refuses to face them...not wanting to face things of his own nature.

In my experience of politically-obsessed people, I'd say THAT'S TRUE 100%.

The Progressive Memory Hole

I don't really see any need to keep these things in history, do you?

1. This is from BBC reporter John Simpson's book about the 1991 Gulf War, called From the House of War. Joseph Wilson, then U.S. chargé d'affaires, was leading the effort to get U.S. journalists to leave Baghdad before the war began:

[Wilson] went round the al-Rasheed the day before [leaving], trying out an electronic gadget that insulted people in a squeaky voice: "Fuck you! You're an asshole!"...He also told those who planned to stay on in Baghdad that they were going to die.

2. Here's Noam Chomsky writing in his 1992 book Deterring Democracy:

Despite its victory, Washington did not quite achieve "the best of all worlds," because no suitable clone of the Beast of Baghdad had yet been found. Needless to say, not everyone shared the Washington-media conception of "the best of all worlds." Well after hostilities ended, the Wall Street Journal broke ranks and offered space to an authentic representative of the Iraqi democratic opposition, Ahmad Chalabi. He described the outcome as "the worst of all possible worlds" for the Iraqi people, whose tragedy is "awesome."

And again in his book Year 501:

The war policy was also strongly opposed by the population in the region. The Iraqi democratic opposition, always rebuffed by Washington (hence the press), opposed US policy throughout: the pre-August 1990 support for the Iraqi dictator, the refusal to explore peaceful means, and finally the tacit support for Saddam Hussein as he crushed the Shi'ite and Kurdish rebellions. One leading spokesman, banker Ahmad Chalabi, who described the outcome of the war as "the worst of all possible worlds" for the Iraqi people, attributed the US stand to its traditional policy of "supporting dictatorships to maintain stability."

We'll just, ah, air-brush this right out of there.

January 13, 2007

I Guess We Should Be Grateful For The Baby Steps

Glenn Greenwald has the text of an NPR commentary by National Review writer Rod Dreher, who's having a crisis of conscience over Iraq:

I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

Uh, no. It wasn't "the hippies" who tried to tell Rod Dreher that. It was EVERYTHING THAT'S EVER HAPPENED IN ALL RECORDED HUMAN HISTORY. But I can see how it's easy to mix that up with "the hippies."

January 12, 2007

1984: Nightmarish Dystopian Fiction, Or Useful Handbook For Governance?

Chris Floyd spotted this in an AP story. It turns out that, according to a prominent Republican congressman, we're now playing the role of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan:

"Just as the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan emboldened and enlarged al-Qaida, just as our withdrawal from Somalia encouraged them to go find more targets, our defeat in Iraq would expand the numbers of terrorists and embolden them to seek new strategic targets," said Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, a Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Sweet! I for one am quite proud of our eternal alliance with the community-minded secularists of Eurasia.

Anyway, I assume Rep. Thornberry's next step will be to refer to us as "an Evil Empire."

(And Chris has more to say, here.)

Will We Create A Pretext For War With Iran?

Steve Clemons writes:

Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

It's worth keeping several things in mind when you read this. First, this is exactly how the ground was laid for the attack on Iraq—beginning more than a year before the full-scale invasion. Second, the planning for Iraq included a (never-instituted) scheme to create a pretext for war if Saddam didn't supply a reason on his own.

This is from Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn:

DB/Anabasis was the code name for an extensive covert operations plan that had been drawn up by the CIA to destabilize and ultimately topple the regime of Saddam Hussein...

Over an intense forty-five day period beginning in late 2001, [two CIA operatives] cooked up an audacious plan, unlike anything Langley had seen in years...

Anabasis was no-holds-barred covert action. It called for installing a small army of paramilitary CIA officers on the ground inside Iraq; for elaborate schemes to penetrate Saddam's regime; recruiting disgruntled military officers with buckets of cash; for feeing the regime disformation...for disrupting the regime's finances...for sabotage that included blowing up railroad lines...It also envisioned staging a phony incident that could be used to start a war. A small group of Iraqi exiles would be flown into Iraq by helicopter to seize an isolated military base near the Saudi border. They then would take to the airwaves and announce a coup was under way. If Saddam responded by flying troops south, his aircraft would be shot down by U.S. fighter planes patrolling the no-fly zones established by UN edict after the first Persian Gulf War. A clash of this sort could be used to initiate a full-scale war.

