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30.9.03

Guardian report: Rove did it

Thank god for the British press. They might be able to save America from itself, and its lousy journalists.

Atrios: Julian Borger from the Guardian is reporting that "Several of the journalists are saying privately 'yes it was Karl Rove who I talked to.'"

There's a reason why the Guardian is at the top over in the links list to the right.

While you're at it, take a look at this Brad DeLong post. Right on the money.

UPDATE: Borger has an article in Wednesday's Guardian. He doesn't, however, repeat his claim from the audio report.


Sharon: Apartheid Wall will be built east of Ariel

Well, I suppose that there is more going on that just Plame/Wilson and the White House. So...

Ha'aretz quotes Sharon as saying that Israel will build its Apartheid Wall east of the colony of Ariel in the West Bank. The Wall behind Ariel, however, will not be initially connected to the main stretches that have been completed or planned.

Israeli "Defence" Minister Mofaz makes it absolutely clear, though, that it will be at some point. Why? Because, to his mind, there is no difference between an Israeli colony and an Israeli city:
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, a long-standing supporter of including Ariel inside the fence, reiterated this position at the meeting. "Ariel, Kfar Sava and Ra'anana are one and the same," he said, comparing the settlement to two other [sic] bedroom communities of Tel Aviv located inside Israel. "Ariel and Kedumim must be inside the fence. This route [east of Ariel] brings 40,000 Israelis and 4,000 Palestinians" inside the fence.
Although the Bush administration supposedly opposes including Ariel on the "Israeli" side of the Apartheid Wall, Sharon said that the Israeli government would "sit with the Americans again" if any objections are raised.

Meaning that it will be built and that while Sharon expects a little bleating from the Bush administration, he understands that the US - champion of freedom around the world - will not seriously object to his plan to complete the world's largest prison.


Wilson/Plame and the White House: Who did it?

Here is a roundup of some of the recent developments in the case, commentary, and more Clue-like suspicions into the identities of the major players:

1) AP reports that the DoJ has ordered a full probe into the leaking of Plame's name. It's unclear whether this means that the DoJ will handle this on its own or not. If so, that's bad news for anyone who wants a real investigation.

2) According to the Times, the FBI will lead an investigation into the Wilson-Plame-White House case.

3) Some people are questioning the actual harm done by revealing Plame's name and identity. They wonder if she was an "operative" or just an "analyst". The CIA apparently thinks it is a very big deal:
Three weeks ago, intelligence officials said, the CIA returned to the Justice Department a standard 11-question form detailing the potential damage done by the release of the information. Officials said it may have been the first such report ever filed on the unauthorized disclosure of an operative's name.
According to an AP report, "... the CIA complaint two months ago that one of its agent's identities had been disclosed is only one of about 50 the Justice Department receives each year from the spy agency about leaks of classified information".

4) Andrea Mitchell was not one of the original 6 journalists contacted by the White House. NBC reported yesterday that Mitchell was contacted or held discussions about the issue after Novak's column appeared. What this does indicate, though, is that the responsible parties in the White House were interested in smearing Wilson as widely as possible. It would also indicate that the White House was not satisfied with Novak's column.

5) The WaPo article of 28 September stated that the whistle-blower would not name the original leakers for the record. In my opinion, this means that any administration names getting what appears to be prominent mention in WaPo stories - as Scooter Libby did in today's WaPo article - are less likely to be the original leakers. The WaPo will not do anything to appear as if it had divulged the identities of the original leakers in violation of its agreement with the whistle-blower. But the WaPo nevertheless knows the leakers' identities. So watch the WaPo for any inexplicable absences of names that might usually have appeared - these will be the leakers.

6) There is a discrepancy in Novak's original column that is not getting any attention: there are two different versions of who selected Wilson for his mission.
Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.
So was the selection of Wilson done by his wife, as Novak reports the administration officials as suggesting, or by the CIA's counter-proliferation officials, as Novak reports his CIA sources as suggesting? This is important in light of the various motives the White House had for attacking Wislon and Plame.

7) Connecting Wilsongate to the larger world: Bush's present difficulties (including the House Intelligence Committee's findings and the DIA's assessment that pre-war intelligence from Iraqi defectors was useless) will make it much harder to get support from foreign countries for Iraq. No one wants to jump on a sinking ship.

8) Novak's statements yesterday were all smokescreens and red herrings. He is simply backtracking on his previous claims.

9) If anything, Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds are slower than left/liberal bloggers accuse them of being. Especially Sullivan - his graspings, logical errors and general denseness will leave you rolling in front of your computer in laughter.

Now for a little speculation:

1) The WaPo's whistle-blower, according to its article from 28 September, knew the identities of the original leakers and possibly the 6 journalists to whom the original two "senior White House officials" had shopped the Plame story before Novak published his article. This indicates that either a) the whistle-blower was one of the two original leakers, or b) that this was an "open secret" in the White House, and possibly in the administration at large, and was known in pretty good detail even to those who did not leak Plame's identity.

One problem with assuming that the whistle-blower was one of the two original leakers is that the other leaker would know exactly who it is and would have certainly ratted him/her out by this point. We would have already seen a departure from the administration. This assumes, of course, that the whole affair was completely an inside job and was kept secret.

2) Many people have speculated that Tenet was the WaPo's whistle-blower. While this is probable, there are some questions raised by assuming it was the CIA chief. In my opinion, the biggest one is how he would have known the identities of the leakers. Did one of the two original leakers, or someone associated with them, tell him? That doesn't seem possible at all, if we assume that this smear was an inside "senior administration" job, as Novak indicated that it was. Or did he find out some other way?

It also worth noting here that while the WaPo whistle-blower would name, albeit off the record, the names of the original leakers, he/she would not name the names of the 6 journalists at all. This might be because a) he/she didn't know them or b) another reason (e.g., the whistle-blower was simply trying to get the attention of, and not necessarily bring down, the administration). Would any of these scenarios make Tenet more or less likely as the candidate?

3) Some people have speculated that a lower-ranking administration will take a fall for the actual perpetrators/masterminds of this affair. This might work if Wilsongate blows over and if an actual investigation never happens. But if a real, independent investigator comes in, this won't be possible. Only a few people in the Bush administration would have been in a position to receive Plame's name and position. No one in a lower-ranking administration position would have access to this information. If lower-ranking people (e.g., Libby or Bartlett) "take one for the team", it will be clear that they must have had one or more minders or handlers higher up who were giving them orders and information. During a real investigation, the identity of this person will come out - unless we have a true fanatic who is willing to go to jail for the crime of unlawfully revealing a CIA agent and possibly contempt rather than ratting on Bush administration members.

In any event, in view of the fact that knowledge of Plame's name and identity would have required a reasonably high level of security clearance, it is clear that the upper echelon of the Bush administration is involved. Since Bush himself has known since late July, at the latest, there was a good possibility that at least two of his administration members had engaged in criminal activity, and since he did nothing at all to investigate the issue, Bush is, at a minimum, an acessory after the fact for hiding criminal suspects (this, of course, assumes that Rice and Card - his news commissars - even bothered telling him about the whole issue). We are quite possibly in the realm of criminal conspiracy at this point.

4) MaxSpeak has started a "dead pool" on which Bush administration official will be the first to take a fall. Go and join in.


29.9.03

A Rhetorical Question

Remember in the run-up to the war, that the administration couldn't reveal how they "knew" that Iraq was a threat because it would reveal methods and sources? Remember how that would've caused irreparable damage to our intelligence gathering abilities and the WoT? Remember how that would've helped al-Qaeda, and put us all at risk? So why, then, isn't Bush livid that someone in his own house did just that?


Ho Hum.

Another dead GI makes the front page of CNN.

What's interesting is that the rate of fatalities seem to be slowing. Its impossible to say why. Perhaps the recent raids and killing of resistance fighters has put the Iraqis on the defensive. Perhaps the resistance is planning bigger attacks. Perhaps the fighters are in the process of switching targets to the (soft) collaborators and western support/aid workers, requiring new reconnaisance and strategy. Perhaps its meaningless.

