March 31, 2007

Not The Right Time: In Their Own Words

Back in April, 2003, the Arab League proposed a ban on WMD in the mideast. Here's Colin Powell speaking in Damascus soon afterward:

SECRETARY POWELL: It has always been a United States goal that conditions could be created in this part of the world where no nation would have a need for any weapons of mass destruction. And, so that remains a long-standing United States goal. I think it is a goal that we have to pursue over time, and I am not supportive at the moment of a particular declaration that might be put forward for political purposes or to highlight the issue, but it remains an overall US objective that we would like to see the region free of weapons of mass destruction.

Oh, how we yearn for a mideast free of WMD! It is our dearest dream! But—darn it—we just can't get into it at the moment.

Now, here's Ehud Olmert talking about the revived Arab League peace plan:

I am very interested to understand how are they going to build a Palestinian state - we want it [the state], and this is not something that we have ever concealed from anyone. We want to know how the legal system will be built, how the economic system will be established, how the government administration will be operating and so on. These are serious questions that can come under the cover of political horizons which are of great consequence for the future, but which do not relate to [the final status] issues that I don't think can be resolved at this time.

Oh, how Israel yearns for a Palestinian state! It is their dearest dream! But—darn it—they just can't discuss any specifics at this time.

But as I said yesterday, you better believe the U.S. and Israel will JUMP on these things the second the time is right, which is the year 3478 A.D.

John Hockenberry On Reporting The War At NBC

Aaron Swartz came across an extremely interesting talk at MIT by John Hockenberry about his experience at NBC in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq. Here's some of what Hockenberry said:

I was very happily employed at NBC. I wasn't like, running around, trying to stuff toilet paper into the plumbing and sabotage the place. [...] But I was interested, because we had a lot of meetings at NBC about, you know, if you're doing a story and the person you're doing the story about offers to buy you a drink, you've gotta say no. If you're doing a story and they send you, after they see the story, some napkin rings -- silver napkin rings that are monogrammed "Thank you, Jon, for the story," you've got not only to return those, you've got to report those to the standards people at NBC because there's a whole ethics and conflict-of-interest thing.

So at one of these ethics meetings -- I called them the return-the-napkin-ring kinds of meetings -- I raised my hand and said "You know, isn't it a problem that the contract that GE has with the Coalition Provisional Authority [...] to rebuild the power generation system in Iraq [is] about the size of the entire budget of NBC? Is that kind of like the napkin rings thing?" And the standards people said "Huh. That's interesting. No one's brought that up before." Now I'm not saying that I'm smart or that I'm advanced or that I'm ahead of my colleagues or maybe I had a lot of free time to think about this or maybe I'm some pinko-proto-lefty like Richard Nixon. I don't know! But the fact that it drew a complete blank among the NBC standards people was interesting to me...

You may or may not be aware that there was a real strong full-court press to sell the media -- and I'm not pro- or against it at this particular point, but there was a process in place where individuals in the media got access to the individuals involved in the planning of the war. There were generals who came in, there were former secretaries of defense, Schwarzkopf spent a whole lot of time giving sort of off-the-record, quiet briefings. And the generals would sort of bring in a certain group of editors and reporters and I went to all of these briefings.

And there's more.

March 30, 2007

The Evasion Of Peace Process

With the current revival of the 2002 Arab League plan for peace with Israel, the U.S. and Israeli governments face a difficult challenge: how can they continue pretending they want peace, while avoiding it at all costs?

I assume the Bush administration will do its best simply to ignore the plan's existence. In this, they'll receive crucial help from media—for instance, the Washington Post, which helpfully put its story about the plan on page A14.

Things are harder for Olmert, because Israel is less powerful than the U.S., and thus sometimes has to acknowledge reality. Their scheme will likely be to talk fulsomely about how the plan is "welcome," and then hope everyone forgets about it. Olmert is already heading down this path, speaking about a "revolutionary change in outlook" by the Arab states (for which he takes credit), which could possibly lead to peace "in the next five years." But of course, it's impossible to be more specific, since—as an Israeli spokeswoman says—"we need to really sit down and study it." Less unsaid is how exactly something five years old could be revolutionary, and why it couldn't have been studied at some point during those five years.

In any case, this has worked well for both countries in the past, as with the 2002 version of this plan (which sank without a trace), and the 2003 Arab proposal for a WMD-free mideast (for which John Negreponte explained the timing was not right). Oh, how the U.S. and Israel yearn for peace! Oh, how they wish there could be a WMD-free mideast! They will surely move heaven and earth to make this happen, just as soon as the time is right! Which is the year 3478 A.D.

