Portrait of the inspector as an old huckster

David Kay, former US inspector for WMD in Iraq, attempting to shift the blame for the failure of his mission onto US intelligence:
Asked if the president owes the country an explanation for the failure of weapons stockpiles to turn up, Kay told NPR, "I actually think the intelligence community owes the president, rather than the president owing the American people."

"It's not a political issue," he added. "It's an issue of the capabilities of one's intelligence service to collect valid, truthful information."
David Kay, former pro-war shill, testifying before Congress in September 2002 on the uselessness of national intelligence for determining the state of Iraq's "nuclear program":
It is very unlikely that national intelligence efforts can add much clarity to the exact status of Saddam's nuclear program. The same deception and concealment capabilities that were directed at the inspectors will have hindered national intelligence services. WMD programs have long been the hardest targets for intelligence service to unravel, even when they are very large.

What is clear is that unless we take immediate steps to address the issue of removing the Saddam's regime from power in Iraq, we will soon face a nuclear armed and embolden
[sic] Saddam. With time, and we can never be sure of how long that will be, Saddam will be able to intimidate his neighbors with nuclear weapons and find the means to use them against the United States. Saddam's own actions to obstruct the efforts of the international community to carry out the removal of his WMD capacity as mandated by the UN Security Council at the end of the Gulf War accounts for the uncertainty as to the exact status of that program today. These same actions of obstruction, however, remove all doubt about his aim to acquire and enlarge his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons stockpiles. Absence the forceful removal of Saddam, unambiguous certainty as to the status of his WMD programs is likely to come only after the first use of these weapons against the United States and its friends. This is a very high price to pay - potentially many times over the human toll one year ago in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania - for clarity as to the exact status of any nuclear program.
Several points indicated by the bold passages above: (a) the "actions of obstruction", and not what intelligence was or was not saying, "removed all doubt" about Iraq's WMD, and (b) to "enlarge" stockpiles presupposes already existing stockpiles, i.e., actually-existing possession and not hoped-for or fantasized possession.

So: Kay is now blaming the national intelligence service for not determining that there were no WMD in Iraq, even though before the war he very clearly discounted the role national intelligence services could play in determining whether or not there were WMD in Iraq.

Sorry, Mr. Kay, but you are a liar and a fraud. Your primary motivation was always "replacement" of Saddam, not disarmament, which makes your lie doubly offensive. And after everything that has happened with Iraq, I can only assume that anyone who believes you now is a liar and fraud as well.

The dim memory of Sen. Pat Roberts

When your lie begins to unravel, a good strategy is always to pretend as if history doesn't exist:
The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday that his panel is investigating the prewar data. But Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas told CNN's "Late Edition" that if Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction, "why on Earth didn't he let the U.N. inspectors in and avoid the war?"
To its credit, the LA Times decided to dig way, way back in the musty archives to provide a little context for Roberts' puzzled query:
Hussein did allow U.N. inspectors into Iraq in November 2002 as momentum for war built, and they conducted nearly 600 inspections of about 350 sites. The inspectors made no significant discoveries of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs, although there were unresolved questions.
A better question is, why on Earth doesn't Pat Roberts remember what happened only a year and a half ago?


Report: new Arab proposal for general Mideast settlement

This is very interesting: Saudi Arabia has reportedly retooled its 2002 proposal for a general political settlement for the entire Middle East:
According to a new peace initiative being prepared by Arab states, Israel will negotiate a peace agreement with all the Arab states, and not just with the Palestinians, and Arab states would absorb Palestinian refugees.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyasa reported Saturday that the initiative, led by Saudi Arabia, would include "declarations of peace agreements between all Arab states," which will bring an end to the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. The states would declare a normalization in their ties with Israel, including the appointment of ambassadors.

The Arab states will demand that Israel withdraw to its borders prior to the June 1967 war, in other words, to leave the Palestinian territories and withdraw from the Golan Heights.

The initiative also includes a "creative solution" for the problem of Palestinian refugees, which is one of the most serious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the plan, some two million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to the new Palestinian state that would be established. More than two million others would be absorbed by other Arab states, and will be compensated for the suffering they had endured.

The Arab countries would open their gates to the refugees on the condition that their number won't exceed 10 percent of the existing population.

Under the deal, Iraq will also accept Palestinian refugees. Israel will not be required to absorb any Palestinian refugees.
It will be interesting to see what the reaction to this plan - assuming it is officially released and endorsed - will be.

(NOTE: Minor editing from original post)

Kay: Non-existent Iraqi WMD components sent to Syria

David Kay, former US inspector for WMD in Iraq, on the failure of his mission (23 January 2004):
"What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last Gulf War and I don't think there was a large-scale production programme in the 90s."
David Kay, current pro-war-against-Syria shill, on how Syria fits in to his mission's failure (25 January 2004):
"We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons," he said. "But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD programme. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved."
Or, as Powell said in justifying the Iraq war, a "question that needs answering" - and "no" is not an answer.

But we can see why this is such a "major issue" easily enough: if we combine Kay's two statements, we find out that "some components of Saddam's WMD program", which was not a "large-scale production program in the 90s", went to Syria before the war of Bush aggression. It is indeed a major cause for concern whenever some components of a program that doesn't exist go to states that the US doesn't like.

I don't understand, though, how these "former Iraqi officials" would know that material or components related to Iraq's (non-existent) WMD programs went to Syria without also knowing "precisely" what the hell these were. Were Iraqi officials just throwing all kinds of random junk into boxes and sending them off to Syria?

The Bush administration isn't bothering to make even the half-assed case it made against Iraq.

Inside the US military in Iraq

Two articles on disturbing developments in the US military serving in Iraq.

Female soldiers are reporting a lack of response to incidents of rape:
Female troops serving in Iraq are reporting an insidious enemy in their own camps: fellow American soldiers who sexually assault them.

At least 37 female service members have sought sexual-trauma counseling and other assistance from civilian rape-crisis organizations after returning from war duty in Iraq, Kuwait and other overseas stations, women's assistance and advocacy organizations say.

"We have significant concerns about the military's response to sexual assault in the combat zone," said Christine Hansen, executive director of the Connecticut-based Miles Foundation, which says it has assisted 31 women.

The women, ranging from enlisted soldiers to officers, have reported poor medical treatment, lack of counseling and incomplete criminal investigations by military officials. Some say they were threatened with punishment after reporting assaults.
(Link via Antiwar.com)
The Observer looks at suicide and psychiatric disorders among soldiers in Iraq:
Up to one in five of the American military personnel in Iraq will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, say senior forces' medical staff dealing with the psychiatric fallout of the war.