Whats meaningful, however, is that the media seems to be reporting about how badly the war is going nonetheless. But even as things might be turning up militarily, however briefly, the media/public opinion is not siezing on the opportunity to sing "hail to the chief".

Instead, the media spectacle, the little managed, cultivated ecosystem we call public opinion in this ccountry, is rapidly becoming a more acidic environment for Bush (1,2,3). Which means the elites in this country are turning on him.

Bush will not be re-elected.


As Washington burns...


Reuters photo

... Nero plays golf.

"What, me worry?"

UPDATE: From TPM - McClellan's dodge-fest with the press:
McCLELLAN: He [Rove] wasn't involved. The President knows he wasn't involved.
Hey Scott, Rove wasn't involved in what? Not involved in an act you said the president had no knowledge of?

Come on, Scott - Rove wasn't involved in what? And who was involved in what, if not Rover?


CIA "approached" DoJ in July over Plame leak

According to today's WaPo, the CIA had "approached" the Department of Justice over the Plame leak within one week after Novak's journalistic disaster was published in July. As TPM points out, exactly what "approached" means here is unclear - but it is safe to say in any event the CIA has been making some moves to get the DoJ to investigate this issue for over 2 months, without satisfaction. Cover-up?

The WaPo article provides a clear picture of Bush's idea of responsibilty:
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said on "Fox News Sunday" that she knew "nothing of any such White House effort to reveal any of this [Plame's identity], and it certainly would not be the way that the president would expect his White House to operate."
A noble sentiment - according to Rice, Bush expects his underlings not to fuck with other people's lives and endanger national security through criminal leaks revealing the identities of undercover agents. But compare Rice's vision of an ethical White House to this:
... [White House] aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer [Plame] who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq.
So... on the one hand, Bush expects that White House staff members won't act in underhanded, criminal ways - but, on the other hand, if they happen to do so, he has no plans to find out about it, much less hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Rice, almost certainly unintentionally, gave a clear indication in a Sunday morning interview with Fox's "Git" Hume of how the White House expects the DoJ - led by Bush appointee John "No Tits, Please" Ashcroft - to deal with the investigation:
But let's just see what the Justice Department does. It's with the appropriate channels now, and we'll see what the Justice Department - how the Justice Department disposes of it.(Emphasis added)
Right... "dispose of it" right into the memory hole.

So much for the WaPo and Fox - let's see how our buddies at the NY Times, the "Newspaper of Record", covered this major story today. Oh! My goodness! What a shocker! Not at all in their print edition - there's no article in the Washington/Politics, National, or International sections! We do, however, find this dinky little AP article on the website.

UPDATE: Ok, I see that the NY Times does have an article on the issue, which has been combined with the House Intelligence Committee's review of Iraqi WMD intelligence. But something like this should have its own article, with a clear headline - which the Times does not feel it merits. It seems they are trying to pass this under the radar.

Good job, guys. If you aren't getting a check from Bush and Co., I suggest that you get in touch with them posthaste. Service like this should come at a price.


28.9.03

Timeline of Iraq-uranium saga

Since "Wilsongate" is now getting quite a bit of attention - at least among those geeks who run left or liberal blogs - it may be helpful to have a bit of a (certainly incomplete) timeline of major events concerning the major player in this mess: Niger "yellowcake" uranium supposedly intended for Saddam's one fearful centrifuge. Or it may not be helpful - but at any rate, it shows that Bushy boy and his smiling lads have been much, much less than honest about the whole deal.

End of 2001: The British and Italian governments told the United States they had intelligence that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. This "intelligence" would turn out to be the forged documents - whose existence is still unexplained by the administration.

February 2002: Former Ambassador Wilson is dispatched to Niger to investigate the claims. He reports the claims to be false. Who got this report has been contentious. The WaPo, quoting "senior administration officials", reported on 12 June 2003 that the CIA did not "pass on the detailed results of its investigation to the White House or other government agencies". However, the Independent, citing an AP article quoting a
"US intelligence official", reported on 13 June 2003 that "the CIA's doubts were made known to other federal agencies through various internal communications, starting more than a year before the war began" (i.e., shortly after Wilson returned from his mission). The CIA also warned British intelligence that the Niger uranium connection was bogus. The same day, the WaPo, in a total volte face from its article on the 12th, reported that "CIA Director George J. Tenet successfully intervened with White House officials to have a reference to Iraq seeking uranium from Niger removed from a presidential speech [in] October [2002]..." (see below).

March 2002: A WaPo article from 13 June 2003 reported that the CIA passed along its findings from the Wilson mission.

24 September 2002: The UK publishes a weapons dossier claiming that Iraq "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa". According to the article, "That same day, an American intelligence official expressed doubts about the truth of the uranium reports during a closed session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee." In addition, "A public report, gleaned from the classified intelligence estimate and published by the CIA in early October, made no mention of the specific uranium allegation. The CIA did not think the report was reliable enough to be included, the intelligence official said". This is important in relation to Rice's most recent claim (see below).

7 October 2002: Bush delivers a major speech in Cincinnatti. The words "Africa" and "Niger" do not appear once; "uranium" appears only 4 times, none in connection with a claim that Saddam had actually procured or attempted to procure any. See above, February 2002.

23 January 2003: In a warmup for Bush's State of the Union speech, Rice publishes an article entitled "Why We Know Iraq is Lying" in America's number one administration propaganda outlet, the NY Times. Rice states that Iraq's WMD declaration to the UN "fails to account for or explain Iraq's efforts to get uranium from abroad...".

28 January 2003: In his State of the Union address, "W" states that "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa".

June 2003: Revelations of bogus uranium claims begin to get press attention. See February 2002 and March 2002 above.

8 June 2003: Rice claims that no one in White House "circles" knew the Niger-Iraq documents to be forgeries: ""Maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency," Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, "but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery". The article linked to here, a WaPo report from 13 June 2003, cited a "White House spokesman" as saying that Bush's State of the Union claims were "based on a multiple of other sources" - none of which have been explained by the administration.

11 July 2003: CIA director Tenet accepts blame for inclusion of African uranium claim in Bush's SOTU speech.

14 July 2003: Robert "Use Me" Novak publishes his journalistic blunder naming Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, as an undercover CIA agent.

22 July 2003: Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley accepts blame for inclusion of African uranium claim in Bush's SOTU speech.

30 July 2003: Bush and Rice accept blame for inclusion of African uranium claim in Bush's SOTU speech.

27 September 2003: CIA asks DoJ to investigate possible White House role in Plame affair.

28 September 2003: Rice claims that she and Hadley, when vetting "W"'s SOTU address in January, "forgot" that Tenet had scrubbed a major WMD claim only 3 months previously. Rice also stated on national television that she did not think the White House had any responsibility to provide information it has on felony offences injurious to US national security - preferring instead to wait and see how the DoJ "disposes" of the investigation.

Fill in the blanks from here.


Newest Rice lie

Rice, September 2003:
"There was enrichment of the intelligence from 1998 over the period leading up to the war," Rice said [to Fox's "Git" Hume].
US Congress, September 2003:
The US launched its war with Iraq despite having no fresh intelligence evidence that the regime of Saddam Hussein was developing mass destruction weapons or forging ties with terrorists, the leaders of the House of Representatives intelligence committee have concluded.
Rumsfeld, July 2003:
"The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit" of weapons of mass destruction, Mr Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Dr. Rice, here's a tip: post-it notes.


The Plame-Wilson affair and the White House: What is happening?

"Wilsongate", as it is being dubbed by some wags, is getting a lot of attention around blog-o-land. Check out posts at The Agonist, The Agora, Eschaton, TPM, and Billmon for links to articles and discussion.

For what it's worth (not much), here is what I think about the whole deal:

1) One of Novak's two sources - who had shopped around the story to other journalists as well - is "Dr. Rice", as I suggested Saturday. I can't offer a similar suggestion about who the other "senior administration official" could be, but if I had to speculate (which is clearly what I am doing), I would say it was Rove or Cheney. I don't think that the Wonder Twins, Fleischer and McClellan, are involved, as some have suggested.