March 29, 2007

Jeffrey Goldberg: Large And In Charge

There is not sufficient space...for me to refute some of the arguments made in Slate over the past week against intervention, arguments made, I have noticed, by people with limited experience in the Middle East (Their lack of experience causes them to reach the naive conclusion that an invasion of Iraq will cause America to be loathed in the Middle East, rather than respected)...

The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.

--Jeffrey Goldberg, New Yorker staff writer, October 3, 2002

Don't scoff! There are still six months to go!


March 28, 2007

George: The Intervention

Mike and I have put together a parody of the A&E show Intervention. The person undergoing the intervention is a 60 year-old man named George. You'll have to watch to find out exactly what he's addicted to.

Note that I'm experimenting with little widget buttons, starting with Digg, below. If you use Digg and enjoy this, please make your feelings known.


Dennis Perrin talks with Roseanne Barr on her new radio show.

Arthur Silber writes about how we're "Sleeping Walking to the End of the World"

Chris Floyd appears on Antiwar Radio to discuss the rendition of a U.S. citizen to Ethiopia.

Mike Davis, writing for Tomdispatch, asks "Have the Car-bombers Already Defeated the Surge?: The Weapon No One Can Stop"

Today In Please-For-The-Love-Of-God-Don't-Attack-Iran News

Sen. James Webb held a press conference yesterday at which he said his Iran amendment to the current Iraq spending bill—which declares Bush cannot attack Iran without congressional approval—will be voted on in "the next couple of days."

Now's the time to push the Senate to adopt this. Call your Senators before noon today (Capitol switchboard: 202 224 3121) and ask them to vote for the Webb amendment.

If you can get their staff to tell you how they plan to vote, report back to the organization Just Foreign Policy here. More background from Just Foreign Policy here.

March 27, 2007

Washington Post Continues Proud Tradition Of Never Getting Anything Right

One of the most irritating talking points in the U.S. regarding Israel/Palestine is that peace isn't possible because the Arab world demands that all the millions of Palestinians refugees be able to exercise their right of return to Israel. They'd all come flooding in, and Israel would be destroyed!

This is completely bogus. If you meet anyone who tells you this, you should ignore everything they say in the future. In fact, Palestinians and the Arab world generally have made their position clear for some time. They need Israel to recognize the right of return in principle, but in reality they accept the number of refugees returning to present day Israel would be very small. Here's how The Truth About Camp David by Clayton Swisher puts it:

After Camp David [in summer, 2000] some Palestinians conceded, off the record, that Arafat had been willing to accept a limited right of return, in all likelihood within the symbolic structures of "family reunification" entertained at Stockholm, so long as the Palestinians received recognition of that right and a viable state with Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem and the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. With these compromises in hand, Arafat would be in the strengthened position to go to the Al Aqsa Mosque and address the entire Palestinian diaspora: "There is no reason to go live in Israel now. Come home and help us build the state we have!"

Then in a February, 2002 op-ed for the New York Times, Arafat wrote:

...we seek a fair and just solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees who for 54 years have not been permitted to return to their homes. We understand Israel's demographic concerns and understand that the right of return of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns.

Then at the Beirut summit in March, 2002, the Arab League endorsed a Saudi peace proposal that called for "a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194."

Those are the facts. How are they reported in the Washington Post? Like this:

Arab foreign ministers agreed to relaunch a five-year-old peace initiative with Israel...

Under the plan, Arab nations would recognize Israel if it gave up land occupied after the 1967 Middle East war and granted Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes lost six decades ago when Israel declared it was a state.

If you were a lawyer, you could argue this is in some narrow sense "accurate," since the 2002 peace initiative referred to Resolution 194, which is the source of the right of return. But in the larger sense the Post article simply reinforces a pernicious, false right-wing narrative. I can only assume the editors there consider reinforcing pernicious, false right-wing narratives to be their job.

March 26, 2007

Can't Watch It

Bernard Chazelle urges us all to watch this video from the Guardian about the imminent closure of Baghdad's last orphanage.

I haven't been able to bring myself to watch it yet, so I'd be interested in hearing whether it's unbelievably hideously awful or just normally hideously awful.