On February 16, 2002, President Bush signed covert findings authorizing the various elements of Anabasis. The leaders of the congressional intelligence committees—including Porter Goss, a Republican, and Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat—were briefed.

"The idea was to create an incident in which Saddam lashes out" [said CIA operative John McGuire]. If all went as planned, "you'd have a premise for war: we've been invited in."

Remember furthermore that Bush contemplated more schemes to create a pretext for war at an early 2003 summit with Blair:

During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times....

Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire...

"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

Thus, it's by no means crazy to suspect something very similar may be going on right now in regard to Iran and/or Syria. Gosh, it sure would be nice if some reporters or members of Congress could look into this.

January 11, 2007

The Incredibly Broad and Invigorating Debate Found On American TV

David Swanson tells me he was just at an event featuring George McGovern. And in a conversation afterwards with several people, McGovern said that he's been trying to get on television to talk about Iraq. But producers and hosts are telling him that they "already have too many anti-war people on."

How many is "too many"? I'm guessing that number may be as high as one.

BONUS: Here's Kenneth Pollack writing in the introduction to his 2002 book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq:

We are part of the world's most vibrant democracy...it is critical that we engage in a comprehensive and informed public debate...

With this kind of insight into politics, it's no wonder Pollack turned out to be so incredibly prescient about Iraq.

Guests Of George Bush


US forces have stormed an Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil and seized six members of staff.

The troops raided the building at about 0300 (0001GMT), taking away computers and papers, according to Kurdish media and senior local officials.

In conjunction with Bush's speech last night, we'll probably get criticism for this from the usual suspects. But tell me—what are we supposed to do when we have intelligence Iran is using their diplomatic personnel to attack us?

In any case, here are some exclusive photos of what the Iranians, with their typical hysterical rhetoric, are calling "hostages"—but who should more properly be referred to as "Guests of George Bush."

January 10, 2007

Bob Harris: Funny

Bob is always funny, but he is particularly funny in his list of critical questions about the coming iPhone.

Restricted View

Please say hello to my friend Mollie's new blurf Restricted View. It covers culture generally, but with the main focus on New York theater—all with the standard panache, knowledge and teh funny found in all of Mollie's writing. You might want to start with "So, why 'Restricted View'?"

Frederick Kagan Grew Up In An Atmosphere Of Great Intellectual Rigor

Frederick Kagan, the author of Bush's surge strategy, is the son of Donald Kagan, a prominent historian who used to be the Dean of Yale. In what kind of intellectual milieu did Frederick Kagan grow up? For a hint, let's check out this article about his father:

So it has been since [Donald Kagan] came to Yale 33 years ago from Cornell. He had remained a liberal there, once even speaking for the left in a debate with William F. Buckley Jr. '50 over the welfare state. But what he saw as the capitulation of the Cornell administration to black student activists during their takeover of university buildings in 1969 was, Kagan recalls, "a disillusioning experience. Watching administrators demonstrate all the courage of Neville Chamberlain had a great impact on me, and I became much more conservative."

There's a lot you could say about this, but the main one is: in this analogy, the black student activists are playing the role of, uh, Adolf Hitler?


Well, with a father with this kind of rigorous, clear-sighted ability to apply the lessons of history to the present day, it's no wonder Frederick Kagan has gone so far.

ALSO: Let's not forget that everyone is Hitler.

January 09, 2007

Thank You, Shailagh Murray

Here's Washington Post reporter Shailagh Murray yesterday (via Atrios):

WASHINGTON, D.C.: I am somewhat surprised at the debate about the surge. In October, The Post's own polling showed that 19% of voters favored an immediate withdrawal. Yesterday, CNN reported that more than 50% want an immediate or by year's end withdrawal. Still, the politicians debate more or less, not sooner or later. Why won't the politicians follow the polls when it comes to leaving Iraq?

SHAILAGH MURRAY: Would you want a department store manager or orthodontist running the Pentagon? I don't think so. The reason that many politicians are squeamish about hard and fast goals of any kind in Iraq is that there is no simple response or solution -- it would have emerged by now. A withdrawal by year's end carries enormous, very serious implications.

LAKE LUZERNE, N.Y.: Why do we care so much more about Iraq, where our elected representatives have little influence, compared with affordable health care?

SHAILAGH MURRAY: Because the security of the most unstable part of the world is at stake.