2) Billmon thinks the "senior administration official" for the WaPo article is Tenet. I'm not so sure. Tenet was behind the CIA request for the Justice Department to investigate the issue, as the WaPo article from Sunday makes clear. But the description of the source, identified as "a senior administration official" and a "Bush administration official", makes me wonder if it isn't someone appointed by Bush (and not Tenet, who was appointed by Clinton). Still, it's not impossible: since Tenet has basically turned on the Bushies, who prize Leninist-style orthodoxy and loyalty above all else, it isn't inconceivable that he is going all out against them. And it is even harder to imagine that there are two rogue elephants from the Bush administration at work - unless the pressure from Iraq has really started to get to them and people are more concerned with saving their hides than anything else.

3) Is it possible that the WaPo's "senior administration official" is one of Novak's two leakers? The source apparently knew the identity of the other journalists who were contacted by Novak's leakers. This means either that one of the original leakers is the WaPo source or that this whole episode was known by more than a few people in the administration.

4) Do Powell and the people at the Pentagon (Rumsfeld, Wolfie et al.) figure into this? I haven't seen any mention of them so far.

5) I don't think that Ashcroft has any choice but to have the DoJ pursue this fully. And unless he recuses himself from the investigation, this will not be possible. If it is not followed up in a serious manner, then this will become a scandal of major proportions and will bring down many more administration officials than it has the potential to do at the moment.

6) How does Bush figure into all of this? The WaPo article said there is "no indication that Bush knew about the calls". If this is true, then the fact that we have a sitting president oblivious to members of his administration engaging in criminal behavior injurious to national security is beyond troubling. It would be the clearest indication to date that we have a total patsy as president. This wouldn't surprise me, but I think that "W" does figure in somewhere. He has to come clean at some point. If a crime has been committed - and apparently it has been - and if people know details about it - and clearly Bush should at this point - then they are obligated to divulge these details to the proper law enforcement agency. Otherwise, they can be charged with being an accessory to the crime.

7) More on Novak and his journalistic ethics: It was an incredibly poor decision on Novak's part to publish Plame's name and blow her cover. It added nothing to the Nigergate story, and there wasn't an overriding public interest for her name to be released. While he apparently did not break any laws, Novak failed many of the standards of Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics by publishing his article: clearly he did not "question sources' motives before promising anonymity", nor did he "show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage", among other failures. A reporter's pledge to keep sources' confidentiality, while one of the bedrocks of journalism, is not absolute. Novak should consider revealing his source in this instance.


Bush administration misusing the "PATRIOT" Act

The Bush administration has begun using the so-called "PATRIOT" Act in many investigations that have little or no connection to "terrorism".

The Department of Justice is very open about its abuse of the law's provisions:
A guide to a Justice Department employee seminar last year on financial crimes, for instance, said: "We all know that the USA Patriot Act provided weapons for the war on terrorism. But do you know how it affects the war on crime as well?"
...

"There are many provisions in the Patriot Act that can be used in the general criminal law," Mark Corallo, a department spokesman, said. "And I think any reasonable person would agree that we have an obligation to do everything we can to protect the lives and liberties of Americans from attack, whether it's from terrorists or garden-variety criminals."
Right... defending the "liberties" of Americans by trampling all over them.

For those who do not recall - like Mr. Corallo - the full name of the so-called "PATRIOT" Act is the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism" Act. The law was supposedly designed to deal with "terrorism", not "garden-variety" crime. The fact that it is being used primarily for non-terrorism-related cases ("...75 percent of the convictions that the department classified as 'international terrorism' were wrongly labeled) indicates that the law is being abused, as opponents said it would be.


Russia and Chechnya

While Putin chats it up with George W. Bush, who thinks that the Russian president is a fine fellow, Russian soldiers and police are attacking refugees from Chechnya. The Kremlin is also running a sham election there as well.

Who are the US's allies, again, in this "war on terror"? Russia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, etc. etc. Fine company, indeed.


27.9.03

My name is Alan Dershowitz, and I'm a plagiarist

Apparently, promoting torture isn't enough for Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz. Now he's branched out into plagiarism - and of one of the most colossal frauds in the history of American "scholarship" on the Middle East to boot. (ADDITION: see also Norman Finkelstein's handy chart detailing the passages.)

But remember, it's the liberals that are the problem in American universities.


US occupation center attacked in Baghdad; US soldiers kill 4 Iraqis

Guerillas attacked the Al Rashid hotel in Baghdad with RPGs or mortar fire; no casualties were reported. The hotel houses US occupation officials.

In Fallujah, US soldiers killed 4 civilians at a checkpoint.

Look! General Petraeus is building football pitches! No mention of cute little puppy dogs, though! It just shows there's always room for improvement!

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has mobilized two more National Guard brigades and put another on notice for service in Iraq. I guess this means that Bushy-boy wasn't very successful in getting other countries to send soldiers to make Iraq safe for crony-capitalism.

Finally, it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the news above, but it has to come somewhere: Bush is now begging Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members not to hurt the US economy by cutting oil production.
"My reaction is that I would hope our friends in OPEC don't do things that would hurt our economy," Bush told reporters at the White House when asked about OPEC's decision, which could raise fuel costs this winter.
Such lack of dignity and Republican manliness calls for a Bush impression: [Say in a whimpering voice, with your lips pursed in mock desperation; delivering on knees optional] "Please, don't hurt our economy".


CIA asks Justice Dept. to investigate White House role in Plame affair

Good news for all of you "irrational Bush-haters" out there: the CIA has asked the Department of Justice to investigate reports that the White House broke federal laws by revealing the identity of Ambassador Wilson's wife as an intelligence agent.

It will be interesting to see how the press covers this issue.

Note on Robert Novak's journalistic integrity: Novak was used like a 2 cent Kleenex by administration officials who broke the law in a drive to punish a public official who was blowing the whistle on previous law-breaking by the same administration. He should reveal his sources for his article (a "Dr. Rice" would almost certainly be one of them, I'd wager).

The request itself is interesting. Tenet almost certainly vetted it. Is he tired of allowing the CIA and himself to be used as the Bush administration's whipping boys?

(Link via The Agonist.)


26.9.03

US poverty rises, incomes fall

The Census Bureau reports that over 12% of Americans lived in poverty last year. That comes to about 34.6 milion US citizens. Median household income also declined 1.1%. The poverty level increased and median income decreased for the second straight year.

Blame Bush, or Clinton, if you must. But there are clearly deeper problems when 12% of the citizens of the wealthiest country in the world live in poverty.

ADDITION: Jared Bernstein, a colleague of MaxSpeak's at EPI, examines issues with the Census Bureau's method of determining poverty.


25.9.03

Edward Said dead


Edward Said has died at age 67. He had suffered from leukemia since the early 1990s.

I saw Said speak at UC-Berkeley earlier this year. I'm very glad I had the chance.


Business in the new Iraq, Part II: Ties with Israel

Abu Aardvark looks at the Governing Council Finance Minister's recent rejection of Israeli participation in Iraq's rebuilding and subsequent business dealings. He notes that the minister says the council will consider Israel a "hostile state" and prohibit dealings with it. Finally, the Aardvark wonders what kind of coverage this issue will get in the US.

I don't think the issue will get much coverage in the US, but that's not really important. Bush and his henchpeople have already demonstrated that they don't really care what Americans think, and the US media has been happy to pass this lesson along. What matters, in this case, is what is going on Israel - the new Iraq's proposed business partner. And in fact, the Israeli government has already taken a number of steps to get in on what promises to be a fire-sale, a la Russia 1993:
-Most recently, Ha'aretz reported that Israeli Finance Minister Netanyahu several months ago (i.e., right after the US invasion) annulled regulations prohibiting Israeli companies from dealing with Iraq - which is still classified as an enemy country (or an "emery" country, according to the article).
-The idea to reopen the old Kirkuk-Haifa pipeline is getting more and more attention. Ha'aretz reported last month that Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said the US had asked him to draw up plans to reopen the pipeline to Haifa. The project is still at the preliminary stage due to the problems in Iraq.

