June 30, 2008
Kim Phuc Speaks
By: Bernard Chazelle
NPR is paying attention to this blog (who isn't?) and posted a fascinating essay by "the girl in the napalm-bombing picture."
Besides sheer terror, what's running through the head of a 9-year old child as she is running naked, badly burned, on the Saigon to Phnom Penh road in 1972? The answer is both obvious and surprising.
I still remember my thoughts at that moment: I would be ugly and people would treat me in a different way.
The road to recovery was long and painful.
I lost my consciousness. Several days after, I realized that I was in the hospital, where I spent 14 months and had 17 operations. It was a very difficult time for me when I went home from the hospital. Our house was destroyed; we lost everything and we just survived day by day.
Vietnam is ancient history? Not for Kim Phuc.
I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days.
Did the US pay any war reparations? No, it enforced a 25-year embargo against Vietnam (thus making the US world champ in soreloserness).
Today, Kim Phuc lives in Toronto. Canada did not fight in the Vietnam war, yet it opened its doors to nearly twice as many Vietnamese refugees per head as the US.
Read the full essay. Or, better, listen to it.
— Bernard Chazelle
ADDED BY JON: An extremely striking recent picture of Kim Phuc is available here.
A Lot Of Not Nearly Enough Wind Power!
According to the European Wind Energy Association, the wind industry is now "able to celebrate the installation of 100 Gigawatts of operating capacity."
100 billion watts! That sounds like a lot!
Except...yearly energy usage on earth is about 15 Terawatts, or 15 trillion watts. So wind now provides about two-thirds of one percent of the energy we need. And clearly we'll need much more energy in the future.
On the bright side, some claim we could generate 12% of the world's electricity with wind by 2020, and the Bush administration recently released a report saying the US could produce 20% of our electricity needs with wind by 2030. (Note both of these estimates are for electricity usage, which of course is different from total energy use.)
By that point, I assume we'll discover some horrible problem with wind power, but won't be able to do anything about it because of the massive political power of giant wind conglomerates.
In French, They Are Called Les Mulets Sauvages
Dennis Perrin's new book Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War is bouncing around the Amazon political bestseller list. Right this second it's at #16, but it's been higher before, and if I have anything to do with it, will be again.
The Good News in Iraq
(Don't Count on It)
By Tom Engelhardt
On March 19, 2003, as his shock-and-awe campaign against Iraq was being launched, George W. Bush addressed the nation. "My fellow citizens," he began, "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." We were entering Iraq, he insisted, "with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people."
Within weeks, of course, that "great civilization" was being looted, pillaged, and shipped abroad. Saddam Hussein's Baathist dictatorship was no more and, soon enough, the Iraqi Army of 400,000 had been officially disbanded by L. Paul Bremer, the head of the occupying Coalition Provisional Authority and the President's viceroy in Baghdad. By then, ministry buildings -- except for the oil and interior ministries -- were just looted shells. Schools, hospitals, museums, libraries, just about everything that was national or meaningful, had been stripped bare. Meanwhile, in their new offices in Saddam's former palaces, America's neoconservative occupiers were already bringing in the administration's crony corporations -- Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR, Bechtel, and others -- to finish off the job of looting the country under the rubric of "reconstruction." Somehow, these "administrators" managed to "spend" $20 billion of Iraq's oil money, already in the "Development Fund for Iraq," even before the first year of occupation was over -- and to no effect whatsoever. They also managed to create what Ed Harriman in the London Review of Books labeled "the least accountable and least transparent regime in the Middle East." (No small trick given the competition.)
Before the Sunni insurgency even had a chance to ramp up in 2003, they were already pouring billions of U.S. tax dollars into what would become their massive military mega-bases meant to last a millennium, and, of course, they were dreaming about opening Iraq's oil industry to the major oil multinationals and to a privatized future as an oil spigot for the West.
June 29, 2008
Hersh: Cheney Trying To Create Casus Belli For War With Iran
According to a new Seymour Hersh article, the Bush administration has ramped up covert action inside Iran, and has notified the congressional leadership that it's planing to spend up to $400 million on it. Thanks, Democratic-controlled Congress!
But the most important part of the piece is this:
But a lesson was learned in the incident [in January when tiny Iranian boats sailed near US battleships]: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.
Recall that the Bush administration also made plans to create a pretext for war with Iraq if the WMD stuff didn't work out. 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...
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."
We Must Destroy The Terrorist Infrastructure Of Massachusetts
I've been watching HBO's John Adams miniseries. And as I've mentioned before, it's odd how much it seems as though it could be about Iraq or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just with frillier costumes and fewer beards. I assume the makers of John Adams didn't do this on purpose; it's just that human nature and human war never change. Still, perhaps a few Americans will learn something from it about what it's like to be occupied and oppressed.
The second episode begins in 1775 as the British marched on Concord to capture munitions "illegally" held by the colonists. Soon afterward John Adams goes to Philadelphia from his home near Boston for the Second Continental Congress. The debate there is presented like every other debate about violent resistance through history—including that between, say, Hamas and Fatah. Note the position of the miniseries hero:
EDWARD RUTLEDGE: Rash action does not merit a rash response. Might must be met with reason, not arms!
SAM ADAMS: I remind Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Dwayne that blood has been shed. Massachusetts blood. While we debate, our militia is left without munitions, without arms, without even the slightest encouragement.
JOHN DICKINSON: One colony cannot be allowed to take its sister colonies headlong into the maelstrom of war...I move this assembly consider a humble and dutiful petition be dispatched to his Majesty, one that includes a plain statement that the colony desires immediate negotiation.
JOHN ADAMS: Mr. Dickinson, the time for negotiation is past. The actions of the British army at Lexington and Concord speak plainly enough. If we wish to regain our natural born rights, we must fight for them.
JOHN DICKINSON: We must provide a plan to convince Parliament to restore those rights.
JOHN ADAMS: Mr. Dickinson, my wife and young children live on the main road to Boston, fewer than five miles from the full might of the British Empire. Should they sit and wait for Gage and his savages to rob them of their home, their possessions, their very lives? No sir, power and artillery are the surest and most infallible conciliatory measure we can adopt!
JOHN DICKINSON: If you exclude the possibility of peace, Mr. Adams, then I tell you now, you will have blood on your hands.
JOHN ADAMS: And I tell you, Mr. Dickinson, that to hold out an olive branch to Britain is a measure of gross imbecility!
JOHN DICKINSON: If you continue to oppose our methods of reconciliation, then you will leave us no choice but to break off from you entirely and carry on the opposition in our way.
JOHN ADAMS: Your Quaker sensibilities do us a great disservice, sir. It is one thing to turn the other cheek, but to lie down in the ground like a snake and crawl toward the seat of power in abject surrender, that is quite another thing, and I have no stomach for it!
Soon afterward we see Abigail Adams and their children, left alone since John Adams is off in Philadelphia. And just like women and children in every colonial conflict that's ever existed, they're participating by manufacturing weapons. (In this case, musket balls.)
Clearly these "Americans" (which is some made-up name they've given themselves) are vicious lunatics. There can never be peace until they give up their insane culture of incitement!
And incredibly enough, even their women carry arms! How can we possibly negotiate with barbarians so utterly different from our peace-loving selves!?! (Click here to order pizza for our brave redcoats!)
(I got the John Adams DVD from HBO as part of their blugger publicity.)
Corruption at the UN
A major corruption scandal is brewing at the UN.
Already under fire after having granted Lockheed Martin a no-bid $250 million contract to build peacekeeping camps in Sudan, the UN on New Year's Eve convened an emergency meeting to give Lockheed subsidiary Pacific Architects & Engineers another $12 million on an emergency basis, records show.
Once they're done trading sex tips, I fully expect Craig and Vitter to take up this matter.
I note with interest that the no-bid contract is to feed the peacekeepers, not to feed the people of Darfur.
Funny how, in all major recent UN scandals (like the Oil-for-Food program), the US always manages to be the main beneficiary.
— Bernard Chazelle
The Craig-Vitter Amendment
By: Bernard Chazelle
Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter are co-sponsors of S. J. Res. 43: "A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage." As ThinkProgress puts it:
If passed, the bill would amend the Constitution to declare that marriage “shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.”
They're still haggling over the precise language. Vitter is pushing for "marriage shall consist only of the union of a man and his diaper." But Craig stalls.
— Bernard Chazelle
June 28, 2008
Mr Half-Holocaust Anti-Swiftboats Himself
By: Bernard Chazelle
This was bound to happen. Sooner or later, someone would accuse war hero John McCain of making up all that BS about being tortured in the Hanoi Hilton. McCain struck preemptively. He contacted his old North Vietnamese pal, Tran Trong Duyet, and asked him to debunk the torture stories.
Duyet claimed McCain "invented that story that he was tortured and beaten to win votes."
How clever! A Commie says McCain is a liar. Now let's see if Mr Obama is going to come to the Commie's defense. McCain is one smart dude. If only Kerry could have found a Vietcong to swear that he was a fraud and a coward. Silly Dems!
But here's a throwaway line in the article that caught my eye:
And although they never saw eye-to-eye on the war that killed some 58,000 Americans and up to 3 million Vietnamese, ... [McCain] never admitted that the war was a mistake.
This ain't Chomsky or Jon (or me) talking, ladies and gentlemen, this is MSNBC, a partnership of GE and Microsoft, with links to the Times, Newsweek, and the WaPo. We have it on official MSM record: John McCain finds nothing wrong with a war he fought against a nation that never hurt the US, even though that war killed as much as half the Holocaust!
And Mr Half-Holocaust, instead of hiding in the jungles of Paraguay, is running for the presidency of the United States of America. I have just one question for him:
JOHN MCCAIN, DID YOU DROP NAPALM ON THAT GIRL?
— Bernard Chazelle
Book Salon On I.F. Stone Biography
This afternoon at 5 pm ET, Dan Froomkin is hosting a Firedoglake book salon on All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone with author Myra MacPherson.
If only Stone could have lived to see the Bush administration prove his thesis so completely wrong!
June 27, 2008
Video Of Bruce F.'s Roof Food
Bruce F. has been writing here for some time about his experiences growing fruits and vegetables on the roof of his Chicago home.
Now Michael Gebert's new video podcast on Chicago food, "Sky Full of Bacon," has produced an episode on Bruce F. (The podcast also takes a look at Green Grocer, a new store for locally-grown food in Chicago's Noble Square neighborhood.)
I keenly hope that in the future Americans will spend much more of their media time on stuff like this, and much less having giant corporations spray crap all over them.
Sky Full of Bacon 01: How Local Can You Go? from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.
The Anguish of a Photographer
By: Bernard Chazelle
I was reading in a French newspaper about a controversial photo exhibit that will open its doors some time next year at the Bibliotheque de France in Paris. It is scheduled to travel to the US later that year. The theme of the exhibit is the ethics of photography.
It will feature this famous picture some of you will remember from the mid-90s. It may well be the most shocking photo I've ever seen. It's delayed shock because it's not immediately clear what's going on. A vulture is waiting for a young Sudanese girl to die, as she crawls in agony toward a feeding center. The photo doesn't tell us what happens next.
Here is what happened next. The photographer, Kevin Carter,
waited for 20 minutes, hoping the vulture would spread its wings. It did not, and after he took his photographs, he chased the bird away and watched as the little girl resumed her struggle. Afterward he sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God, and cried.
He did not help her. For that picture, Kevin Carter won a Pulitzer Prize.
Three months later, he committed suicide.
He left a note:
I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain ... of starving or wounded children...
I am confident I would not behave in such inhumane fashion.
But I'd rather not pass judgment. I believe that the life of a war photographer is one of great moral complexity.
— Bernard Chazelle
The Real News On Renewed Push For US-Iraqi "Security" Agreement
Chance Of Ice Free North Pole This Summer 50/50
The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
"We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is 'does the North Pole melt out this summer?' and it may well," said the center's senior research scientist Mark Serreze.
It's a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice, which was frozen last autumn, will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole, Serreze said...
