Monday, October 13, 2008
The Audacity Of A Blowout
We are heartened here at the Node to see how well Obama is doing in the polls. If you take Bush's approval numbers, and then consider that McCain has spent the majority of the campaign running, essentially, for Bush's third term, then it's easy to see why. The "troopergate" report is now out (you can read it here) and the comparisons to past Bush administration malfeasance are obvious. McCain and Palin and Bush are all of the same cloth, products of the discredited Rove political machine. That machine was destined to fail, and I believe it will do so mightily in this election. It is beyond comprehension to me that anyone associated with Rove got any sort of business doing politics after 2006 -- that election foreshadowed this one, and to believe that somehow the Rove team could polish its own turds (Bush's nickname for Rove is "Turd blossom") is the definition of insanity (doing the same thing twice and expecting different results). Nevertheless McCain's judgment was faulty once again and he relied on a discredited political operation to run his campaign.
And so (we hope) onward to victory. Unless McCain burns down the house that Rove built, dumps Palin, and rebuilds his campaign from the bottom up in record time I don't see a way for him to win this.
Obama, on the other hand, has run one of the best Democratic campaigns that I've ever witnessed. I was watching his wife on the Daily Show the other night and it was incredible. She's obviously a real person (I haven't actually seen Cindy McCain on anything, so perhaps she has the same sort of easy style about her) but with an incredible amount of political acumen. I think her turn as First Lady could become the lead-in to her turn as Commander in Chief (assuming she'd even want the job). They are, essentially, the Clintons squared minus the negatives. So here's to eight years of sanity. Heaven knows we could use it.
Andrew 9:56 AM : |
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Why I Support Barak Obama for President
Once again, the Republican party has made the decision for President blindingly simple. Do you:
a.) Vote for the ticket that includes a soon-to-be indicted first-term governor of one of the smallest states in the Union (with a population of about 700,000) and is headed by Mr. Keating Five himself?
b.) Vote for the ticket that has real foreign policy experience and chops and is headed by a man who knows a thing or two about dealing with people.
To me the choice is clearer than any other election I can remember, with the possible exception of Kerry v. Bush in 2004. On character, priorities, policy, likability, philosophy, and just about every other scale of measurement Obama comes out so far ahead of McCain that it's not even a real question. I've mentioned to others that it's like choosing between having a real person as President or a watermelon (or a pig wearing lipstick).
It is truly sad to see that McCain has ossified into a weird combination of Joe Lieberman and George W Bush. I thought he was a good choice (for a Republican, anyways) in 2000 and felt that the Rovian tactics used against him in the primaries were shameful in the extreme. It seems that McCain was shocked and awed enough by those tactics to employ them himself in this campaign. The result has not been pretty, and I would be very surprised if his political career survives after this election. He's told a string of lies a mile long, only surpassed by those told by Palin (who's set something of a land speed record in that regard, telling more lies in the last week and a half than anyone who's run for political office that I can remember). George W Bush is a front-man for a cadre of thugs and nutjobs who've stripped everything decent from the office of President and sold it out wholesale to the highest bidder. Joe Lieberman lost his primary, won reelection as a Democratic-leaning independent and then, after Obama campaigned for his reelection, endorsed John McCain. Political backstabbing of that nature bespeaks character and judgment flaws that are beyond what we usually find in politicians. The fact that John McCain has adopted the most odious aspects of both their characters makes him unacceptable as President.
Thankfully we have an excellent candidate in Barak Obama. He is green, arguably almost as green as Palin. However, having spent the last few weeks interviewing candidates for jobs at my current employer, it's easy to see that he'd be a quick study. Like Clinton, he has the kind of mind that thrives on the challenges you face as President. He also has a stellar record of personal character and family values. Certainly better than McCain, who divorced his first wife after she became a quadriplegic to marry a wealthy beer heiress. Obama is actually concerned with the lives of regular people and gets that America faces real economic challenges. More importantly, he has a plan that addresses those challenges in a way that is fair and clear-headed.
Joe Biden, as I've stated above, has a long history of foreign policy experience and the kind of mental toughness that comes with it. If the Cheney administration is any indicator, America seems to be o.k. with having a very active Vice President who is often practically running our foreign policy. In Joe Biden's case, that's not a bad thing. While I don't necessarily agree with Biden's stances on every issue (for instance, I disagreed strongly with his idea for "partitioning" Iraq), he does do many other things right (I agreed with his diagnosis in that speech of the challenges we faced in Iraq). Enough so that I have full confidence in his ability to give sound advice and perform whatever functions he needs to perform in that arena.
I therefore wholeheartedly support Obama/Biden and will do whatever I can (however small those efforts may be) to ensure that they win in November. We need a real President.
Andrew 4:40 PM : |
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wag The Country
It feels a bit like I've awaken from a dream and found that, actually, everyone else was dreaming and I'm the one who's awake. That's not really true -- people know what's going on in this country. Nevertheless, the Great Reckoning that laid in wait for the Bush Administration and all those who've enabled it to pursue its crimes is upon us. Now is the season (and possibly for some months to come) when we finally drain the pus from our national sores. Scott McClellan's tell-all memoir has sparked much more "interest" in the idea that the Bush Administration put on a dog-and-pony show for the American people to hoodwink them into supporting the war in Iraq. Of course many of us have suspected and/or known that this was the case for some time. If you've ever witnessed "real" debate, the flaccid one-sided affair that took place on television before the war was obviously a farce. Slowly, over time, various news media personalities (Katie Couric, Jessica Yellin, Ashleigh Banfield, and now Scott McClellan) have stated openly what we all knew was happening. Here's a basic summary:
1.) The Bush Administration crafted and delivered a propaganda package for selling the war. This was a multi-faceted campaign that covered a pretty vast expanse of our media landscape. ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox -- they were all part of it. So were the Washington Post, the New York Times, and most of the weekly magazines (like Time and Newsweek).
2.) The executives at those media concerns knowingly caved to pressure, both from the Administration and what they perceived to be happening in our culture, to cheer-lead for the war and present positive stories about Bush and his initiatives. This "caving" included editing news stories to make them sound less critical of the administration, not allowing war dissenters to be on television without being "balanced" by at least one or two war supporters (while war supporters could appear alone), and spiking stories altogether if they didn't cast a positive light on all of these proceedings. All the while they denied what was going on and tried their best to marginalize anyone who dared to suggest otherwise.
3.) The White House used all branches of the Federal Government under its control to push a Republican political agenda. This included things such as providing briefings to agency administrators on how grant money could be spent to "help" Republican candidates, providing lucrative contracts for key political contributors, and firing or demoting people who were not willing to pursue this political agenda.
The scary thing about all of this is people have come to accept it as standard operating procedure. It is not. Government doesn't and shouldn't normally run like this. We can be cynical about what's going on currently, but it's important to realize that there are laws against much of this behavior. Real laws with real consequences if they're broken. Ask Bob Ney, for instance, about the consequences of government wrongdoing. Or "Duke" Cunningham. Or numbers of other former government employees (Dusty Foggo, the number 3 in charge of the CIA, was sentenced for bribery) who're now doing serious time or defending themselves against serious charges (a-la Tom Delay, John Dolittle, Ted Stevens, etc). Thankfully, while the news media has completely dropped the ball, the Justice Department and other areas of government are alive and functioning properly. They're doing their job so our government is free from corruption.