Here's my admiring email to Shailagh:


Thanks very much for your cogent answer to the questioner in your Washington Post chat yesterday who asked why politicians are ignoring the clear desires of Americans vis-a-vis Iraq. For far too long American "citizens" have felt they're entitled to some sort of say over what the U.S. government does. (I've noticed they get especially uppity when it affects whether their children live or die.) Only with the efforts of leaders like yourself can we stamp out this pernicious nonsense.

I also appreciate that, when someone else asked why the U.S. government cares "so much more about Iraq" than affordable health care for Americans, your response avoided the actual answer, "oil." It's imperative that we keep this reality from the eyes of the department store managers and orthodontists who simply don't have the brainpower to comprehend it.

best regards,
Jonathan Schwarz

Who Is This George Washington, And How Can We Prevent Him From Gaining Any Influence Over Our Great Nation?

Here's a Brigadier General in the Israeli reserves named Oded Tira writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest newspaper (via):

President Bush lacks the political power to attack Iran. As an American strike in Iran is essential for our existence, we must help him pave the way by lobbying the Democratic Party (which is conducting itself foolishly) and US newspaper editors. We need to do this in order to turn the Iranian issue to a bipartisan one and unrelated to the Iraq failure.

We must turn to Hillary Clinton and other potential presidential candidates in the Democratic Party so that they publicly support immediate action by Bush against Iran.

Now, here's some dumbass named George Washington who obviously understands nothing about politics:

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it...

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated...The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy...

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification...

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot...

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.

These sorts of sentiments could theoretically be a terrible danger to our country, but fortunately no one in America can read.

January 08, 2007

“…Right Above Us Was A Large Passenger Jet”

Dennis Perrin has a nifty story about being dive-bombed by Air Force One.

ALSO: Dems & Doze

Blair Government Anxious To Demonstrate Itself To Be Even More Loathsome Than Bush Administration

So remember when Tony Blair released the UK dossier on Iraq's terrifying WMD in September, 2002?

And Blair wrote in the forward that Iraq could use its WMD "within 45 minutes of an order to use them"?

And this was repeated in the dossier four times?

And three of England's biggest papers—the Sun, the Evening Standard and the Daily Express—all featured the 45 minute claim on their front page? And that the Sun's headline was "Brits 45 Mins from Doom"?

And how in May, 2003 the BBC's Andrew Gilligan reported the dossier had been "sexed up" with the 45 minute claim? And how this led to a giant government investigation, which claimed Gilligan was wrong to say the Blair & co. "probably knew that the 45 minutes claim was wrong or questionable"? And how Gilligan was fired? And how David Kelly, one of the UK WMD specialists, ended up killing himself under the strain of the investigation?

Uh...never mind:

[UK Foreign Secretary] Margaret Beckett has admitted the Government realised before the Iraq war that its 45-minute claim about Saddam Hussein's weapons may have been wrong.

The Foreign Secretary said the claim had not been repeated in Commons debates before the 2003 invasion of Iraq because it was already deemed “irrelevant” and people were wondering if it was really true...

Today Mrs Beckett said: “That was a statement that was made once and it was thought to be of such little relevance — and perhaps people began quickly to say, I'm not sure about that' — that it was never used once in all the debates in the House of Commons.”

Her words imply Mr Blair and ministers quietly dropped the allegation yet failed to withdraw it or correct the record. After speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today show Mrs Beckett was challenged by presenter John Humphrys on why the claim had not been corrected in public.

She retorted: “Oh, come on — nobody thought it was relevant. Nobody thought it was a big sweeping statement.”


Independent World TV Ramping Up

AlanF at Daily Kos has posted an excellent five-part interview with Paul Jay, founder of Independent World TV. Part I is here, followed by Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

My take on IWT is that if something like this—a TV network funded not by advertisers or governments, but its viewers—doesn't get off the ground soon, we're all doomed. We may be doomed anyway, be we're DEFINITELY doomed without it.

So go check out IWT, and check out the interviews, and if you're so moved, get involved.

January 07, 2007

I Wish

1. I wish Americans were familiar with something in history beyond Nazi Germany. Denial occurs in every country that's ever done awful things; i.e., all of them. But I didn't think my point about Michelle Malkin would be clear without comparing her specifically to Holocaust deniers.

A better analogy—because the underlying events are more similar in scale to Iraq—would have been with deniers of France's grim history with Algeria and Algerians.