Clearly, there is an interest on the Israeli side to do business, and there is a very strong interest on the American side to facilitate this business. As Abu Aardvark notes, Chalabi has repeatedly stated that he would normalize Iraq's relations with Israel he gets the chance. All of the necessary components of a business relationship are already in place (or getting there). The monkeywrench in this equation are the "dead-enders" who keep killing US soldiers and blowing up pipelines.

I suppose this whole episode can be seen as a test case for the Friedman Middle-East-reporting-maxim that only public statements matter. Frankly, I think the guy is full of shit; my reading is that, assuming Chalabi and his allies continue making headway into power, the public defences of "Arab unity" and "support for the Palestinians", etc. will continue, while discreet deals are made with Israel. But a project as big as the pipeline would require a full treaty and a secure country, neither of which is in the immediate future.

But I don't think that the US could countenance a new Iraqi government's refusal to sign a peace treaty and open Iraq up to business with Israel. Such an eventuality would be seen as too reminiscient of the rejectionist "old Middle East"; it would leave the US in the awkward position of having built up a major Arab ally that has nothing to do with its number one ally in the region; it would go entirely against the US's pledge to "democratize" the new Iraq.

And really, why wouldn't the region's only two democracies not work with each other?


Powell squirms over Iraq WMD claim

Powell in February 2001:
He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.
Powell in September 2003:
Asked why he changed his assessment, Powell said: "I didn't change my assessment... I did not say he (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) didn't have weapons of mass destruction."

"He was a threat then. The extent of his holdings were yet to be determined. It was early in the administration and the fact of the matter is it was long before 9/11 (the date of the 2001 attacks on the United States)".
Thank you, Mr. Powell, for saying that two airplanes crashing into New York skyscrapers resulted in Saddam acquiring WMD.

I recommend to Webster's that they place a picture of Powell next to the definition of "buffoon" in the next edition of their dictionary.


24.9.03

27 IAF pilots refuse operations in Palestinian territories

A group of 27 pilots has announced that they will not carry out attacks and assassinations against Palestinians in the occupied territories.


Business in the new Iraq

Brian Whitaker at the Guardian has a column on the way business in the new Iraq is likely to go.

Hint: The family of certain bank-embezzling Iraqi fraudster is involved, as is an official at the Pentagon.

Excursus: The appellation "dog" was commonly used by both rulers and subordinates in the ancient Near East world to describe a lower-ranking official or servant. It was a term which highlighted the faithfulness of underlings to their masters. Thus, we often see inscriptions or letters whose beginning/salutation take the form "PN, your dog, would like the king to know", or "PN, my dog, joined my military campaign".

What I want to know is, whose dog is Chalabi?


23.9.03

Report: Israeli settlements cost over $550 million per year in non-military expenses

A Ha'aretz report has found that Israel has spent at least an extra $558 million (NIS 2.5 billion) annually in "non-military" outlays to maintain its illegal colonies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Since 1967, Israel has spent at least NIS 45 billion on its settlement project (this apparently is again the "non-military" costs). At today's exchange rate, that is more than $10 billion. The article does not provide any indication that it has adjusted for inflation, nor does it provide a dollar amount.

The article notes that this civilian service spending translates into annual surplus costs of more than NIS 10,000 per settler.

To be added to all of these costs are the expenses of building the Apartheid Wall inside the West Bank. Each mile will cost about $1 million.

It should be clear that the settlements and the Wall are permanent investments. They do not amount to negotiating tactics. They are strategic investments in Israel's hold over the West Bank. US taxpayers are more or less completely subsidizing this colonization and slow-motion ethnic cleansing.

On a related note, Colin "No Integrity" Powell has reiterated that the US will not be pressuring Israel soon on its settlement activity.

In my opinion, the only thing the Palestinians under occupation can do is drop their demand for an independent state and start demanding their equal rights as Israeli citizens. After having been subjected to Israeli rule, without representation, for 36 years, and since Israel is in the West Bank to stay, it's about time they had a say in how their lives are run.


Press accused of too much "incitement", not enough "feel good" in Iraq

The press is coming in for a bit of a bloody nose from various quarters over its coverage of what is going on in Iraq. The exact charges depend on who's delivering the news: the Arab media is accused of "incitement", while American outfits get called to task for being too "negative" and not providing enough happy news for American viewers to balance out reports of US soldiers' deaths. The accusations are essentially the same - the big difference is the intended audience of the reports.

The US-appointed Governing Council in Iraq has banned Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyah from covering official activities in Iraq for two weeks. The move follows earlier threats to expel reporters from the two organizations for a month.

The council
said the action was taken as a warning to the stations and other broadcasters for allegedly inciting anti-US violence...
...

US officials have accused the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya of giving too much prominence to anti-US attacks and providing a forum for backers of ousted president Saddam Hussein.

The council statement barring them from official functions for two weeks fell short of the vow by Entefadh Qanbar, a spokesman for the body's current president Ahmad Chalabi, to shut down their offices temporarily.
Chalabi has been after Al Jazeera for a long time. Previously he claimed to have documents showing that some Al Jazeera reporters were working for Iraqi intelligence although, oddly, these documents never seem to have been published. It isn't likely that the battle against Al Jazeera is over yet.

Note: I wonder if the Bush administration will point to Al Jazeera as the "missing link" between Saddam and Al Qaeda following Spain's detention of an Al Jazeera reporter.

Moving on, some US lawmakers who recently visited Iraq complained that the American media reports too much on what happens after Iraqi guerillas, high on Al Jazeera's concentrated doses of "incitement", attack the US occupation forces. According to these members of Congress, journalists often do not notice all of the "good stuff" happening in Iraq. Their charges are almost identical to the occupational authority's characterization of Al Jazeera's coverage:
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the committee's ranking member, said, "The media stresses the wounds, the injuries, and the deaths, as they should, but for instance in Northern Iraq, Gen. [Dave] Petraeus has 3,100 projects - from soccer fields to schools to refineries - all good stuff and that isn?t being reported."
I don't know how much football (soccer) Skelton has played in his life, but considering that all you need to play football is a patch of flat ground and a ball, the fact that General Petraeus has a project dedicated to "soccer fields" doesn't strike me as being more newsworthy than US soldiers being killed.

Skelton's colleague Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) commented on what he described as a "hysterical" CBS analysis following an attack that left three soldiers dead:
"CBS got it exactly wrong, the media portrayed it as an act of sophistication and a regrouping of Saddam's forces, when in fact, it's an indication of disorganization and desperation."
How a successful attack against soldiers of the world's most powerful army - one instance of what is a daily occurence - was an indication of "disorganization" and "desperation", Wilson doesn't say.

USA Today weighs in with a piece examining how reporters see the situation. It is clear that, despite the overall poor situation in Iraq and what the members of Congress think, the desire for "sunshine and puppy dog"-type stories is there:
The Baghdad that Bennett sees is a city where gunfire erupts every night and dozens of Iraqis are reported dead in the morning. Looting and robberies are common. ''There is a mounting terrorist threat, and the people who want to kill American soldiers are getting more organized,'' he says.
Despite this,
Bennett plans to pitch a story about the improving scene in Iraq, where electricity is being restored daily and people are getting back to work.
Sometimes there appears to be pressure to find these "good news" stories:
CBS' Kimberly Dozier is increasingly pessimistic. She has made an effort to find some ''good news'' stories, sensing that her supervisors and viewers are tiring of ''bash the Americans'' reports.
What these charges boil down to is this: Arabs must not hear too much about succesful attacks on US soldiers or how bad things are in Iraq, because that "incites" them to attack the occupational authority, while Americans must not hear too much about successful attacks on US soldiers or how bad things are in Iraq, because that is too "negative", gives people the wrong idea of how things really are, and prevents Americans from having a "feel-good" attitude about themselves and their country.