This revelation follows the disclosure last month that more than 600 US servicemen and women have been evacuated from the country for psychiatric reasons since the conflict started last March.

At least 22 US soldiers have killed themselves - a rate considered abnormally high - mostly since President George Bush declared an end to major combat on 1 May last year, These suicides have led to a high-level Department of Defence investigation, details of which will be disclosed in the next few weeks.
I wonder what kind of help these former soldiers will get when they return to the US.


I'm O-Kay, you're O-Kay (Iraq is not O-Kay); and "Being Colin Powell"

So, Kay went public with his opinion that Iraq never had WMD. I wonder if the White House will go after his wife, too.

But at least it looks like they've improved the communications skills in the Bush administration: negative findings about WMD aren't simply getting lost in the "bowels" of the CIA anymore:
Mr Powell acknowledged that the US thought Saddam Hussein had banned weapons, but added: "We had questions that needed to be answered."
Hmmm... so many questions and so many countries.

Moving on, does anyone else think that the US ought to invade Fiji? You never hear about Fiji in the news - is it because it has something to hide? Sure, it's a tiny, apparently harmless country - but that is the exact point. Small countries might be tempted to turn to less-than-scrupulous associates to threaten the US and its friends and allies. If we allow Fiji to finish developing its super-radiation-focusing-mega-death-ray laser, and then it shares this weapon with the Al Qaeda Network, it might be a threat to all of Western civilization. We cannot wait for the smoking gun that might come in the form of a bright flourescent orange halo over our cities.

Of course, there's no proof at all that Fiji has a super-radiation-focusing-mega-death-ray laser, or even super-radiation-focusing-mega-death-ray laser- related program activities - but, as Rummy has taught us, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. The US should invade, just to make sure and answer any questions it has about this possible program.

Be afraid, Fiji. Be very afraid.

"Normalcy" delayed - 5 US soldiers, 7 Iraqis killed

General Ray Odierno, US army spokesperson, 22 January 2004:
A U.S. general said on Thursday guerrillas were only a "sporadic threat" in Iraq as a surge of violence by insurgents in the volatile Sunni triangle region around Baghdad killed nine people.

Army Major-General Raymond Odierno, who commands the 4th Infantry Division which is based in Tikrit in the heart of the Sunni triangle, said the Iraqi resistance forces have been "brought to their knees."

Odierno, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon by video conference, said they "are still a threat, but a fractured sporadic threat with the leadership destabilized, finances interdicted and no hope of the Baathists return to power."

"I believe within six months, I think you're going to see some normalcy," he added.
Areas of Iraq where they haven't heard or are not paying attention to Gen. Odierno's triumphant announcement, 24 January 2004:
In one of the deadliest days for US troops since the start of 2004, at least five American soldiers and seven Iraqis were killed in a series of bombings and drive-by shootings across Iraq.

Three US soldiers were killed and six wounded when a car bomb exploded at a military checkpoint in the western Iraqi town of Khaldiyah on Saturday, the US military and witnesses said. A number of Iraqis were also wounded.

Just six hours earlier, two US soldiers perished when their convoy was attacked by home made bomb north of Fallujah, said the US military.

Two US pilots were also killed when their helicopter came down near the northern city of Kayyarah, but it was not known if the crash was caused by hostile fire.
I suppose a good question to ask Gen. Odierno would be, how do you define "normalcy"? Are we talking a Beirut 1982-style "normalcy"?

"The confrontation now is about the area of the Palestinian state"

Take a look at this Seamus Milne article in the Guardian on the intifada and how various Palestinian leaders see the current situation.


Syria: the next "Bush doctrine" success story?

Comrade Max thinks Syria might be the next target of the US's war without end.

Let's review some recent developments concerning Syria before examining this idea.

On the one hand, we are seeing indications that peace between Israel and Syria is quite possible and is not the monumental, existential exercise that it is usually made out to be:
Before the shooting [the Hizbollah attack on an Israeli military unit that had crossed over into Lebanon], Mr. Sharon told a parliamentary committee that it was clear to him that a peace deal with Syria would require Israel to withdraw from all of the Golan Heights, which is not far from the site of the Monday shooting.

One Israeli legislator said Syria was in a weak position, and suggested that Israel might be able to win concessions if talks were held soon.

"Have no illusions," Mr. Gissin quoted Mr. Sharon as saying in the discussion. "The price for full peace with Syria is Israel relinquishing all of the Golan Heights."

Mr. Gissin added, "The prime minister said this as a statement of fact, not as his position in any negotiations."
Let the record show that Sharon recognizes that (a) an end of hostilities between Israel and Syria is possible, (b) in fact, a "full peace" (i.e., Ehud Barak will finally be able to eat his falafel sandwich outside of the Grand Mosque before going shopping in the suq and sightseeing in the Old City) is possible, (c) it is a "fact" (not a supposition, not a far-fetched possibility, not a utopian vision) that all it will take is returning to Syria of the Golan Heights, territory that was internationally recognized as belonging to Syria well before the creation of Israel - in other words, applying the land-for-peace formula that is supposedly the bedrock of the "Middle East peace process", and (d) Syria is serious about this offer (it is not simply a public-relations stunt or a devious plot on the Syrians' part).

But there's more: a peace deal between Syria and Israel would actually be a two-fer for Israel. If Israel and Syria sign a peace treaty, Lebanon would almost certainly be on board as well. Syria's frequently attacked influence on/domination of Lebanon would, in the final analysis, not be a bad thing. It is difficult to imagine small Lebanon, which still has plenty of internal problems to deal with, becoming some kind of "radical" hold-out. It simply has better things to do. So, a peace treaty between Syria and Israel would also mean a peace treaty between Lebanon and Israel, which would mean that all the front-line Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon) were on full, "normal" diplomatic terms with Israel.

This, in my opinion, would solve the Hizbollah "problem" as well. Lebanon and Syria would have no need to allow Hizbollah to operate with even the limited freedom it enjoys now. It wouldn't mean the end of Hizbollah; they would probably retain their weapons and organization. It would simply mean that there would be even fewer attacks than the few we see now, if any at all. Eventually, barring border provocations and with the normal supervision of borders that states at peace with each other maintain, guerilla activity would cease in southern Lebanon. No, this isn't wishful thinking: before Barak's unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 1999, there were all kinds of hysterical predictions (including many by Sharon, who was vehemently opposed to the withdrawal) that Hizbollah would rain down Katyushas on northern Israel on a daily basis. Well, the Israeli army withdrew, but the Katyushas never came. There is even less reason to expect that there would be an upsurge of military activity after a three-state peace treaty.

