Falwell dead

False TV evangelist Jerry Falwell has died at the age of 73.

Normally, I try not to rejoice when people - even evil ones like Falwell - die. But in Falwell's case, I'll say this: good riddance.

Falwell was a liar, deceiver, and human scum, a condition seen most clearly when he blamed "pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America" in part for 9/11.

Falwell didn't give a shit about Jesus or his message. His main motivation in life was to force or dupe others to adhere to his antediluvian ideology of control and persecution, targeting everyone who did not share his views. Indeed, anyone who actually tried to live the ideals of Jesus, as presented in the Bible, would have been a prime target for Falwell and his cohort of true-believing allies and minions.

So, so long, Falwell. It's a new dawn in America.


Marine officers: No need to investigate civilian deaths

Several Marines on trial for the killings of two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005 have claimed that there is no need to investigate civilian deaths in combat situations:

Civilian deaths that occur during combat do not need to be investigated, a Marine lawyer testified Saturday at a hearing for an officer charged in the killings of 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha.

"There isn't an automatic law-of-war violation if you have collateral damage," said Lt. Col. Kent Keith, a judge advocate for the 2nd Marine Division.

Over the past four days, Marines have testified in court that they saw no need to investigate the killings.

One more step towards the "kill-'em-all," no-one-is-innocent, "collateral damage" mentality among the soldiers on the ground, a mentality which already surfaces from time to time among various American leaders.

Of course, the only way to determine whether soldiers have broken any laws of war is to... conduct an investigation. So what these defendants are arguing is that their word is simply enough. We say we didn't act illegally or immorally - therefore, we didn't.

And if other people - for example, the victims' families - say otherwise, it's all lies:

Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore testified Friday that the Haditha town council had circulated a flier demanding an investigation into the deaths and outlining allegations that Marines deliberately targeted civilians, but he dismissed the flier as propaganda.

Remember: when victims try to get their side of the story heard, it's just "propaganda."



The War of Terror has been a huge success, according to the State Department.

Oddly, the United States - without whose activities none of the terror in Iraq would be taking place - did not make the list. That's one of the perks of being the judge, jury, and executioner, I suppose.


Yeltsin dead

Boris Yeltsin is dead. He was 76.

He was also one of the 20th century's great thieves, handing away the former Soviet Union's wealth to a handful of gangsters and cronies.

Perhaps his tombstone can read "Here lies the man who fucked up Russia".

Yeltsin, when alive and drunk


Instead of playing in a carefree manner, children look at one of the thousands of former human beings that have turned up recently in Iraq (photo lifted from Antiwar.com)

Baghdad bombs kill almost 200

The final death toll may well be over 200 by the time all the bodies are collected. Thank god for "The Surge" - one can only wonder how many more would have been dead without it.

Two hundred people dead. That's like six Virginia Tech shootings, in one go. But you won't be seeing candlelight vigils - or even anything that might actually be an effective response - marking these bombings here in the US. At most, perhaps a shopper somewhere will pause before a television in the window of an electronics store at the mall and feel bad for a moment, before resuming their more important matters.

We have gotten to the point where "only" 33 people killed - one VT - is a "good day" in Iraq. This would be a major success, at this point, for the US in Iraq - getting the daily death toll down to a point that, over here, causes the media and the public to convulse and engage in yet another round of "soul-searching" and "debate", at least until some other shiny object appears.

Meanwhile the children of Iraq keep getting treated to images like the one above. Real dead people, not the fake pixellated or film versions kids here are weaned on almost from the cradle onward. But, as we are witnessing, both seem to do a good enough job in preparing children to grow up and do the business of shooting, stabbing, blowing up, or otherwise killing off their appointed "bad guys".

This is what America has set into motion. America - not just Bush, Cheney, the Republicans or any of the other easy targets. No, America put these people in charge and allowed them to carry out whatever plans they had for Iraq. And now America has no clue about how to even begin fixing what it has broken.


Betrayal in the time of Stalin

A sad and awful chapter in the history of the PCI:

Three hundred Italian Communists who fled to Russia to avoid persecution by the Fascists ended up in Stalin's Gulag, dying in front of Soviet firing squads, many of them falsely denounced by their Italian comrades as Trotskyites or worse.


US officials: Green Zone not safe

A "no shit" moment.

The failure of the media

Gary Kamiya at Salon has an interesting in-depth article analyzing the failure of the media in coverage leading up to and during the early part of the Iraq war.

I don't share Kamiya's cautious optimism, though, concerning whether or not the media has learned any "lessons" from this episode of shameful coverage of and often outright connivance with the Bush administration. We need look only as far as the NY Times, which Kamiya holds up as an example of a media outlet that has improved, to see fluff propaganda pieces on the "Iranian menace" by a major peddler of bullshit the first time around (Michael Gordon).

Plus ca change, as some might say.

(Link via Antiwar.com)


The end of the story

Kurt Vonnegut has died from injuries he recently suffered. He was 84.

He'll be missed.

(Unfiltered Pall Mall pack for tribute purposes only.)


British military looks into the future

The Guardian has an article about a British Ministry of Defence report that looks at some "key risks and shocks" that the UK's military establishment thinks it might face in the near future.

Reports like this are more interesting for what they say about how the people in charge of the sources of power see the present rather than the future. Prediction, or as the MoD prefers to call it, "probability-based" assessment, is a notoriously difficult business. The report, as presented by the article, is kind of a mixed bag. Some points raised are genuinely interesting, such as projections for new weapons and demographic changes.