"Five years ago, to think that we'd even be talking about the possibility of the North Pole melting out in the summer, I would have never thought it," he said...
"If you talked to me or other scientists just a few years ago, we were saying that we might lose all or most of the summer sea ice cover by anywhere from 2050 to 2100," Serreze said. "Then, recently, we kind of revised those estimates, maybe as early as 2030. Now, there's people out there saying it might be even before that. So, things are happening pretty quick up there."
Here's some good work on the same general subject by Free Love Forum. The fossil fuel industry may have all the money, but we have all the talented sketch comedy artists. (Thanks to Ethan for pointing this out.)
June 26, 2008
All Aboard the Obama Rightwing Express
By: Bernard Chazelle
Elections come and Democrats cave. That's how it goes. Obama broke his promises on campaign finance and FISA. Today, he joined the exclusive club of right-wing neanderthals, Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas, in denouncing the Supreme Court decision to reject the death penalty for child rape.
I guess tomorrow Obama will clarify his position by explaining that he wants to fry all child rapists with one exception: US soldiers who rape for our freedoms.
The scary part? It's only June.
ADDENDUM: Not to mention his support of the hand gun decision. Or his insistence on keeping Jerusalem undivided: the recipe for a hundred-years war.
— Bernard Chazelle
Coal's PR Hacks Even More Embarrassing Than You Thought
You have to feel for Vic Svec. He's a senior vice president at Peabody Energy, the largest private coal producer on earth, and it's apparently his job to be wheeled out whenever there's any threat of action on global warming. After James Hansen's recent Senate testimony, Svec sent this statement to the New York Times:
Blaming big oil and big coal for the broad array of opinions about climate change is disingenuous. If [Hansen] would imprison those who don’t march in lockstep with his views, the jails would be very, very big. It would include thousands of scientists and university professors and the likes of the president of the Czech Republic, a former founder of Greenpeace and the former founder of The Weather Channel.
Here's John Coleman, the "former" founder of the Weather Channel, giving his fascinating views on climate change:
Here is the deal about CO2, carbon dioxide...I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000 only 38 are CO2; 38 out of a hundred thousand. That makes it a trace component. Let me ask a key question: how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t.
Here's how I imagine the meeting went as Vic Svec huddled with his staff to draft the New York Times statement:
SVEC: We need three names on our side.
LACKEY: We've got Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic.
SVEC: Great. Just make sure he doesn't start talking about the dangers of "homosexualism."
LACKEY: And then there's Patrick Moore, the Greenpeace guy.
SVEC: Didn't Moore just say we have to stop using fossil fuels due to the threat of global warming? And that "coal causes the worst health impacts of anything we are doing today"?
LACKEY: Eh, who cares. No one will notice except the losers who fuck around on blogs.
SVEC: Ha! Got that right. And who's number three?
LACKEY: Yeah, that's the thing. We're having trouble getting to three.
SVEC: What about Charles Manson? Our focus groups just remember his name, not why they remember it.
MINION: He doesn't want to be associated with us anymore. Says it hurts his credibility.
SVEC: How about that monkey we'd been training to talk?
LACKEY: He won't do it either. He told the trainer he felt like we're insulting his intelligence.
SVEC: Shit. Don't tell me we're going to have to go with that Weather Channel moron.
SVEC: Son of a bitch. All right, let's saddle up.
MINION: One last thing, just looking at the text—how can people be "former" founders of Greenpeace and the Weather Channel?
SVEC: Jesus Christ, do I have to teach you people everything? You obviously don't understand the first thing about SCIENCE!
Five Stealth Pentagon Contractors Reaping Billions of Tax Dollars
By Nick Turse
The top Pentagon contractors, like death and taxes, almost never change. In 2002, the massive arms dealers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman ranked one, two, and three among Department of Defense contractors, taking in $17 billion, $16.6 billion, and $8.7 billion. Lockheed, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman did it again in 2003 ($21.9, $17.3, and $11.1 billion); 2004 ($20.7, $17.1, and $11.9 billion); 2005 ($19.4, $18.3, and $13.5 billion); 2006 ($26.6, $20.3, and $16.6 billion); and, not surprisingly, 2007 as well ($27.8, $22.5, and $14.6 billion)...
With the basic Pentagon budget now clocking in at roughly $541 billion per year -- before "supplemental" war funding for Iraq, Afghanistan, and the President's Global War on Terror, as well as national security spending by other agencies, are factored in -- even Lockheed's hefty $28 billion take is a small percentage of the massive total. Obviously, significant sums of money are headed to other companies. However, most of them, including some of the largest, are all but unknown even to Pentagon-watchers and antiwar critics with a good grasp of the military industrial complex...
So, who are some of these mystery defense contractors you've probably never heard of? Here are snapshot portraits, culled largely from their own corporate documents, of five of the Pentagon's secret billion-dollar babies:
June 25, 2008
Jon on Air America Today
By: Bernard Chazelle
At 9-10pm (EST) today, Jonathan Schwarz will tell the nation what it needs to know about Colin Powell. Live streaming here.
ADDED BY JON: Here's the background to what we're covering: Powell's UN address, his post-invasion lies, his whiny self-pity, and his pre-2000 career as investigated by Robert Parry and Norman Solomon.
America's Finest Foreign Affairs Analyst
By: Bernard Chazelle
Tom Friedman today:
... humiliation, I believe, is the single-most underestimated force in international relations, especially in the Middle East.
Tom Friedman yesterday:
I believe that as soon as Ahmed has a seat in the bus, he will limit his demands.
We just adopted a baby called Baghdad -- and this is no time for the parents to get a divorce. Because raising that baby, in the neighborhood it lives in, is going to be a mammoth task.
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?" ... Well, Suck. On. This.
— Bernard Chazelle
June 24, 2008
The Colin Powell Experience
I'll be on the Air America show Clout on Wednesday (tomorrow) from 9-10 pm ET to talk about Colin Powell's role in the Iraq war generally, and his 2003 UN presentation specifically. Norman Solomon and Robert Parry will be on after that from 10-11 pm ET to discuss the ugly reality of Powell's career up to that point.
The Air America stations are listed here, or you can listen listen live online. You should also be able to hear it in outer space, but since the radio waves will be traveling at the speed of light, you'll probably want to blast off tonight.
Why Would Blacks Distrust the Judicial System?
By: Bernard Chazelle
I apologize for making impossible demands on your time, but this Bill Moyers interview is worth every minute of anyone's time. (C&L featured it a while ago.)
WALL STREET JOURNAL Atlanta Bureau chief, Douglas Blackmon, explains in his new book how slavery continued until the dawn of World War II.
Some will say it continues to this day, but Blackmon does not use the word slavery as a metaphor: Until WWII, you still had slave auctions!
And so, people come up to me and say, "Gosh, the story that my grandmother used to tell before she died 20 years ago, I never believed it. Because she would describe that she was still a slave in Georgia after World War II, or just before. And it never made sense to me. And now, it does."
As they used to say in the South, Arbeit Macht Frei.
Photos from Blackmon's book site
— Bernard Chazelle
Motherhood, Apple Pie, and Waterboarding
By: Bernard Chazelle
All torture should be prohibited:
* 82% UK, Spain, France
* 73% Mexico
* 66% China
* 54% Azerbajian, Egypt
* 53% USA
— Bernard Chazelle
Geoengineering: The Last Resort
Geoengineering schemes sound like they're pulled straight from pulp sci-fi novels: Fertilize the oceans with iron in order to sequester carbon dioxide; launch fleets of ships to whip up sea spray and enhance the solar reflectivity of marine stratocumulus clouds; use trillions of tiny spacecraft to form a sunshade a million miles from Earth in perfect solar orbit. They all may seem impractical, but among a small but growing set of climate scientists, one idea that Wood and Teller started pushing in the late 1990s (before Teller's death in 2003) is gaining acceptance: Inject sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to reflect a portion of the sun's rays back into space, thus cooling the planet.
While the idea of geoengineering is terrifying for many reasons, given present realities it's still good to know we may have some (awful) backup options. The sulfur dioxide possibility is also discussed in an accessible way in this video of a talk by David Keith from last September.
June 23, 2008
James Hansen, 20 Years After First Congressional Testimony On Global Warming
Today I testified to Congress about global warming, 20 years after my June 23, 1988 testimony, which alerted the public that global warming was underway. There are striking similarities between then and now, but one big difference.
Again a wide gap has developed between what is understood about global warming by the relevant scientific community and what is known by policymakers and the public. Now, as then, frank assessment of scientific data yields conclusions that are shocking to the body politic. Now, as then, I can assert that these conclusions have a certainty exceeding 99 percent.
The difference is that now we have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb. The next president and Congress must define a course next year in which the United States exerts leadership commensurate with our responsibility for the present dangerous situation.
Otherwise it will become impractical to constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas produced in burning fossil fuels, to a level that prevents the climate system from passing tipping points that lead to disastrous climate changes that spiral dynamically out of humanity's control.
George Carlin, Natural Friend Of Human Rights And Human Liberties
This is Mark Twain, talking about Carlin-types in 1888:
[Comedy] is a useful trade, a worthy calling; that with all its lightness and frivolity it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant to it—the deriding of shams, the exposure of pretentious falsities, the laughing of stupid superstitions out of existence; and that whoso is by instinct engaged in this sort of warfare is the natural enemy of royalties, nobilities, privileges and all kindred swindles, and the natural friend of human rights and human liberties.
Here's Carlin fifteen years ago, talking about the first Gulf War:
The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930
Iraqis have recently been comparing the US-Iraqi "agreement" now under negotiation to the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930. The treaty, imposed by England under circumstances similar to today's U.S. occupation, was deeply hated in Iraq.
Of course, most Americans have no idea what the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 is. So I thought it would be useful to post the text of the treaty—which used to be essentially impossible to find online—together with an examination of the many parallels between it and what Bush has been demanding. It's all over here.
As you'll see, it appears history actually has direct relevance to the present day. Who knew?
June 22, 2008
On the Two-State Solution
By: Bernard Chazelle
I explain below why the prospects for a two-state solution settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are so dim.
(If your time on this site is limited and you haven't read about my trip, I urge you to skip this essay and, instead, read my report. Essays can wait. Human stories can't. Thanks.)
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is often narrated as a morality play, where offers are generous, lessons are taught, consciousness is seared, terrorism is rewarded, etc. Let's quit the blame game and focus, instead, on what's feasible and what's not. For starters, one can safely notch the right-wing fantasy of a Jordanian absorption of Palestine in the "Dream on, settlers" column. Ethnic cleansing is passé.
What about a one-state solution? Within 10 years, Jews will be a clear minority in the population west of the Jordan, so a democratic unitary state (eg, modeled on South Africa) would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, an outcome not everyone would greet with cartwheels. Though rarely discussed, a federal alternative could be envisaged. Besides the sticky issue of land division, however, the physical laws of politics work against it. Absent a modicum of trust and a desire to share a common fate, centrifugal forces might prove too powerful to forestall an eventual breakup. If Belgium, a model of harmony by Mideast standards, can barely pull it off, what chance does a (con)federal "Isratine" have? Don't expect a democratic binational state any time soon.
The two-state solution has its appeal. It would satisfy a majority of Palestinians and confer upon Israel the statehood legitimacy that it craves. It would bring the Jewish state peace with the Arab world along the lines of the 2002 Saudi Initiative, as well as a recognized right of self-defense against Palestinian cross-border attacks. Unfortunately, 40 years of history have gamed the system against the two-state solution. Once the only realistic road to peace, it is now a challenge likely beyond Israel's ability. This leaves the region with two options: Apartheid or war. Barring a miracle, it will get both. So let's talk about the miracle.
With its popularity fading rapidly, the main asset of the two-state solution is its consensual delineation: Taba '01 or any '67-border variant that ensures the viability of a Palestinian state. Opponents cite the failure of the 2005 Gaza evacuation to bring peace to the Strip as Exhibit A. They conveniently forget that the occupation continued and the total number of settlers was actually higher after the withdrawal than before. They ask, How do we keep a two-state solution from turning into a Qassam launch-pad expansion program? Such concerns must and can be addressed. But the stumbling block lies elsewhere—specifically, in a game-theoretic deadlock.