"Security"-related objections to handing the Golan back to Syria are not convincing to anyone who has looked at the issue even casually. The fear that the Syrian army would use the Heights to bombard Israel - as it did before the 1967 war - is based on the myth that the Syrian shelling then was unprovoked. This was not the case. The huge majority of incidents involving Syrian shelling were provoked by Israeli incursions into the DMZ to destroy or expropriate Arab villages or lands. Since these villages have been destroyed, the lands stolen, and the people moved away, the situation today is completely different than 37 years ago. The idea that the Golan somehow offers an awesome strategic advantage over Israel is simply preposterous. This may have been the case 100 years ago, when armies relied on cavalry and cannons to wage war, but any state with modern armed forces (as is the case with Israel) will also have jet fighters and bombers that can fly much higher than the Golan is high and destroy any hostile artillery positions there in a few minutes' time. There is simply no strategic or military value attached to the Golan.

To sum up: the Israeli leadership has recognized that peace with Syria is possible and that it only requires returning to Syria what rightfully belongs to it. A peace treaty with Syria is tantamount to peace with all of the front-line Arab states (this, of course, does not include the Palestinians - this is a separate and very different issue). There is no military or strategic reason not to return the Golan to Syria.

On the other hand, we are also seeing indications that the US and Israel do not care to resolve the issue peacefully and would much rather resort to military means. In addition to Israel's recent border provocations against Syria and Lebanon (including the air strike inside of Syria late last year and now Monday's incident inside of Lebanon), there are reports that a more "hands-on" US approach to Syria is being considered:
US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld is considering plans to expand the global war on terrorism with multi-pronged attacks against suspected militant bases in countries such as Lebanon and Somalia...

... Deployment of US forces in the area would almost certainly involve a confrontation with Syrian troops.

That may well prove to be the objective, since the Bush administration is currently stepping up pressure on the Damascus regime in a bid to force it to cut off all support for radical Palestinian groups which have been targeting Israel during the three-year-old intifada. Washington also wants Syria to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and to withdraw all its forces from Lebanon, a virtual satellite since Syria moved in with tacit US support in 1990 as part of a strategy to end Lebanon's civil war.
[Note: Syria has actually had part of its army in Lebanon since 1976 as part of a (failed) Arab League initiative to end the civil war.]

The US administration has long considered Damascus as a prime candidate for 'regime-change' (along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and possibly even Saudi Arabia). Syria, once a powerhouse of Arab radicalism that could not be ignored, has been seriously weakened, both militarily and politically. Washington may feel that the time is coming to oust Bashir Al-Assad and the ruling generals. Targeting Syria via Lebanon, the only concrete political influence Damascus has to show following decades of radical diplomacy, could prove to be a means to that end...

Moreover, since the 11 September 2001 attacks, Washington has been keen to prove that Hizbullah has a global reach, and is thus a legitimate target for its war on terrorism. Thus far, US intelligence services have been unable to produce compelling evidence supporting this claim.
(Link via MaxSpeak)
So, according to this Jane's report, the US may be looking for a means of attacking Syria via a confrontation with Hizbollah, the latter of which could easily be subsumed under its "war on terrorism".

US officials and lawmakers also continue to suggest that Iraq's "WMD arsenal" somehow made it to Syria:
U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts says there is some concern Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have gone to Syria, as Washington vowed to carry on searching for such arms in Iraq.

Roberts, a leading member of President George W. Bush's Republican Party, said in Washington on Wednesday: "I think that there is some concern that shipments of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) went to Syria." He did not elaborate.
Syria, unlike Iraq, certainly has "WMD", at the very least in the form of battlefield chemical weapons and probably also "WMD-related program activities". The former aren't technically WMD but, as we have seen, such distinctions are beyond the intellectual capabilities of most right-wing talking heads, administration apologist bootlickers, and large parts of the American public. If the US did go into Syria, it would be the easiest thing to hold up some of Syria's own chemical munitions and say something to the effect of "Hey, we were right - here are the Iraqi WMD" - thus simultaneously justifying both the war against Iraq and any military action against Syria. An ex post facto justification in the case of Syria would be a certainty (which, unfortunately for the Bush administration with Iraq, was not the case).

Is this scenario likely? Not especially. On the other hand, why not? The administration has made all kinds of fanciful claims and continues to do so: Powell said, with a straight face, that one vial of 10-year-old botulin constituted a "weapon of mass destruction"; Bush included the Niger yellowcake claim in last year's SOTU address, even though it had been discredited well in advance by Wilson's mission; etc. etc. For this administration, there is a real difference between "The Truth" (head shaking, glowering look) and "the truth!" (head nodding, beaming smile).

But this aspect of the overall strategy remains entirely speculative and is, in any event, some ways off in the future. The real questions, much more immediate, are (a) does the US have the capability of invading Syria and/or Lebanon, and (b) does the administration have the desire/will to do so?

In terms of (a), the answer appears to be "not at the moment". High-ranking US generals seem to be unanimous in their assessment that the US military is stretched almost to the breaking point. But an invasion of Syria and/or Lebanon, in my opinion, would require about the same number of soldiers as the Iraq war did (about 130,000). This is because the Syrian army, though very weak, would fight harder than the Iraqi army did (Bashar, while a dictator, is no Saddam) and because there is already a highly trained and motivated guerilla force in place - Hizbollah - whose capabilities would make the Iraqi guerillas look like a boys choir in comparison. So, for example, even if the US military could shift its entire force in South Korea (approximately 37,000 soldiers) and half of the forces in Iraq (approximately 60,000) to a Syrian theater, it would still be 30,000 soldiers (one and one-half divisions) short. The only way the US military could make up such a gap would be to turn to a draft.

Of course, there are always other considerations at work. With the occupation of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are now entirely isolated, making them especially easy targets. Hizbollah's and the Syrian army's weapons supplies would eventually run out, especially if the US prevented flights from reaching Syria (from Iran, for example). Still, barring a draft or large-scale troop shifts, it is difficult to see how the US could attack Syria and/or Lebanon at this point.

As for (b), there seems to be little doubt that in the perfect Bushian-Rumsfeldian-Perlean world, a coalition of American and Israeli soldiers would triumphantly march through Damascus, be greeted with rose water and rice, and leave free markets and liberal democracy in its wake. But this is not the world we live in. Though it is difficult to tell with this administration, I think that the emphasis now is more on consolidation than expansion (for the next two years, at least). The American public also seems to have had enough of wars and saving the world for now and has become much more interested in the economic and social disasters the Bush administration is foisting on the country. As for Congress, despite their recent approval of the incredibly stupid sanctions against Syria, one can hope that it would be much more skeptical of a Bush administration case for action against Syria and not be so easily duped in the future.

