Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 31, 2007

Prop-aganda - Follow The Trail

To push through, and possibly increasing, the recent U.S. arms and cash gift to Israel, some prop-aganda effort is needed. Following one aspect of this effort, I found this amusing trail.

In June 2007, during the Paris Air Show, the air industry publication 'Aviation Week' reported in a side story on a rumor: With Its U.S. Jets Aging, Iran Appears to be Close to a 250-Sukhoi Order. As the publication remarked, major components of the Sukhoi SU-30 plane in question come from Thales, a french arms producer, and Paris would have to give its okay for the deal. While the standoff about Iranian uranium enrichment continues, such a green light from France, and thereby such a deal, would be unlikely.

There are always such sales rumors at any industry show and in this case even hard facts not to believe in it. So everybody soon forgot about this rumor but some smart folks in Israel.

On July 27th, just a day before the announcement of a huge U.S. arms and cash gift to Israel and a proposed bige arms sale to Arab Gulf states, the Israeli disinformation site DEBKAfile reported: Iran buys 250 long-distance Sukhoi fighter-bombers, 20 fuel tankers, from Russia

Tehran and the Russian Rosoboronexport arms group are about to sign a mammoth arms deal running into tens of billions of dollars for the sale to Tehran of 250 Su-30MKM warplanes and 20 IL-78 MKI fuel tankers. DEBKAfile’s military sources report Iran has stipulated delivery of the first aircraft before the end of 2007.
[...]

Okay - the DEBKA folks do read Aviation Week. The tankers they throw in increase the reach and the threat into Europe.

On Juli 30, the baton gets picked up by the right-wing Jerusalem Post: Reports: Iran to buy jets from Russia

Israel is looking into reports that Russia plans to sell 250 advanced long-range Sukhoi-30 fighter jets to Iran in an unprecedented billion-dollar deal.

According to reports, in addition to the fighter jets, Teheran also plans to purchase a number of aerial fuel tankers that are compatible with the Sukhoi and capable of extending its range by thousands of kilometers. Defense officials said the Sukhoi sale would grant Iran long-range offensive capabilities.

A day later the usual suspects in the U.S. follow up. The Navy Times repeats parts of the Jerusalem Post report and expands on it:

Iran is in negotiations with Russia to buy 250 state-of-the-art fighter jets, an Israeli newspaper reported, in a pointed response to a new American bid to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to potential Iranian adversaries in the Middle East.

The English-language Jerusalem Post of Israel reported Monday that top Israeli defense officials are investigating the potential Iran-Russia deal, in which Iran would pay $1 billion for about a dozen squadrons’ worth of Sukhoi Su-30 “Flanker” fighter-bombers. As a part of the deal, Iran would also buy aerial tanker planes that could extend the fighters’ range.

Also based on the JPost story the Defense Tech site asks: Is Iran This Cold War's India?

By tomorrow a swarm of mil-bloggers will have picked up those sources and will discuss the ever expanding deadly threat from Iran.

But most likely, little to nothing of the report is true.

While Iran could certainly use some SU-30s to replace the 1970s junk its air force is currently trying to fly, 250 is a number that is certainly much too high. As the SU-30 is already a long range fighter, the fuel tankers DEBKAfile adds to the original Aviation Week story, only make sense if Iran wants to bomb Berlin. Somehow I doubt Tehran is planing for that.

DEBKA says the price would be "tens of billions", Jerusalem Post names no price and the Navy Times magically comes up with 1 billion. The numbers are wrong.

In 2003 Malaysia bought 18 Su-30MKM for $900 million with some services included. Given that price tag of $50 million a piece and and some $30 million per tanker, Iran would have to pay $13 billion for the rumored purchase. "Tens of billions" is just as wrong as 1 billion and while cutting domestic gas subsidies Tehran would certainly have trouble to explain such an expense to its people.

But back to prop-agenda. An old industry rumor of doubtable value is relaunched and exaggerated as a threat not only to Israel but also to Europe by a Mossad controlled site just a day before a $30 billion U.S. tax payer gift to Israel is announced.

The Jerusalem Post reliably amplifies it and thereby gives it enough credibility to be repeated in the U.S. media. Every instance adds a bit of bells and whistles and in the end a serious enemy threat will have been created out of thin air.

Will Iran buy some SU-30? That is indeed possible - maybe ten a year over a decade, IF the French agree. But that would be a force that in no way would be able to threaten any U.S. ally.

The only reason the industry rumor was re-launched now is to justify the transfers of U.S. tax dollars to Israeli pockets. As this is so easy to do, one wonders why the Israelis don't try it more often ...