For instance, did you know that in 1961 Paris police carried out a huge massacre of peaceful Algerian demonstrators right in the middle of the city? Probably not, because this somehow dropped out of standard French history for about forty years. French Michelle Malkins still resist any attention given to it.

(And because there must always be SOME connections to Nazis, the head of the Paris police at the time was Maurice Papon...who decades later was found to have been a prominent Vichy collaborator during World War II.)

2. I wish the phenomenon of right-wing attacks on the media were better understood by progressives. The shrieking squad of attack monkeys will go after literally every report that undermines their imaginary world. One time out of a thousand, they'll be "right"—i.e., there will have been significant mistakes or even fabrication by media outlets.

Then the outlet will issue a cowed retraction, and the attack monkeys will scream this proves the media possesses a pernicious liberal bias. At that point, progressives should be saying it actually proves the exact opposite. The media commit one zillion mistakes and omissions per day, most of which cut against progressive interests. But only the small minority of mistakes which tread on right-wing toes are corrected. The rest continue on their merry way, eventually coagulating into the amusing fairy tale we call "history."

3. I wish lots of people would read the article I mentioned by Holocaust denier Robert Faurrison called "Is 'The Diary of Anne Frank' Genuine?" I guarantee you'll be struck by the strong family resemblance it bears to contemporary wingnuttery.

4. I wish.

January 05, 2007

Uh...Maybe We Shouldn't Be So Smug About That Holocaust Denial Conference In Iran

Most people looked at Iran's Holocaust Denial conference and thought: wow, that place is really screwed up. And rightfully so. How crazy does a country have to be to host that kind of poisonous nonsense?

But...here in America we don't have much grounds to criticize. Because we take lots of people with the exact same moral and intellectual standards as Holocaust deniers, and then—rather than consigning them to complete obscurity, as sane cultures do—WE PUT THEM ON NATIONAL TELEVISION.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Michelle Malkin and the Saga of Jamil Hussein.

Sadly, you're probably familiar with this. If not, here's the gist: last month AP reported that several Sunnis in Baghdad were attacked and set on fire in front of a mosque. One of their sources was a Baghdad policeman named Jamil Hussein. But the Iraqi government claimed (backed up by the U.S.) that they had no one on their payroll by that name. Ah ha! screamed Malkin and her one million bloggy friends. Jamil Hussein does not exist! AP made him up, just to make Americans think Iraq isn't a 100% success! This turned into a huge brouhaha.

Now, predictably enough, it turns out Hussein is real. Whoops.

But why do I compare Malkin to Holocaust deniers? Let me explain:

1. In every historical event involving massive violence and brutality, things get reported that eventually turn out to be wrong. Rumors get started. Witnesses, driven insane by fear, don't remember things clearly. Troubled individuals fabricate tales to inflate their own importance. Sometimes there's even conscious propaganda.

For instance, regarding the Holocaust, several celebrated books have turned out to be hoaxes—notably The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski and Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments. Stories that the Nazis made soap from human fat, once widely-believed, appear to be false.

Now, normal people understand and accept this is the nature of reality: tiny false details around the edges don't mean the Holocaust didn't happen.

2. In every historical event involving massive violence and brutality, there are those who want to deny it occurred. Usually they have transparent political motivations, but there's often a fair amount of personal weirdness—as with Fred "Dr. Death" Leuchter—mixed in too.

These deniers first pretend the massive violence and brutality never happened. Then, when presented with mounds of evidence, they fall back on a second strategy: a blizzard of accusatory questions about every detail. Could you really cremate a human body with three pounds of coal? Why are there records of inbound trains to the camps but not outbound? What proof is there of this supposed soap made from people?

While doing this, they take the pose of disinterested scholars: "All we are asking for," they say, "is an open debate." (One of the most prominent Holocaust denial organizations calls itself "The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust.")

3. 999 times out of 1000, you can provide simple answers to the deniers' questions—though bothering to do this is in itself a victory for them, as they've wasted your time and created the appearance they should be treated as normal, rational human beings.

But the one time out of 1000 is even better for them: due to the nature of reality (see above), they INEVITABLY will eventually stumble on mistakes or even fabrications. And then they will screech triumphantly about this for decades on end.

"Look!" they cry. "The soap legend is false! Surely for anyone honest, this will raise doubts about the entire Holocaust story!"

• • •

Now we return to Michelle Malkin.