Which policy will win out? Is there even a change of policy coming from the status quo? Though the Bush administration's intentions are something to have some concern about, its actions at this point seem to be more bluff and intimidation than anything else. Which leaves us with the possibility that Sharon (or, if he gets knocked out by this bribe thing, the next Israeli leader) being forced to seriously face the horrible possibility of peace with Syria.


Can't someone else do it?

In his SOTU address, Dear Leader said he wants to channel millions of dollars more to "abstinence programs" aimed at making teenagers ignorant of contraceptives. He also wants to spend money and time to fight gay marriages and continue with the "war on drugs". Incredibly, he has decided to get the government in the business of supporting religions by pledging billions of dollars to "faith-based" charities.

So Bush has now promised an expanded global "war on terror", which will lead to hugely increased military spending, "homeland security" measures costing billions, a revived space program that will cost an astronomical (ha ha) amount of money, rebuilding and prolonged occupation of Iraq, federally funded abstinence programs (which, when these ignorant teens begin having unwanted pregnancies because they don't know how a condom fits on a schlong, will waste even more money in social costs), time and money invested in anti-gay "defense of marriage" initiatives, anti-drug campaigns, billions in promoting religion, and god only knows what else, all on top of massive tax cuts.

Promising voters an impossibly silly number of things with no money to do them all. It reminds me of another politician who ran for the office of sanitation commissioner once. But will voters really fall for it and buy into all of Bush's pie-in-the-sky schemes?

I suggest that Bush adapt the sanitation commissioner's little tune to plainly explain to skeptical voters what his next administration will be doing:
Who can slash social spending?
Stomp it down for you?
Stand against gay marriage and save the sacred-thingy "I do"?
The Republican Man!
Yes the Republican Man Can!
The Republican Man can
And he does it with a smile
And always judges you.
Who can fight all these wars?
I don't mind at all!
Who can conquer space before the Chinese grab it all?
The Republican Maaaaan!
Yes the Republican Man can.
The neo-conservative folks
Are jolly imperial blokes.
Aggressive, not easy-going
They'll spend when the budget's oh-
-ver flowin'!
And ignore it when their arse is showin'!
Who can?
Who can?
Who can?
Who can?
The Republican Man can!
Coz he's George Bush, man!
He cleans the world....for....you!
And who will pay for this all?

Can't someone else do it?

I'm convinced - Bush/Cheney 2004.

(Apologies to readers and Matt Groening)

Whitewash in the works: extension of 9/11 commission deadline unlikely

From the WaPo:
President Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) have decided to oppose granting more time to an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, virtually guaranteeing that the panel will have to complete its work by the end of May, officials said last week.

A growing number of commission members had concluded that the panel needs more time to prepare a thorough and credible accounting of missteps leading to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But the White House and leading Republicans have informed the panel that they oppose any delay, which raises the possibility that Sept. 11-related controversies could emerge during the heat of the presidential campaign, sources said.

The commission has been beleaguered by organizational problems and fights with the Bush administration and New York over access to documents.
There is a pattern here: the Bush administration is attempting to get all of the bad news about its performance out of the way and hence off the public's mind before the presidential campaign really begins. The two big issues here are the 9/11 commission, since it involved the worst-ever attack on American soil, and Iraq, since it involves Americans being killed on a regular basis (one other "problem", the Plame/Wilson affair, may also be a problem, but it is difficult to know exactly what is going on on that front).

So the 9/11 commission, its work largely stonewalled by the Bush administration, will be forced to release a report that, at worst (from Dear Leader's perspective), will be inconclusive about anything like gross incompetence, and that will probably be largely exculpatory. Unless there is some sort of major smoking gun, the 9/11 report will be immediately overshadowed by news of the handover of power in Iraq from the CPA to the Iraqis (whoever they are), which Bush and Rove will point to as heroic "progress" and "getting the job" done. While US soldiers will remain there, in more or less equal numbers as at present, the frequency of troop patrols will probably be further reduced, at least until the election is out of the way, thus cutting down on the articles dealing with dead US soldiers in the American press. In addition, whatever soldiers come home, especially those who have not been maimed and are still pro-Bush, will receive major focus, thus further emphasizing that all is going well in Iraq and relegating whatever issues there are with the 9/11 report to the back pages.

Or at least that's one prediction.

Provocation and response

So, the irrational Hizbollah decided to attack an Israeli bulldozer that was peacefully working on the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon. An senseless "provocation" and escalation - but what else is one to expect from group that, according to the US State Department, is part of the "A-team of terrorists"?

The only problem is, that's not what happened:
The Israeli army today changed its account of the border incident to acknowledge that the soldier killed in the clash had actually been on Lebanese and not Israeli soil at the time.

"We deviated [from standard procedure] by going into Lebanon," Reuters reported Brigadier General Yair Golan as saying.
In most circumstances, there would be a difference between an attack against a hostile foreign military unit that had violated international borders and one that had not. But not here:
"From their [Hizbullah's] standpoint [the attack] is legitimate, although not from ours," Brig Gen Golan said. "It is very serious and an escalation ... it is a provocation by Hizbullah."
Yes, from Israel's viewpoint, nothing that does not support its policies is "legitimate". When people fight against an occupation army, that's "terrorism" or "provocation". When Arab states try to work peacefully against Israeli policy through international channels like the UN or the International Court, that's "diplomatic incitement". When artists create pieces that Israeli diplomats do not like, that's "apologizing for terrorism". And when ordinary people speak up against Israel's brutality, that's "anti-Semitism".

More from General Golan:
"In every operation like this when a D-9 bulldozer crosses the fence, due to its large size and the width of the blade, it passes along the border and passes a meter or two inside Lebanese territory. They [Hezbollah] saw this as an opportunity to strike at us."
It is interesting to see Gen. Golan employ such a rationale, especially when Israeli soldiers routinely snipe people like Lebanese hunters and Palestinian children who simply wander near - not actually cross over - Israel's borders and security zones.

But it doesn't matter. The original story, of the Israeli army being viciously attacked by irrational Arab terrorists with no provocation while peacefully minding its own business on Israeli land, is what will stick with the American public. This timid admission that perhaps, just maybe, Israel was in the wrong, buried at the bottom of later stories (if published at all), will make no difference. The Israeli air force's repeated attacks in Lebanon and the constant violation of its airspace, acts which really are provocative, likewise are of no consequence. One side has the right to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, however it wants... and the other side doesn't. And as with the myth of the unprovoked Syrian shelling from the Golan Heights before the 1967 war, we're not supposed to recall Israel's exact role in the whole mess, but simply remember the approved line: unprovoked Arab aggression.