Getting us to lose our determination to keep government both clean and accountable is one of the primary goals of the Bush Administration and its cohorts. They don't want us to find out about what's been done in our name -- torture, wide-scale domestic surveillance, cronyism, and a whole host of other ills. They will succeed if we allow ourselves to just "accept" that this is the status quo. That government is, by its nature, corrupt. The truth is, government is only as corrupt as we allow it to be. So don't be fooled.
Andrew 9:49 AM : |
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Religion of Evil
Mother Jones gives us plenty to think about today:
The leader of a 12,000-member congregation, Parsley has written several books outlining his fundamentalist religious outlook, including the 2005 Silent No More. In this work, Parsley decries the "spiritual desperation" of the United States, and he blasts away at the usual suspects: activist judges, civil libertarians who advocate the separation of church and state, the homosexual "culture" ("homosexuals are anything but happy and carefree"), the "abortion industry," and the crass and profane entertainment industry. And Parsley targets another profound threat to the United States: the religion of Islam.
In a chapter titled "Islam: The Deception of Allah," Parsley warns there is a "war between Islam and Christian civilization." He continues:
"I cannot tell you how important it is that we understand the true nature of Islam, that we see it for what it really is. In fact, I will tell you this: I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore."
If you've ever wondered why we should fear a McCain Presidency, this is why. The same elements backed George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004; now McCain has thoroughly bought into their rhetoric. He doesn't say so openly, but he's been courting the support of pastors like Parsley and I doubt that he could ditch them if, somehow, they helped him get elected as President.
With respect to the so-called "war on terror", this is one of the groups of people who support the Bush administration's current policies. Parsley, Hagee, et. al. believe that Islam and Christianity are on a crash course, and that both are duking it out for supremacy amongst the world's religions. This hooey is exactly the sort of thing that we don't want influencing foreign policy. In the Bush administration (and, I believe, in a McCain administration) it would. And, precisely because Republicans are running out of safe harbors. As independents and moderate Republicans are fleeing the sinking ship that is the Bush administration, they're also stripping the party of its moderate elements. What's left is a mixture of the religious nuts (anybody who believes in a global war with Islam is nuts), gung-ho Iraq war supporters, and various elements of big business who profit from these schemes.
Just this week there is another "moderate" who's jumping ship -- admiral Fallon. The administration has also gone to great lengths to both deep-six the NIE that stated Iran wasn't anywhere close to having a nuclear weapon and a report out this week saying that there were no connections between Hussein and Al-Qaeda. All of these are bad signs; they point in the direction of a Bush administration bent on forging ahead with its policies come hell or high water.
As I commented a few posts below, the only thing that may have a chance of helping Republican electoral chances in November would be a war with Iran. Could such a thing still be in the works? It's been hinted at over and over again that a conflict with Iran is in the pipeline. Every time, however, there's been some voice of moderation that's gained the day and prevented the U.S. from going to war. I hope we don't run out of those voices, because the combination of religiously-fueled anti-Iranian sentiment and oil interests and whatever it is that Cheney is thinking is a lethal mix that will further destroy our country. This presidency can't be over fast enough. And, McCain can't lose fast enough; I don't think we can afford to take chances with him considering his bedfellows.
And so I continue to be apprehensive -- these are not good signs. I feel a bit better about the chances of a Democrat winning the White House in November, but I don't feel well at all about a.) a victory by McCain, b.) the Republicans still in Congress (who are increasingly indebted to the same people being courted by McCain), and c.) what the Bush administration will do between now and next January.
Andrew 2:31 PM : |
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Even though I know the story is going to end "well", I often get to feeling a bit anxious towards the end of some TV shows. TV is a relatively recent addition to my routine, and I'm hoping its grasp is tenuous. I'm fairly easily moved by dramatic situations so I try to limit exposure, it's not fun feeling uncomfortable. Anyways, point being that I feel this way now about the upcoming election.
There's a lot at stake in American politics because we're at the edge of a precipice. For better or worse the Republicans have succeeded in achieving Grover Norquist's dream; the Government is now "small" enough to be drown in a bathtub. I'm not talking about physical size, necessarily, but rather our preception of government. Republican politicans are crooks (at least a lot of current Republicans are) so we mistrust any politician. Especially Congressmen. They don't do themselves any favors by letting the Bush Administration run roughshod over their wishes. Democrats in control of Congress (a situation that I gave thanks for only a couple of posts down) have done nothing to prove that they deserve to be in the majority. It's business as usual, and it so happens that that business is about destroying our government. Republicans do it whenever they're in power. Democrats do no service by aiding and abetting.
I believe the government is resillient. At least it's proved to be so through countless crises. Somewhere in the back of my mind I believe that it will make it through. We will recover from the cyst that is the modern Republican party and reconstruct what could be (maybe it never was?) a decent government structure. One that's mostly free of partisan motivations, which doesn't engage in highly damaging doublespeak, and is generally concerned with doing the right thing, not negating its own existence. So that part of me thinks this will end "well".
But so much could happen between now and November. A McCain candidacy could potentially cloudy the waters. Although the leadership of his tribe abhors him, it appears that he's still popular amongst those who call themselves "Republicans". As Joe Lieberman demonstrated there are enough Democratic voters out there who don't get what's going on, who don't grasp the wholesale destruction that's happening before our very eyes. Unity08 is close to dead, Bloomberg isn't that stupid (or I don't think he is), so the next best thing is McCain for those who just want to "get along".
A reminder, then, is in order; the other party we're trying to "get along" with doesn't want government to be successful. They want reasons to cut back on spending, to farm out every last function to private companies, and to reduce the "bureaucracy" (which is often quite efficient) to a sullen shell of its former self. They use shopworn devices to attack various social programs. The phrase "Socialized Medicine" has forced out any talk about establishing really universal healthcare among the Democratic candidates, a crying shame considering how much good it could do for the country. Illegal immigrants are attacked as terrorists. I will be frank, here, that's exactly how they (some voices in the modern Republican party) want us to view the War on Terrorism. That ill-defined catch-all phrase can be twisted a thousand ways, and its already been used to demonize immigrants (both legal and illegal). Just like the term "socialized" has long outlived the Cold War, so too will the detrimental association of "terrorist" and "terrorism". These are the people who we're supposed to "get along" with. No thanks.
And why not try to "get along"? Because ceeding more ground in this fight will destroy our country. At a time when the economy is sure to see rough water for at least a year, when the government has all but openly declared its incompetence, and many in the media think we're living in 1969 with respect to partisan politics, we cannot afford to screw up. We cannot afford a weak government that everyone mistrusts. We can't afford to spend more time and treasure in Iraq, let alone in Iran. I'd say we are at our weakest point since World War II as a nation, both economically and militarily. It will take a herculean effort to dig ourselves out of this hole. And only a Democrat at this point in history has any chance of digging.