In the case of Iraq, she and her squad of winged attack monkeys have followed this script precisely:

1. Normal people understand the situation in Iraq is catastrophic, with massive violence and brutality on all sides. Because humans aren't perfect, not everything reported about it will be 100% accurate. But normal people know this doesn't mean things aren't horrific.

2. Malkin et al first denied things are bad. It's all just a plot by the MSM! When presented with mounds of evidence, they fell back to Strategy #2: the blizzard of questions irrelevant to the larger picture.

"Who is Jamil Hussein?"

"If he's not getting official information, then who is he and why would he know all this stuff about what goes on all over Baghdad?"

What about reports one of the other witnesses to the story is a former member of Saddam's secret police?!

• Etc.

And they cry: all we're asking for is an open debate! Our so-called "agenda" is simply finding out the truth!

3. In this particular case, it turns out Jamil Hussein is real. That's okay, because it served to waste the time of dozens of serious people and forced the world to treat Malkin like a non-lunatic. And as always, More Questions Remain.

But if they'd hit the jackpot with this one—as they eventually will with something—they'd be shrieking about it for the next fifty years: "The Jamil Hussein legend is false! Surely for anyone honest, this will raise doubts about the whole Iraq-is-terrible story!"

• • •

Now, what's happening in Iraq, as dreadful as it is, obviously does not compare to the Holocaust. Nevertheless, it's important to recognize that the motivation and credibility of Malkin & co. are exactly the same as Holocaust deniers. (And indeed, if the U.S. were setting up death camps in Iraq, Malkin would be leading the denial of that.)

But there's an even larger point: every society has hatemongering nutjobs like Malkin. So the mere fact she exists isn't remarkable. However, normal countries leave them to fulminate in their parents' basement. Abnormal countries let them host "conferences" or put them on Hannity & Colmes.

It's easy to see the problem with Iranian culture isn't the individual attendees at the Holocaust Denial conference; rather, it's powerful figures like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who give them legitimacy. But we need to recognize the same thing is true here: what we should be focusing on isn't Malkin herself, but the powerful people who give her a platform.

AND ABOUT ANNE FRANK: The reason I have Malkin talking about Anne Frank is an article by notorious Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson called Is "The Diary of Anne Frank" Genuine? If you read it, you'll find it sounds eerily like the every right-wing blog post you've ever seen.

January 04, 2007

Bring The Village Voice To Its Senses

The Village Voice has dropped This Modern World from its print edition, leaving it only to appear on the Voice website. This is dumb. If you're a NYer or in the NY area, Tom Tomorrow has set up a petition here to encourage the Voice to see reason.

Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From Saddam Hussein

I've previously noted here, here, here, here, here, and here the uncanny similarities between the thought processes of the Bush administration and Saddam Hussein.

But I've now run across something I believe blows all those previous comparisons out of the water. This is from the Pentagon's Iraq Perspectives Project, based in part on captured internal recordings of Iraqi government meetings; it's a direct transcript of Saddam speaking to his minions in fall, 1990:

America is a complicated country. Understanding it requires a politician's alertness that is beyond the intelligence community. Actually I forbade the intelligence outfits from deducing from press and political analysis anything about America. I told them that [this] was not their specialty, because these organizations, when they are unable to find hard facts, start deducing from newspapers, which is what I already know. I said I don't want either intelligence organization [IIS or GMID] to give me analysis—that is my specialty...we agree to continue on that basis...which is what I used with the Iranians, some of it out of deduction and some of it through invention and connecting the dots, all without having hard evidence.

Now for bonus hilarity, here's Kenneth Pollack on page 250 of The Threatening Storm:

We may not have a perfect understanding of how Saddam Hussein thinks, but one thing we know for certain is that he does not think like an American president... Assuming that Saddam Hussein will think and act like a Westerner -- indeed, like anyone but himself -- can only lead to disaster.


January 03, 2007

Washington Post's Thomas Ricks Courageously Waits Four Years To Tell Us What He Thought About Iraq's WMD

Here's Thomas Ricks, telling us in a recent Time Magazine roundtable that he never believed Iraq had WMD:

TIME: On the eve of the war, which of you believed that we would go in and find no WMD?...Why did you feel that way, Tom?

RICKS: I thought that at most they would find some old mustard gas buried out in the '91 war that somebody had forgotten about. I remember asking the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs about a week before the invasion, "You don't know where the stuff is, do you?"