No shame

The next $1.2 billion Iraq reconstruction contract goes to (CUE drumroll)... Halliburton! How did that happen? Surprise winner of the year.

The newest award comes at the same time questions are being raised about alleged overcharging by Halliburton in connection with its Iraq operations. I wonder how far this criminal probe will go - if there is even a criminal probe at all, that is. You just can't seem to get a straight answer about investigations these days.

Also: Iraq's $500 billion blue-light special:
I mention to one delegate that fear seems to be dampening the capitalist spirit. "The best time to invest is when there is still blood on the ground," he assures me.

"Will you be going to Iraq?" I ask.

"Me? No, I couldn't do that to my family."
I suppose that chickenhawk capitalists recognize well enough that there's not much profit in coming back to the US in a bodybag.

A milestone, of sorts

A roadside bomb north of Baghdad killed 3 US soldiers and 2 Iraqi paramilitaries. Two other US soldiers were injured when their Bradley caught fire.

The deaths bring the total number of US soldiers killed in action to 500.


The tribes' role in Iraq

Juan Cole discusses an article in Al Hayat which reports that Grand Ayatollah Sistani has reached out to tribal leaders in his bid for direct elections in Iraq:
...Sistani held a meeting in Najaf at which he encouraged visiting clan ("tribal") leaders of Rumaitha and Samawah (az-Zaman adds other middle Euphrates areas) to insist on general elections as a means of achieving a new, sovereign Iraqi government. He promised the sheikhs of that region that they would exercise power, not "those who came from abroad."
This is very interesting. The US and Britain have been doing the same thing for a while now:
US authorities are reaching out to Iraqi tribal leaders after a critical internal study that blames American tactics for alienating thousands of potential supporters.

In response, occupation authorities have started a "reconciliation strategy" aimed at courting leaders of Sunni tribes through money and political favours, according to US military and civilian officials.

Some of the study's other recommendations are still under consideration, including establishing a tribal affairs office, posting liaison officers with major tribes, and recruiting new Iraqi civil defence units along tribal lines.
- The Age, 16 Jan. 2004;

While the unloved Iraqi provisional governing council is still haggling over ministerial positions, the country's tribal sheikhs are once again in the background pulling the strings.

Up until 1958, Iraq's royal house knew to never to underestimate tribal leaders. When Saddam Hussein became president, he humbled the sheikhs only to later throw money at them to win their loyalty.

The US military too has learned how useful sheikhs can be in keeping law and order. They could fill a power vacuum created by the situation in which the Iraqi army has been disbanded but where there are not enough US troops or new Iraqi security forces.
- DPA, 30 Aug. 2003;

In overcoming the resistance of Iraqi paramilitary forces and in locating their positions in cities, the U.S. war planners say they have benefited from the cooperation of tribal leaders.

The tribal leaders are also likely to exercise considerable influence in shaping the post-war order in Iraq. In ensuring the safety and security of Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. forces need to hold on to their support even as it manages the many contradictions among the tribes.
- The Hindu, 4 Apr. 2003;

No one dares to challenge the threat to the emerging institutions of Iraq. Instead, the power of the tribes is being reinforced and legitimised. On this day, a handful of important visitors make their way to Mr Ghazi's tent: two British representatives from the provisional administration, and Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a physician who returned from London to become a member of the Iraqi governing council. "The centre has no influence, not compared to the previous regime, so we are trying to give them that sense that there is a government," Mr Rubaie says. "What I came here for first is to show that the IGC cares."

What he came for second was to formalise a tribal role in the police force, or at least extract a promise from the tribes to obey the law. Mr Ghazi is unimpressed. "We, we will keep order and security in our region," he says, and dismisses the IGC. "We have no need for them. They have need for us."

"It will not be a society of institutions because the Americans are allowing tribalism and religious extremists to take part in this society, so of course it will affect the future," he says. "If the forces of modernity retreat in the face of tribalism, it will create another dictator, another Saddam."
- The Guardian, 4 Oct. 2003
So: We now have a situation in which Sistani, apparently at odds with the US over elections for a national government, is reaching out to potential allies which the US has been cultivating since the war began. I'm not sure that the US will be very happy to see Sistani horning in on its action (or to see him invoke revolutionary images in doing so). The game, as Dr. Cole noted, is certainly afoot.

A welding together of religious law at the national level (which seems to be the way things are going, if the new discriminatory laws against women are any indication) with tribal politics should not make one confident about the future of democracy in Iraq. Progressive types, largely based in the cities, will be squeezed out by urban-based fundamentalists, on the one hand, and rural-based tribal politics, on the other. I have pointed out several times already the dangers of the US encouraging tribalism in Iraq. The US can't ignore the tribes, but the more it works with and hands over responsibilities to them, the more difficult it will be to prevent them from dominating whatever political system is set up (as is the case in neighboring Jordan).


O'Neill's story backed up

An Unidentified Official has backed up O'Neill's claims:
President Bush ordered the Pentagon to explore the possibility of a ground invasion of Iraq well before the United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, an official told ABCNEWS, confirming the account former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill gives in his new book.

The official, who asked not to be identified, was present in the same National Security Council meetings as O'Neill immediately after Bush's inauguration in January and February of 2001.

"The president told his Pentagon officials to explore the military options, including use of ground forces," the official told ABCNEWS. "That went beyond the Clinton administration's halfhearted attempts to overthrow Hussein without force."
Pro-war people now attempting to cover their asses by saying that "WMD was never an issue for me" are missing the point. The question that must be answered now is, do you think it was right for the US public to be lied to and deceived - and for the tragedy of 9/11 to be cynically and ruthlessly exploited - to prosecute this war?

We're seperating those people who really believe in democracy from those who believe in having a strong, paternal autocratic government that tells them what to do and and doesn't expect backtalk.


Italian high court overturns Berlusconi's immunity

Good news from Italy: the Consitutional Court has overturned the immunity law which blocked Premier Silvio Berlusconi's bribery trial.

Short background: "Berlusconi is accused of bribing judges to sway a ruling in the sale of state-held food conglomerate SME in the 1980s, years before he went into politics. He rejects the charges."

Berlusconi says he is simply the victim of a "political vendetta" by leftist magistrates. So that's what they call the shadowy left-wing world-wide conspiracy in Italy? Well, good luck to them.