To understand this, it is best to begin with a paradox. Everybody knows that to "rewind to '67" would be a risky move for any Israeli leader and that the risk increases with every settlement expansion. Why then has the number of settlers doubled since Oslo? The never-say-die E1 project threatens to cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank and divide a future Palestinian state into 3 (and arguably 4) noncontiguous parts. As I drove recently by the giant settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, I wondered how a Palestinian capital could ever be wrested from that urban octopus of Israeli control now girding East Jerusalem. Condoleezza Rice's latest bit of cheerleading was promptly acknowledged by an Israeli Cabinet decision to build hundreds of housing units in Givat Ze'ev. The number of checkpoints and obstacles was supposed to go down after Annapolis: it went up by 51. Can Israel be serious about a two-state solution?
When someone embarks on a diet and then proceeds to double his food intake, it is reasonable to wonder if he doesn't secretly enjoy the extra weight. Reasonable, yes; but, in this case, wrong. The crux of the paradox is not that Israel enjoys the status quo but that it has no incentive to play a land-for-peace game incrementally. Three reasons for this: Israeli aims are intangible (eg, promise of peace) but Palestinian objectives are concrete (eg, land handover); settler withdrawal is irreversible, whereas a lull in violence can be broken at any time; finally, the two-state solution is an asynchronous trade, ie, an exchange of a present good (land) for a future one (peace). Instead of addressing these deal breakers head-on, the Road Map tossed in a goodie bag full of sops (eg, governance reform, trade offices, demonstration of good faith), which only gave Israel political cover for sitting on its hands. Incrementalism runs against Palestinian interests as well because what they have to offer, peace, is not splittable into tradable chunks.
Besides ruling out a phased process, a highly asymmetric deal of the land-for-peace type requires either trust between the parties (nonexistent) or a mutually trusted arbiter with coercive power. Israel trusts only the US and coercion is not an option. Why not? Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar tells this joke: "Mr Prime Minister, would you like Israel to become our 51st state?" "Thanks but no thanks, Mr President." "Why not?" "Because, as a US state, we would have only two senators." The tragedy of US-Israeli relations is that AIPAC has deprived Israeli leaders of one of the most potent arrows in their political quiver: the "option" of letting Israel be (or appear to be) coerced by the US. Whether the US would ever acquiesce is another matter.
Some context: The US has always opposed national liberation movements that got in the way of its hegemonic aims, so why would it suddenly make an exception for the Palestinians? It is convenient to exonerate US policymakers by pointing the finger at the Israel lobby, but the root of the problem goes beyond AIPAC. Mearsheimer and Walt correctly answered the wrong question: Congress, indeed, takes its marching orders from AIPAC and US-Israeli relations are bad for both countries (though excellent for their establishments). No doubt the Israel lobby has stood in the way of a fair settlement. But to lay the blame squarely on it, one would need to make the case that US policy would be notably different in its absence. The evidence is unpersuasive. Israel has been the linchpin of Pax Americana in the Middle East since June 1967: Cold War then; Carter Doctrine now. The lobby may rejoice in this but can hardly take credit for it. In fact, if it ever deviated from US hegemonic goals (which might eventually happen over Iran), it would quickly discover the limits of its power.
It is undeniable, however, that efforts to stifle public criticism of Israel have created a climate of intimidation. Not everyone enjoys being called an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew for accurately describing the West Bank as an Apartheid society. Media gatekeepers and college administrators have been kept in line. The cranks at Campus Watch are shameless thugs, but what do we call the self-censoring academics and cowed public intellectuals who toss overboard any shred of moral courage to speed their ascension to power? Why must the New York Times feature opinions about Israel that cover only a fraction of the range on offer in Haaretz?
Intangibility, irreversibility, asynchronicity, plus the lack of mutual trust or of a trusted enforcer: these are the strategic reasons all incremental approaches to the two-state solution have failed so far (eg, Oslo I/II, Wye River, Road Map). As if this were not enough, two more disincentives have kept Israel from playing along. One of them is the paradox that, by curbing terrorism, the separation barrier has diminished the short-term added value of peace, a commodity whose market price tends to vary in proportion to its distance to the buyer's present sense of security. (Growing missile threats may soon mess up this calculus.) The other disincentive is Israel's lack of bargaining power. How so? To be effective, a peace agreement would require overwhelming support among Palestinians (whereas majority support in Israel would be sufficient). This niggling detail all but decimates Israel's bargaining power, as it presents it with a "binary" negotiating stand, where wresting the slightest concession quickly becomes counterproductive. Think of it as negotiating the purchase of a parachute: settling for half a parachute at half the price might be an option for the seller but not the buyer. For Israel, it's all or nothing.
What's wrong with "nothing"? Nothing, of course, is the current policy. It is also Zionism's death march. So you'd think Israel would have ditched the "Road Map to Nowhere" long ago and hurried to cut a two-state deal. Ah, if only it could, but you've heard it before: Hamas must recognize Israel; Abbas is a weakling; the terrorist infrastructure must be dismantled; etc. Hogwash. Israel drags its feet because it finds the peace pill unbearably bitter. How bitter? At the very least: dismantling 120 settlements; relocating 110,000 settlers; swapping pre-67 land for settlement blocs already in Israeli hands; rerouting the separation barrier; ceding control over 40% of the West Bank; sharing Jerusalem as a capital; letting in 10-50K refugees; giving away vital water rights; returning the Golan to Syria (no comprehensive peace without it); engaging Hamas; facing violent domestic opposition; endangering the careers and lives of Israeli leaders; last but not least, implicitly admitting that two-thirds of Israel's history has been a monumental blunder.
Whether these costs are just deserts or unfairness incarnate is not a subject I wish to address here—just as I will not discuss whether ceding a mere 22% of historic Palestine (a lousy deal by '47 standards) is an equitable compromise. These are the cards on the table today. To borrow a bon mot from his former chief of staff, Sharon pickled the peace process in "formaldehyde." In truth, Oslo was an incremental process doomed from the start, regardless of Rabin's fate. (Only Arafat could manage to make his people swallow such a stinker.) The parties could have changed tack along the way, but they didn't. No doubt the Palestinians did their part to undermine the peace process: wicked attacks against innocent civilians; failure of the PLO, like Algeria's FLN before it, to grow from a revolutionary movement into a governing institution; etc. Yet, like France in Algeria, Israel bears the ultimate responsibility for the conflict: occupiers always do.
That said, critics of Israel tend to underestimate the barriers to peace. This is not an excuse but a statement of fact: the two-state solution demands of Israel the kind of concessions history wrests from nations defeated at war. Having been defeated at peace, not at war, Israel is psychologically unequipped for the task. All the giving must be, de facto, Israeli and the taking Palestinian—the neat thing about having nothing is that you have nothing to give. Of course, Israel would be "giving" nothing—only returning what it grabbed in contravention of international law—but it is indicative of its delusions of innocence that it should always speak of generous offers, never of legal redress. Peace requires quick, painful surgery. The Road Map? Think of it as handing the patient a Swiss Army knife and asking her to cut off her own leg. Is it any wonder Israel has opted to live with the gangrene and cement the current Apartheid regime in the territories?
If Israel's 60th anniversary proves anything, it is that the Palestinian problem won't go away on its own. Sounding like a pyromaniac warning of the dangers of fire, Olmert put it bluntly: "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses [...] the State of Israel is finished." Squelched in 1948, the two-state idea began to gain mutual acceptance barely two decades ago; it took 15 years for Arafat to sell it to the PLO. It was not even part of Oslo and it has never captured the Palestinian imagination. Today, it elicits among Israelis not a sigh of hope but a collective yawn. The two-state solution may be that rare idea that goes directly from "futuristic" to "obsolete" without stopping at the intermediate stage called "timely."
Geopolitics is changing, too. Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, the region's ascending power, now loom larger in the Israeli psyche than the Palestinian conflict. Israel has never lost a war against the Palestinians but it got bloodied twice in Lebanon. Peace with Syria has a low cost/benefit ratio for Israel and it appears to be back on the agenda. A deal would frustrate Washington because it wouldn't break the Tehran-Damascus axis, just as Jordan's normalization with Israel didn't hurt a bit its relations with Saddam or Hamas—who can forget King Hussein's ordering Bibi to provide Meshaal an antidote after Mossad botched his assassination? America's waning influence in the region may prove a blessing. It may force Israel to ditch its endless excuses and realize it is powerful enough to take the risks of peace: deal with Syria; engage with Hamas; and, crucially, end the occupation. One can dream. The evidence is somewhat less oneiric: unless Palestine accepts to become a client state of the US, Israel will never be leaned upon to set it free; and it won't do it of its own volition.
Approaching the two-state solution as an incremental exchange of piecemeal concessions is doomed. Outside coercion is ruled out, so a successful implementation would require of Israel to assume voluntarily the submissive posture of a vanquished nation: an unlikely scenario for a country unaccustomed to defeat and the behavioral exigencies that go with it. (Losing wars is bad, but that's how nations grow up.) The two-state solution calls for visionary leadership that Israel does not have, international prodding that is nonexistent, and an obliging enemy that has never much been the obliging kind. The final nail in the coffin might be its dwindling popular support.
Ominously for Israel, the military deterrent of a small country stuck in the heart of the Muslim world will not last. The clock is ticking. If Israel ceases to be a Jewish-majority state, what will Israeli parents say when their secular children ask them what's so cool about being a minority in a small country next to Syria when one could be a minority in a big country next to Canada? Israel must travel the painful road to Taba: all the way, all alone, and all at once. The odds are stacked against it. But then the odds of Moses parting the sea were never that good either.
— Bernard Chazelle
June 21, 2008
West Bank Story
By: Bernard Chazelle
I visited the West Bank a few months ago and wrote about it. It's got too many photos for me to cut & paste the whole thing in this post, so click here, read, and weep.
I've also written an essay about the two-state solution, which I'll post in full later.
— Bernard Chazelle
Sam Husseini Asks Sen. Byron Dorgan About Impeachment
Big Bad Boom
Radioactive Déjà Vu in the American West
By Chip Ward
In the American West, we take global warming personally. Like those polar bears desperately hunting for dwindling ice floes, we feel we're on the frontlines of the new weather regime...
Many desert denizens now view abandoned archaeological ruins like Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde in the Southwest as more than the remnants of a collapsed, long-lost Anasazi civilization. They increasingly look like haunting hints of our own possible fate as global warming continues to bake the already arid West.
Ghost towns are nothing new in our boom-n'-bust history, of course, but imagine some future tour guide ushering visitors through the awesome ruins of Las Vegas's Circus-Circus, the Bellagio, or the Luxor Hotel. "They didn't understand the limits of the landscape that enfolded them," she might say, while holding up a golf-ball excavated from the ruins for the crowd to see. "When drought pushed them across the threshold, they didn't see it coming, they couldn't cope, and it all fell apart."
Here we go again… Unfortunately, it's not only the heat that's hitting us hard out here. One of the "solutions" to the crisis of climate chaos is about to kick the citizens of the West right in our collective gut before we even have a chance to go down for the count from heat exhaustion. Nuclear power -- once touted as a "solution" to other problems and recently resurrected -- is now being pushed hard as an alternative to carbon-dioxide emitting coal for keeping the lights on. And, unfortunately for us, its raw material, uranium, is right in our backyard.
June 20, 2008
It's Repentin' Time In Heaven
Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.
And here's Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri this morning, explaining why Congress is making it legal for giant telecoms to wiretap us:
When the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do.
So maybe Adams would have been better off not bothering. Canada didn't, and they seem to be doing okay.
