WSJ reporter: Iraq a "disaster"

Here's something interesting: what a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, one of the biggest ra-ra cheerleaders of the war of Bush aggression, says in a forum where she won't upset the breakfasts of the paper's well-heeled readership.

(Link via antiwar.com)

House passes "anti-piracy" measure

Christ... don't lawmakers have anything better to do? The House has passed a bill that would make it a federal felony to videotape movies in theaters and punish offenders with up to 6 years in prison.

By way of comparison, let's look at the sentence scumbag Wall Street trader Frank Quattrone
got for obstructing federal probes into irregular procedures relating to IPOs: 18 months. Quattrone may have illegally made millions of dollars - but he's not nearly as much of a threat as some guy with a videocamera. And what the hell ever happened to Kenny-boy Lay?

This is law and order punishment running amok. It has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with screwing over poorer people when they hurt the interests of the rich.


On illegal, private, and hidden prisons

British hostage Kenneth Bigley, appealing for help from a cage in a hidden prison:

Notice anything familiar about the cage and the outfit?

The picture to the left, for those who don't know, is from America's own illegal private prison at Guantanamo, Cuba. Some news accounts of the newest videotaped appeal from Bigley have timidly pointed out the similarity of his orange suit to the outfits given to inmates at Guantanamo. Naturally, though, they fail to draw any kind of bigger picture, preferring instead to present it as some kind of odd coincidence in a world where nothing fits together.

It seems like this is a clear statement on the part of the militants holding Bigley. If the US can operate private prisons, locking away people in cages for months and years at a time and arbitrarily deciding whether they live or die, unrestrained by any and all laws, including ones that it helped make, then they can too.

There's a reason why people do not take the US's supposed morality seriously, why they do not have the fanatic belief in America's goodness that many Americans do. While the US condemns the kind of prisons that people like the militants run, it turns a deaf ear to people who complain about the US's own hidden, private prisons. While the Bush administration continues to talk about Iraqi democracy, freedom and "progress" (also a favorite slogan of the old Soviet rulers), Iraqis wondering what this freedom will look like need only look over to Palestine, where the US's good buddy Israel runs amok in a refugee camp for people whom it previously ethnically cleansed. Hell, they don't even need to look that far: just to Sadr City in Baghdad, where the US is launching airstrikes against "positively identified" militant locations (which would be... what? Restaurants? Cafes? Maybe a big building with a big flag that says "militant hideout"?), killing and injuring women and children.

Yes, the Bigley video was an intentional statement on the actions and behavior of the US: we learned it from you. But, not having the feel-good appeal of "progress" and "bustle" (do pro-war apologists still use that term?), I'm not sure so many people will make the effort to expend the mental energy required to ponder it.


Italian hostages reported killed - the ineffectiveness of the occupation demonstrated, again

According to an unverified report, Iraqi guerillas have killed two Italian aid workers who were taken hostage on 7 September. Meanwhile, the dire position of a British hostage, seized last week with two Americans who have since had their heads cut off, was driven home by the fact that he has been reduced to begging Tony Blair for his life.

The increasingly frequent kidnappings should raise real questions for people who still believe that the US's occupation is going well and everything is ok and peace and democracy are just around the corner. These Italian aid workers, if they are not already dead, have been sitting in some makeshift underground dungeon for over 2 weeks. Where are the commando raids? Where are the attempts to free them? Where is even the most rudimentary security to prevent these hostages from being taken in broad daylight?

An even better question is this: where is the intelligence from the Iraqi side that would make the commando raids possible? Here's the answer: it doesn't exist. The guerillas are getting increasingly better intelligence on US forces and their Iraqi collaborators, but the reverse isn't true. In fact, US intelligence is getting worse, if we are to judge by the increase in American casualties and the kidnappings. A kidnapping in a city of millions like Baghdad doesn't just happen with no one knowing anything about it. The fact that not a single witness will pick up the phone (if it even works) and leave an anonymous tip that will let the SAS boys swoop in and rescue the hostages should provide a real alarm bell for people who think that the occupation has a future and that ordinary Iraqis like it.

The US and the UK like to pretend that they take the high ground and don't negotiate with "terrorists". This is bullshit, of course, as the US's experience in Lebanon during the civil war and with the MEK during the invasion have shown us, but it does convey the point to Americans and Britons that if you're caught up in the mess your governments have made of things, they won't help you. And in this case, they can't either.


Leaked documents: Blair was warned of Iraq chaos

New leaked documents show that Tony Blair was warned a year before the War of Bush Aggression that a post-war Iraq risked new military dictatorships and that British soldiers would be trapped in Iraq for a long time, according to the Observer.

Even his own foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, concluded in a private note that President Bush had no answer to the big questions about the invasion - including 'what happens on the morning after?'

As always, though, Blair had a "plan":

"The idea that we did not have a plan for afterwards is simply not correct," he said. "We did and we have unfolded that plan, but there are people in Iraq who were determined to stop us."

We see that Blair did have a "plan" for the post-war Iraq, and that this "plan" has, in fact, been implemented, but also that, unfortunately, this "plan" did not take into account the idea that "people" might have objected to it and worked to stop it.

I like making these kinds of "plans", too: my "plan" for the next year, for example, is that Ed McMahon delivers that $10 million to my house, I win the presidency of the United States through an incredible write-in campaign, also organized by "people", and little elves appear to dance delightfully around and take care of my every desire.

Tony, if you need another strategic planner, I'm ready.


Winning hearts and minds, Part 34: The "no electricity, water, or sewage" approach

So the Bush administration has decided to divert a few billion dollars of money that was supposed to be spent on rebuilding Iraq's water, sewage, and electricity networks into more of these terrific "security" programs. The reason? It's not safe enough - due to attacks and other "unforseen issues" - to invest in humanitarian projects:

"Fewer people will get potable water. Fewer people will get the electricity they need in their homes or their businesses," [Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's foreign operations subcommittee] said. "But that's just a recognition of the reality that unless you have the security you need, you can't have reconstruction."
Interesting. But I wonder why Kolbe and his masters in the White House seem to think that oil-sector improvements are somehow exempt from this "reality":

The State Department hopes to shift $1.8 billion to security and law enforcement, $450 million to Iraqi oil production, $380 million to economic reforms, agriculture and private sector development, $286 million to short-term job creation projects, $180 million to prepare for elections scheduled for January, and $360 million toward forgiving long-standing Iraqi debt to the United States. Even with the shift, Grossman said "substantial money" would remain for improving water and electricity services.

Sure, oil refining and transport installations have been one of the main targets of guerillas - but we needn't let such facts trouble us. I was also puzzled as to why it should cost $360 million to forgive Iraqi debt, but I decided not to be puzzled, in addition to not being troubled. Bush's economic team seems to have a certain talent with figures, as we see each time the new unemployment figures come out.

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