Maybe this media strategy should be called the "George W. Bush method" of dealing with news.

(The Hill and USA Today links via The Agonist.)


Powell in 2001: Iraq has no WMD

Via Juan Cole, we find out that John Pilger has done some more of that muckraking that he does so well:
A television report by Pilger aired on British screens last night said US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice confirmed in early 2001 that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had been disarmed and was no threat.

But after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 that year, Pilger claimed Rice said the US "must move to take advantage of these new opportunities" to attack Iraq and claim control of its oil.

Pilger uncovered video footage of Powell in Cairo on February 24, 2001 saying, "He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."

Two months later, Rice reportedly said, "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."

Powell boasted this was because America's policy of containment and its sanctions had effectively disarmed Saddam.
So sanctions "worked", in the sense that Saddam couldn't get WMD, but simultaneously, they didn't "work", because the US had to invade to prevent Saddam from using WMD against his neighbors. No, no contradiction there.

Atrios adds that the statement is up on the State Department's website:
We had a good discussion, the Foreign Minister and I and the President and I, had a good discussion about the nature of the sanctions -- the fact that the sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction. We should constantly be reviewing our policies, constantly be looking at those sanctions to make sure that they are directed toward that purpose. That purpose is every bit as important now as it was ten years ago when we began it. And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.
I wonder when members of the Bush administration will begin trotting out the Ronald "I-have-no-recollection-of-that-event" Reagan defence.

Incidentally, in Professor Cole's post, we also find this nugget:
...in his Fox News interview on Monday evening in the US, President George W. Bush admitted that he does not read the newspapers and only knows what is going on in the world from briefings given him by Andy Card and Dr. Rice.
One thing that should definitely be on the president's Christmas list: one of those "genius at work" signs.

Why I hate Bush: Reason #79 - The man would rather be playing golf than fixing that ignorance problem.


Why I hate Bush: Reason #321

The man takes a positive delight in killing people:
Bush is portrayed in Talk as ridiculing pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker of Houston for an interview she did with CNN broadcaster Larry King shortly before she was executed last year. Just before her execution date, Tucker appealed for clemency on the grounds that she had become a born-again Christian.

" 'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.' "
Even Gary Bauer was disgusted by this cruelty.


22.9.03

Bush moves to give money to "faith-based" aid

The Bush administration has apparently issued regulations allowing religious groups to compete for "$28 billion in grants to provide social services such as drug abuse or mental health treatment, or housing".

Although it is claimed that these new regulations will not be "discriminatory", it is hard to imagine that the Church of Satan or the Church of the Subgenius will get the same shot at all of that taxpayer money as, oh, say the Southern Baptists.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or an ordained minister, to see that this tax-payer money will actually be subsidizing construction of new religious buildings and the dissemination of religious messages. Money that religious groups would normally be spending elsewhere (i.e., on whatever social services they currently offer) will now be freed up for promoting their propaganda. The Bush administration basically recognized as much:
In response to complaints that government money could help build churches, a draft regulation was modified to prohibit grants from financing a "principal place of worship."
My suggestion to anyone upset with seeing their tax dollars going to fund religion: get in touch with the ACLU.

Or start your own church and apply for some of that free money.


Israeli army demolishes house in Hebron

Here we see a bit of a twist on the usual Israeli practice of demolishing Palestinian homes - a house in Hebron was destroyed after residents reported that an armed militant had broke in and threatened them:
The forces arrived at the house before dawn during a routine search for wanted men in the area. The residents of the house came out and told the forces that a masked, armed fugitive had entered their home and threatened them at gunpoint.
Army bulldozers then came and destroyed the house.

Well, so much for security cooperation.


21.9.03

Sprung!

The US unveils the master plan for Iraq. We know all of Washington is together on this one.

The reaction in two key places is whats going to count. 1) European elites. 2) Ordinary Iraqis. I think its a fair bet that ordinary Iraqis aren't going to be happy. Whats up in the air is how this will be pitched in Europe.

Will GWB & co. be able to convince the greedy Europeans that their companies will get a fair shot in the bidding and contracts wont all go to administration cronies such as Halliburton? Will European companies push European leaders so they can be included (given the security situation)? Can the current administrations in France and Germany politically afford to reverse their position on Iraq?

This move is being taken at a very interesting time. My guess? They (Bremer et al.) want to oficially sell off Iraq before they hand it over. The bidding will be managed, and European companies will be given a stake in return for endorsement at the UN. Eventually the whole shit gets tossed to the UN (groundwork is being laid now, hastily), but I fail to see how this is going to make the Iraqis play along.

An interesting side note. The top tax rate for businesses will be 15%. Its enough to make you flashback to steve forbes and the flat tax.


You're out of your element, Donny!

Do you see what happens? Do you see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass? (*see the Big Lebowski if you dont get the wording)

There is great tactical relevance here to the success of the Iraqi mortar attack. We've been talking about mortars on this blog because they are a huge step up, and if made successfully will really hurt the US, which is operating out of fixed installations inside of Iraq that are vulnerable to such atacks. And these are an extremely safe tactic if the mortar team can shoot these mortars in a high arc -- it makes it hard to figure out where the fire is coming from... This particular prison (Iraqs biggest) has come under fire, according to the Americans running it, 4 days out of 7. Thats a lot of practice runs for an Iraqi mortar team, and it means they feel pretty safe doing their work. And practice makes perfect, apparently, as 13 wounded and 2 dead is a HUGE toll, given that this is just one attack.

Previously, attacks have hit Iraqis imprisoned at Abu Ghraib, one of which got a lot of attentionkilling 6 and wounding scores. Especially given that the Americans responded to the attack by killing an AP photographer (Dana Mazen). Some Iraqis have charged that the Americans are using them as a human shield against these mortar attacks, forcing them to sleep outside the prison in tents. This degree of shady behavior on the part of the US might strike you as unlikely, until you read about how Israeli-like the American tactics are becoming. If you follow the situation closely you hear stories about US threats of collective punishment("inform on other Iraqis or you will suffer"), you get to wondering if its so unlikely the US is going to use Iraqis as human shields, especially when they get attacked 4 out 7 days. One Colonel even resorted to hostage-taking to get the info he wanted.

The thing to watch for next is a successful REPEAT attack on Abu Ghreib prison. Its a stationary target. This puts the Americans in "under siege" mode, and reverses the roles (previously, Baghdad was under siege and the Americans were the ones lobbing in high explosives). This is a marked escalation and if this continues it places the occupation on even weaker footing. The resistance is thinking very logically in undermining efforts by the US to set up a prison system where "suspected" resisters will be processed. This was the only setting under Saddam where resistance was overcome. Likewise, such camps/prisons are be the primary setting under which the resistance is supposed to be overcome by the Americans (given the cycle of raid-arrest-process the US follows).

Anyway, its time to reprise the title of this post... "Shut the fuck up, Donny!"


Newest Friedman waste of space

The NY Times gives this guy 1,000 words... and all he can come up with is this.

I have a question: if the majority of Iraq's population of is "silent", how does Friedman know what their aspirations are?

At least Friedman gives us this insight into his journalistic modus operandi:
Friedman's first rule of Middle East reporting: What people tell you in private is irrelevant. All that matters is what they will defend in public.
Right... what people actually think about issues - their real plans versus whatever propagandistic nonsense they spew out for public consumption - is "irrelevant".

No wonder he's such a terrible Mideast reporter.


There he goes again: Bush the scientist back at work

Ever get worried by all of these supposed environmental dangers out there - carcinogenic chemicals, global warming, massive dioxin releases in dense urban areas? Well, you shouldn't - according to George W. Bush, president and super-scientist. In fact, Bush thinks that any kind of poppycock "science" that points out these "dangers" should be abolished.