McClellan Testifying Now
Scott McClellan is testifying now (10 am ET) and for the rest of the morning in front of the House Judiciary Committee:
June 19, 2008
Ms. Rice Speaks Out On The Threat Posed By Saddam's Terrifying WMD
Here are some statements by Ms. Rice in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq:
"I think he [then Secretary of State Colin Powell] has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don't think many informed people doubted that." (NPR, Feb. 6, 2003)
"We need to be ready for the possibility that the attack against the U.S. could come in some form against the homeland, not necessarily on the battlefield against our forces. And I think there, too, is an area where the American people need to be better prepared by our leadership. ... It's clear that Iraq poses a major threat. It's clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that's the path we're on. I think the question becomes whether we can keep the diplomatic balls in the air and not drop any, even as we move forward, as we must, on the military side." (NPR, Dec. 20, 2002)
"I think the United States government has been clear since the first Bush administration about the threat that Iraq and Saddam Hussein poses. The United States policy has been regime change for many, many years, going well back into the Clinton administration. So it's a question of timing and tactics...We do not necessarily need a further Council resolution before we can enforce this and previous resolutions." (NPR, Nov. 11, 2002)
Of course, this sounds like Condoleezza Rice. But in fact all those quotes are from Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary of State in the Clinton administration and now part of Obama's newly formed "Senior Working Group on National Security." These quotes are from an examination of the Working Group done by the Institute for Public Accuracy, here.
I'd long believed that black women named Rice who are willing to be appalling hacks to rise to the top of the foreign policy establishment are a precious national resource. However, I thought we faced serious supply constraints. Apparently I was wrong.
Judy Miller Is Back II
By: Bernard Chazelle
The Times article linked to in my last post is being discussed all over the blogosphere. What I've seen, so far, misses the point. The article itself is the point, not the news item (which is entirely predictable).
The more painful the Iraq adventure is for Americans the more conducive it is to our imperialist aims. The argument is that if we've paid with 4000 lives and trillions of dollars, the least the Iraqis can do for us is to give us control of their oil fields. The more Iraq appears to be a national catastrophe for us, the higher public support will be for grabbing the oil.
The Times piece is meant to bring antiwar types to the Cheney camp. The logic is this: "You hated that war, I know, but look, Iraq does not have the technical expertise to handle its own oil, so whether we like it or not, it'll be handed over to foreign companies. Now would you rather have the Chinese or Russians take control? We lost so much in this horrible war that we hate so much. So don't we deserve a tiny consolation prize? Plus, look, the process was opaque but apparently fair. At least we couldn't find any US oil expert to tell us otherwise."
The article makes a preemptive strike against the skeptics: "But didn't we invade for the oil?"
Ah, that's what the Arabs say and some "parts of the American public." In other words, there are creationists out there and scientologists who say all sort of crazy stuff. And some of them are even American. We're not hiding that fact: there are conspiracy theorists out there.
See, we're not stealing that oil. We've paid for it, with 4,000 lives.
— Bernard Chazelle
POWELL: We didn't take on this huge burden with our coalition partners not to be able to have a significant, dominating control over how it unfolds.
Judy Miller Is Back
By: Bernard Chazelle
In the early seventies, Saddam Hussein nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company, a US-UK-French consortium that had a monopoly on Iraqi oil.
4,000 US troops made the ultimate sacrifice to bring back the good old days.
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields
Note that, if not for Sarkozy's passionate ass-kissing, the word "Total" would be missing from the previous paragraph.
What is unexplained is how these US/UK/French companies somehow prevailed over more than 40 companies.
The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India.
The NYT can't figure out how we pulled that off.
There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts
I can't imagine how the US could have had a hand in that. It's just one of those random events. I'm sure Chinese and Russian oil companies came very close to winning the whole thing, but hey sometimes the sun shines in the west.
Sensitive to the appearance that they were profiting from the war and already under pressure because of record high oil prices, senior officials of two of the companies, speaking only on the condition that they not be identified, said they were helping Iraq rebuild its decrepit oil industry.
Note the sensitivity to the appearance, not to the actual theft. In the Judy-Miller school of journalism, this requires further investigation. So the Times correspondent consults with a neutral party, like, say, the CEO of one of the oil companies: "We're here to help. It's really a humanitarian cause." Phew. That's a relief.
Just in case the reader still had any lingering doubt. Were the companies chosen because they had the support of 160,000 heavily armed thugs? Not at all.
the companies had been chosen because they had been advising the ministry without charge for two years before being awarded the contracts
Having made the case that Raymond Lee is the new Mother Teresa, the Times now moves on to the heroic part of the story. We're not just saints. We're martyrs and heroes.
Any Western oil official who comes to Iraq would require heavy security, exposing the companies to all the same logistical nightmares that have hampered previous attempts, often undertaken at huge cost, to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure.
OMG! I think I'm going to short-circuit my laptop with all those tears running down my face and soaking my keyboard.
Wait, in case you're a little slow, let's repeat the main point:
The companies provided free advice and training to the Iraqis. This relationship with the ministry, said company officials and an American diplomat, was a reason the contracts were not opened to competitive bidding.
Get that. We're saints. But those damn Chinese and Russians, well, you know about them.
A total of 46 companies, including the leading oil companies of China, India and Russia, had memorandums of understanding with the Oil Ministry, yet were not awarded contracts.
The Times piece is now in full repeat mode. The last word goes to Exxon's former CEO:
“There is an enormous amount of oil in Iraq,” Mr. Raymond said. “We were part of the consortium, the four companies that were there when Saddam Hussein threw us out, and we basically had the whole country.”
Plus ca change....
— Bernard Chazelle
With Nomination Clinched, Obama Now Free To Be Horrifying Scumbag
So Barack Obama just recorded a radio ad for Rep. John Barrow (D-GA). Barrow has accused Democrats of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq, and enthusiastically supports telcom immunity. He needs Obama's support because he's being challenged in the primary by State Senator Regina Thomas. Bonus scumbaginess: Barrow is white, Thomas is an African-American woman. Glenn Greenwald has the appalling details here.
Meanwhile, Nell says: "I encourage anyone who can afford to do so to donate to the non-partisan effort to prevent a Congressional sellout on warrantless eavesdropping and and immunity for telcoms who broke the law helping the Bush regime invade our privacy." (People with blurgz may also wish to join the blurg arm of the left-right alliance Strange Bedfellows.) Again, Greenwald has the background.
June 18, 2008
By: Bernard Chazelle
One of the most poignant love songs I know.
Quiet, dont explain / What is there to gain / Skip that lipstick / Don't explain
You know that I love you / And what love endures / All my thoughts are of you / For I'm so completely yours
It's a tune by and about Billie Holiday. I am an unconditional fan of hers. I chose not to feature her own version, however, but instead Dexter Gordon's cover with Sonny Clark on piano. Along with Lester Young, Dexter Gordon is one of the great underrated geniuses of jazz. I once got a flurry of angry emails for including him in my top 10 list. Jazz fans take their rankings seriously. I don't. I just put him there because his playing has always so enchanted me. It's so mature and sophisticated and so damn emotional and romantic. (This piece is so melodic it is not the best example of his harmonic mastery.) If I were a movie director and shot a movie in Paris I would have Dexter Gordon in the soundtrack -- drats, it's already been done.
— Bernard Chazelle
"The United States Has Always Been Soaked In Blood And Racism And Sadistic Cruelty..."
Speaking of savage mules, Barack Obama has announced his National Security Working Group. Encouragingly, only most of them are soaked in blood, racism and sadistic cruelty.
The Shell Scenarios For Planetary Catastrophe
You might think even giant multinational oil companies have woken up to the dangers of global warming...so that no matter what they're doing in reality, their PR people will at least make noises about dealing with it in plausible ways. You would be wrong.
Shell, the second largest oil company on earth, has a nice little page where they lay out three different scenarios for the future. The least optimistic is called "Scramble" (for governments scrambling to secure energy sources without regard for climate change) and the most optimistic is called "Blueprints (with CCS)" (CCS meaning carbon capture and storage).
Here's a slide from one of the Shell powerpoint presentations. As you see, the most optimistic scenario is that our CO2 emissions will in 2050 have peaked and declined to present levels.
The atmospheric concentration of CO2 is currently at 385 parts per million. Until recently it was believed we had to stop at 450 ppm to prevent catastrophic climate change; the evidence today suggests we are already too high and must get down to 350 ppm as quickly as possible. Under the most optimistic Shell scenario, we will be (by my rough calculation) at 485 ppm in 2050, and rising quickly.
So that's the downside of the future Shell envisions for us. The upside is that Shell executives will be living comfortably in their gigantic floating fortress in the Arctic.
WEBCHAT: A Shell vice president is hosting a webchat on CCS tomorrow, June 19th, at 11 am EST. If you want to participate, you can register at the "Shell Dialogues" site.
I, CRIMINAL: Part of the terms and conditions of the "Shell Dialogues" site is that you cannot link to them without their permission. Seriously:
If you wish to provide a hypertext or other link to this web site, please contact the webmaster with details of:
the URL(s) of the web page(s) from which you are proposing to link to this web site
the URL(s) of the web page(s) on this web site to which you are proposing to link
and we will consider your request. It is our decision as to whether we agree to your request and we do not have to do so.
I see many long and fruitful dialogues with Shell ahead.
June 17, 2008
Mother Earth's Triple Whammy
Why North Korea Was a Global Crisis Canary
By John Feffer
Gas prices are above $4 a gallon; global food prices surged 39% last year; and an environmental disaster looms as carbon emissions continue to spiral upward. The global economy appears on the verge of a TKO, a triple whammy from energy, agriculture, and climate-change trends. Right now you may be grumbling about the extra bucks you're shelling out at the pump and the grocery store; but, unless policymakers begin to address all three of these trends as one major crisis, it could get a whole lot worse.
Just ask the North Koreans.
In the 1990s, North Korea was the world's canary. The famine that killed as much as 10% of the North Korean population in those years was, it turns out, a harbinger of the crisis that now grips the globe -- though few saw it that way at the time.
That small Northeast Asian land, one of the last putatively communist countries on the planet, faced the same three converging factors as we do now -- escalating energy prices, a reduction in food supplies, and impending environmental catastrophe. At the time, of course, all the knowing analysts and pundits dismissed what was happening in that country as the inevitable breakdown of an archaic economic system presided over by a crackpot dictator.
They were wrong. The collapse of North Korean agriculture in the 1990s was not the result of backwardness. In fact, North Korea boasted one of the most mechanized agricultures in Asia. Despite claims of self-sufficiency, the North Koreans were actually heavily dependent on cheap fuel imports. (Does that already ring a bell?) In their case, the heavily subsidized energy came from Russia and China, and it helped keep North Korea's battalion of tractors operating. It also meant that North Korea was able to go through fertilizer, a petroleum product, at one of the world's highest rates. When the Soviets and Chinese stopped subsidizing those energy imports in the late 1980s and international energy rates became the norm for them, too, the North Koreans had a rude awakening.
WikiLeaks Publishes US Special Forces Counterinsurgency Manual?
Wikileaks has published what it says is a manual of US counterinsurgency doctrine:
The manual, Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces (1994, 2004), may be critically described as "what we learned about running death squads and propping up corrupt government in Latin America and how to apply it to other places". Its contents are both history defining for Latin America and, given the continued role of US Special Forces in the suppression of insurgencies and guerilla movements world wide, history making.
The document, which has been verified, is official US Special Forces doctrine. It directly advocates training paramilitaries, pervasive surveillance, censorship, press control and restrictions on labor unions & political parties. It directly advocates warrantless searches, detainment without charge and the suspension of habeas corpus. It directly advocates bribery, employing terrorists, false flag operations and concealing human rights abuses from journalists. And it directly advocates the extensive use of "psychological operations" (propaganda) to make these and other "population & resource control" measures more palatable.
The document has been particularly informed by the long United States involvement in the El Salvador...
I have no way of judging whether the document is legitimate, but it certainly reads like it is.
Recall that in 2005 the Defense Department decided on what it called "The Salvador Option" for Iraq, with James Steele, a veteran of counterinsurgency in El Salvador during the eighties, training Iraq's Special Police Commandos.