Posted by b on July 31, 2007 at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

July 30, 2007

2008 Candidates?

My bet is currently on Gore vs. Thompson(?).

Your mileage will vary. Why?

Posted by b on July 30, 2007 at 04:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

Tit For Tat - NYT vs. Cheney

In yesterday's piece about NSA data-mining and the Gonzales lies the NYT notes:

The first known assertion by administration officials that there had been no serious disagreement within the government about the legality of the N.S.A. program came in talks with New York Times editors in 2004. In an effort to persuade the editors not to disclose the eavesdropping program, senior officials repeatedly cited the lack of dissent as evidence of the program’s lawfulness.

The NYT editors at that time swallowed the administration's lies and only reluctantly published the story that unveiled the NSA spying in December 2005 when the author James Risen threatened to break it in his book.

But now, as the editors have to eat another major craw fed to them by Cheney/Bush (the Judith Miller plant being the first), they decided it is payback time.

In an unsigned editorial also published yesterday and urging for Gonzales impeachment, they remark:

[Mr. Mueller and James Comey] say that in March 2004 — when Mr. Gonzales was still the White House counsel — the Justice Department refused to endorse a continuation of the wiretapping program because it was illegal. (Mr. Comey was running the department temporarily because Attorney General John Ashcroft had emergency surgery.) Unwilling to accept that conclusion, Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.

If that is indeed so, it so far has not been published anywhere else. No sources are given here, but as Josh Marshall muses:

Editorials like these are sometimes a venue where facts are stuck in which are 'known' to be true but which cannot be sourced cleanly or clearly enough to make it onto the news pages. Is that what's up here?

Maybe. What I sense here is a group of quite angry people who have publicly been taken for a ride twice and feel the need for some serious revenge.

Not that I mind. Not at all ...

Which leads me to some legal questions. Could one construct Gonzales effort to get a signature from the incapacitated Ashcroft for an obviously illegal program as an attempt to obstruct justice? Is it criminal to incite or direct someone to attempt obstruction of justice? Impeachable?

I wonder if that is what the editors have in mind ...

Posted by b on July 30, 2007 at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

July 29, 2007

On 'Reported' Issues

In an otherwise good article about the Rice and Gates travel to the Middle East, McClatchy's Nancy A. Youssef and Warren P. Strobel write:

The Bush administration also is divided over Iran, with Vice President Dick Cheney’s office pushing for an aggressive military response to Iran's reported aid and training for Shiite militias attacking U.S. troops in Iraq, senior officials said.

For something to be 'reported' an actually reporter would have put some leather to the streets. Facts would have been researched and witnesses asked. That reporter would doublecheck and  analyse the collected facts and build a theory or reach some conclusions. Those would be tested against independent expert opinions. All of this written down and packed into a decent format is a journalistic report. Its content could be characterized as 'reported'.

I am not aware of any such journalistic report that says something conclusive about asserted current Iran aid and training for Shiite militias who might attack U.S. troops in Iraq. Are you?

All 'reports' I have seen on the issue were stenographed statements by U.S. officials, some anonymous and some on the record, some in suits and some in uniform, who alleged this or that about Iran's role in Iraq. 

Strobel and Youssef are usually very good journalists. They kept a cool head in the run up to the war on Iraq and didn't fall for the WMD spin. I can't really blame them to have had a slip here as their piece today is about a wide and complex situation. But it shows how the system works.

Glenn Greenwald writes about the sorry excuses the NYT and the Washington Post today produced to discuss away Alberto Gonzales' perjury. Both stories are based on 'anonymous officials' who leak 'facts' that at first glance seem true, but seriously analyzed are faulty. Glenn expands on the modus operandi in that case and it is the same than in the 'Iran's reported...' issue above:

Here is a snapshot of the United States from 2000-present. The Bush administration whispers something to "journalists." They repeat it uncritically on their front page. Other "journalists" read it. They believe it uncritically and then repeat it. With nothing else required, it becomes "fact".
[...]
[P]resto, just like that -- from the administration's anonymous lips to the American public, making a pit stop with leading journalists only to be amplified and bolstered but never examined or investigated -- Alberto Gonzales is vindicated.

... or Iran guilty for someones attack on the U.S. occupiers in Iraq.

Journalism done well is time consuming hard work and shrinking news-room budgets don't help. But the current times do make the job easier. After more than six years it is obvious that this administration is lying about anytime one of its officials opens the mouth.

Anything that gets disseminated by it, the attached thinktank circus or their well know stenographers in the media, can be assumed to be false if it lets the administration shine in a positive light or furthers its aims.