March 23, 2007

John Bolton, Robot Killer

John Bolton:

A former top American diplomat says the US deliberately resisted calls for a immediate ceasefire during the conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Former ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the BBC that before any ceasefire Washington wanted Israel to eliminate Hezbollah's military capability...

Mr Bolton now describes it as "perfectly legitimate... and good politics"...

Mr Bolton, a controversial and blunt-speaking figure, said he was "damned proud of what we did" to prevent an early ceasefire.

I hope people don't condemn Bolton here as a monster. Obviously he would be a monster if the "people" of Lebanon were actual human beings. Fortunately, they're highly lifelike animatronic robots.

SERIOUSLY, THOUGH: I can barely resist making a montage of pictures of dead Lebanese children, with John Bolton in the corner saying "I'm damned proud of what we did." But that doesn't get anyone anywhere. Besides, I'm sure someone else has that covered.

AND: I see from the phonebook that Bolton lives a short distance from where I grew up, and just down the road from my high school. He also went to Yale, and his daughter's there now.

I find it difficult to come to terms with two aspects of this kind of thing. First, that I've spent so much time so close to genuine human evil, mostly without being aware of it. And second, that human evil is so boring. You can understand why Faust would sell his soul, but all John Bolton got for his is the opportunity to shop at Montgomery Mall.

March 22, 2007


For my own nefarious purposes, I've been rereading the article "Camp David and Afterward" by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley plus their ensuing exchange with Benny Morris and Ehud Barak. And I've been taken aback by ugly, sneering tone of Morris and Barak, particularly in contrast to the calm rationality of Agha and Malley. It's alarming that someone willing to say the kinds of things Barak does was ever in a position of power, although I guess it's no surprise in a world where the President of the United States talks about his desire to screw bin Laden in the ass.

For instance, here's one of Barak's many insights:

[Palestinians] are products of a culture in which to tell a lie...creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as "the truth."

The funniest part here is that Barak is unaware many prominent Palestinians are Christian. I guess when you're flaunting your embarrassing, hate-filled ignorance, you want to be sure you're 100% ignorant, rather than just 98%.

And here's a little more, from both Morris and Barak:

Arafat's credentials as a serial liar are impressive...To Western audiences Arafat usually affirms his interest in peace or "the peace of the braves" (a Palestinian baseball team?), as he puts it.

What Arafat used to speak of was a "peace of the brave" (singular). This was a reference to a famous phrase of Charles de Gaulle's regarding Algeria. Thus, Arafat's use of it was clearly relevant (since France/Algeria and Israel/Palestine have significant parallels) and also accurate (since peace would require real courage from leaders on both sides who'd be attacked by their own extremists).

So this is where the all-encompassing stupidity of Morris and Barak really came in handy. It takes a special kind of historian and politician to be unaware of a well-known historical, political reference—and then build, upon this foundation of dumbness, a particularly dumb joke. Soon, I imagine Morris and Barak saying to each other, we will have built the tallest skyscraper of stupidity on earth!

Power really does turn people into unpleasant morons.

UPDATE: Glen Rangwala points out that "peace of the brave" was also used by Clinton during the ceremony for the signing of the Oslo accords and in a 1994 speech by Rabin to Congress. I assume Arafat picked it up from them, but perhaps it was the other way around. So many people who kept talking about a Palestinian baseball team.

UPDATE UPDATE: Glen reports Arafat was the one who started it, in his famous 1988 speech to the U.N.

March 21, 2007

A Test

This is only a test.

...okay, I believe the switchover from my old hosting company is now complete, including all the images. The whole site now resides again at, rather than And if you're detemined to go the dreamhosters address, it should mirror

Of course, there's probably still something wrong somewhere. Please let me know if you see anything funky.

March 20, 2007

Today's Newsjokes

Some particularly good stuff today:

These People Are Exactly Who You Think They Are (Part 30,254)

From High Weirdness by Mail by Rev. Ivan Stang of the Church of the SubGenius:

There are three kinds of people -- I call them Larrys, Curlys, and Moes...

The Moes are the fanatics, the ranters, the cult gurus, the Uri Gellers AND the Debunkers; they are the Resistance Leaders and the Ruling Class Bankers. They hate each other, but only because they want to control ALL the Larrys and Curlys themselves...Larrys and Curlys die in wars started by rival Moes -- the Larrys willingly, the Curlys with great regret.

From Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire:

At [the University of] Chicago, one pursued the life of the mind. There was nothing higher, there was nothing else...