And so I'm apprehensive. I don't know if I'll be watching the coming events with "interest" so much as "wariness". These are going to be rough times, so hold on to your hats.
Andrew 11:23 PM : |
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The Myth of American Power
A thought I've had recently, and I'm fairly sure I've commented on this before but it's something I want to emphasise: the U.S. has very little actual power to influence the course of events in other countries by means of military intervention. That might seem to some to be a radical statement, but the truth is that without major orchestration on the part of a good portion of the world (a-la World War II), history can't be changed by interventions of the type we're doing in Afghanistan and Iraq. It can be delayed, and I think we're seeing that most sharply in Afghanistan where the Taliban are slowly retaking the country, but ultimately it can't be moved out of its course.
Think of the mathematical concept of limits. A "limit" is an approximation of what the output of a function will look like when analyzed over a set (which can be finite or infinite) of input values. In some cases functions have well-defined limits, in others there is no limit (i.e. the numbers keep growing and growing) or the limit could be zero. To me, history is a function that looks chaotic when analyzed up-close or over a "finite" period of time, but when you consider much larger chunks of time the chaos averages itself out. Right now, the U.S. presence in Iraq is one of these chaotic finite chunks of history. But over the long-term, the gentle and subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) influence of local politics, not U.S. military power, will determine the course of its history. I don't know enough about Iraq's history to say what the "limit" of that function is, but I do know that regardless of how much military effort we put into it, Iraq will still largely be the same country after we leave.
This has always been the case, although again and again various administrations have failed to see that their military actions don't really affect the politics at work in a country. Russia is largely the same country now under Putin that it was under Communism, there are just different names and different political ideals obscuring that fact somewhat. Latin America and Africa contain numerous examples of countries where U.S. military aid or intervention did little to change local politics, and after the dust settled they continued on in their course.
I believe people can change history, but it can't be done through military intervention. Rather, local politics must take precedence and that's the only viable framework for real change. How Al-Maliki is doing politically is vastly more important to the stability and future of Iraq than our "surge". It is also the reason why I support a full withdrawl of U.S. troops as soon as possible. The political and real-world damage caused by their presence greatly outweighs the transitory benefits of the occupation. And, in the end, it won't matter much. Once we withdraw, the local political process can come to the fore. It may be messy, but allowing Iraq to pursue its own political history without military influence is a far better option then delaying the inevitable and causing undue bloodshed in the process. And we as a country would do well to understand the very real limits on the effectiveness of military power to affect political change.
Andrew 12:10 AM : |
Sunday, April 08, 2007
We're entering an interesting time in the formerly-known-as "War on Terrorism". I think most people now understand that the Bush administration's fixation with Terrorism isn't about beating the Terrorists. Or, if it ever was, that goal has wildly morphed into finding political fodder to prop up sagging Republican prospects in the 2008 elections. As such, I consider domestic politics to be largely related. There are questions, for instance, about opposition to Nancy Pelosi's recent trip to Syria originating in the White House. Over at Talking Points Memo they're looking into this aspect of the "scandal", which I put in quotes because obstensibly the outcry over her visit to Syria is all about how her "diplomacy" is undercutting the President. Apparently Pelosi delivered a message from Ehud Olmert to Bashir Assad, letting the Syrians know that Israel doesn't plan to attack Syria in the event that the U.S. attacks Iran. Then, after senior Israeli officials said as much before her trip in Ha'aretz, Olmert's office is now denying that they told her to say anything of the sort.
TPM rightly asks "what's going on here?" They focus mostly on whether or not the White House sparked the smear campaign against Pelosi. What I'm interested in is what this says about a possible attack on Iran. I think it's very likely, and it will probably come at such a time as to be most advantageous politically to the White House. That's hard to imagine in our current climate, but considering how crass many of the politically-motivated machinations have been, it can't be ruled out. Certainly the Israelis are concerned enough to be sending out the message that they won't try to expand an attack against Iran to a region-wide conflict. Quite frankly, considering the domestic political situation about the only thing that could forestall a Democratic landslide in 2008 is the instigation of a war much larger than the one we're currently fighting in Iraq.
Andrew 11:23 PM : |
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Quoting Hendrik Hertzberg:
'. . . It has been obvious for some time that, as President of the United States, George W. Bush is in very far over his head. He does not know how to use power wisely. He will now have a Democratic Congress to restrain him, and, perhaps, to protect him—and us—from his unfettered impulses. This may not be the Thanksgiving he was looking forward to, but the rest of us have reason to be grateful.'
I haven't posted for awhile, quite frankly too much has been in play politically in the U.S. for me to say anything useful about the "war on terrorism". Or definitively -- with Congress now changing hands and Bush II stuck with that for his last two years in office it's time to welcome the twilight of the GWOT. And that, perhaps, is the only thing I can put forth with any degree of confidence; that the current strategy for fighting terrorism is at an end. And good riddance. One thing that I hope drops with the new year will be the silly rhetorical phrases which have been employed for framing the debate in the U.S. over what to do about terrorism. Bush may use them now and then (he still is, after all, everything that Hertzberg says he is and more), but they'll no longer hold sway on the national discussion as they have in the past. So, what will the next evolution of the fight against terrorism look like? If it's based on decent policy decisions, then this blog will have outlived its usefulness. I certainly hope so, as there are issues more important than terrorism to deal with. I won't stop blogging, but hopefully this place will need a makeover. Let us all hope that the Democrats deliver on the promise of their recent victories.
Andrew 5:10 PM : |
Friday, July 14, 2006
Here's an attitude distinctly missing from our own national conversation about the "war on terror":
'Most residents proclaimed themselves determined to stay despite the rocket volleys coming from over the border. Abraham Farej, 56, the father of 22-year-old Ariel, who was injured by a Katyusha yesterday as he slept at home, said his family, originally Jews from Syria, had been in the city for 11 generations and proclaimed: "It doesn't matter if there are 50,000 Katyushas. People here are tough."'
(source: The Independent)
If you ask me, in a war on "terror" the winners are those who refuse to be afraid.
Andrew 5:54 PM : |
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?"
It bears repeating that most of the folks who've been singled out by the Bush administration as boogeymen are just that -- they pose little to no real threat to the U.S. but serve as handy political tools for whipping up support for this administration's domestic policy priorities. The sooner folks realize this the sooner we can get down to the business of going after real, as opposed to politically useful, threats.
Andrew 1:39 PM : |
Thursday, June 08, 2006
What I learned about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by reading the Independent:
1.) Zarqawi was a common criminal from Jordan before the war.
2.) His main target was Iraqi Shias. Few U.S. troops were actually killed or injured by Zarqawi's attacks.
3.) The U.S. created his popularity, and he used it to great personal benefit. His newfound popularity also benefited the U.S. Colin Powell's mention of Zarqawi in February of 2003 (during his speech to the U.N.) as the link between Iraq and al-Qa'ida made him an anti-American symbol around the Arab world. This in turn led to his founding of a Sunni resistance movement after the U.S. invaded Iraq and made it easy for him to get assistance. By raising his profile, the U.S. attempted to give the impression that the "resistance" to the invasion came mostly from outside of Iraq when the opposite was (and is) true.