June 16, 2008
The Greatest Story Never Told
Finally, the U.S. Mega-Bases in Iraq Make the News
By Tom Engelhardt
It's just a $5,812,353 contract -- chump change for the Pentagon -- and not even one of those notorious "no-bid" contracts either. Ninety-eight bids were solicited by the Army Corps of Engineers and 12 were received before the contract was awarded this May 28th to Wintara, Inc. of Fort Washington, Maryland, for "replacement facilities for Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq." According to a Department of Defense press release, the work on those "facilities" to be replaced at the base near Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit, is expected to be completed by January 31, 2009, a mere 11 days after a new president enters the Oval Office. It is but one modest reminder that, when the next administration hits Washington, American bases in Iraq, large and small, will still be undergoing the sort of repair and upgrading that has been ongoing for years.
In fact, in the last five-plus years, untold billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on the construction and upgrading of those bases. When asked back in the fall of 2003, only months after Baghdad fell to U.S. troops, Lt. Col. David Holt, the Army engineer then "tasked with facilities development" in Iraq, proudly indicated that "several billion dollars" had already been invested in those fast-rising bases. Even then, he was suitably amazed, commenting that "the numbers are staggering." Imagine what he might have said, barely two and a half years later, when the U.S. reportedly had 106 bases, mega to micro, all across the country.
By now, billions have evidently gone into single massive mega-bases like the U.S. air base at Balad, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. It's a "16-square-mile fortress," housing perhaps 40,000 U.S. troops, contractors, special ops types, and Defense Department employees. As the Washington Post's Tom Ricks, who visited Balad back in 2006, pointed out -- in a rare piece on one of our mega-bases -- it's essentially "a small American town smack in the middle of the most hostile part of Iraq." Back then, air traffic at the base was already being compared to Chicago's O'Hare International or London's Heathrow -- and keep in mind that Balad has been steadily upgraded ever since to support an "air surge" that, unlike the President's 2007 "surge" of 30,000 ground troops, has yet to end.
June 15, 2008
How Tim Russert Planted The Seeds For Iraq War
December 19, 1999: With Al Gore as guest, Tim Russert says on Meet the Press: "One year ago Saddam Hussein threw out all the inspectors who could find his chemical or nuclear capability." Russert asks Gore what he's going to do about this.
Soon afterward: Sam Husseini leaves a message on Russert's answering machine, and speaks to two of his assistants, telling them the inspectors were withdrawn by the UN at the request of the United States.
January 2, 2000: With Madeleine Albright as guest, Tim Russert repeats the error on Meet the Press: "One year ago, the inspectors were told, 'Get out,' by Saddam Hussein." Russert asks Albright what she's going to do about this.
January 21, 2000: Sam Husseini writes a letter to Russert, again laying out the facts, and requests a correction.
January 22, 2000-March 19, 2003: Russert never corrects his error.
March 19, 2003-present: Hundreds of thousands of people die in Iraq War. Russert dies, not in Iraq War. Official Washington weeps copious tears for Russert and his Extraordinary Journalistic Standards.
More details with Sam Husseini's letter.
Understanding The Origins Of Samantha Power's Dimwittery
How could Samantha Power manage to lose a debate to Charles Krauthammer? In front of a bunch of Canadians? In Toronto? The answer is found in her recent commencement address to Pitzer-Claremont College:
One young man came into my office recently and said, "I want your life. I want to write books and magazine articles and get to know a Presidential candidate." My response was: "you so don't want my life!" Now don't get me wrong: I love my life. But this student knew that life only in silhouette. He knew nothing of my many missteps, of the internal struggles, of the constant tradeoffs, and he knew nothing of how I set out on a path hoping to do one thing and ended up doing something radically different...
I promise you that I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if I had set out to reach a specific end state. Every choice up to this point, I have made by following my nose. I went to Bosnia as a journalist in the early 1990s not so I could somehow, one day, end up having the honor of speaking at your commencement, but because I was one of many Americans sickened by the television images of emaciated men and women imprisoned behind barbed wire in modern-day concentration camps.
There's a lot that's unpleasant about this: the smug Gen-X diction, the preening self-regard that Power thinks she's camouflaged, etc. But the most important part is that, at age 37, she still hasn't asked the central question about what set her on the path to where she is today: Of all the millions of people being hurt on planet earth in the early nineties, why were those the ones she saw on her TV?
UPDATE: Power failed to ask the exact same question in a recent column for Time:
I would not be doing what I do today if not for two encounters I never would have sought out on my own. After my freshman year in college, I interned in the sports department of the CBS affiliate in Atlanta and spent my days taking notes on the then hapless Braves' baseball games. One day news from Tiananmen Square suddenly interrupted the CBS feed. Chinese soldiers mauled students and then lunged toward the CBS cameraman filming the scene. I sat looking at my clipboard, wondering what on earth I was doing with my life. Three years later, I got a second push when the nightly news (all three networks!) and the New York Times showed images of emaciated Bosnian men imprisoned in concentration camps in Europe. I went off to the Balkans to cover the war as a freelance journalist.
Of course, if she weren't capable of missing this incredibly obvious point when it's staring her in the face, she wouldn't be a professor at Harvard or writing a column for Time.
Samantha Power Somehow Manages To Lose Debate To Charles Krauthammer
The problem with America's liberals—besides the fact they always seem to end up killing millions of people—is they consistently lose debates to America's psycho right wing, which then seizes power and kills even more people than the liberals do.
Samantha Power and Richard Holbrooke continued this proud liberal tradition on May 26 in Toronto, where they somehow lost to Niall Ferguson and Charles Krauthammer. Good work!
MCCAIN SQUAD OUT-TALKS O'S
IF only John McCain could use surrogates instead of having to debate Barack Obama in person. The other day in Toronto, McCain's team, his foreign-policy adviser Niall Ferguson and conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, crushed the Obama squad - Samantha Power, who had to step down from his campaign after calling Hillary Clinton "a monster," and Richard Holbrooke, who was Bill Clinton's UN ambassa dor. Before the debate, only 21 percent of the audience agreed with the motion that "the world is a safer place with a Republican in the White House." Two hours later, the mostly liberal, anti-George Bush crowd had a profound change of heart: 43 percent ended up voting for the motion. "Was it simply that Power was the weakest of the speakers on the stage?" columnist Shinan Govani wondered. "Or did it point to a weakness in the Obama brand?" Power, a Pulitzer-winning Harvard professor, left "shocked and visibly downbeat," Govani reports. "What happened?" she was heard asking.
Anyone who wants to listen to the debate can do so here. I won't because I already know exactly how it went.
KRAUTHAMMER: The United States is surrounded by a world of lunatics who hate us because we're so beautiful!
FERGUSON: We must defend the White Race and its precious bodily fluids!
POWER: Everyone knows Ahmadinejad is a psychotic dictator who wants only to kill the Jews. As President, Obama will negotiate with him.
HOLBROOKE: I agree with everything Mr. Krauthammer and Mr. Ferguson say, except in one crucial area: I should be Secretary of State.
In other Samantha Power news, she has a "blog", although it's just about her various appearances, seems to be run by an assistant, and doesn't allow comments.
(via Doug Henwood)
June 14, 2008
I Have Discovered An Interesting Fact
NBC actually puts ads in its press releases.
It's also notable, of course, who the ad is from. If you can't get hard-hitting journalism from a GE-owned, Boeing-funded outlet, where can you get it?
Sent: 6/14/2008 11:45:47 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: REVISED: COMING UP ON 'MEET THE PRESS' (SUNDAY 6/15)
NBC Meet The Press
MEET THE PRESS WITH TIM RUSSERT
WEEKEND LISTINGS 06/15/08
Executive Producer, Meet the Press
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN
Former Correspondent, NBC News
Boeing and its 153,000 employees are proud to sponsor Meet
the Press. To learn more about Boeing go to www.boeing.com.
More interesting facts are here.
June 13, 2008
David Broder Angrily Denounces People Named David Broder; "Journalism Is Being Destroyed By These Horrible Broders," Says Broder
Ken Silverstein of Harper's has discovered that Washington Post columnist David Broder has been spending time recently on the business lecture circuit. Among the groups to which he's spoken are the National Association of Manufacturers, the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, the American Council for Capital Formation, and an organization of health insurance companies.
As Silverstein points out, this is especially notable because Broder's spent years criticizing journalists who do this as being "greedy" and appearing to be "part of the establishment and therefore part of the problem." Silverstein has yet to receive a response from Broder about how much he's been paid for these speeches, although he did find that Broder seems to have received $12,000 for a 2006 talk.
And this behavior is nothing new from Broder. For decades his shtick has been to posture as an independent-minded guardian of the DC press corps' conscience, while engaging in exactly the kind of intellectually corrupt Washington insider-dom he publicly deplores. In fact, he's so shameless it almost makes you feel bad for everyone there with him in the DC muck. They may be all be whores, but Broder—whenever he's on break from servicing the clientele—makes the rest of the hookers listen to pious sermons about the evils of prostitution.*
What's unclear is whether Broder is deeply devious, or suffers from the kind of anti-self awareness usually associated only with severe brain damage. Perhaps it's the latter, and he believes those nice gentlemen are leaving the envelopes of cash on the dresser because he and they share a deep emotional connection.
Whatever the case, here's a little-known but especially hilarious example of Broder at his most Broder-iffic.
Back in November, 1988, the National Press Club gave Broder a "Fourth Estate Award" at a fancy black-tie dinner. The Washington Post reprinted Broder's speech:
BRODER: The redeeming virtue of the press I've known and been part of is its orneriness -- its sense of apartness -- its insistence on going its own way. Especially its determination to keep its distance from government, not only to avoid censorship, but to avoid co-optation. Subversion by seduction. The insidious inhibition of intimacy...
There's a real danger in blurring the line between politicians and journalists, in letting ourselves become androgynous Washington Insiders, all of us seeking and wielding influence in our own ways. The people know what to do with politicians who displease them: They can always vote them out of office. They have no such recourse against us in the press. And if they see us as part of a power-wielding clique of Insiders, they're going to be resentful as hell that they have no way to call us to account...
Besides, I can't for the life of me fathom why any journalists would want to become Insiders, when it's so damn much fun to be outsiders -- irreverent, inquisitive, impudent, incorrigibly independent outsiders -- thumbing our nose at authority and going our own way.
This would be excruciating enough even if all you knew was that David Broder was a longtime columnist for the Post op-ed page...which is "independent" from the government in the same way sock puppets are "independent" from the hands inside them. It's worse if you're familiar with Broder's writing, which—in his determination to explain we're governed by honorable men who sometimes are forced to torture and kill due to an excess of good intentions—is as dangerous and stupefying as an overdose of anesthesia.
But it was Broder's audience that night twenty years ago that made his speech akin to a lecture on proper etiquette from Jeffrey Dahlmer. Who was the other main guest celebrating Broder's orneriness, independence, and determination to keep his distance from government? It was JAMES BAKER.
James Baker was then the incoming Secretary of State. Before that, he'd been George H.W. Bush's consigliere and Reagan's Treasury Secretary. After that, he was the guy who ran George W. Bush's Florida operation after the 2000 election. If you found the most inside of Washington insiders and then cut him open, hiding inside would be James Baker.
Here's how the Washington Post Style section described the scene that jolly evening, as Broder excoriated those journalists "seduced" by "the insidious inhibition of intimacy" while celebrating his own impudence and irreverence:
Baker even brought a little personal handwritten note from President-elect Bush to Broder, reminiscing about how "you've come a long way" since the time the Bushes, Broders, Bakers and others spent three weeks touring China together in 1977 in a kind of private bonding experience (Bush was between public jobs at the time) that they all remember fondly. Ann Broder and Susan Baker were there with their husbands last night.
"Perhaps our nation is a little kinder and a little gentler thanks to David Broder," Baker said. "Read my lips, David. You're a pro."
And indeed, George H.W. Bush was exactly right. That David Broder: he's a pro.
*In all seriousness, I apologize to prostitutes for comparing them to corporate DC journalists. Those trapped in the hell of coerced sex-work (such as many Iraqi women) are probably decent human beings, unlike the people (such as corporate DC journalists) who put them there.