Anything that is 'reported' based on administration sources should equally be assumed as manipulated news, not as fact.

To follow that basic assumption is good journalism. To do otherwise results in sloppy work that should be left to typing chimps.

Posted by b on July 29, 2007 at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Congrats Iraqi Nation

Congratulations the Iraqi nation and the Iraqi soccer team, for the 1:0 final victory over Saudi Arabia and for winning the Asian Cup!

Posted by b on July 29, 2007 at 10:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

July 28, 2007

Open Thread 07-52

News & views & whatever ...

Posted by b on July 28, 2007 at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

The Key Questions While Bombing Afghanistan

Situation:
Pilot and copilot are patrolling over Helmand, Afghanistan at 15,000ft. The copilot is monitoring the look-down camera picture.

Dialog:
C: There is a person next to a hut at 2 o'clock.
P: Okay, about time something happens. Let's start with the key questions. Does that person wear civilian clothes?
C: That seems to be the case.
P: Is that person in civil clothes a male person?
C: Well, looks male to me.
P: Is that male person in civil clothes between 7 and 70 years old?
C: That could very well be so.
P: Ok, that's a Talib. Release the bombs now, now, NOW.

One of the raids by NATO hit houses in the Girishk district of Helmand province on Thursday evening, killing up to 50 civilians, a group of some 20 residents reported to journalists in Kandahar, the main city in the south.
[...]
"We have no reports of any such incidents in Girishk yesterday at all. There have been no people taken to the hospital ... in relation to anything around Girishk," said [a spokesman for British forces in Helmand,] Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Mayo.

"Because the Taliban don't wear uniforms like us, as soon as they are killed, they are called civilians, the key is are they male or female and if they are male, what age are they?"
Dozens of Afghan civilians die in air raids: residents

Posted by b on July 28, 2007 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

The Fine Humor of Sec.Def. Gates

Defense Undersecretary Eric Edelman responded (pdf) to Senator Clinton’s request for the Defense Department to draw up proposals for a retreat from Iraq:

Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.

Clinton was pissed and demanded that Secretary of Defense Gates punishes Edelman.

Gates responded with a love letter to Clinton to calm the issue down. He also punished Edelman:

Via War and Peace the announcement of a hearing at the Senate Armed Service Committee:

From the office of SASC chairman Carl Levin:

    ARMED SERVICES
    Room S-407, The Capitol
    Thursday, August 2, 2007 – 9:30 a.m.
    CLOSED
    To receive a briefing on drawdown planning for U.S. forces in Iraq.

    Briefers:
    Honorable Eric S. Edelman
    Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

    Lieutenant General John F. Sattler, USMC
    Director
    Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J-5)
    The Joint Chiefs of Staff

Sec.-Def. Gates is quite a humorous man.

Posted by b on July 28, 2007 at 06:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Arming The Sunni Resistance

The U.S. military's new 'strategy' in Iraq is to arm and pay 'neighborhood watch' groups in mainly Sunni areas. The Iraqi government does not want these groups and denies them any legitimacy.

One wonders what the U.S. really wants to achieve here. This is either utter stupidity or a well grounded plan of fomenting the next stage of a civil war and more massacres. Which is it?

From today's Post article: U.S. Widens Push to Use Armed Iraqi Residents:

Within the past month, the U.S. military command in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq ordered subordinate units to step up creation of the local forces, authorizing commanders to pay the fighters with U.S. emergency funds, reward payments and other monies.
[...]
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, called the development of the grass-roots forces the most significant trend in Iraq "of the last four months or so" and one that could help propel slow-moving efforts at national reconciliation among Iraq's main religious sects and ethnic groups.
[...]
"They will clear the neighborhood of anyone who belongs to al-Qaeda or JAM [a Shiite militia] or even carries a bullet," the [local Sunni leader] said. "We want you, sir, to give us the green light. They are ready."

"You have the green light," Gibbs answered. "But they have to follow the rules. You can't just shoot anybody. No vengeance . . . But the bad guys -- I don't care. Go get them."

Well - who are the 'bad guys'? I guess that is in the eye of the beholder and the neighborhood guard leader certainly has a somewhat different definition in mind than Col. Ricky D. Gibbs.

The U.S. is preparing lists with the names of its new local 'little Blackwater' mercinary troops and wants the Iraqi government to hire them as police forces. The government says 'no' of course but I am sure the will come to love these lists ...

When the legitmate police (as far as there is any legitimate police) uses these lists to 'collect' people off the street, which side will the U.S. military fight along?