4.) At the time of Powell's mention of Zarqawi he was not a member of al-Qa'ida. He had ties to the organization (he went to Afghanistan to train with al-Qa'ida in 1999) but did not link his resistance movement with al-Qa'ida until after the start of the war.
5.) After Hussein's capture in 2003, Zarqawi garnered all of the blame for what was happening in Iraq. This empasis on Zarqawi's role was part of a deliberate psyops campaign by the U.S. military to raise his profile and further link al-Qa'ida and Iraq in the minds of Americans.
We are glad al-Zarqawi is dead. He was a potent force in the anti-Shia movement and did much to ratchet up tensions between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. However, the U.S. provided much assistance to him by making him the boogeyman after the death of Hussein. And from the standpoint of U.S. policymakers, Zarqawi played an important role in selling the war to American citizens.
We suspect there will be more boogeymen, more faces for decks of cards as the amorphous "al-Qa'ida" presence morphs into something else. 9/11 is far enough behind us that the Administration can no longer rely on it to provide political cover for the Iraq war. The new boogeyman will probably not be chosen for his or her ties to al-Qa'ida. Rather, the new boogeyman will be born of some other politically useful threat. It will be interesting to see the latest addition to the long and winding line of American nemises. We began with Osama Bin Laden, which morphed to the Taliban, which morphed to Saddam Hussein, which morphed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. I'll make a prediction and say that next one will have "significant" links to Iran and provide a convenient political platform for promoting the invasion of Iran. If there are any al-Qa'ida links at all, they will only be trumpeted for sake of continuity. But we shall see, perhaps domestic political concerns will produce a nemesis that's located closer to home.
Andrew 8:33 PM : |
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I agree. Bush's policies are more likely to create a terror backlash here at home (and thus a domestic terror threat) than those of any other president in our history. And he only has himself to blame -- he cannot see how his "war on terrorism" could inspire a reaction that is much worse than the attacks he uses to justify it. And while we're witnessing this backlash in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have yet to really see it here at home. I think the time is quickly approaching when that will change.
Andrew 3:19 PM : |
Monday, April 10, 2006
'There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be "wiped off the map." Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. "That’s the name they’re using. They say, 'Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?'"
A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was "absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb" if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do," and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy."
One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government." He added, "I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, 'What are they smoking?'"'
I don't know what they're smoking, either. It's definitely not the peace pipe.
Andrew 2:25 PM : |
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I've often heard that white is right
you better believe black is alright too
and so is blue and green and yellow
what difference should it make to you
what I want to know is
what color have you painted peace
what color is harmony
these times we've got on us just ain't too hip
I know you got your thing and I've got mine
but we've been judging people by colors
maybe we should all be color blind
what I want to know is
what color have you painted peace
what color is harmony
there's a saying, you can't judge a book by its cover
but what are we doin' but just that
we've been judging people by color
love ain't got no color, that's a fact
what I want to know is
what color have you painted peace
what color is harmony
(Frankie Beverly/Maze - "Color Blind")
Andrew 3:52 PM : |
Thursday, February 09, 2006
A couple of quickies:
1.) Doesn't the "shoe bombers flying planes into tallest building in Los Angeles" sound just a bit like the compendium of Terrorism's Greatest Hits, compiled and remastered for this year's elections? One of things I remember from the very beginning of the "War on Terror" is a statement by George W. that there'd be lots of things we wouldn't, that we couldn't, know about the war. Things like covert ops to kill terrorists, propoganda campaigns (he didn't mention that specifically, but it's there by inference), etc. That's the way this administration operates -- the whole thing is a black ops campaign against... Terrorism? The Democrats? Husbands pulling feeding tubes from their permanently brain-dead wives? Several theories (and these are theories in the "Big Bang" sense, not in the "intelligen design" sense) strive to provide answers to why this administration is so obsessed with "enemies" -- it's a political game, because fear is the only political tool the administration has left. Or perhaps it's because fear is the only game they play, being children of Reagan and the Cold War. I tend, however, to believe that the time for the Great Reckoning is here. The Administration broke international law by flaunting the U.N. and invading Iraq even though the U.N. resolution (and the U.S. bill that supposedly authorized the war) explicity stated that it was up to the Security Council to decide when such an invasion should occur. That's a big legal debt that hasn't been paid yet. Abu-Ghraib has never made it all the way up to the superiors in the Bush administration who authorized torture, it's about time for that debt to come in. The many domestic political disasters, from No Child Left Behind to the Medicare reforms to various illegal activities by the administration and Republican members of congress -- that's another bill that's past due. I do think fear is what motivates this Administration, but I think it's the fear of all the bad karma that's going to be returned upon their heads, whether that be losing a number of Republican seats to Democrats in November or getting sentenced to do hard time in jail or getting impeached for violating federal law.
2.) Considering the history of this Administration, and examining the way they've worked in the past, I think that all of the "big stuff" that happens will, as it has in the past, happen outside the normal political channels. We've heard two stories like this in the last 24 hours -- President Bush has oh-so-quietly slipped his entire Social Security plan into the latest budget and Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert recently hijacked a defense appropriation bill, changing its language _after_ the vote to include legal protections for pharmaceutical companies. If we are to have a draft, the laws authorizing it will come as a midnight ammendment to some random appropriations bill, and probably targeting only a certain subgroup of people so as not to look suspicious. Or it will come in some arcane rule change. Either way, that's how it'll happen. There's no public support for a draft? Fine, the administration will just bypass Congress and do it some other way. I think this extends to many other areas of concern, including possible military action against Iran. We strove for a long time before the official start of the Iraq war to pursue it -- firing not just on surface-to-air missile batteries that fired on NATO warplanes, but taking out _any_ surface-to-air missile batteries. Sneaking across the border to "soften up" border security, etc. All of these happened before the war, and when they start happening in Iran we'll know there's trouble.
I do not look forward to the next few months, it's gonna be a rocky ride.
Andrew 3:02 PM : |
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Then and Now
Then (February, 2003): Paul Wolfowitz, speaking for the Pentagon, disputes an official Army report that occupying Iraq would take 200,000 + troops and cost over $90 billion. His figures? 100,000 troops to occupy Iraq and an "unknown" cost. Guess who was most correct? If you guessed the Army, you win a cookie.
Now (January, 2006): Donald Rumsfeld, speaking for the Pentagon, disputes an official Pentagon report written by a former Army officer which concludes that the number of troops needed in Iraq "clearly exceed those available for the mission". Aside from the self-defeating aspect of disputing a report his own department commissioned and which he hasn't read yet (or so Rumsfeld claims), we'll ask the question. Who do you think is and will be the most correct? If you guessed the Army officer, then you understand that we may be headed for either a.) a premature (with regards to accomplishing the "mission") withdrawl, or b.) a draft. In case you're curious, the Army officer picked choice a.