Water in the Mideast

A Guardian article looks at the issue of water in the Middle East, particularly with regard to Israel/Palestine.
...it is the Palestinians who are paying the price. Under the Oslo peace agreement, Israel retained overall control of water from the West Bank. The Palestinians now regret the deal. "The defect is in the Oslo agreement," says Amjad Aleiwi, a hydrologist at the Palestinian Water Authority. "The fact is we can't even drill a well without approval from Israel, while they pump all the water they like into the settlements."

More than 80% of water from the West Bank goes to Israel. The Palestinians are allot ted just 18% of the water that is extracted from their own land. Palestinian villages and farmers are monitored by meters fitted to pumps and punished for overuse. Jewish settlers are not so constrained, and permitted to use more advanced pumping equipment that means the settlers use 10 times as much water per capita as each Palestinian.
An often underappreciated problem in the Middle East.


War College professor, O'Neill join tin-foil hat brigade on Iraq

The left-wing tin-foil hat wearers' league - you know, the paranoid people who were saying before the war that Iraq had nothing to do with the "war on terror" - is pleased to welcome its two newest members: Army War College professor Jeffrey Record and ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.

Record's qualifications include saying that the Iraq war was "unnecessary", had nothing to do with fighting Al Qaeda, and questioning the possibility of prosecuting a "war" against a technique:
The Iraq invasion was "an unnecessary preventive war of choice" that has robbed resources and attention from the more critical fight against al Qaeda in a hopeless U.S. quest for absolute security, according to a study recently published by the U.S. Army War College.

The 56-page document written by Jeffrey Record, a veteran defense expert who serves as a visiting research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College, represents a blistering assessment of what President George W. Bush calls the U.S. global war on terrorism.

Record urged U.S. leaders to refocus Bush's broad war to target Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, and its allies. Record said the Iraq war was a detour from real anti-terrorism efforts.

Record criticized the Bush administration for lumping together al Qaeda and President Saddam Hussein's Iraq "as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat."

"This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action," Record wrote.

"The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al Qaeda," Record wrote.

Record faulted the administration for fusing disparate enemies such as rogue states, terrorist groups and weapons of mass destruction proliferators into a monolithic threat.

In doing so, he said, the administration "may have set the United States on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and non-state entities that pose no serious threat to the United States."

Record said the administration's declared goals "are unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security," as well as being fiscally, politically and militarily unsustainable.

These goals include destroying al Qaeda and other such transnational groups, making Iraq a stable democracy, bringing democracy to the rest of the autocratic Middle East, ending terrorism as a means of irregular warfare, and stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to real and potential enemies, Record said.

In an interview, Record took issue with the very concept of a war on terrorism.

"Terrorism is a common noun. It's a technique. How do you make war on terrorism as opposed to specific terrorist organizations?" Record asked.

"I don't think that it is within America's power to rid the world of terrorism. ... The idea that you're going to be able to expunge this form of warfare from the world, I think, is really stretching it."
The Pentagon had this to say in response:
"People are publishing stuff all the time. That's the value of kind of having people throw analysis out there. You learn even from analysis you don't agree with. I don't even want to characterize it as something I don't agree with because I just haven't read it," said Di Rita, adding that he does not know if Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plans to read the document.
Meaning that Recorder's study will probably be assigned to one of the Bush administration's beloved "free speech zones" - which, in this case, most likely will be a trashcan somewhere in the Pentagon.

You certainly already have heard about O'Neill by now. He turned in a strong performance by completing our picture of Bush as a man whose overriding interests in life are executing people, playing golf, and now using national tragedies to launch an unprovoked war of aggression:
The Bush administration started making detailed plans for the invasion of Iraq within days of coming to office, with the President himself anxious to find a pretext to overthrow Saddam Hussein, a high-ranking former cabinet member said yesterday.

Mr O'Neill said invading Iraq was "topic A" at the very first meeting of President George Bush's National Security Council, 10 days after his inauguration on 20 January 2001, and continued to be an abiding theme in follow-up meetings.

"From the very first instance, it was about Iraq," said Mr O'Neill, who was a participant in all the meetings...
The Bush administration, in response, has suddenly developed an acute interest in quick investigations. One can only wonder if it will receive more attention that the Plame case.

In any event, we hope that Recorder and O'Neill will like it in the club. As long as they avoid those microwave radio transmissions into their dental fillings - which I strongly suspect are being sent by that shifty David Brooks - they should be okay.

Supreme Court rejects case on secret arrests

More damage to civil and legal rights. But in this age of abdication of responsibility - when Congress refuses to do its job and happily gives away its war-making powers to the president - it isn't too suprising that the Supreme Court has followed suit.
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the Bush administration to keep secret the names of hundreds of people questioned and detained since the September 11 attacks.

Without comment, the top court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by civil liberties and other groups challenging the secret arrests and detentions, which they said violated the Freedom of Information Act and constitutional free-speech rights under the First Amendment.

The justices let stand a U.S. appeals court ruling that disclosing the names could harm national security and help "al Qaeda in plotting future terrorist attacks or intimidating witnesses in the present investigation."

Attorneys for the groups challenging the government's policy said the appeals court erred in failing to recognise the First Amendment prohibits secret arrests, except in the most compelling circumstances.

They said the appeals court gave unprecedented deference to government explanations that were "unpersuasive on their face, overly broad and without any support in the record."

The attorneys said the Supreme Court should review the case.

"Such review would serve to assure that the government is not merely avoiding scrutiny of a discriminatory overreaction to the September 11 attack and to deter future deprivations of civil liberties," they said.

The Justice Department, urging the high court to reject the appeal, said it was entitled to an exception that allows information to be withheld for law enforcement investigations.

Department lawyers said disclosure of the list of people interviewed and detained would provide terrorists with "a road map" of the investigation.
Perhaps I'm being dense, but I have to say that I don't get the DoJ's point here. If any of the people detained were terrorists in the Al Qaeda Network, wouldn't it have already found out somehow that its operatives had been detained and/or questioned? Through family members? Friends and acquaintances? The fact that they hadn't gotten in touch for a long time with whoever handles communications for the Al Qaeda Network these days?

A look at the dynamics of the "coalition of the willing"

This is interesting:
Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba said in a newspaper article published Monday that British forces in Iraq should expect no military help from Japanese troops even if they are under fire.

The Times of London quoted Ishiba as saying that Japanese troops to be sent to Iraq will be prohibited from helping coalition comrades under attack because of legal restrictions.

Under Japan's pacifist Constitution, Self-Defense Forces (SDF) troops are not allowed to use weapons except in defense of themselves or of civilians under their protection.