Petraeus is clearly living in a 1984 world when he claims to achieve 'national reconciliation' by arming the local Sunni thieves. The 'sovereign' Iraqi government, or what is left of it anyway, is protesting and Maliki is demanding Gen. Petraeus resignation - so far without success. I wonder if, coming September, his government will still exist at all.

A week ago Michael Gordon stenographed some truthiness that shows the utter incompetence of the U.S. military and its lack of any strategy:

“We are going to try a dozen different things,” said one senior officer. “Maybe one of them will flatline. One of them will do this much. One of them will do this much more. After a while, we believe there is chance you will head into success. I am not saying that we are absolutely headed for success.”

The anonymous officer is not contemplating one important fallacy in this. Any of the 'dozen different things' he wants to try can make the situation worse.

He wants to open the closed door to 'success' first with a chainsaw, then with a hammer, then with grenades and then, maybe, he will try to use the keys. But after having been abused, by then the door's lock will be damaged and no key will ever be able to unlock it.

The officer reminds me of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill:

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

Is that part of the national character?

Posted by b on July 28, 2007 at 05:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

July 27, 2007

A Strategic ME Shift?

Has last week has seen a major turn in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East?

This is quite speculative, but there are some data points that suggest a big shift has happened.

The Bush administration may have turned away from its Sunni allies in the wider Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and towards some rapprochement with Iran.

Consider:

  • The main agitator for an attack on Iran in Cheney's office has been removed.
  • Bush himself moves the blame for U.S. problems in Iraq away from alleged Iranian insurgency support and towards al-Qaida.
  • Information leaked to newspapers emphasizes the connection of al-Qaida in Iraq and Saudi financing and highlights Pakistan's lack of action against al-Qaida in Pashtun-land.
  • High level U.S. officials press the Saudis to retract support for the Sunni side in Iraq.
  • Bush's intimate relation with the Iran friendly Maliki in Iraq is pointed out.
  • Recent talks between the U.S. and Iran seem to expand.

Some details below the fold:

Back in mid June there were intense discussions within the administration about an attack on Iran. The NYT version:

The debate has pitted Ms. Rice and her deputies, who appear to be winning so far, against the few remaining hawks inside the administration, especially those in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office who, according to some people familiar with the discussions, are pressing for greater consideration of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
[...]
Only a few weeks ago, one of Mr. Cheney’s top aides, David Wurmser, told conservative research groups and consulting firms in Washington that Mr. Cheney believed that Ms. Rice’s diplomatic strategy was failing, and that by next spring Mr. Bush might have to decide whether to take military action.

That discussion was won by Rice and Gates. On Tuesday Robert Dreyfuss (and Steve Clemons) reported:

Vice President Cheney is losing a trusted aide: David Wurmser, Cheney's chief adviser on Middle East affairs and perhaps the Bush administration's most radical hawk.

According to multiple sources, Wurmser will leave the office of the vice president (OVP) in August for the private sector, where he will start a risk-consulting business.

For now an attack on Iran seems thereby likely off the table.

The U.S. has largely stopped to blame Shiites (al-Sadr) for the insurgency in Iraq and emphasizes a personal Bush-Maliki relation.

Bush has started to renew the al-Qaida meme. In a long speech last week on the War of Terror (simple version here) he mentioned al-Qaida or Bin-Laden every 15 seconds. Iran isn't mentioned at all. What happened to the axis-of-evil?

Of course this is obfuscating the real Sunni insurgency, but it helps to pressure Saudi Arabia, which is one main point of this policy shift. Here you can see it being played out.

Last Friday I flagged this astonishing op-ed by the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Khalizad. He wrote:

Several of Iraq’s neighbors — not only Syria and Iran but also some friends of the United States — are pursuing destabilizing policies

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had a page A1 piece about a Saudi bank financing Al-Qaida:

But the Saudi government has been far been less willing to tackle the financial infrastructure essential to terrorism. U.S. intelligence reports state that Islamic banks, while mostly doing ordinary commerce, also are institutions that extremism relies upon in its global spread.

As a result, the Bush administration repeatedly debated proposals for taking strong action itself against Al Rajhi Bank, in particular, according to former U.S. officials and previously undisclosed government documents. Ultimately, the U.S. always chose instead to lobby Saudi officialdom quietly about its concerns.

The confidential reports the article is based upon were certainly leaked "just in time" for more to come.