According to the Independent, the Bush administration is attempting to force Europe to drop safety tests designed to prevent thousands of people from developing or dying from cancer each year:
[Internal US government] documents - which include diplomatic cables signed by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell - show that the Bush administration has threatened Europe with trade sanctions if it goes ahead with the tests, which are designed to protect workers and the public from highly toxic chemicals.
...

The tests are designed to identify the most dangerous chemicals threatening Europeans, including cancer-causing and "gender-bender" substances, so that they can be controlled. Only a tiny proportion of the 100,000 or so man-made chemicals used in the EU has ever been tested for the effects on the people who use them.
...

The European Commission estimates that it would prevent up to 4,300 cases of cancer a year among chemical workers alone; far more lives could be expected to be saved among the public at large.
UPDATE: Chirac and Schroeder, along with Blair, are backing a serious revision to the EU safety laws. Bush isn't the only one putting a dollar sign on people's lives.

Bush's contempt for science and disregard for human life are not limited to Europe, but encompass the entire world. Even scientific research carried out by the US government's own agencies is rejected:
White House officials have undermined their own government scientists' research into climate change to play down the impact of global warming, an investigation by The Observer can reveal.
...

Emails and internal government documents obtained by The Observer show that officials have sought to edit or remove research warning that the problem is serious. They have enlisted the help of conservative lobby groups funded by the oil industry to attack US government scientists if they produce work seen as accepting too readily that pollution is an issue.

Central to the revelations of double dealing is the discovery of an email sent to Phil Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, by Myron Ebell, a director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI is an ultra-conservative lobby group that has received more than $1 million in donations since 1998 from the oil giant Exxon, which sells Esso petrol in Britain.
...

Other confidential documents obtained by The Observer detail White House efforts to suppress research that shows the world's climate is warming. A four-page internal EPA memo reveals that Bush's staff insisted on major amendments to the climate change section of an environmental survey of the US, published last June. One alteration indicated 'that no further changes may be made'.

The memo discusses ways of dealing with the White House editing, and warns that the section 'no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change'.

Some of the changes include deleting a summary that stated: 'Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment.' Sections on the ecological effects of global warming and its impact on human health were removed. So were several sentences calling for further research on climate change.

A temperature record covering 1,000 years was also deleted, prompting the EPA memo to note: 'Emphasis is given to a recent, limited analysis [which] supports the administration's favoured message.'

White House officials added numerous qualifying words such as 'potentially' and 'may', leading the EPA to complain: 'Uncertainty is inserted where there is essentially none.'
But surely Bush would never do anything to specifically harm honest, god-fearing Americans? On the contrary: these recent moves follow the suppression of the EPA report that found that the World Trade Center site was the single largest release of dioxins in human history - a decision which has put thousands of New Yorkers at risk of long-term health problems.

Remember: If you are not willing to shoulder your patriotic duty to breathe in toxic chemicals while living in a deteriorating environment so that American business can remain profitable... then the terrorists have already won.


Report: Israel plans massive Gaza invasion in October

According to a report in Jane's, the Israeli government is planning a massive invasion of the Gaza Strip in October. The focus will be on killing the leadership of Palestinian militant groups:
Israel is planning a huge call-up of at least 50,000 soldiers to cope with the conquering of the Gaza strip. Special Israeli troops will move from house to house to find and kill militants.
Subscription - which I do not have - required to read the full article.

(Link via The Agonist.)


20.9.03

Israeli delegation heads to US to discuss Apartheid Wall

It's funny: Israelis and Americans discussing the route of the Apartheid Wall - but where are the Palestinians, the people this monstrosity is going to impact most? But, then again, when you're building a cage to lock people in like animals, asking their opinion about it seems kind of superfluous.

We find out that the "compromise solution" is no better than the wall:
Israel will tell U.S. officials that the section of the fence between the settlements Elkana and Alei Zahav will not be built, leaving a "break" opposite Ariel, one of the largest West Bank settlements.

Instead, the area left open will be guarded by a bolstered IDF presence, as well as roadblocks and other barriers aimed at protecting the adjacent settlements.
Further, we see that the decision not to build the wall here is being taken for purely tactical reasons and that it will be constructed at some point:
Sharon told the Likud ministers that Israel should officially adopt Mofaz's plan, and postpone construction of the fence around Ariel until the international political climate became more favorable.
Meaning as soon as the rest of the world gets distracted by the next dog-and-pony show and loses interest in what is going on in Palestine.

This is exactly why bilateral "negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians will never yield any kind of settlement. As soon as Palestinian attacks against Israelis cease and the world looks away because no one is dying, then "negotiations" or, more accurately, negotiations to resume "negotiations", may begin, during which time the Israeli government will accelerate work on its settlement project (now including the Apartheid Wall) in the West Bank. The record is very clear: settlement expansion happened under the Rabin Labor government, it happened under Peres, it happened under Netanyahu, it happened under Barak, and now it is happening under Sharon, who continued settlement activity in the West Bank in direct violation of the so-called "road map". The Palestinians are being asked to give up the same amount to get less and less as each day goes by.

No one in their right mind would expect a pauper to be able to fairly "negotiate" with a millionaire who had stolen the former's property and refused to give it back. Indeed, no one would expect that a pauper would have to negotiate for what was rightfully his/hers in the first place. Yet the US is asking the Palestinians to assume the role of pauper in this equation and, as with these "negotiations" over the route of the Apartheid Wall into the West Bank, is happily assisting the millionaire in his robbery.

The expectation that the Palestinians will accept a "state" of little Sowetos, surrounded by concrete walls and barbed wire, is sheer fantasy. No one in the world would do that. But what will happen when Sharon turns this sick dream into a reality? Will the world keep up the illusion of "negotiations" then?


Anti-American tiger killed in Baghdad

Clearly, this tiger had it coming.


Bush calls 70% of Americans idiots, press buries story

The US press continues to demonstrate its commitment to upholding the public interest and American democracy: only 3 of the nation's top 12 newspapers published front-page articles on Bush's admission that his administration has no evidence of Saddam's involvement in the September 11 attacks:
Of America's 12 highest-circulation daily papers, only the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, and Dallas Morning News ran anything about it on the front page. In The New York Times, the story was relegated to page 22. USA Today: page 16. The Houston Chronicle: page 3. The San Francisco Chronicle: page 14. The Washington Post: page 18. Newsday: page 41. The New York Daily News: page 14.

The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal didn't mention it at all.
Right... the American president, after implying for a year that the Iraqi government did have a role in September 11, now comes out and tells the 70% of Americans who believed him that they were idiots... and this isn't news?

No wonder it's so hard to find out why they call him "Whistle Ass".

(Link via The Agonist.)


19.9.03

Partners in the crusade

On the heels of some vicious resistance, General Sanchez apologized today for the "friendly fire" killings of 8 Iraqi police in Fallujah.

He referred to the massacred Iraq police as "partners in this crusade." As if it wasn't appealing enough already, this oughta bring the collaboration-minded Iraqis out in droves. Apparently, the normally spin-minded US leadership just cant manage to grasp how inappropriate that word is.



Guerilla attacks kill US soldiers


AFP photo

Caption reads: "An Iraqi youth celebrates in front of a burning US army vehicle following an ambush on a US army convoy in the town of Khaldiyah, 80 kms west of Baghdad. The Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah television station said in an unconfirmed report that eight US soldiers were killed in a series of attacks on the US convoy".

I don't know how widespread the phenomenon of Iraqis celebrating when US forces are attacked is, but it is something that is appearing more and more frequently in news reports. "Hearts and minds"...

It is impossible to be more specific about the number of US soldiers killed in the series of attacks on Thursday. Clear information is not forthcoming from US Central Command. Reuters and AFP both report that 3 were killed in an attack near Tikrit, while several were wounded in another attack near Khaldiyah - the aftermath of which is pictured above. Al Arabiyah reported up to 8 dead in that attack.