(More of my crass jeering about David Broder can be found here, here and here. I learned about Broder's 1988 speech from Eric Alterman's book Sound and Fury; Alterman paints a fairminded but damning portrait of Broder here. Glenn Greenwald says this and this. Paul Begala believes "David Broder is a Gasbag." And obviously: Broderella.)
I'm More And More Impressed By The Intellectual Force Of Global Warming Deniers
I think we should give a fair hearing to those who claim man-made global warming isn't a problem. Let's get the case direct from John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel:
Here is the deal about CO2, carbon dioxide...I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000 only 38 are CO2; 38 out of a hundred thousand. That makes it a trace component. Let me ask a key question: how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t.
You can't help but be convinced by the SCIENCE!
June 12, 2008
Torture Awareness Month -- Update
By: Nell Lancaster
In taking advantage again of Jon's generous invitation to cross-post, I'm aware that I risk becoming known here as That Torture Lady. Hey, cut me a little slack; I read 1984 at the age of seven (not recommended). To the post...
Everyone's observing Torture Awareness Month in their own way.
The clique of criminals who rule us are making efforts to cover up the extent and specifics of the tortures to which prisoners at Guantanamo have been subjected, while doing so in a way that actually calls attention to the cover-up:
• Urging interrogators in a printed operations manual to destroy their notes to avoid revealing torture.
• Using a sound delay and mute button to prevent observers at the arraignment of five defendants in Guantanamo from hearing the men describe their treatment, while allowing several outright references to torture.
The crudeness of these evasions makes it hard for those who want to deny that a systematic policy of torture is in effect to keep up the pretense.
Carol Rosenberg's coverage for the Miami Herald of the show trials underway at Guantanamo is the best in the corporate media. Her account of the recent arraignment of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and four other defendants makes vivid the surreal, Soviet atmosphere in which prosecutors and defendants cooperated to shed the defense lawyers who might slow down the express train to judicial murder/martyrdom/permanent destruction of witnesses to torture.
Some other journalists who've already earned respect are about to mark this month by strengthening their reputation. Here's a preview from one of them, John Walcott:
Next Sunday, June 15, McClatchy will begin publishing the most extensive investigation to date of the treatment of detainees, not only at Guantanamo but also at Bagram and Kandahar in Afghanistan. Reporters Tom Lasseter and Matt Schofield tracked down and interviewed 66 former detainees -- more than any other organization, media or NGO, we think -- in 11 countries on three continents. They also interviewed former prison guards, interrogators, translators, Pentagon and administration officials, defense lawyers and Afghan intelligence and security officials to paint the most complete picture we could of who U.S. picked up, how and why, what happened to “suspected enemy combatants” and who’s responsible.
The package was overseen by the McClatchy Washington Bureau’s Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign editor, Roy Gutman, the editor of "Crimes of War" and the author of a new book on U.S. policy toward Afghanistan before 9/11. It includes five main stories, a video, photos, numerous sidebars, the stories of all 66 former detainees and an online database. If you don’t live in an area served by one of our papers, or even if you do, you can find the whole package at www.mcclatchydc.com starting on Sunday, June 15 and running for five days.
[A heartfelt hat tip to bmaz at Emptywheel for all the items above.]
The Supreme Court is observing Torture Awareness Month by upholding, narrowly, the principle of habeas corpus that is fundamental to preventing indefinite detention and torture: the guarantee of access to civilian federal courts to contest the basis of the detention. As Human Rights First pointed out in fighting Congress's craven passage of the habeas-stripping Military Commissions Act in September 2006, virtually everything known about the mistreatment of prisoners up to that point was made public only through the process of their habeas appeals.
The Boumediene/Al Odah decision is not as far-reaching as some had hoped, but not as narrow as some had feared. It's resoundingly Constitution-affirming. A sigh of relief, a small sip of champagne.
Speaking of affirming the Constitution, ATR readers are already aware of how Rep. Dennis Kucinich and three co-sponsors this week made Bush's policy of torture two of the central articles of impeachment (pdf) introduced against him, along with 33 other high crimes and misdemeanors. The House Judiciary Committee has to take the next step.
So. What are you doing for Torture Awareness Month?
Truth & Reconciliation
Mark Gisleson makes the case here that a Truth & Reconciliation Commission would be better for America than impeachment. I've long thought that was true; the rot is so deep in US society that a just punishment process would require the incarceration of 94% of the white people inside the beltway. Hence, the perps have so much power that they'd be able to destroy the country in any kind of real struggle for power. The same thing was true in South Africa, which is why Truth & Reconciliation was the way to go. You're not punished as long as you tell the truth about what you did.
Of course, it's highly unlikely we'll get either impeachment or Truth & Reconciliation, but it's worth pushing for and thinking seriously about both. In a better world, we'd use the threat of the first to create the second.
Kucinich On Impeachment On O'Reilly Factor
Here's Dennis Kucinich last night on the O'Reilly Factor talking about his 35 articles of impeachment for Bush. You can understand that Fox would be the only network to have him on, since the media's so liberal.
Co-sponsors on the impeachment articles now include Robert Wexler, Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee. Woolsey just released a statement of support on impeachment here.
Remember that as unlikely as impeachment may seem at this moment, the threat is one of the only tools available to prevent Bush from attacking Iran.
Losing Latin America
What Will the Obama Doctrine Be Like?
By Greg Grandin
Google "neglect," "Washington," and "Latin America," and you will be led to thousands of hand-wringing calls from politicians and pundits for Washington to "pay more attention" to the region. True, Richard Nixon once said that "people don't give one shit" about the place. And his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger quipped that Latin America is a "dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica." But Kissinger also made that same joke about Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand -- and, of the three countries, only the latter didn't suffer widespread political murder as a result of his policies, a high price to pay for such a reportedly inconsequential place.
Latin America, in fact, has been indispensable in the evolution of U.S. diplomacy. The region is often referred to as America's "backyard," but a better metaphor might be Washington's "strategic reserve," the place where ascendant foreign-policy coalitions regroup and redraw the outlines of U.S. power, following moments of global crisis.
When the Great Depression had the U.S. on the ropes, for example, it was in Latin America that New Deal diplomats worked out the foundations of liberal multilateralism, a diplomatic framework that Washington would put into place with much success elsewhere after World War II.
In the 1980s, the first generation of neocons turned to Latin America to play out their "rollback" fantasies -- not just against Communism, but against a tottering multilateralist foreign-policy. It was largely in a Central America roiled by left-wing insurgencies that the New Right first worked out the foundational principles of what, after 9/11, came to be known as the Bush Doctrine: the right to wage war unilaterally in highly moralistic terms.
We are once again at a historic crossroads. An ebbing of U.S. power -- this time caused, in part, by military overreach -- faces a mobilized Latin America; and, on the eve of regime change at home, with George W. Bush's neoconservative coalition in ruins after eight years of disastrous rule, would-be foreign policy makers are once again looking south.
June 11, 2008
Home Heating Via Biochar
Now that I've become obsessed by global warming, I plan to muse constantly about every possible aspect of it. At the beginning, at least, I'll be shockingly uninformed. So, let's get started!
Here's what I want to know right now: with the cost of heating oil going up, lots of people will be looking at new ways to heat their homes. In the seventies there was an outbreak of wood stove usage. Is there any reason lots of people couldn't use wood today—but instead of stoves, use biochar kilns...so their home heating is actually carbon negative? In other words, is pyrolysis a plausible means of heating a house?
If so, it seems like there should be political initiatives to encourage this. At least if it wouldn't become so popular it led to deforestation.
UPDATE: I'm disappointed in the apparent lack of interest in biochar. I could talk about it for hours. Take it from me: if you haven't made biochar a part of your mental life, you're missing out.
MORE: Ah, things are picking up. Thanks for the links, including this useful article on biochar pointed out by Quin.
Congress Sends Kucinich's Articles Of Impeachment To Judiciary
Congress has sent Dennis Kucinich's 35 articles of impeachment for Bush to the Judiciary Committee. The vote was 255-161, with the majority made up of every Democrat plus 24 Republicans.
One thing anyone who cares about this can do is contact John Conyers, or your representative if they're on Judiciary. You might also want to sign this new Democrats.com petition calling on Tim Russert to put Kucinich on Meet the Press to discuss impeachment.
June 09, 2008
Kucinich Introducing 35 Articles Of Impeachment
Dennis Kucinich is on C-Span 1 right this second (7:30 pm ET) on the floor of the House, introducing 35 separate articles of impeachment for President Bush. And he's reading them all into the record, so if you want to tune in, he'll be there for a while.
Beverly Gage Is Ruining History For Everyone
There is a rule, rigidly enforced in America's classrooms, that history must be mind-numbingly boring. Only by rigorous effort is it possible to drain the lifeblood out of the past, which in reality is fascinating. But the boring-ifying effort must be made; if it's not, students might pay attention and learn from history, and then where would we be?
It's for this reason I'm so concerned about Beverly Gage, a history professor at Stutts. Every time I've encountered her writing, I've found the same grievous flaws. It's not just that she fails to turn history into tasteless pudding. No, it's far worse: she shamelessly highlights what's compelling about the past, and then draws connections to our lives today.
That's why I urge you to avoid her pernicious work, and, at all costs, shield our young from exposure. For instance:
• This New York Times op-ed about the evidence Warren Harding may have been (by America's "one-drop" rule) the first black president.
• Her book The Day Wall Street Exploded, which, although it hasn't been published yet, shows strong signs—with its focus on a 1920 horse-cart bombing in Lower Manhattan that killed thirty-nine people—of the same appalling interestingness she's exhibited before.
Attention Geeks and Hackers
Uncle Sam's Cyber Force Wants You!
By William J. Astore
Recently, while I was on a visit to Salon.com, my computer screen momentarily went black. A glitch? A power surge? No, it was a pop-up ad for the U.S. Air Force, warning me that an enemy cyber-attack could come at any moment -- with dire consequences for my ability to connect to the Internet. It was an Outer Limits moment. Remember that eerie sci-fi show from the early 1960s? The one that began in a blur with the message, "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission…." It felt a little like that.
And speaking of Air Force ads, there's one currently running on TV and on the Internet that starts with a bird's eye view of the Pentagon as a narrator intones, "This building will be attacked three million times today. Who's going to protect it?" Two Army colleagues of mine nearly died on September 11, 2001, when the third hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon, so I can't say I appreciated the none-too-subtle reminder of that day's carnage. Leaving that aside, it turns out that the ad is referring to cyber-attacks and that the cyber protector it has in mind is a new breed of "air" warrior, part of an entirely new Cyber Command run by the Air Force. Using the latest technology, our cyber elite will "shoot down" enemy hackers and saboteurs, both foreign and domestic, thereby dominating the realm of cyberspace, just as the Air Force is currently seeking to dominate the planet's air space -- and then space itself "to the shining stars and beyond."
Part of the Air Force's new "above all" vision of full-spectrum dominance, America's emerging cyber force has control fantasies that would impress George Orwell. Working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Homeland Security, and other governmental agencies, the Air Force's stated goal is to gain access to, and control over, any and all networked computers, anywhere on Earth, at a proposed cost to you, the American taxpayer, of $30 billion over the first five years...
Thus, on May 12th of this year, the Air Force Research Laboratory posted an official "request for proposal" seeking contractor bids to begin the push to achieve "dominant cyber offensive engagement." The desired capabilities constitute a disturbing militarization of cyberspace...
The World's Most Delicious Roof
Many thanks to everyone for comments here about your own views/actions on global warming. Please keep them coming.
If you haven't seen it, be sure to check out Bruce F.'s account (with lots of pictures) of growing rooftop heirloom vegetables in Chicago. Everyone in every city on earth should do this.
June 08, 2008
Mankind's Greatest Invention
In an article about the benefits of blugging, Scientific American makes this important point:
As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining...
My belief has long been that humans developed jokes as a way to complain while still getting others to pay attention. This was a smart move on our part—there's really no other way to make both things happen at the same time.