Albert Wohlstetter belonged to another world: the world of the policymaking coasts: the world of Washington and Rand. He flew between Chicago and Washington, between Chicago and various think tanks...

Wohlstetter invited the class to a reception at his house. He didn't live, as most of the professors did, in Hyde Park, an old, integrated neighborhood of four-flats and apartments. He lived at the edge of Lincoln Park in an elegant and lavish apartment, where we drank champagne and ate strawberries. This wasn't the life of the mind. This was the life of the privileged and powerful. I don't know why Paul Wolfowitz entered it. I do know how and why Zalmay Khalilzad did.

He is a protege of Wolfowitz, who worked with him on the war with Iraq and the occupation...When I knew him, he was an Afghani graduate student and a radical. He boasted of the demonstrations he had organized in Beirut, of the fedayin he knew and had worked with, and of his friends who regularly visited Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi. He went to pro-Palestinian meetings. His room had a poster of Nasser in tears. He and I had taken Wohlstetter's course on nuclear war together. He didn't seem, at the time, particularly interested in the course. He was, however, enthralled by Wohlstetter's party. In the elevator, in the apartment, he kept saying how much it all cost, how expensive it was, how much money Wohlstetter must have. Later, he borrowed my copy of Kojeve's Lectures on Hegel. When he returned it, one sentence was underlined. "The bourgeois intellectual neither fights nor works." The next summer, Wohlstetter got Khalilzad a job at Rand. I don't know what happened to the poster of Nasser.

Khalilzad is now the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. At some point Bush will probably make him Ambassador to the U.N.

March 19, 2007

Operation Democrats Rewrite History Also Resounding Success

As noted below, George Bush is merrily rewriting the history of the Iraq war. But Democrats are no slouches in the murdering of history, either. Here's George Soros writing in the New York Review of Books:

The Palestine problem does not have a purely military solution. Military superiority is necessary for Israel's national security, but it is not sufficient. The solution has to be political, as President Clinton recognized. He exerted enormous energy to bring about a peace settlement and his efforts were so successful that it took the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by an Israeli extremist to prevent an Israeli peace initiative with Arafat from being implemented. Even after Ariel Sharon's walk on the Temple Mount in September 2000 set off new violence, Clinton offered a peace deal several months later that was rejected by Arafat but probably suggests the shape of a future settlement.

I suspect Soros genuinely believes that Arafat rejected the Clinton parameters in January, 2001, and that he's relying on Clinton himself for this tale. God knows Clinton's made this claim every time he's opened his mouth since he left office. For instance:

[W]e had seven years of progress toward peace in the Middle East before Yasser Arafat rejected my last proposal...


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....


I think someday there will be peace in the Middle East, and when it comes it will look much like the proposal I put forward in December 2000 and January 2001 that Prime Minister Barak accepted but Chairman Arafat rejected.

So, it's an open and shut case. Unless, of course, you pay attention to what these two know-nothings were saying at the time:

Jake Siewert, Clinton press secretary, January 3, 2001

[B]oth sides have now accepted the President's ideas with some reservations.

Bill Clinton, 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.

But what did those two doofuses know? Far better for George Soros to listen to Bill Clinton, a man who has never lied to America and never would.

Four Years Later

Sure, Operation Iraqi Freedom is a catastrophe, but Operation Rewrite History is a resounding success!

Four years ago today:

THE PRESIDENT: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly -- yet, our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder. We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of fire fighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities...

May God bless our country and all who defend her.


THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Four years ago today, coalition forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom to remove Saddam Hussein from power. They did so to eliminate the threat his regime posed to the Middle East and to the world. Coalition forces carried out that mission with great courage and skill...

March 17, 2007

Sad News

There is some expected but very sad news today: Arthur Silber's sister died yesterday morning at 63, just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Arthur has written about her here.

Arthur is one of the most unusual and insightful voices online, and I hope everyone who admires his writing can stop by today to leave their condolences.


My favorite: "plentiful, clean-burning Republicans"

More here.

March 16, 2007

Today's Emotion: V. V. V. V. V. V. Cautiously Optimistic

I'm encouraged to see the big online liberal organizations are getting involved in the fight over the current supplemental appropriations bill. It's important that they're making trouble for the Democrats on this.

FIRST: True Majority is asking people to write to their representatives to tell them to vote no on the bill next week, because it doesn't do enough to stop the war. You can do so here.