Andrew 5:45 PM : |
Monday, January 09, 2006
If I was king for just one day
I'd give it all away
I'd give it all away
Just to be with you
[Tompson Twins, King For A Day]
Andrew 2:20 PM : |
Thursday, December 29, 2005
A bit of blog echo chambering, here's a copy of the memos that Tony Blair is trying to suppress regarding torture and Uzbekistan, as pulled from Americablog:
UK Torture Memos
The first document contains the text of several telegrams that Craig Murray sent back to London from 2002 to 2004, warning that the information being passed on by the Uzbek security services was torture-tainted, and challenging MI6 claims that the information was nonetheless "useful".
The second document is the text of a legal opinion from the Foreign Office's Michael Wood, arguing that the use by intelligence services of information extracted through torture does not constitute a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.
Craig Murray says:
In March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers.
After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position. This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition. It is irrefutable evidence of the government's use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.
First document: Confidential letters from Uzbekistan
TO FCO, Cabinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts
16 September 02
SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism
US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.
The Economist of 7 September states: "Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism." The Economist also spoke of "the growing despotism of Mr Karimov" and judged that "the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record". I agree.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.
Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.
Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.
Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements.
The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.
But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, waronterrorism.com). This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.
Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev's time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion.
This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov's repression may keep the lid on for years – but pressure is building and could ultimately explode.
I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the "War against Terrorism" and that Karimov is on "our" side.
If Karimov is on "our" side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary – the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World's old communist leaders.
We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the "too difficult" tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups.
Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not just pawns in the new Great Game.
18 March 2003
SUBJECT: US FOREIGN POLICY
1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.
2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.
3. Uzbekistan's geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.
4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid – more than US aid to all of West Africa – is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov's vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He – and they – are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?
5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging).
6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and "dismantling the apparatus of terror… removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms". Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international fora. Double standards? Yes.
7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.
TO IMMEDIATE FCO
OF 220939 JULY 04
INFO IMMEDIATE DFID, ISLAMIC POSTS, MOD, OSCE POSTS UKDEL EBRD LONDON, UKMIS GENEVA, UKMIS MEW YORK
SUBJECT: RECEIPT OF INTELLIGENCE OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE
1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.
2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.
3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.
4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.
5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.
6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.
7. Sir Michael Jay's circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.
8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.
9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true – the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.
10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact
11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;
"The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights." While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.
12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:
"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."
13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.
14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.
15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.
16. I have been considering Michael Wood's legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.
17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael's views on this.
18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.
19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.
Second Document - summary of legal opinion from Michael Wood arguing that it is legal to use information extracted under torture:
From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor
Date: 13 March 2003
CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD
UZBEKISTAN: INTELLIGENCE POSSIBLY OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE
1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.
2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:
"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."
3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.
M C Wood
Andrew 11:12 PM : |
Monday, December 19, 2005
From the Independent:
'Mr Bush also admitted for the first time that the intelligence mistakes over Iraq's alleged WMD made it harder for him to argue that Iran's nuclear programme posed a threat. "People will say, 'Well, the intelligence failed in Iraq, therefore how can we trust the intelligence on Iran?'."'
'If Britain, France and Germany failed to negotiate a deal to end Tehran's nuclear ambitions, Iran would face sanctions at the United Nations, he warned.' [Source: The Independent]
Presidents come and go every four or eight (or, hopefully, six...) years, but the U.N. will always be there. We remember quite well a number of Iraqi war supporters who attacked the U.N. and the U.N. process, including our current ambassador to that institution. The Bush Administration itself has a number of U.N.-phobes among its members. All of these dismissed the U.N. inspections as "ineffective" (while trying to get as much intelligence from the inspectors as possible), arguing that the time for that grand old institution had passed. And now, here we have a somewhat humbled U.S. President warning of "sanctions at the United Nations" as Iran's possible reward for pursuing its nuclear program. The U.N. isn't going anywhere, and those who've called for its death must now rely on it to do what the U.S. can't -- keep Iran in check. This, to me, is yet another sign that the Bush Administration isn't terribly principled and plays as much politics as any other recent Presidency. The U.S. is in a tight spot, its forces tied down in Iraq and no domestic stomach for another invasion. Would we be in the same situation if we'd let the U.N. process play itself out? I tend to think we wouldn't, but it's too late for hypotheticals. Bush must live with the reality that his decisions have weakened America. The rest of the U.N. critics must deal with the truth that the U.N.'s intelligence on Iraq was better than the U.S.', and that the U.S. cannot operate in the world without the U.N.
Andrew 10:54 PM : |
Friday, December 16, 2005
who the enemy is
'cause he never goes into hiding
he's slitting our throats
right in front of our eyes
while we pull the casket he's riding
gotta get it together
gotta get it together
and see what's happening,
you, and you and you!
[Eugene McDaniels, "Headless Heroes"]
Andrew 3:16 PM : |
Monday, November 28, 2005
Quickie -- I found these two paragraphs about Bush's immigration plan somewhat ironic:
'Earlier in Tucson, Bush spoke to a supportive audience that included border patrol agents and military troops. He was flanked by two black Customs and Border Protection helicopters and giant green and yellow signs that said "Protecting America's Borders."'
'He said he is providing border agents with cutting-edge technology like overhead surveillance drones and infrared cameras, while at the same time constructing simple physical barriers to entry.' (Source: The Pickler)
Irony in this case is due to the U.S. having played a part just last week in talks to open the border between Palestine and Egypt. Not to mention "physical barriers" evokes images of Israel's illegal wall around parts of Palestine. And thus Bush is supporting a two-level plan; more temporary work visas and an escalation of the millitarization of the U.S. - Mexico border. Perhaps he's spent some time with Ariel Sharon, or maybe he just has something against countries with the color green in their flags. Either way, this is merely a dodge meant to a.) solidify Republican support for something, b.) change the headlines away from the Iraq war, the Plame investigation, the conviction of Cunningham on tax evasion and bribery charges, and a whole host of other bad news for the President. I'm personally waiting for the bill that privatizes border security and deputizes locals to arrest "illegals" crossing the border. Not to mention we now all get to say "President Bush, tear down this wall!" Happy, happy, joy, joy...
...Random observation -- if you're going to print up big "Protecting America's Borders" signs and make them nice millitaristic colors, you may want to avoid using an Eagle on the background. Especially when talking about Mexico, seeing as how they have a grand-looking (and free-looking) eagle in the foreground of their flag. Something about the juxtaposition of those two images strikes me as wrong...
Andrew 7:00 PM : |
New Hersh. He writes about three subjects, two of which I think are worth noting here. First off, a bit about Bush:
'Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.'
'Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.'
'The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.'
'“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”'
My comments in the post immediately below this one apply, so I won't say more here other than to point out that I hope I'm wrong, and that Bush doesn't fit into the group of fundamentalists described by Moyers.