The New York Times also reported 3 killed. It says something about the situation in Iraq when the Times can report (with a straight face, of course) that these attacks "shattered a two-day lull in deadly attacks". Wow... two whole days without US soldiers dying. One wonders how three days would have been described - as a virtual paradise on earth, no doubt, that was unexpectedly wrecked by "terrorists". Then, a little later in the article: "The Tikrit attack was the first deadly assault on American forces here since Monday". A little further, we find this bland description of the Khaldiyah attack: "Several news organizations tonight quoted witnesses as saying that two or more American soldiers had died in the attack in Khaldiya, but Amy Abbott, an American military spokeswoman, said soldiers were only wounded" (emphasis added). Yes, I suppose that the army, in conjunction with the Times, is very happy to describe these soldiers, probably burnt beyond all recognition, as "only wounded".

Clearly, the NY Times, like the rest of the US media, is avoiding the subject of what is really happening in Iraq, both to US soldiers and Iraqi citizens - the death, the shattered bodies and minds, reality in general. I suppose it doesn't want to upset its delicate readership's stomachs. But, then again, when these soldiers come back (if they live at all, that is), it won't be the NY Times editors who are caring for their useless bodies. Kicking ass and simplistic flag-waving patriotism is fine, but cleaning up the mess made of people's lives is someone else's business.

Moving on, it appears that the US military is confused about what direction it wants to take its occupation of Iraq. On the one hand, we read that the occupational authority is studying ways of "easing" the occupation's impact on civilians, including relaxing curfews, withdrawing US forces from population centers, and opening up traffic routes. On the other hand, we also see that the US military has expressed interest in the Israeli military's occupational tactics in Palestine - tactics which are the exact opposite of the stated goals above.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I read things like this:
The [Israeli] "code of conduct" includes principles such as not shooting at anyone who is surrendering, showing respect for religious and cultural artifacts and providing medical care to anyone injured - conditions permitting.

[Israeli military official] Guiora said the software, which is currently being distributed to junior commanders in military, also includes scenarios often encountered by troops.

In one, he said, two soldiers drive up to a pile of rocks blocking the road and are told it may be mined. What to do - call mine-clearing experts, remove the rocks themselves, or get some Palestinians to do it? Anyone choosing the last option is disabused by the program.
"Hearts and minds..."


Blair's Labour loses London seat

The Labour Party has lost a London-district seat in Parliament in what the Guardian describes as a "sensational" by-election victory for the Liberal Democrats.

The LibDem candidate beat the Labour candidate by over 1,000 votes in a district that Labour won in 2001 by over 13,000 votes. Not surprisingly, some voters in the district expressed a certain disgust with Blair and his policies:
Bernie Paul, 58, who is unemployed, said he voted for the Liberal Democrats. "I can't stand Blair. He is a puppet to the American President," he said.
But is this the beginning of the anti-Blair revolution? I don't think so, simply because there is really no alternative at the moment. No one in Britain wants to see Iain Duncan Smith as prime minister. And although Charles Kennedy looks like a genius at the moment, the Liberal Democrats are not in a position to challenge for power at the national level. Nor do we see any indication that anyone in Labour itself is moving to overthrow Blair from within - on the contrary, London Mayor Ken Livingstone, one of three possible alternatives in my opinion (along with Robin Cook and perhaps Gordon Brown), was drafted by Labour to unsuccessfully push its candidate.

Unless something really damning comes out during the Hutton inquiry, Blair will be at No. 10 until his term is over.


IAF pilots to refuse assassinations

A group of reserve Israeli Air Force pilots is to publicly announce that they will not carry out assassinations against wanted Palestinian Authority members, Ha'aretz reports. According to the article, refusal movements in Israel are hoping that the pilots' action will draw more attention to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.


18.9.03

The abstinence movement: funding ignorance

The BBC offers us a look at the abstinence movement in the US (never mind the Britney Spears bit... she's just a backdrop for the article).

Informing teenagers about abstinence and encouraging it is one thing, but the anti-contraception message these fanatics are peddling is something else:
Under the terms of the multi-million-dollar fund which have been made available under President Bush for abstinence education, schools and groups can only claim federal money for sex education programmes if the classes have as their "exclusive purpose" the promotion of abstinence.

They must make clear that sexual activity outside of marriage is harmful, both mentally and physically. If contraception is mentioned, it must only be in the context of its fallibility.
...

Dan Richey, state coordinator of the Louisiana Governor's Program on Abstinence, believes that telling young people about condoms and other forms of contraception increases sexual activity, and consequently increases the rate of teenage pregnancy and the transmission of sexual diseases.

"Many adults seem to think that if the kids are using contraception then everything's OK. But contraception does not necessarily prevent pregnancy, nor does it stop the contraction of diseases. Everyone thinks condoms are effective - but they are not," he says.
Yes, it's always dangerous when people have too much information on their hands. All teenagers need to know is that when they get horny, that's Satan at work. Biology? Never heard of it.

It seems that Richey has confused "effectiveness" and "infallibity". Are condoms "not effective" because one in 1,000 breaks? Someone needs to tell Richey that only the pope is infallible.

As is usually the case with ideologically motivated true believers, facts mean little:
Researchers at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think-tank, found in their comparison of teenage pregnancy rates between five developed countries that there was no relation between the amount of sexual activity and frequency of pregnancies.

Young people in Sweden, which had the lowest rate of teenage pregnancy, are more sexually active than their US counterparts, but the rate of teenage pregnancy is nearly four times lower.
Maybe the teenagers in Sweden just pray harder that they won't become pregnant when they have sex. Or, if Dan Richey is correct, maybe Louisiana condoms are just really bad.


Bush, the Iraq war, and the paper trail

Via the invaluable Tom "Buy My Book" Tomorrow we get a convenient paper trail that shows very, very clearly the dishonesty and contempt for the American public that characterizes the Bush administration:
Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate

March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Sincerely,

GEORGE W. BUSH
Ok, we can summarize the above document - the declaration of war against Iraq - as follows: Bush determined that attacking Iraq (i.e., implementing Public Law 107-243) was consistent with the US taking action against "international terrorists" and "terrorist organizations", including nations, organizations, or persons who had some part in 9-11.

Stripped down further, we have Bush telling Congress that invading Iraq is part of the "war on terror" that began with the September attacks.

But now we have Bush - the same George W. Bush, president of the United States of America, who signed the letter above - joining Rumsfeld and Rice in saying that "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."

Is there a contradiction here? Of course there is. It is clear that the White House was implying in the letter above that the Iraqi government, at some level, played a part in the September 11 attacks.

However, it should also be clear that this letter was written in such a way to provide a loophole through which the Bush administration could slither through if things started to go badly (which they have). This loophole concerns the phrase "...including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001". This phrase indicates that "nations, organizations, or persons" who had a hand in 9/11 are part of the larger "war on terror" (i.e., they are a subset of the larger set of targets).

So, with this in mind, we can postulate that the interpretation that the Bush administration will apply to its declaration of war will be something like this: "Attacking Iraq was consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including, but not limited to, those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001". In other words, if anyone feels like confronting the administration with this apparent contradiction, Bush will be told to answer that Iraq was part of the larger "war on terror", even though they are admitting now that there was never an Iraqi connection with Al Qaeda or 9/11.

People who see kind of some smoking gun here showing the Bush administration's deceit are too optimistic and are forgetting what kind of scumbags professional liars officials we're dealing with here. Bush may be an imbecile, but his handlers certainly are not. How many times have we heard Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld using some variation of the phrase "I didn't say that; I was careful not to say that" when confronted when an apparent claim they've made? This letter was no different; it was carefully formulated by a group of deeply dishonest people who knew there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11 but who wanted to give the impression that there was anyway. It is another instance where the wording gives one impression (here, that Iraq was involved with 9/11) while leaving the way open for another interpretation (here, that attacking Iraq was simply part of the larger "war on terror", which may or may not include nations, etc., involved with 9/11).

What this line of defence (if it is used, and I am confident that it will be at some point) says about the Bush administration is not so much that they are dishonest, lying cheats - they are, even if technically this time they didn't lie - as that they hold an extremely low opinion of the intelligence of the American public. Confronted with the charge that Bush lied to the American public, members of the administration will be able to say "No, we didn't - and it is isn't our problem if you're too much of an idiot to understand what we're saying".