SECOND: Moveon is stepping up their campaign "Congress Must Rein In Bush on Iran," with a full page ad (pdf) in the Washington Post. Whether it's connected to this or not, Pelosi has now "quietly promised" that—after folding on attaching it to the supplemental appropriations—she'll introduce a freestanding bill prohibiting Bush from attacking Iran.

We're a million miles away from what politics should be in the U.S. But you start where you are. Which in my case is in an Einstein Bros. bagel store.

David Simon Isn't Optimistic

Wire fans might want to check out David Simon's take on America's future, from a talk at Loyola. You couldn't call him, uh, optimistic.

Part I
Part II
Part III

(via Doug Henwood's lbo-talk)

Congratulations To Sam Collins

A big, big, big congratulations to Sam Collins, whose blurgt I meant to link to for a long time (until it went on hiatus and it was too late), for being awarded a full scholarship to George Washington University.

"I Call This Picture 'The Anti-Metrosexual'"

More here.

March 15, 2007

I'm Confused By The Internets

A NY Sun story has this encouraging news:

While the language tying the president's hands on Iran is gone for now, it is possible that it could crop up again in the Senate, where Senator Webb, a newly elected Democrat from Virginia who was chosen by his party to give the Democratic response to Mr. Bush's State of the Union address, has introduced similar language as a standalone bill. The Daily Press of Hampton Roads, Va. reported this month that "Webb said he has won backing for his measure from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and would likely seek to attach his legislation as an amendment to a spending bill now moving through Congress to fund the Iraq war."

The main headline on the Web site of, an influential left-wing site, tells visitors, "Support Senator Webb's bill to rein in Bush on Iran."The site says, "Senator Jim Webb introduced a bill that requires the president to get approval from Congress before taking military action in Iran. Call your senators and ask them to support Sen. Webb's bill."

Moveon may not be able to get Webb's bill made law, but there's certainly no way it will happen without them. Yet when I go to their site I don't see this. Nor do I see it listed as one of their current campaigns.

Can one part of the internets help me understand another part that's confusing me?

Everything I Really Needed To Know About Transnational Terrorism I Learned From George M. Cohan

According to the transcript (pdf) of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's recent military hearing, he confessed to dozens of terrorist plots. But amid all the tumult, he never forgot what's really important:

George M. Cohan: "I don't care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right."

What Else Did Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Do?

Dennis has the answer, here.

Donald Kagan: Yikes

Donald Kagan is Yale's former dean and a well-known professor of ancient Greek history. He's also a prominent neoconservative and the father of two other prominent neoconservatives (Fred and Robert). In explaining his political trajectory, Kagan has told stories about his experience at Cornell in the late sixties in which he implicitly compared black activists there to Hitler.

So I already knew he's one weird scary dude. But it turns out his weird scariness goes deeper than I'd imagined. Here's why:

One of the world's most famous political books is the History Of The Peloponnesian War by the Greek historian Thucydides. And one of the most famous sections in it is the Melian Dialogue. It's studied in many college classes as the classic debate between moral claims and realpolitik.

The dialogue takes place between representatives of the Athenian empire and the island of Melos. The Athenians demand that the Melians choose between being Athen's vassals and being destroyed. The Melians reply they have no quarrel with Athens, wish only to remain neutral, and appeal to morality:

MELIANS: should not destroy what is our common protection, the privilege of being allowed in danger to invoke what is fair and right.

The Athenians scoff at such ideas:

ATHENIANS: know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must...

Of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can. And it is not as if we were the first to make this law, or to act upon it when made: we found it existing before us, and shall leave it to exist for ever after us; all we do is to make use of it, knowing that you and everybody else, having the same power as we have, would do the same as we do.

In the end, the Melians refuse to give in. The Athenians then conquer the island, put all the men to death, and sell the women and children into slavery.

This is clearly a bleak, frightening tale, in which there is no morality in human affairs, and hideous cruelty goes unpunished. You'd expect a professor of Kagan's stature would wrestle long and hard with the implications of this.

But you'd expect wrong. Kagan wrote a book called The Peloponnesian War. Here's what he says about the Melian affair:

...a campaign against Melos provided the Athenians with the outlet they needed for their energy and frustration...

The Melians, alone of the Cycladic islanders, had refused to join the Delian League...

A further conflict was inevitable, for the Athenians could not long allow their will and authority to be flouted by a small Cycladic island.

And that's about it.