The second point worth pointing out is a bit at the very end of Hersh's piece. I suspect, however, that this will one day merit a longer article of its own:
'. . . the covert war in Iraq has expanded in recent months to Syria. A composite American Special Forces team, known as an S.M.U., for “special-mission unit,” has been ordered, under stringent cover, to target suspected supporters of the Iraqi insurgency across the border. (The Pentagon had no comment.) “It’s a powder keg,” the Pentagon consultant said of the tactic. “But, if we hit an insurgent network in Iraq without hitting the guys in Syria who are part of it, the guys in Syria would get away. When you’re fighting an insurgency, you have to strike everywhere—and at once.”'
And so the mission creeps further from its stated aim of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and establishing democracy. If my scorecard is correct, this would mean that at least two other countries in the region have seen fighting due to the Iraq occupation -- Iran (via special forces and possibly Kurdish forces trained by Israel) and now Syria. We've heard rumblings before about possible millitary action against both countries. We've now heard about combat missions happening in both countries. How much more will we escalate those conflicts? What are the parameters for pursuing "insurgents" into Syria? All of this makes me very uneasy about U.S. intentions in the region.
Andrew 6:37 AM : |
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
From Bill Moyers:
'. . . One-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup Poll is accurate, believes the Bible is literally true. This past November, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in what is known as the "rapture index."'
'These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans. Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre: Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "bibli-cal lands," legions of the Antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.'
'I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That is why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. That is why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations, where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." For them a war with Islam in the Middle East is something to be welcomed - an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The rapture index - "the prophetic speedometer of end-time activity" - now stands at 153.'
'So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? As Glenn Scherer reports in the online environmental journal Grist, millions of Christian fundamentalists believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but hastened as a sign of the coming apocalypse.'
'We're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half of the members of Congress are backed by the religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian-right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian Coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who before his recent retirement quoted from the biblical Book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to relish the thought.'
As a Christian, I feel it is my duty to stand up for a theological view of the world that is 180 degrees removed from what Mr. Moyers describes above. While I believe the Bible to be the word of God, and believe in what we call in our church the "second coming" of Christ, I also know that it is wrong to hasten the apocalypse as some are trying to do. That is completely contrary to the tone, demeanor, and doctrine of the Bible. While I believe that it will happen, I've also read the first part of the New Testament which says blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the meek, blessed are the pure in heart. None of these virtues allow for increasing the misery of mankind or standing idly by while the world suffers from its various calamities. The most reprehesible and repulsive impulse is that of war, and specifically the idea that making war in the Middle East will speed the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. It is a doctrine that is corrupted by power, by blood lust, by vengance and a brittle dogma which quite frankly is satanic to the core.
Some modern "Chistians" lust after power for the express purpose of furthering these events. In the process, they demonstrate through their actions who they really are and whom they really serve. Chist taught that his kingdom is not of this world. It is opposed to the way many things in the world work -- corruption is corruption, no matter whom you purport to serve. The Ten Commandments are not conditional once you've proclaimed yourself a follower of Christ. Neither, for that matter, are the commandments Jesus himself gave in the New Testament. These are truths and abiding by them is paramount to leading a life consistent with the gospel. There is nor has there ever been a requirement from the Lord to perform "dirty work". He will return, as he tells us, at a time only known to him -- even the "angels in heaven" don't know when that will be. There is nothing we can do to either speed it up or slow it down. All we can do is live righteously and try our best to love God, love our neighbor, serve others, be charitable, and try our best to exemplify Christ's teachings in our daily lives.
God does not rub his hands in glee at the thought of punishing the wicked. I believe that he is concerned about the well-being of all of his children, whether they are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Agnostic or Atheist or don't conform to any of these labels. Such a God must mourn when he looks at those who profess his name working to bring about the evils prophesied in the Bible. Those prophesies are a warning, not a blueprint. If it were so, then Al-Qaeda would really be on a mission from God, as they've provided a convenient excuse to start several wars in the Middle East. So, too, would Hitler be part of the Grand Plan, an agent of God in producing the necessary circumstances to create a Jewish state. Communism also would have the divine stamp of approval, as it provided provocation and a number of opportunities to make war in all the right places. I have records in my collection of various preachers who prophesied that Communism would lead to the rapture, usually in or around the year 2000. They preached that it would be Russia invading Israel, providing the 200 million troops necessary to fulfill the biblical quota for Armageddon.
Of course, this didn't happen and thus we know that these were and are false prophets. Jesus taught us that "by their fruit shall ye know them". After two decades of observing the "fruit" of this brand of Christian theology, I know what it is -- Evil.
Andrew 9:57 PM : |
Saturday, September 10, 2005
The last paragraph from an article in the Telegraph:
'Republican strategists hope, however, that as the region starts to recover Mr Bush will regain his reputation and that Democrat leaders will help share the political blame.' [Source]
"...help share the political blame"? No. Bush owns this, as the Republicans run our government from top to bottom. That's some serious wishful thinking. Maybe Al Gore will apologize for upstaging the president by chartering flights using his own money to fly hospital patients out of the region... Or, rather, that act will be turned into some sort of political liability, in the same way that John Kerry was "swift-boated." But aside from the fact that some of the local folks responding to the disaster were Democrats, all of the major decisionmaking was in the hands of the President. After all, the Republicans have worked very hard to ensure that Bush's authority is unquestioned. If Bush can override the Geneva Conventions by declaring that people are enemy combatants, why couldn't he make sure a few hundred buses showed up in New Orleans on Saturday or Sunday before the storm?
Andrew 10:48 PM : |
Thursday, September 08, 2005
As we stand amongst the disasters of New Orleans and Iraq, it is important to ask how we got here. I'm not at my verbal best this evening, but I've had a few thoughts about our current situation and would like to point out a pattern that I've noticed in many areas of life and politics and, especially, in this administration.
The pattern is this -- bad policy leads to bad outcomes. Garbage in equals garbage out, and it's high time we took out the trash. I've seen over the last few years the resurgence (now, though, I'm not really sure it was ever gone) of once en-vogue ideas, resurrected as part of the defense of the Bush administration. I've noted on these pages before how many of these resemble the twisted mess that was the justification for Apartheid in South Africa and Colonialism generally in the rest of Africa and elsewhere. These ideas include the necessity to needlessly restrict freedom in order to guarantee safety, that our way of life (meaning what we have here in the U.S.) is the best way of life and worth exporting by force, that fighting those who vaguely appear to be our enemy is just as good as fighting the real enemy. All of these assumptions and a million more form the house of cards that is the Bush administration. That house has fallen down.
Or, more specifically, been bombed out and sunk under water as proof that these ideas will inevitably lead to sloppy execution and ultimately the whole affair will fail. Let us consider some of the basic facts leading up to the disaster in New Orleans. President Bush weakened FEMA by following some standard near-sighted ideas; appointing people to high positions who support your views, even if they aren't qualified to do the job, and gambling on Mother Nature being less threatening to our national security than Iraq. Both of these stem from the basic premise that all a President does is political; such rotten logic could only spring from the mind of Karl Rove. The horrible thing about it is he's right about the political side of the equation -- if you run everything as if it were a campaign, you'll generally win. However, it's the stuff that gets thrown overboard (Iraq and New Orleans being two examples) that's actually important to the average American. The suspension of reality in the name of political gain is one of the saddest developments to strike this country in years, and it's made us infinitely weaker. This weakness is manifest every day in the myriad of poor decisions made as a direct result of the focus on politics. Sure, Mr. President, you might win elections. However, if you keep it up you won't have a country to govern.