Others are confusing. Why, for example, should "information chips" wired directly to the brain be a possible risk to Britain's military? Do they foresee "counter-counter-insurgency" chips being peddled at the local greengrocers? And the references to Marx are preposterous - if the middle classes are projected to take on the role of a revolutionary proletariat that would... be nothing at all like Marx's analyses of the revolutionary potential of the lower/working class. Marx and Engels recognized that other classes could be revolutionary in certain circumstances (like the French Revolution) - where, specifically, does Marx fit into all this?

Other "strategic" risk assessments sound like the authors have drunk a little too deeply from the right-wing Kool-aid well. Consider this analysis of trends in "Islamic militancy":

Tension between the Islamic world and the west will remain, and may increasingly be targeted at China "whose new-found materialism, economic vibrancy, and institutionalised atheism, will be an anathema to orthodox Islam".

China has already had problems with its Muslim minority in its western provinces. Still, the idea that "Islamic world" will turn against China because of its "materialism", "economic vibrancy," and even "institutionalised atheism" is pretty far-fetched, and the only people who would come up with such a scenario are those who have bought into the whole "the-terrorists-hate-us-becaue-we're-free" bullshit line.

Now if China began invading countries to, say, prop up favored clients, like the USSR did in Afghanistan, or for contradictory but ultimately self-serving reasons, like the US has done in Iraq, then the "Islamic world" might not be too happy, and its "atheism" and "materialism" might become issues. But in that case we would be dealing more with the form that grievances would be aired rather than the grievances themselves. The majority of the people in the Middle East - and the "Islamic world" in general - simply hate imperialism and people from the West interfering in their lives.

Another curious part to this report is the idea of

"declining news quality" with the rise of "internet-enabled, citizen-journalists" and pressure to release stories "at the expense of facts".

There is a debate going on as to whether or not such vehicles as blogs contribute positively or negatively to the general social and political debate (see, for example, this rather elitist view of blogs as platforms that poison "real" political debate by someone who is apparently a "left-wing neoconservative"). I don't want to get into that issue right now, although my opinion is that such "internet-enabled, citizen-journalists", in general, have the beneficial effect of forcing an increasingly insular and unaccountable mass-media to do a better job when it comes to reporting. In any event, it is interesting to note that the MoD, an organization currently engaged in a war of aggression in Iraq sold on blatant lies helpfully peddled by much of the media and against the overwhelming opinion of the British public, can complain about "declining news quality" and the lack of "facts" in news coverage. What exactly are they talking about?

Full report, if I can find it, and other thoughts, if I feel like, later.


Anabasis for the 21st century

William Lind offers us an interesting scenario involving US and UK forces in Iraq:

If the above scenario [the events related in Anabasis] sounds familiar, it should. America now has an army, not of 10,000 but of more than 140,000, deep in Persia (which effectively includes Shiite Iraq, despite the ethnic difference). We are propping up a shaky local regime in a civil war. Our local allies are of dubious loyalty, and the surrounding population is not friendly. Our lines of communication, supply and retreat all run south, to Kuwait, through Shiite militia country. They then extend on through the Persian Gulf, which is called that for a reason. If those lines are cut, many of our troops have only one way out, the same way Xenophon took, up through Kurdish country and Asia Minor (now Turkey) to the coast.

What is the chance that could happen?

Perhaps not the most likely scenario, but one to keep in mind nonetheless. I also can't help but wonder if the Iranian leadership has taken into account these possibilities when deciding upon short- and long-term strategies.

Grand theft, and bloody murder

How is the new $125 billion supplmental bill linked to the proposed Iraq hydrocarbons law? Richard Behan lays out the case:

The supplemental appropriation package requires the Iraqi government to meet a series of “benchmarks” President Bush established in his speech to the nation on January 10 (in which he made his case for the “surge”). Most of Mr. Bush’s benchmarks are designed to blame the victim, forcing the Iraqis to solve the problems George Bush himself created.

One of the President’s benchmarks, however, stands apart. This is how the President described it: “To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.” A seemingly decent, even noble concession. That’s all Mr. Bush said about that benchmark, but his brevity was gravely misleading, and it had to be intentional.

The Iraqi Parliament has before it today, in fact, a bill called the hydrocarbon law, and it does call for revenue sharing among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. For President Bush, this is a must-have law, and it is the only “benchmark” that truly matters to his Administration.

Yes, revenue sharing is there-essentially in fine print, essentially trivial. The bill is long and complex, it has been years in the making, and its primary purpose is transformational in scope: a radical and wholesale reconstruction-virtual privatization-of the currently nationalized Iraqi oil industry.

If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5’s of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing “benchmark” Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.

The legislation pending now in Washington requires the President to certify to Congress by next October that the benchmarks have been met-specifically that the Iraqi hydrocarbon law has been passed. That’s the land mine: he will certify the American and British oil companies have access to Iraqi oil. This is not likely what Congress intended, but it is precisely what Mr. Bush has sought for the better part of six years.

It is why we went to war.

If the hydrocarbons bill passes, the result will be one of the single largest cases of theft in the history of the human race. An injustice on this scale will virtually ensure major instability in the region for the rest of our lives.

And the Bush administration has already sacrificed the lives of tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of people to make this theft possible. If it succeeds, there will be many more added to that list.


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