(I learned about the Kagan book via a review, via Brad Delong.)

Today's Mike

Today's Mike:

More here.

March 14, 2007

Still Time To Make Congress Stop Bush On Iran

The House emergency supplemental bill is being marked up in the Appropriations Committee tomorrow. So there's still a chance to get the language prohibiting Bush from attacking Iran without congressional approval back in the bill. True Majority is asking members (and anyone else) to tell their representative to do this.

After you've sent the email, you should also call your representative at (202) 224-3121. If they're on the Appropriations Committee, tell them to put the language back in. If they're not, tell them to ask their colleagues who are to do so.

March 13, 2007

Recent Tomdispatch

Tomdispatch really is an fantastic resource. Every single piece it runs is worth reading—serious and in-depth, with information you won't find in such detail anywhere else. I'd say it's comparable in quality and importance to the New York Review of Books during Vietnam.


Michael Schwartz: "Surge and Destroy: The Brutality Escalates in Iraq"

Karen Greenberg: "Guantanamo is not a Prison: 11 Ways to Report on Gitmo without Upsetting the Pentagon"

Tom Engelhardt: "Hostages to Policy: What We Know About Waste and War in Iraq"

David Swanson: "Can Congress End the War? Democratic Leaders May Prefer to Claim They Tried But Failed"

(Given this effusive praise, I should mention that I've written for Tomdispatch once, and hope to again in the future.)

Et Maintenant, Le Funnie

During my involuntary hiatus, Mike went and started adding audio and video to his daily news jokes. Here's a representative sample from last week:

More here.

March 12, 2007

Democrats Just As Embarrassingly Craven As You Expect

As I've mentioned, there's quite a lot Congress can do to prevent Bush from attacking Iran—if they want to. So if we find ourselves at war with Iran, it won't just be Bush's responsibility. It will also belong to a Democratic-controlled Congress.

One of the most powerful of Congress' tools would be to attach a prohibition of such an attack without their approval to an emergency supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq. Bush might veto it, but he'd pay a political price for it.

And to Nancy Pelosi's credit, she at least pretended she wanted to add such language to the House version of the current supplemental. To her enormous discredit, she's now folding:

Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.

Here are the only specific Democrats the article cites:

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said in an interview there is widespread fear in Israel about Iran, which is believed to be seeking nuclear weapons and has expressed unremitting hostility about the Jewish state.

"It would take away perhaps the most important negotiating tool that the U.S. has when it comes to Iran," she said of the now-abandoned provision.

"I didn't think it was a very wise idea to take things off the table if you're trying to get people to modify their behavior and normalize it in a civilized way," said Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York.

That's a great argument. Obviously the proposed language wouldn't "take away" the possibility of the U.S. using force. It would only take away the possibility of Bush using force without Congressional approval. In other words, both Berkley and Ackerman want Iran to believe Bush might attack them even if Congress opposes it.

In this, Berkley and Ackerman are regressing from their votes in 2002 to give Bush authority to attack Iraq. Now they want Bush to be able to attack Iran without even asking their opinion.

The Real Salvador Option

Why is this website so universally admired? Because we have the courage to make the connections no one else will.

Newsweek, January, 2005:

'The Salvador Option'
The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq

Los Angeles Times, today:

American military planners have begun plotting a fallback strategy for Iraq that includes a gradual withdrawal of forces and a renewed emphasis on training Iraqi fighters in case the current troop buildup fails or is derailed by Congress.

Such a strategy, based in part on the U.S. experience in El Salvador in the 1980s, is still in the early planning stages and would be adjusted to fit the outcome of the current surge in troop levels...

And now, this:

Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador, after he did his bit for diplomatic relations by being found by police drunk, nearly naked, bound, gagged and wearing a number of sex toys and bondage items.

What is the ultimate goal of the United States in Iraq? Forget the oil. Forget the permanent bases. All this time they've been driving toward one end: to deluge Iraq with naked, drunk Israeli ambassadors wearing bondage gear.

This is the real "Salvador option." They've done it before, they'll do it again.

March 11, 2007

I Have An Opinion!

My site trouble prevented me from issuing my opinion on Scooter Libby's conviction. But now it's working again, AND I REFUSE TO BE SILENCED.

1. The whole thing should never have been in the criminal justice system. I don't think the law against naming CIA agents is a great idea to begin with. And I certainly think it's a terrible precedent to force reporters to testify about their sources. Moreover, I suspect both these things will come back at some point to bite progressives very hard in the ass.