"It is impossible for the U.K. commander to rely on Japan's support in such a situation," Ishiba was quoted as telling the newspaper.
In the real world, this probably wouldn't mean much. It is difficult to imagine Iraqi guerillas attacking only British soldiers while leaving Japanese troops alone to stand by and watch. They would probably be attacked too - the Iraqi guerillas do not appear to be very discriminating in terms of targets. Therefore, if armed Japanese soldiers do go to Iraq while the guerilla insurgency continues, it is a good bet that they will be fighting at some point. So the public pronouncement that they won't be is probably aimed largely at the Japanese domestic audience and can hardly be taken seriously.

(Link via Antiwar.com)

19 Palestinians killed in 3-week manhunt

From the Guardian:
In a three-week occupation of the biggest Palestinian city the Israeli army has killed 19 people, wrecked dozens of buildings and confined tens of thousands to their homes in a futile search for the leader of "the heart of the terror networks".

Before Christmas soldiers flooded Nablus and the neighbouring refugee camp of Balata in pursuit of the leaders of al-Aqsa martyrs brigades responsible for organising dozens of suicide bombings. Top of their list was Naif Sharekh, the brigades commander in the city.

Soldiers brandished Mr Sharakh's picture and deman ded to know his whereabouts. His wife was paraded in an army jeep through the casbah and forced to call over a megaphone for her husband to surrender.
Also, the soldier who shot Tom Hurndall in the head and left him brain dead has admitted lying about the circumstances of the shooting.

On "information dominance"

The Guardian recently ran an article on the US military's strategy of "information dominance" in warfare.
Achieving information dominance according to American military experts, involves two components: first, "building up and protecting friendly information; and degrading information received by your adversary". Seen in this context, embedding journalists in Iraq was a clear means of building up "friendly" information. An MoD-commissioned commercial analysis of the print output produced by embeds shows that 90% of their reporting was either "positive or neutral".

The second component is "the ability to deny, degrade, destroy and/or effectively blind enemy capabilities". "Unfriendly" information must be targeted. This is perhaps best illustrated by the attack on al-Jazeera's office in Kabul in 2001, which the Pentagon justified by claiming al-Qaida activity in the al-Jazeera office. As it turned out, this referred to broadcast interviews with Taliban officials. The various attacks on al-Jazeera in Kabul, Basra and Baghdad should also be seen in this context.

The evidence is that targeting of independent media and critics of the US is widening. The Pentagon is reportedly coordinating an "information operations road map", drafted by the Information Operations Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to Captain Gerald Mauer, the road map notes that information operations would be directed against an "adversary".

But when the paper got to the office of the undersecretary of defence for policy, it was changed to say that information operations would attempt to "disrupt, corrupt or usurp" adversarial decision-making. "In other words," notes retired US army colonel Sam Gardiner, "we will even go after friends if they are against what we are doing or want to do."

In the UK, according to Major Nigel Smith of the 15 Psychological Operations Group, staffing is to be expanded and strategic information operations "will take on a new importance" as a result of Iraq. Targeting unfriendly information is central to the post-conflict phase of reconstruction too. The collapse of distinctions between independent news media and psychological operations is striking.
Observers of the American media's performance of non-military matters might be forgiven for thinking that the idea of "information dominance" has spread beyond the US army.

This strategy, it should be noted, goes beyond what is usually termed "propaganda". Propaganda is certainly involved, but the newer information strategies also include, as integral components, mechanisms to ensure that this propaganda is consumed, and not just produced and disseminated.

Ha'aretz interview with Benny Morris

If you haven't read it yet, take a look at this long Ha'aretz interview with Israeli "new historian" Benny Morris.

There is a lot to say about the historical issues and the contemporary problems Morris brings up, as well as his overall worldview, but I don't have time at the moment to get into it all. One point for now: Morris expresses a deep belief in the thesis of the "clash of civilizations" - or, more accurately, a desperate "war of civilizations" - between the West and the Muslim world.

It would be an interesting sociological exercise to examine what kinds of people believe in this idea and their reasons for doing so. There might be some surprising results. In any case, an idea of this sort which attracts believers as diverse as Benny Morris and Osama bin Laden deserves to be looked into seriously.

"Rectification" of troublesome financial records: your tax money at work

From The Independent:
The Pentagon's auditors spent 1,139 hours altering their own files in order to pass an internal review, say investigators who found that the accounting sleuths engaged in just the kind of wasteful activity they are supposed to expose.

When the auditors in the New York City office learnt in advance which files a review team would check, they spent the equivalent of 47 days doctoring and updating records from several audits, the Defence Department's inspector general discovered. Administrative staff, audit supervisors and other employees also participated.

The fabrication at the Defence Contract Audit Agency "certainly violates the spirit and intent" of government auditing standards and rules on ethical conduct, said the inspector general's report. The agency, which audits government contracts, is the same one that recently reported that Halliburton, Vice-President Dick Cheney's former company, may have overcharged the army $61m (?33m) for petrol in Iraq.
This is an application of what might be called the "Arthur Andersen" auditing methodology.

I wonder how many "$1,000 toilet seats" the Pentagon managed to get rid of with this "rectification" of their financial records.


The pace picks up in Iraq, and its more of the same

Many successful resistance operations within a small temporal window:

Helicopter shootdown - 9 dead
Transport plane downed with SAM
Mortar attack - 34 wounded, one dead.
Pipeline sabotage. (These seem to come in waves so look for a spate of these in the next few weeks)

When we hear about the so called ebbs and flows in the daily rate of resistance attacks, remember that they are focusing on 3 or 4 groups, iraqi collaborators, foreign nationals and soft targets, foreign troops, and US troops. Obviously the US troops are the highest value targets. Anyway, this all is then filitered through some layers of military and media obfuscation. And the rate of attacks on US troops should take into consideration the degree to which patrols are being scaled back. So we dont know whats really happening on.

The US is refocusing its efforts in anticipation of a massive, logistically challenging troop rotation. My belief is that the resistance has been focusing on mortar attacks (safer, less engaging -- journalists write of hearing explosions all the time in baghdad), but these go largely unreported as attacks b/c they have been missing the mark (until now).

Oh, and heres a little tidbit. Look for the attacks on US troops to get MUCH deadlier after this troop rotation goes through. The guard units being rotated in complain about their equipment being sub standard for the job. It is policy for units to travel with their equipment, so the combat ready units who are being shipped out will likely evacuate equipment that units coming in actually needed.

Another US helicopter crashes - 9 dead

Nine people were killed when a Blackhawk helicopter crash-landed near Falluja. The reason for the crash was not clear at press time.