I'm heartened by the poll numbers as folks wake up to what has happened to America, but I fear it won't be enough to save us -- what happens if another hurricane hits New Orleans in the next month? What if another Andrew hits Florida? Can we deal with multiple terrible natural disasters? If you think the weaknesses of FEMA and the executive branch are bad now, wait until they undergo some real strain. It's funny, but you'd think an administration that puts so much emphasis on a Biblically-based Judeo-Christianity would be prepared when events of Biblical proportion happen. Instead, it seems the Bush administration said "oh well, it was going to happen anyway" or "that's way too much to deal with; we'll just have to give up". No one cared enough about the hurricane to respond until days afterwards; we all know this, despite the attempts to cover it up. Quite frankly, it makes me wonder if they're secretly trying to hasten the apocalypse.
If Bill Clinton can be impeached for lying to a grand jury, the Bush administration dserves it for ruining our nation. The very existence of the Bush administration, at this point, is a crime. And it will happen over and over again until they are removed from office.
As Americans, we deserve so much better than garbage in, garbage out.
Andrew 10:58 PM : |
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
In the spirit of blasting talking points all over the internet, I'm going to do something I don't do here all that often -- quote another blogger at length. In honor of a certain unnamed RNC chairman, and instead of writing some screed which only serves to popularize his claims, I've decided that Digby is my whatever-national-committee chairman for today and these are his talking points. Ladies and gentlemen, the truth:
'In his op-ed on July 6th,2003, Wilson gave a straighforward account of who he is and why he went on this fact-finding trip to Niger. He says "I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report." He does not say that Cheney had sent him personally on the mission. He reports that he found no evidence that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger.'
'He says that he assumes from working in the government for many years that his report had been forwarded through channels. When he heard the president use the claim about African uranium in the SOTU, he became alarmed and asked the State department about it. He accepted that the excuse that the president might have been talking about a different African country than Niger until he later learned that Niger was specifically mentioned quite recently in official documents. He concludes at this time, based upon the fact that he had personally been involved in debunking this claim, that the administration had been "fixing" intelligence.'
'The administration was now for the first time explicitly and openly being accused of knowingly using false information to sell the war. And since Wilson had specifically named the Vice president as having been the one to request additional information that led to his trip, the White House was involved at a very high level. The administration claims that this was not true, that in spite of a series of mishaps, there was no concerted or conscious effort to mislead the country about the intelligence. And whatever mistakes were made were the result of shoddy intelligence work, not the "fixing" or "sexing up" of the evidence. When the Niger episode became public, they decided that it was time for George Tenet to admit that he had screwed this particular case up and they arranged for him to make a public statement to that effect.'
'The White House response to Wilson's piece is that Cheney never asked for the information in the first place. And they said they had no idea about Wilson's evidence because his trip was a low level nepotistic boondoggle arranged by his wife, a CIA "employee." Karl Rove and others spoke to several reporters to that effect (They now claim, since Matthew Cooper's e-mail was leaked that it was only in order to "warn them off" taking Wilson seriously.) Robert Novak --- an extremely unlikely columnist for the white house to feel they had to warn off Wilson --- was the first to put this into print on July 13th.'
'When it came out, exposing Valerie Plame as an undercover operative, Wilson believed that it was an act of retaliation and a signal to anyone else who might be thinking of coming forward. Novak was quoted shortly after the column ran saying: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." (He has since said that he used the term "operative" inappropriately, although he has used that word very precisely throughout his career to mean "undercover.")In the days after the column appeared there were reports that the administration was actively pushing the column, claiming that Wilson's wife was "fair game."'
'I have no idea if Joe Wilson's wife or the ghost of Ronald Reagan was involved in sending him on that trip and I don't care. It's irrelevant and it's always been irrelevant and they were either incredibly malevolent or incredibly negligent in settling on using her as the best way to discredit Wilson. But as I wrote earlier, I think it was a P.R. decision, and it has the mark of Rove all over it. Thuggishness is his hallmark. Any chance they have to portray a male opponent as a milksop, they do it. I think the "wife" being involved in getting her husband a job was central to their calculations.'
'I don't know if Cheney read his report but considering what we now know, I don't find it credible that he didn't. He has been proven to have been immersed in the pre-war intelligence, particularly the claim that Saddam was reconstituting his nuclear program. That was his baby. But Wilson didn't claim in the op-ed that Cheney knew, only that he assumed his report had been circulated. And since he'd been told that the trip itself was a result of Cheney's question he assumed that it had filtered up to Cheney.'
'That is what sent the administration into overdrive --- Wilson merely mentioning Cheney in the context of fixing the intelligence. Quite a panicked reaction, don't you think?'
'The White House response to Joe Wilson's report was that it was something cooked up in the bowels of the CIA by his (gasp) wife and it was not very compelling and nobody paid any attention to it, even there, and they never sent the information back to the White House anyway.'
'If it weren't for the fact that Wilson's conclusions about the uranium were right, you might even believe their tale. If it weren't for the fact that Dick Cheney was knee deep in the intelligence, even personally spending time at the CIA, leaning over the shoulders of desk officers, you might believe it. If it weren't for the fact that the aluminum tubes "evidence" was shown to be false, the drone plane "evidence" was shown to be laughable and the mobile labs "evidence" was shown to be non-existent you might even believe it. If it weren't for the fact that the meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta and the Iraqis was proven false, that we had chances to take out Zarquawi and refused and that the inspectors were at the very moment of the SOTU reporting that they were not finding any stockpiles, we might even believe it. If it weren't for the fact that the Downing Street Memos show definitively that the US knew its intelligence was weak and decided to "fix" it we might even believe it.'
'If we'd found even one scintilla of evidence that Saddam had the stockpiles, the programs or the means to make weapons of mass destruction, we might even believe it.'
'Unfortunately for the White House, there have been so many revelations now aside from the "16 words" that they no longer can claim credibility on this issue. It is quite clear to any sentient being that they manipulated, misled and outright lied about the intelligence. Joe Wilson knew back in 2003 that something was wrong. He had been involved in one particular part of the intelligence gathering and he knew the facts were being misrepresented. He spoke out. And the white house responded by portraying him as a partisan loser whose report was so low level that nobody ever saw it. In the course of that they also exposed his wife's covert status, likely endangering national security.'
Andrew 2:55 PM : |
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
While we await the fate of Karl Rove, it's instructive to ponder the characterization he made of Democrats in a now-infamous speech a few weeks back. He lambasted "liberals" for supporting a law-enforcement approach to fighting terrorism. This "law enforcement" approach has been used to great effect in Spain. It is also (assuming from the news reports) being used in England. Could it help the U.S. in apprehending those who carry out terrorist acts? Here's a couple of questions-and-answers from the New Yorker's most recent Q & A section:
'Q: A surprising part of the story is the role of the F.B.I. in challenging the Pentagon. Can you talk about that a little? Specifically, it seems that there are two issues: on the one hand, some agents simply objected to the treatment they witnessed; on the other, they had a different approach to interrogation, based more on building rapport, and different goals.'