I realize this perspective may be unpopular with some. And I understand where such people are coming from—it's only natural to want to see at least one of these guys punished someway, somehow. I've given into such temptation myself, on occasion.

But as we've learned, the criminal case addressed an extremely narrow issue, and most of the information it uncovered remains secret. By itself it gets us nowhere.

2. The whole thing should be the subject of a massive congressional investigation. The tiny issue was: did Libby commit perjury? The medium-sized issue is: whether any "crimes" were committed or not, what exactly did the Bush administration do, and why? The serious, largest issue is: why do we allow the Bush administration to hide behind jingoism, when it's crystal clear they couldn't care less whether any of us live or die?

Even for an anti-American America-hater like myself, this aspect of the Plame case was startling. I'm not surprised the Bush administration did what they did. I'm not surprised they tried to cover it up when caught. But I am surprised other American institutions—including the broader Republican party—hasn't focused on the large issue, and forced Bush at least to pretend he was sorry and fire some people.

I mean, you have an administration that's built their case for a giant war on terrorists and terrifying weapons of mass destruction. We live in a world where, whatever the Bush administration's lies and exaggeration, this is a real problem. And then they blow the cover of someone who's secretly worked for decades on WMD issues.

If you'd written a script like this, no one would believe it. It would seem like agitprop. And yet it happened. A woman works at some real risk for decades with no recognition at government pay rates for what she believes is the best interest of her country. An administration screams for years about how much they LUV AMERICA so much they'll do ANYTHING TO PROTECT US. But when this women becomes inconvenient, they squash her like a bug.

Likewise, when maimed soldiers come back from war, they're discarded like used tissues, even as Bush speaks constantly about how he LUVS THE TROOPS. Likewise, as New Yorkers wandered about in a haze of grief in mid-September, 2001, the Bush administration lied about the safety of breathing the air in lower Manhattan, even as Bush went on to give 20,000 speeches about THE HORRIBLE TRAUMA OF 9/11.

But all this apparently this makes no never mind to the Republican party, or the Washington Post editorial page. They have just as much contempt for us as the Bush administration itself. Indeed, their contempt may be deepest for those who actually believe all their lies about how we're all in this together and act on this belief. Suckers!

That's the main thing I take away from all this: the depth of the disdain these people feel for us. It's been bracing to witness—in their minds, we basically don't exist, except perhaps as useful props. The question now is whether we, the regular Americans, have enough self-respect to get our acts together and force them to care about our lives. And that's something that can't really happen in courtrooms.

March 10, 2007

Act Now To Stop War With Iran

One good thing about this site's collapse is it happened right when I was working on something else: an article about what actions Congress can take to prevent war with Iran.

The most powerful thing Congress could do would be to forbid Bush from spending any money on an Iran attack. The next most powerful would be simply to forbid Bush from doing it (but with no mention of a funding prohibition). And the best strategy with either would be to attach them to the current emergency supplemental military spending bill, because that would make it difficult for Bush to veto it.

I'm very pleased to say James Webb is now sponsoring a funding cutoff amendment in the Senate. You should write to your senators about this RIGHT NOW. (More background from Robert Naiman here.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is apparently trying to put language forbidding an Iran attack into the House version of the supplemental bill. More about that (and the "pro"-Israel opposition to it) here.

I'll be writing a lot more about this here soon. The article will hopefully be done and online within a week.

March 09, 2007


I'm hoping this site will come back to life.

UPDATE: It's alive!

This site broke eleven days ago in a way that prevented any new posts or comments. And it could only be fixed by my hosting company. Unfortunately, they seem to be in a death spiral, and didn't respond to repeated repeated repeated emails and calls from me. It was a little, uh, frustrating.

So I finally had to switch the whole thing over to a new hosting company. And that process turned out to be a mini-saga in its own right. But now most things seem to be functioning normally, including comments. Currently when you go to I've set things up so you come to this temporary location,, but the magic of internet propagation should change even that back to the way things were within a day or two.

The one thing I'm not sure about is syndication. Maybe it's working and maybe it isn't. I hope to have more certainty about this soon.

Many thanks to everyone who sent solicitous email and faithfully visited during the The Troubles. And a Special Jury Prize of appreciation goes to my father, for his intensive computer support walking me through such thorny topics as SSH access, the unix "grep -r" command, and mysql syntax.