The AP reports that a soldier died from injuries sustained in a mortar attack on a US base that killed 1 and injured 35. This gives an indication of the type of injuries that often go unreported in reports from Iraq.

Welcome to America

(from Frankfurter Allgemeine, 7 January 2004)

"You're going to need some time for your trip. The flights to the US now all make stopovers in Guantanamo".

New reports: Bush "systematically misrepresented" Iraq's paper-based WMD

The $200 billion WMD scribbles (WaPo photo)
If we combine this new report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which found that the Bush administration "systematically misrepresented" the "threat" from Iraq's "WMD", with this report from the WaPo that Iraq's WMD existed only in the scribbled-down daydreams of Iraqi scientists and the deluded production orders of Saddam, we get a picture of elected officials deceiving the public and suborning democracy in order to invade a Third World country to get rid of the existential threat posed to Western civilization by crude drawings on scraps of paper.

Not a bad way to spend $200 billion dollars. And the lives of hundreds of dedicated young people.

But maybe it was worth it after all. Who knows what would have happened if Saddam had ordered his scientists to turn over these drawings to Al Qaeda? Why, the terrorists would have only needed advanced industrial facilities, secure import lines, some hi-tech jet fuel processing plants, a small corps of intelligent and trained scientists, appropriate delivery systems, a few years of testing and development, and a way to keep an operation combining all of these elements completely secret from the US before they might have had several missiles capable of flying a few hundred miles.

It is a scenario almost unbearable to think about. In fact, let's not think too deeply about it at all - it might be dangerous.

Secret trials and indefinite detentions: they're not just for totalitarian regimes anymore

Two cases relevant to the freedom of the press and the openness of the American legal system are heading to the Supreme Court.

The White House is attempting to keep its arguments secret in a case concerning an Algerian waiter arrested in Florida for violating a student visa. The waiter, Mohammed Kamel Bellahouel, apparently served two of the 9/11 hijackers several weeks before the attacks.
Justices sometimes are asked to keep parts of cases private because of information sensitive for national security or other reasons, but it's unusual for an entire filing to be kept secret.

Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she was disappointed by the government's request.

"The idea that there is nothing that could be filed publicly is really ridiculous," she said. "It just emphasizes our point that we're living in frightening times. People can be arrested, thrown in jail and have secret court proceedings, and we know absolutely nothing about it."
If it had been up to the government, the whole trial would still be secret. A clerical mistake and now Bellahouel's Supreme Court petition are the only reasons the public knows anything at all about this court case and the issues it raises.

Bellahouel is only one of over 1,000 people (largely, if not entirely, Muslims and/or people of Middle Eastern ethnicities) secretly rounded up and detained after 9/11. The Bush administration still refuses to release any information at all about these detentions.

In the other case, the Justice Department is asking the Supremes to overturn a lower court ruling that the president does not have the authority to detain any US citizen he wants for as long as he wants with no legal protections.

This is the Jose Padilla case. Padilla, a US citizen arrested in the US, has been locked up 19 months without charge and without any of the rights he should be getting as a US citizen. The lower court ruled that he be released within 30 days.

Nineteen months is more than enough time for the government to have built and brought a case against Padilla - if it had anything at all, that is. American justice is being seriously compromised by these secret detentions, secret trials, secret arguments, secret decisions, and secret admissions of evidence. If the Bush administration has anything on these people, then bring it to the courts in a timely manner and let them decide in open proceedings. The public, in any event, should know what is being done in their name by their so-called elected representatives and public servants. But it seems more and more that the Bush administration is keeping people in jail for indefinite periods simply because it can get away with it, which is not something one expects in an open society.

The press, thankfully, is beginning to take an interest in the matter of secret trials. No doubt to provide some fresh material which they can muck up in print - but better than not caring at all or "supporting" the government, which has been the media's major tendency since the whole "war on terror" began.

How preposterous would Cheney have to be to not believe him?

Tom Tomorrow has figured out the source of Safire's "Air Force One threatened" and "terrorist-mole-in-the-White-House" theories after 9/11: none other than friendly Dick Cheney.

Safire, by the way, is a good illustration of the state of mainstream intellectualism in America. We have a man who is smart enough to correctly decline a Latin adjective and use it in a witty new phrase, and yet who is so credulous and uncritical that he believes stories silly enough to make your 4-year-old nephew wet his pants with laughter.

Anyway, perhaps the next time Dear Leader wonders if terrorists ever "put us politely on notice" before attacking, he can ask Cheney for his ideas on the matter.


British official: Attacks in Iraq to escalate

Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's version of "Jerry" Bremer in Iraq, warns of increased attacks against the US and UK in Iraq:
Britain's top envoy to Iraq last night admitted that the Iraqi resistance was getting "more sophisticated" in its attacks and predicted even "bigger" attacks in future against coalition forces.

Speaking in Basra before meeting Tony Blair, Sir Jeremy Greenstock said he believed fighters loyal to Saddam Hussein were responsible for up to 80% of recent attacks in Iraq, with foreign Islamist militants carrying out the rest.

"The opposition is getting more sophisticated, using bigger bombs and more sophisticated controls. We will go on seeing bigger bangs," Sir Jeremy said.
Greenstock's statements, while probably accurate enough, should be seen as an element of the logic of the fantasy world that Bush and Blair have contructed to describe the situation in Iraq.

Capturing Saddam, we were told, would be the key that would break the back of the resistance, end the attacks, and bring peace and democracy to Iraq. But, at the same time, we were warned that capturing Saddam would strengthen the resistance, lead to an increase in attacks, and delay peace and democracy in Iraq.

In other words, no matter what actually happens, it is impossible for the American and British leadership to ever be wrong concerning Iraq.

Similarly, according to Greenstock and other US-UK officials, the guerillas should still be described as "Saddam loyalists" - that is, they are fighting as an expression of loyalty to a ex-dictator who has been captured, who is being held by US forces with no chance of escape, and who will probably be hanging at the end of a very short rope very soon. Saddam is doomed, and yet these "dead-enders" keep fighting - with such utterly inscrutable opponents in Iraq, is it any wonder why peace and democracy seem so elusive there? More confirmation that the guerillas' only motivations are blind, unthinking hatred of the US - and swarthy, moustachioed strong-men.

In my opinion, the lines about Saddam and his influence of the resistance and the guerillas' description as "Saddam loyalists" were merely propaganda aimed at the domestic audience. But it may be that the US-UK leadership has started to believe their own bullshit. This (and the fact that we have leaders who are always right) does not inspire confidence in the future.

Meanwhile, US soldiers have reportedly arrested a senior official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Kirkuk.

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