Here's Thomas Ricks before the war—not telling us what he believed, but instead writing down exactly what the U.S. government said. Note that Myers was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to whom Ricks addressed his "You don't know where the stuff is, do you?" question:

Myers Depicts War on Two Fronts

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2003

...One major early mission of U.S. forces would be to locate and secure Iraq's suspected arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, [General Richard] Myers said. The U.S. government expects to learn far more about those weapons programs once its forces invade Iraq. At that point, he said, the "giant shell game" played by the Iraqi government to conceal its weapons "would come to a halt," and instead "people would come forward and say, 'Here's where this is, here's where that is.' "


Audacious Mission, Awesome Risks

By Rick Atkinson and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, March 16, 2003

...Overhanging the entire operation is the prospect that Iraq could use chemical or biological weapons...

A major risk is that Iraqi units might try to lie low as the ground attack thrusts northward and then try to attack the vulnerable supply columns that follow...An even darker scenario would involve a key chokepoint, such as a major river crossing, being "smeared" by a persistent chemical weapon...

Special Operators have already been conducting missions inside Iraq...During a war they also are expected to help detect and target enemy formations, and prevent the use of chemical and biological weapons by watching over suspected sites...

A major mission of Special Operations will be leading the hunt for chemical and biological weapons. A major unknown is how Hussein will act if U.S. forces are closing in on him. In order to capture those weapons as quickly as possible, some U.S. troops may move into cities earlier than commanders might prefer


U.S. Airstrikes Open War on Iraq

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 20, 2003

One Army commander put the odds of Iraq possessing chemical weapons at "80 to 90 percent," but there still is no consensus on whether those weapons are likely to be used, much less used effectively...

Now, here's Robert Fisk:

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.

January 02, 2007

Raising The Next Generation Of Little Green Football Readers

Before 9/11 and the rise of right-wing blurfs, I had no comprehension of the level of pulsating, hate-mongering tribalism that lurks in some Americans. It's terrifying, and makes me understand in a visceral way what's happening in Iraq. I sure hope no superpower ever invades us and sets us at each other's throats.

In the light of this, I found the most recent episode of This American Life particularly horrifying. It tells the story of a Muslim family, the wife American, the husband Palestinian. The wife persuaded her husband to move here when they got married because it would be a better place to raise their children-to-be.

But after 9/11, they started being harassed. When their oldest daughter began 4th grade in fall, 2002 she was bullied in a serious way for being Muslim. But what's especially disgusting is the bullying was essentially led BY HER TEACHER.

Human beings: bleh.

I encourage you to listen for yourself to the whole dreadful tale, including the awful ending. (It's episode #322, and called "Shouting Across the Divide." The section I'm talking about starts around 7:30.)

In the future whenever I think of Glenn Beck, Billy Graham's son Franklin, etc., I will be reminded of this. Bullies always work best when encouraged by authority figures, and just as the teacher encouraged her students to act this way, people like Beck and Savage encouraged the teacher. What courageous warriors they are, standing up to the terrible threat posed to our country by friendless, crying nine year-old girls.

January 01, 2007

Moral Clarity

George W. Bush:

Because the war on terror will require resolve and patience, it will also require firm moral purpose. In this way our struggle is similar to the Cold War...moral clarity was essential to our victory...

Here are two different people killed by members of Iraq's Mahdi militia:


Casey Sheehan:

Like all eight soldiers killed that night...[Sheehan] was part of a quick response team that rushed out of Forward Operating Base Eagle to rescue a platoon pinned down by gunfire in Sadr City...The firefight lasted into the early morning of Monday, wounding some 50 soldiers who went out in waves to put down the attack by a militia loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Saddam Hussein:

Saddam: (as the noose is put around his neck) Ya Allah [Oh God].

Witness: Mercy be on those who pray for Mohammed and the household of Muhammed.

All: Mercy be on those who pray for Mohammed and the household of Muhammed—

Executioner and two witnesses: And hasten his [the Madhi's] return, curse his enemy and grant victory to his son, Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada!...

Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwafaq Al-Rubai'i: Longlive Mohammed Baqir Al-Sadr!...

Saddam: I witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is the messenger of Allah. I witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is the—[trap door is opened]

What would be really morally clear is if the men taunting Saddam had personally killed Sheehan too. But that may be too much moral clarity to hope for. In any case, I think we have lots more moral clarity to look forward to in 2007 when the U.S. tries to kill Sadr and all his supporters who participated in Saddam's execution.