This is the general problem facing anyone who is fed up with having his or her intelligence insulted by this clown and his minions. There is no smoking gun. Everything can be explained away one way or another: through semantic games like I demonstrated above, through denial, through claims of ignorance ("we didn't know that we didn't know"), or, as a last resort, through claims of incompetence - which will be pawned off on underlings, as was the case with the CIA. And thanks in part to America's media, these feeble explanations will be more than enough to keep Bush in the White House.


17.9.03

More on Judith Miller's incredibly suck-up and partisan "journalism"

Astute reader Manofsteele forwards us this article, which examines both Judith Miller's peculiar style of "journalism" (i.e., being a stooge for people in power or, with Chalabi, people wanting to come to power) and John "Can't Wait for Armageddon" Bolton's abysmal grasp of intelligence concerning WMD.

Note: these two people are members of what can be described as America's elite. Sadly, they are hardly exceptional cases.


The left hand doesn't know what the right is doing

I'm still wondering if the people in the Bush administration actually talk to each other - or if they think Bush's prayer sessions are enough. If that's the case, then maybe they would like to pray harder for a little "getting-the-story-straight" guidance.

Now Scott McClellan, the White House's new press commissar, says that the Bush administration never saw any kind of Saddam-Al Qaeda link:
"We've said all along that there's no evidence to suggest that that we've seen," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
No, Scott, you haven't "said all along that there's no evidence". You may have known there was no evidence - but that isn't the same as saying it.

So McClellan has thrown his hat in with the new and improved Rumsfeld and Rice versus Cheney - who had thrown in his hat with the old Rumsfeld - whose hatrack previously held the Bush administration's all-encompassing, prayer-mindful hat.

Well, I'm sure in a few days that Bush will come out and assure us that he thinks all of these people holding completely contradictory ideas are doing a swell job.

("Rice" link via Tom Tomorrow.)


It doesn't make up for all the SF Chronicliar's failings, but...

This editorial skewers America. Its well worth reading.


16.9.03

A powerful account of Iraqi resistance

Read this story about 2 reporters who interviewed the resistance.


Bush administration turns to Syria

John "Biblical Doomsday Prophecy Nut" Bolton is to deliver a report to the House attacking Syria on various matters: for allowing Syrian nationals to cross the border into Iraq to fight US soldiers there, supporting "terrorist" groups, and developing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Talk about a shameless attempt to distract attention.

As Atrios points out, noted Middle East expert and Bush administration shill Judith Miller is responsible for this article. Miller, of course, is the same "journalist" who broke numerous Pulitzer-worthy scoops, including memorable articles on the "trailers of mass destruction", those deadly aluminum tubes, and the infamous baseball-capped Iraqi scientist pointing to spots in the sand. It looks like she's back up to her old tricks again - happily providing a journalistic figleaf to the Bush administration's latest naked lies and unsupported assertions.

You have to admire the way that the article is structured. None of Syria's grievances (e.g., the occupied Golan) are mentioned at all. It is simply presented as the "irrational Arab country" bent on hatred of America and all it stands for.

Then you also get gems like this, accepted fully at face value:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters who traveled with him to Iraq last week that of more than 200 foreign fighters captured in Iraq, the largest groups were those from Syria and Lebanon. One intelligence official said 60 to 70 percent of those detained were believed to be Syrian, based on identity cards or interrogations. Many were carrying large sums of money, a Defense Department official said. [emphases added]
Right... I can just imagine the chain of events that would be required in this reconstruction of reality:

SCENE: A cafe in Damascus, or perhaps Hama. ABDULLAH, a budding anti-American "jihadi", sits at a table drinking coffee and smoking a water pipe. His obligatory Qur'an is open to the sura condemning all Americans to hell. A burning US flag decorates the far wall of the cafe. OUTSIDE we hear a large crowd chanting "No to American freedom and democracy, yes to Comrade Saddam!" repeatedly.
ENTER: MOHAMMAD, ABDULLAH'S comrade and fellow anti-American activist, who is wearing a t-shirt with the faces of Presidents Bashar Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Jacques Chirac, drawn in socialist realist style, and the words "Down with America" emblazoned on it.
MOHAMMAD: I have come to say goodbye, Abdullah, and wish you good luck in your jihad against the Americans in Iraq. Do you have everything you need - your AK, your roadside bomb, and your night-vision goggles?
ABDULLAH: Yes. Thank you, Mohammad.
MOHAMMAD: And are you sure you are not forgetting to take the most important things - your Syrian identity card and a large sum of money?
ABDULLAH: Thanks for reminding me. Proper identification is crucial for the underground guerilla. And while Saddam's Werewolves organization does pay well and offers large sums of money to "jihadis" like me who are willing to attack Americans, one can never have too much money on hand during a firefight.
MOHAMMAD: Indeed.
EXUENT MOHAMMAD and ABDULLAH.


Well, maybe the Bush administration can hire a willing filmmaker and turn their version of reality into a movie - like they did with that "9/11" fantasy documetary.


15.9.03

Buy Tom Tomorrow's book already

Please... I don't usually make such requests... but the dude has been reduced to doing an "Andrew Sullivan" and publishing letters from his readers telling us how good the book is.

Surely the creator of such prescient cartoons as Lethal Buddies and We tried to warn you deserves your $17. Support a struggling artist and help Mr. Tomorrow keep his readers' letters where they belong - in the trash can. Buy the book.


Hitchens' political apostasy

Norman Finkelstein has an article on Hitchens' volte face that should not be missed. A few excerpts:
Outraged at the taunt that he who preaches war should perhaps consider fighting it, Hitchens impatiently recalls that, since September 11, "civilians at home are no safer than soldiers abroad," and that, in fact, he's not just a but the main target: "The whole point of the present phase of conflict is that we are faced with tactics that are directed primarily at civilians... . It is amazing that this essential element of the crisis should have taken so long to sink into certain skulls" (emphasis in original). No doubt modesty and tact forbid Hitchens from drawing the obvious comparison: while cowardly American soldiers frantically covered themselves in protective gear and held their weapons at the ready, he patrolled his combat zone in Washington, D.C. unencumbered.
...

Deriding Chomsky's "very vulgar" harnessing of facts, Hitchens wants to go beyond this "empiricism of the crudest kind." His own preferred epistemology is on full display, for all to judge, in Long Short War. To prove that, after supporting dictatorial regimes in the Middle East for 70 years, the U.S. has abruptly reversed itself and now wants to bring democracy there, he cites "conversations I have had on this subject in Washington." To demonstrate the "glaringly apparent" fact that Saddam "infiltrated, or suborned, or both" the U.N. inspection teams in Iraq, he adduces the "incontrovertible case" of an inspector offered a bribe by an Iraqi official: "The man in question refused the money, but perhaps not everybody did."
One of the best exposes of Hitchens out there.


Burg on Israel's future

Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg examines Israel's choices for the future. These essentially boil down to the "greater Israel" project (which would entail either a formally instituionalized apartheid system or another round of large-scale ethnic cleansing), the two-state solution, or the single, secular democratic state. Burg favors the traditional two-state solution.

Other Israeli doves (such as Meron Benvenisti) have argued that the two-state solution has already entered history's dustbin and that only a binational model can work for the realities that Israelis and Palestinians face. I think Benvenisti is right - in the very long term. For the forseeable future, it is hard to envision anything else other than continued colonization, apartheid and occupation in the West Bank. This, of course, will make the two-state idea less and less relevant, except as a mirage on the horizon that Arafat or his successors will keep racing after unto eternity.

On a related note: if the next Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is absolutely certain that two states, Israel and Palestine, is the best option, with all this entails (e.g., rejection of the refugees' right of return), then the best strategy to pursue is to repudiate publicly the idea of two states and start demanding equal rights and Israeli citizenship for the West Bank and Gaza Arab residents. The Israelis would be back at the negotiating table in a minute.


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