'A:The F.B.I. has had fierce fights with the Pentagon over the interrogation methods used in Guantánamo and elsewhere. The F.B.I., to begin with, is a law-enforcement agency, geared towards prosecuting cases in the U.S. courts. The Pentagon is more interested in gaining actionable intelligence than in bringing wrongdoers to justice. The F.B.I. requires its agents to read suspects their Miranda rights, and to question them in ways that are consonant with American law, so that when cases do get to trial they aren't thrown out. U.S. courts, for instance, would never allow confessions from suspects who have been coerced into implicating themselves. But as your question points out, the divide goes beyond just what the U.S. courts allow. The F.B.I., which has had years of experience questioning suspects, has found that non-coercive interrogation methods yield more reliable results. F.B.I. officials acknowledge that force may get someone to talk, but it won’t necessarily get them to tell the truth. Force often yields false confessions. One agent told me, "I'd confess to being the third gunman on the grassy knoll if you tortured me. But what good would that be? Not only am I giving you misleading information, you also haven't solved the crime."'
'Q:This raises the question of whether torture works. Is it a mistake to think that it does?'
'Many experts think so [emphasis mine]. The Israeli Supreme Court, for instance, banned the use of torture in interrogations in 1999, after finding that it resulted in too many false confessions and too much moral baggage. An interesting case study is discussed in this article, involving the alleged twentieth hijacker, Mohammed al-Qahtani. He was subjected to extremely harsh interrogation, which some would define as torture. In the end, we know he confessed that he was, as suspected, sent by Al Qaeda to assist in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But was this a triumph? Traditional non-coercive legal methods had already proven this to U.S. law-enforcement authorities. Qahtani was stopped in Orlando, Florida, by an alert immigration agent, who refused him entry based on doubts about his reason for entering the country. After he was later captured in Afghanistan, he was sent to Guantánamo, where he refused to give his name. A fingerprint check identified him, and a subsequent search of phone and parking records revealed that he was connected to Mohammed Atta. None of this required torture. It just required smart (and legal) police work. So, after months of extremely harsh treatment, Qahtani essentially confirmed what the government already knew about him. One of the sources I interviewed asked, given the international political outrage that Guantánamo has provoked, "Was it worth it?" It's a question that Congress and the public have not yet really stepped up to answer.' [source: The New Yorker]
I put the emphasis on the "Most experts think so" bit because a.) that's important to realize -- the folks whose job it is to get information are practically all in agreement that torture doesn't work, and b.) because the Bush Administration is, once again, showing its disdain for the opinions of experts. Both points are important, but the second one is part of a larger narrative -- the Bush Administration routinely ignores expert opinion. This willful ignorance is the reason why we won't win the "war on terrorism" under this administration. As I've argued in the past, fighting a war is a science (as is ending a war) and the constant disdain for, and fight against, science by those making the decisions bodes very poorly for any hope of gaining ground against extremists. Also, it's important to realize that it's not _our_ definition of torture that determines whether or not it's effective; if the person who's being interrogated feels they are being tortured then they will probably lie or provide a false confession.
Andrew 8:20 AM : |
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Another blast from the past, this excerpt is from March of 2003 (around the time the Node began ranting on Blogger). Considering the recent revelations (namely, in today's Times of London) regarding the stepped-up U.S. air campaign in the latter half of 2002, I think it's a good idea to remember where these guys came from:
'. . . The British and the U.S. are definitely stepping up the air campaign, attacking ground-to-ground missiles and generally breaking the no-fly-zone agreements by doing so. Meanwhile, it seems that publicly, the administration has pulled back a bit from pushing the timetable (although it's still very aggressive). My guess is that they'll try and do as much as they can under the table to weaken Iraq -- if the world won't approve of a full-scale invasion, then we'll pursue the war on a level that doesn't register and draw criticism. I would hope that people see through these efforts and realize that, for all intents and purposes, the war has already begun. A long history of covert wars during the Cold War points to a desire and ability, on the part of the U.S., to push "covert" military action as far as it can go. There are, however, operational problems with these low-level conflicts. As the visibility of the conflict increases, the goals change, and it can greatly complicate planning and deployment. Because most of the battles are not publicized, getting the truth can be difficult and there's a tendency for reporting from the field to be edited to make the situation sound rosier than it is, causing policy makers to miscalculate and to think they're playing a stronger hand than they really are. Enforcement of operational standards, whether it be rules about gathering intelligence, evaluation of potential allies, or ensuring that men and equipment are trained and deployed properly, falls by the wayside in favor of a "quick" victory. This reminds me that yesterday, Donald Rumsfeld requested that the new missile defense system be exempted from requirements for operational testing. This lowering of operational standards, along with all these other issues, weaken the U.S. military and decrease its effectiveness. In the end we end up with messy and poorly executed operations and the work of many dedicated and hard-working individuals gets nullified by the political motivations of a few people at the top.'
'Several of the Bush administration officials are hold-overs from Cold War administrations, such as Nixon, Ford, and Regan, that practiced this sort of ineffective and dangerous kind of war. Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and many others had positions that allowed them access to policy discussions which influenced American actions in Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and many other Cold War hotspots. I suspect that their current methodology of pursuing conflicts on whatever level they can get away with has its roots in those operations. The whole situatuation is a throwback to the days when the administration sqared off against professors, journalists, and other professionals who disagreed with their policies. We all know how those conflicts turned out -- I think they give us an idea of how some of our current military adventures may end, too.'
Andrew 1:36 PM : |
Friday, May 20, 2005
"It's all going to come out when everything is said and done."
Indeed it will. I half wonder if the purpose of repealing the filibuster is so the President can protect the architects of the terribly misguided policies which led to the abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq (and who knows where else) from prosecution and investigation. Heaven knows he'd probably pardon those involved anyway, but that is not justice. And we wonder why there are anti-American demonstrations in Muslim countries -- it doesn't take a story by Newsweek (and one which is probably accurate in its description of the desecration of the Koran) to see the message the U.S. is sending to the rest of the world. This simply must be stopped; I remember reading an interview with Seymour Hersh a few months ago wherein he'd become somewhat resigned to the idea that no one seemed to care about the torture which happened at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. I hope that this marks the end of torture being an nonstory and the start of real accountability.
...update: I'm posting as I'm reading the story, there's all sorts of stuff here. For example:
'"There was the Geneva Conventions for enemy prisoners of war, but nothing for terrorists," Sergeant Leahy told Army investigators. And the detainees, senior intelligence officers said, were to be considered terrorists until proved otherwise.'
Guilty until prove innocent. The days of the Galactic Empire (what a fitting week for the Air Force to revive the "Star Wars" program...) are here.
Andrew 1:07 AM : |
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