As a longtime parodist, I appreciate the excellent craftsmanship in this Google News from an alternate, happier dimension.
Enormous Changes At The Last Minute
I've suddenly started thinking much more about global warming. And I mean "suddenly" and "much more" in the same sense when I turned twelve I suddenly started thinking much more about girls. One day my thought process was "Doop doop soccer doop homework doop de doop pizza video games doop" and the next it was "[SOUND OF GIANT SCREAMING AIR RAID SIREN]"
The bad news regarding global warming is: impending global cataclysm. The good news, I've come to believe, is that we do have a real chance at mitigating it, and in the process making the world far nicer in many ways. But we absolutely must get started now in a big way.
In any case, I'd appreciate hearing anyone else's thoughts about this; ie, where you get your information, what organizations you belong to, what you're personally doing, etc. I myself endorse Bill Kibben's new group 350. And while I know less about Brighter Planet, they have the McKibben seal of approval, so I'm happy to put up their badge in the sidebar. Check them out—and if you put their badge on your own blugg, they'll offset 350 pounds of carbon on your behalf.
I hope to have more thoughts from the giant screaming air raid siren in my head soon.
June 07, 2008
I Want to Be an Expert, Too!
By: Bernard Chazelle
Experts assured us that Iraq would be a cakewalk and we'd be tripping all over WMDs as we stroll down Baghdad streets. When it turned out differently, we were told that "No One Could Have Predicted That."
Today, Big Brown lost a horserace: a loss that No One Could Have Predicted. I was listening to NPR in the car and one expert after the next kept reassuring us that Big Brown could not lose. It did. (Which makes me happy because between a gorgeous horse and human vermin injecting it with steroids for extra bucks, I'll always take the side of the horse.)
Surprise: even the oil industry has experts.
The oil survey has correctly predicted the direction of futures 49 percent of the time since its start in April 2004.
Please tell me I am reading this wrong. A direction is a binary thing, right? It's up or down? So, if I flip a coin I get it right 50% percent of the time plus or minus a few standard deviations. So, why are we paying those people more than enough to buy a penny for the experiment?
— Bernard Chazelle
By: Bernard Chazelle
Diane Johnson quotes Yasmina Reza:
[Sarkozy] is American in the worst sense of the word.
This statement is bullshit in the worst sense of the word.
Sarkozy is quintessentially French in the worst sense of the word.
I don't know him personally but I know his type well. I grew up with people just like him. Sarko's distinctive traits have nothing to do with his Jewish, Greek, Hungarian, or Catholic origins, even less so with his so-called American tastes. (Not sure what that means. He knows diddly-squat about American culture.) He grew up in Paris and that's all you need to know. He is without a doubt the most provincial French president since Rene Coty. People mistake his pandering for cosmopolitanism. He loves America so much that he never bothered to visit the country until he was a cabinet minister. Some love.
This is a man who does not think twice before heckling someone on TV: "Casse-toi, pauvre con" ("Get lost, asshole" using the "tu" form that every French child aged 5 and above learns to avoid when addressing strangers.) He is not an aggressive pitbull in the neurotic Seinfeldian sense of "Have a nice day!" -- "Why are you telling me that? Why shouldn't I have a nice day? Do you think I need you to have a nice day? Who the hell do you think you are: some kind of god who hands out "nice day" passes to strangers?" Sarkozy is more like: "Ok, so 2+2=4" -- "No, 2+2 is not 4! This is the sort of mistake only a moron can make: 2+2 is not just only 4, it's really truly absolutely 4. I'm sick of idiots who don't get that."
There was a weird hope he would use the presidency to shake things up. But it looks like he conquered power only to upgrade his sexual partners. And that, you can say, is French in the worst sense of the word. (The upside is that it's hard to drop a nuclear bomb and to have sex at the same time.)
— Bernard Chazelle
The Real News On Iraqi MPs In US
Donate to the Real News here.
The segment is an interview with two members of the Iraqi parliament who're now in the US. They explain how a majority of parliament will oppose a permanent basing agreement with the US.
By: Bernard Chazelle
Hillary could never be Angela, so she tried to be Benazir. She failed. For that, we owe her our gratitude.
It's funny one should have to explain why. Funny this shouldn't be funny enough:
Bush1 (VP), Bush1 (VP), Bush1 (P), Clinton1 (P), Clinton1 (P), Bush2 (P), Bush2 (P), Clinton2 (P)
Oh, but Hillary was smart, competent, and she was a woman. So was Queen Victoria. People easily forget that many (if not most) Europeans monarchs were smart, competent, and would have won any electoral contest fair and square.
63 percent of US presidents have been mutual relatives. I thank Senator Clinton for unwillingly bringing that number down.
Women are doing a better job than men at running great universities (a job that I believe is harder than running the country) and a chromosomal change in the Oval Office is long overdue. Hillary would have been the worst possible way to bring in the extra Xs.
The sad part is that she lost because of Mark Penn's idiocy, not because of the country's flight from its own idiocy.
— Bernard Chazelle
ADDED BY JON: Don't be grateful too soon. If she's Obama's vice president, it could go Bush1 (VP), Bush1 (VP), Bush1 (P), Clinton1 (P), Clinton1 (P), Bush2 (P), Bush2 (P), Clinton2 (VP), Clinton2 (VP), Clinton2 (P), Clinton2 (P). That is, 44 STRAIGHT YEARS of these two benighted families.
June 06, 2008
Did the Kosovo Liberation Army Kidnap And Murder Serbs For Their Organs?
[Carla] Del Ponte remained in her position [as Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia] until the end of 2007, leaving to become the Swiss ambassador to Argentina; at the same time writing a book about her time with the Tribunal -- "The Hunt: Me and War Criminals", published two months ago but available at the moment only in Italian. It hasn't been much reported yet what del Ponte has said about NATO, but the book has already created a scandal in Europe, for in it she reveals how the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) abducted hundreds of Serbs in 1999, and took them to Kosovo's fellow Muslims in Albania where they were killed, their kidneys and other body parts then removed and sold for transplant in other countries...
On February 17 of this year, in a move of highly questionable international legality, the KLA declared the independence of Kosovo from Serbia. The next day the United States recognized this new "nation", thus affirming the unilateral declaration of independence of a part of another country's territory. The new country has as its prime minister a gentleman named Hashim Thaci, described in Del Ponte's book as the brain behind the abductions of Serbs and the sale of their organs.
Some of the relevant parts of del Ponte's book are here. This is so lurid, and so similar to standard war atrocity rumors, that the evidence del Ponte provides doesn't seem anywhere near conclusive. (Recall the blockbuster Turkish movie Valley of the Wolves was about US troops doing this with Iraqis.) In any case, it's unlikely we'll ever know for sure; given the position of the US, it will never be seriously investigated.
Here's Hillary Clinton on Kosovo in June, 1999, right when this was purportedly happening:
This has been possible because our nations—our leaders and our citizens—stood up against evil. Now there are some who I know who would quibble with my use of that word, but I think it fully describes the conflict we have been waging these last few months...we will not turn away when human beings are cruelly expelled, or when they are denied basic rights and dignities because of how they look or how they worship. When crimes against humanity rear their ugly heads, we have to send such a message as an international community.
Rick Perlstein has posted some amazing outtakes from his research for his book Nixonland (which is well worth buying). It's a bunch of constituent letters to Illinois liberal Democratic Senator Paul Douglas before he lost the 1966 election. For instance:
At least fifty square of Chicago is occupied by negroes which means that no part of that area is safe for white people to travel... It is safe to say that not a single white person has ever moved into a negro neighorhood yet there has been over a million white people dumped, shoved, or pushed out of their homes by expansion of negroes... NEGROES HAVE BEEN MADE THE BOSS OF THE UNITED STATES.
Read the rest. That is an order from the NEGROES WHO HAVE BEEN MADE THE BOSS OF THE UNITED STATES.
Acts Of War
What leverage does the Bush administration have to force the Iraqi government to sign a long-term basin g agreement with us? Patrick Cockburn reports:
The US is holding hostage some $50bn (£25bn) of Iraq's money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the US occupation indefinitely, according to information leaked to The Independent...
Given intense American pressure on a weak Iraqi government very dependent on US support, it is still probable that the agreement will go through with only cosmetic changes.
How should this kind of international hardball be characterized? According to a recent report by five NATO generals, it is an "act of war":
In addition to the ongoing threats posed by international terrorism by non-state or proxy-state actors, acts of war can be committed by individual nation states or allied states by abusing the leverage that other resources bring. China and Russia today are economic powers that might be tempted to deter other nations with the weapons of finance and energy resources.
However, there is one thing that makes it completely different when we do it: that we are doing it. So, never mind.
June 05, 2008
The Iron Law Of Institutions, In Iraq
Patrick Cockburn's long article on a permanent deal keeping US troops in Iraq is full of useful information. But I particularly liked this:
Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.
Or as the Church of the SubGenius puts it:
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.
As the Iron Law of Institutions says: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution.
Governing is the art of pretending this isn't true, because telling the truth wouldn't make you popular: "Don't you see? Obviously I personally think having US troops here shooting all of us is a bad idea, but if they leave me and my friends would lose power!"
What It Really Means When America Goes to War
By Chris Hedges
Troops, when they battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in "atrocity producing situations." Being surrounded by a hostile population makes simple acts, such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke, dangerous. The fear and stress push troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. The hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find. The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed, over time, to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents.
Civilians and combatants, in the eyes of the beleaguered troops, merge into one entity. These civilians, who rarely interact with soldiers or Marines, are to most of the occupation troops in Iraq nameless, faceless, and easily turned into abstractions of hate. They are dismissed as less than human. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing -- the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm -- to murder -- the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you.
The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing. The savagery and brutality of the occupation is tearing apart those who have been deployed to Iraq. As news reports have just informed us, 115 American soldiers committed suicide in 2007. This is a 13% increase in suicides over 2006. And the suicides, as they did in the Vietnam War years, will only rise as distraught veterans come home, unwrap the self-protective layers of cotton wool that keep them from feeling, and face the awful reality of what they did to innocents in Iraq.
June 04, 2008
Why Hillary Clinton Lost
This is a New York Times story from February 18, 2007:
One of the most important decisions that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton made about her bid for the presidency came late last year when she ended a debate in her camp over whether she should repudiate her 2002 vote authorizing military action in Iraq...antiwar anger has festered, and yesterday morning Mrs. Clinton rolled out a new response to those demanding contrition: She said she was willing to lose support from voters rather than make an apology she did not believe in.
“If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from,” Mrs. Clinton told an audience in Dover, N.H., in a veiled reference to two rivals for the nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.
Her decision not to apologize is regarded so seriously within her campaign that some advisers believe it will be remembered as a turning point in the race: either ultimately galvanizing voters against her (if she loses the nomination), or highlighting her resolve and her willingness to buck Democratic conventional wisdom (if she wins).
If progressives had power, we'd be able to turn this into unquestioned conventional wisdom about how voting for aggressive war dooms Democrats who want to be president. That wouldn't be true, but one measure of power is the ability to create non-true but convenient conventional wisdom.
June 03, 2008
The Meaning of Shock-and-Awe
By: Bernard Chazelle
Remember the heady days of Shock-and-Awe? TV networks wheeled in their experts to tell us what a sweet show it was going to be. Every MSM outlet was giddy with anticipation.
I felt utter disgust.
The days of Shock-and-Awe will be remembered as the worst episode of the Bush era; worse than Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, rendition, Patriot Act, Katrina, etc. It was when Americans became "Bush's Willing Executioners" and admitted it.
The phrase "Shock-and-Awe" is semantically indistinguishable from the word "terrorism." You could say "Fright-and-Terror" instead. Not quite as euphonic but essentially synonymous. Terrorists usually don't refer to themselves by that name. With Shock-and-Awe, Americans did precisely that.
The point of this post is not that attacking Iraq was bad (though it was); it is not that Shock-and-Awe was terrorism (though it was). It is that Bush, for once, did not lie. He asked us with utter clarity and no ambiguity whatsoever: do you want to be a terrorist? And America said yes. The question "Shall we do Shock-and-Awe?" does not mean "Do you want to avenge 9/11?" or "Do you want to liberate Iraqis?" or "Do you want to remove a WMD threat?" If it did, it would be phrased differently. There is no need to invoke terror for any of these purposes. But Shock-and-Awe explicitly appeals to the intention of terrorizing. "Do you want to do Shock-and-Awe?" means "Do you want to be a terrorist?" For this one time, the US government told the truth and called its own terrorism by its name. America understood, and America cheered.
My point is not that Bush is bin Laden. By using the phrase "Shock-and-Awe" Bush was asking us: "Hey, I am going to be a terrorist in Iraq. Do you want to be a terrorist, too?" And Americans, by a huge majority, said "Yes."
Please don't agree with me too quickly. In fact, do me a favor and dismiss this as hyperbole. But before you do so, please rebut the argument I will now make.
When you plan a bombing attack on a major city and you call it Shock-and-Awe, you quite clearly intend to cause horrendous fear in the population. That would be the standard interpretation of anyone with minimum fluency in the English language: shock, awe, bombs. What else could it mean?
But perhaps the standard interpretation won't do. Shock-and-Awe was not coined by journalists or bloggers. It is a technical military term which might mean something entirely different. Perhaps it refers to a plan to terrorize only officers into surrendering while sparing civilians. If so, my point collapses. So let's check the facts.
Shock-and-Awe is explained in great detail in a 1996 book
the threat and fear of action that may shut down all or part of the
One seeks to shut down, not the military infrastructure, but the adversary's society. Am I putting too much emphasis on just one unfortunate choice of words? Let's hear Ullman elaborate on the subject:
"You're sitting in Baghdad and all of a sudden you're the general
and 30 of your division headquarters have been wiped out. You also
take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power,
water. In 2,3,4,5 days they are physically, emotionally and
It's unambiguous. The goal is to use violence to inspire fear in a way that will shut down all or part of society. The objective is the same as that of 9/11: bring a society to its knees by using terror. (The Ullman-Wade book even mentions Hiroshima approvingly as an example of Shock-and-Awe.)
Shock-and-awe is factually, conceptually, and morally equivalent to or worse than 9/11. Factually: Iraq Body Count estimated the death toll at more than 6,000, which is twice 9/11. Conceptually: The means are terrorism, ie, the goal is to achieve political ends through violence and fear against innocent people. Morally: this was not self-defense or even retaliation; it was premeditated murder of thousands of innocent civilians (including many more children than on 9/11).
When you hear that "9/11 changed everything," make sure to ask: "Did Shock-and-Awe change everything?"
When people tell you Americans can't understand "Islamofascist terrorists," tell them that Americans, in fact, are uniquely qualified to understand bin Laden.
In March 2003, Americans were asked if they wanted to be terrorists. A large majority said "Yes." The word terrorism was already taken, so they went for the closest synonym they could find: Shock-and-Awe.
It's not anti-Americans and pacifists who called Americans terrorists. It is, in fact, Americans themselves. At least they were honest about it.
— Bernard Chazelle
Only So Many Ways For Human Beings To Oppress Each Other
This is from the first episode of the HBO miniseries John Adams, which just came out on DVD:
A square in Boston. JOHN ADAMS and SAM ADAMS are among a crowd listening to Massachusetts Attorney General JONATHAN SEWELL. SEWELL, protected by a regiment of redcoats, is reading a new proclamation from King George III.
JONATHAN SEWALL: Whereas dangerous insurrections have been fomented in the town of Boston to the utter subversion of His Majesty's government and the utter destruction of the public peace, be it enacted that no goods or merchandise whatever be transported to or brought from any other colony or country. Be it enacted that for the suppression of riots and tumults, all disturbers of the King's peace are to be transported to England for trial. Any British soldier or officer charged with a capital crime will in like manner be transported out of the colony to receive a fair hearing. Be it enacted that for better regulating the government of Massachusetts, the present council is to be immediately disbanded...
CUT TO: SAM ADAMS and JOHN ADAMS walking near Boston Harbor.
SAM ADAMS: The King's ships shall close the bay and cut us off from the rest of the country.
JOHN ADAMS: Boston must suffer martyrdom.
SAM ADAMS: Our people will not stand idly by. They have weapons and they know how to use them.
JOHN ADAMS: Against the British Empire?
Sounds like Gaza.
Of course, there is one critical difference: very few Gazan men wear wigs.
(I got the John Adams DVD from HBO as part of their blugger publicity.)
June 02, 2008
Only a Sicko Would Laugh at This
By: Bernard Chazelle
This is upsetting, possibly racist, and just outrageous.
So why is it I can't stop laughing?
New York Post: A Manhattan man is feeling flush with anger after he says he was forced to sit in the bathroom for three hours on a cross-country JetBlue flight.
Gokhan Mutlu is now suing the airline for $2 million for having "mortified, disgraced, degraded and shamed" him by confining him to the can.
Mutlu says the bizarre incident happened Feb. 23, when he was a standby passenger for a flight from San Diego to New York.
He was told the flight was full because a flight attendant was taking the last available seat, but was then told she would sit in the "jump seat" and he could have her seat, 2E, the suit says.
He was issued a boarding pass and took the seat, but got a rude awakening as he began to doze off about 90 minutes into the flight.
That's when the pilot called him "towards the front of the plane, towards the cockpit, and advised the plaintiff that he would have to give his seat up" to the flight attendant, the suit says.
"The plaintiff was puzzled and asked what was going on," the filing says.
The pilot told him the "flight attendant wanted to be more comfortable and that the 'jump seat' was not comfortable for her."
Mutlu "asked if he was being directed to surrender the seat issued to him and to take the 'jump seat' for the remaining part of the flight, which was about 3 ½ hours."
The pilot told him the jump seat was for "for personnel only," the suit says.
"Even more puzzled and perplexed, the plaintiff asked if the pilot was directing him to stand for the remaining part of the flight," it says.
The pilot said no - Mutlu should just "go and 'hang out' in the bathroom," the suit says. In the meantime, the stewardess took Mutlu's seat, "closed her eyes and pretended to sleep."
When Mutlu began to argue, the pilot "became angry at the plaintiff's reluctance to go . . . to take his place in the rest room and took a much harsher tone with the plaintiff, advising him that he was the pilot, that this was his plane, under his command, and that the plaintiff should be grateful for being onboard," the suit says.
Mutlu says he was "imprisoned" in the bathroom for hours, which "seemed like an eternity."
He was ordered back to his seat when the plane ran into heavy turbulence, the suit says.
"Plaintiff walked back to his seat embarrassed, humiliated, mortified, disgraced degraded and still shocked beyond belief," and tried "to cover his face" as he walked up the aisle, the papers say.
Rogue Nation USA
By: Bernard Chazelle
According to the human rights organisation Reprieve, the US is operating "floating prisons".
According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.
What's life onboard like?
"One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantánamo ... he was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo."
How many people are kept by our government without trial in secret locations? At least 26,000.
"By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been 'through the system' since 2001. "
From 19 hijiackers and a few dozen associates, how do you end up with 80,000 people passing "through the system" of secret prisons?
And let's not even talk about the hundreds of thousands of people who will never be arrested because they have been killed by us or the mayhem we created.
Who are these people we keep in dark donjons and torture? Many of them were caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of them were arrested while trying to hurt American troops.
International law recognizes the right to self-defense. Imagine for a minute that, with no authorization from anyone, the Chinese army invaded the US. Any American citizen would be legally entitled to resist. In fact, an Iraqi taking a shot at a GI can invoke precisely the same moral legitimacy as a French Resistance fighter taking out a German soldier in 1940.
By the very definition of a war crime established by the US and its allies in Nuremberg, the US is guilty of that crime.
Update: Just thinking... dark-skinned people held prisoners at the bottom of US ships sailing between continents... wait, wait, don't tell me!
— Bernard Chazelle
George Bush: “Kill Them! We Are Going to Wipe Them Out!”
From Tom Engelhardt at at Tomdispatch:
[F]ormer commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez...got next to no attention for a presidential outburst he recorded in his memoir, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story, so bloodthirsty and cartoonish that it should have caught the attention of the nation -- and so eerily in character, given the last years of presidential behavior, that you know it has to be on the money.
Let me briefly set the scene, as Sanchez tells it on pages 349-350 of Wiser in Battle. It's April 6, 2004. L. Paul Bremer III, head of the occupation's Coalition Provisional Authority, as well as the President's colonial viceroy in Baghdad, and Gen. Sanchez were in Iraq in video teleconference with the President, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Assumedly, the event was recorded and so revisitable by a note-taking Sanchez.) The first full-scale American offensive against the resistant Sunni city of Fallujah was just being launched, while, in Iraq's Shiite south, the U.S. military was preparing for a campaign against cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.
According to Sanchez, Powell was talking tough that day: "We've got to smash somebody's ass quickly," the general reports him saying. "There has to be a total victory somewhere. We must have a brute demonstration of power." (And indeed, by the end of April, parts of Fallujah would be in ruins, as, by August, would expanses of the oldest parts of the holy Shiite city of Najaf. Sadr himself would, however, escape to fight another day; and, in order to declare Powell's "total victory," the U.S. military would have to return to Fallujah that November, after the U.S. presidential election, and reduce three-quarters of it to virtual rubble.) Bush then turned to the subject of al-Sadr: "At the end of this campaign al-Sadr must be gone," he insisted to his top advisors. "At a minimum, he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out."
Not long after that, the President "launched" what an evidently bewildered Sanchez politely describes as "a kind of confused pep talk regarding both Fallujah and our upcoming southern campaign [against the Mahdi Army]"..."Kick ass!" [Bush] said, echoing Colin Powell's tough talk. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal.
"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!'"
June 01, 2008
Our Sincere Desire
Why did Hirohito say Japan had gone to war? We'd always thought it was because they were trying to conquer the world, but it turns out they were just trying to help people:
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay close to the heart...
[W]e declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan's self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement...
We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.
Remember that, according to the BBC, the actual motivations of leaders are always exactly the same as their stated motivations. So now that we know what Japan was trying to do, I hope we can tone down the criticism.
All Quiet on the Iraqi Front
By: Bernard Chazelle
The anguish is exemplified by John Callahan, 42, a corporal who was away from home for nearly two years. In November 2006, Callahan's machine-gun malfunctioned during a firefight, wounding him in the groin and leg. Recovering from an operation in hospital, he spoke to his wife by phone and could hear a male voice in the background. 'Haven't you told him it's over?', said his wife's boyfriend. 'That you aren't wearing his wedding ring any more?'
There Is Always Something
Uri Avnery asks why Ehud Olmert is suddenly engulfed in a giant corruption scandal:
A question presents itself: Why do these fatal scandals always break when a leader takes a step towards peace, or at least pretends to take a step towards peace?
I do not believe that there is a conspiracy. In general I don't tend to believe in conspiracies, though there are these, too.
But we have here, I believe, a more profound phenomenon. The main thrust of the current establishment is towards occupation, expansion and war. Therefore, when a corruption scandal concerns a leader moving in that direction, the scandal is smothered in its infancy. But when the scandal involves a leader who is making gestures in the direction of peace, the scandal reaches huge proportions.
That happened to Sharon on the eve of the dismantling of the Gaza Strip settlements. It is happening now to Olmert when he dares to speak about peace with Syria and the evacuation of the Golan settlements.
This is from All the King's Men, as the narrator Jack Burden talks to his boss the governor about the governor's wish for Burden to dig up dirt on a political opponent:
We clocked off five miles more, and I said, "But suppose there isn't anything to find?"
And the Boss said, "There is always something."
And I said, "Maybe not on the Judge."
And he said, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something."
There is always something. All politicians are guilty, somehow. But their guilt only become a scandal when they cross powerful interests. If politicians do what they're told, they're free to have as many affairs and take as many bags of cash as they want.
As Avnery says, this is a profound societal phenomenon. It's not a conspiracy anymore than it's a conspiracy when water runs downhill.