Today the New York Times has a major piece about interviews with some "Senior Administration Official" (i.e. Rice and Gates) being frustrated with Saudi Arabia. The earlier quiet lobbying the WSJ reported is officially over:

Now, Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.
[...]
Senior Bush administration officials said the American concerns would be raised next week when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates make a rare joint visit to Jidda, Saudi Arabia.

At the same time the administration is also threatening direct attacks on Pakistan and furthering a nuclear deal with Pakistan's primary enemy, India. Pakistan's nuclear weapons are said to have been financed with Saudi money and Pakistan is a major supplier for Saudi weapons.

While the two most important U.S. allies in the Sunni realm come under severe pressure from Washington, relations with Iran seem to get warmer.

During Tuesday's talks between the U.S. and Iran in Baghdad, a major point was an anti-Sunni alliance. Juan Cole picked up the importance of this:

[I]n my view the money graf in this Telegraph report is this one:

'The two countries did agree to form a security committee, with Iraq, to focus on containing Sunni insurgents. The committee would concentrate on the threat from groups such as al-Qa'eda in Iraq, officials said, but not those[Shiite] militia groups the US accuses Iran of funding and training. '

If the US is allying with Iran against the Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda, this is a very major development and much more important than some carping over Shiite militias. (..).

If the report is true and has legs, it will send Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal ballistic. The Sunni Arab states do not like "al-Qaeda" in Iraq, but they are much more afraid of Iran than of the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who are fighting against US military occupation.

There even seems to have been a private follow up meeting between the U.S. and Iran without Iraqi participation. Iran is ready for high-level talks with US over Iraq and maybe other things too? The U.S. is still rejecting sich higher level talk for now, but that could be just to keep them private.

Iran is in a much better position to help the U.S. in Iraq and in Afghanistan than any other partner. With the Saudi oil production peaking out, a strategic shift away from the Sunni world towards Iran also makes some economic sense.

The original grand strategy plan was to take over Iraq AND Iran and then to clean up the Gulf monarchies. With the first part stalled, the same result, though with less assured influence, might be gained by simply allying with Iran.

If such a shift is really in the making, there is other trouble ahead.

The Saudis are already pissed about the ousting of the Palestinian national unity government they had sponsored. They have little leverage except money to make much trouble in Palestine, but they do have other weapons. OPEC is already sniveling about the lower dollar. A nice excuse for some production cut in Saudi fields. There could also be some man portable anti-air weapons finding their way from Saudi warehouses to Anbar.

In Pakistan al-Qaida would love the U.S. to invade as this would certainly result in a serious backslash. One consequence could be the Pakistani secret service renewing its payments (with Saudi money) and weapon deliveries to the Taliban. Then U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan will be in really serious trouble.

But these futurities may be unavoidable anyway.

As of now in terms of historic legacy Bush will be regarded as one of the worst presidents. A successful opening towards Iran could add a major positive point to his rapsheet.

Is another Nixon goes to China moment coming? Henry Kissinger prepared that trip with some secret meetings. He is still around somewhere ... does anyone know where exactly?

Posted by b on July 27, 2007 at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)

Shedding Light on a Forgotten Case of Ethnic Cleansing

by Bea

In the Holocaust thread, Bernhard wrote: "Ethnic cleansing, killing a group of somehow assumed "lesser value" people, has happened before and after the 1940s and such still happens today. Such has been tried or done by about each ruling powers of their time and area."

It just so happens that I am presently reading a book on this very subject, and I feel compelled to contribute a post about it. At the risk of stepping into a pot of boiling oil, I would just like to share some passages from this book, which is unbelievably powerful and important. It’s written by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, who has meticulously combed official Israeli archives to put together the picture that he paints here. I will excerpt only a very few passages which can no means do this remarkable book or very loaded subject justice. I will also post links to some interviews with Pappe elsewhere on the web.

The ‘Red House’ was a typical early Tel-Avivian building…towards the end of 1947, it became the headquarters of the Hagana, the main Zionist underground militia in Palestine….

In this building, on a cold Wednesday afternoon, 10 March 1948, a group of eleven men, veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches to a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. That same evening, military orders were dispatched to the units on the ground to prepare for the systematic expulsion of the Palestinians from vast areas of the country. The orders came with a detailed description of the methods to be employed to forcibly evict the people: large-scale intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centres; setting fire to homes, properties and goods; expulsion; demolition; and finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning. Each unit was issued with its own list of villages and neighborhoods as the targets of this master plan. Codenamed Plan D (Dalet in Hebrew), this was the fourth and final version of less substantial plans that outlined the fate the Zionists had in store for Palestine and consequently for its native population. … This fourth and last blueprint spelled it out clearly and unambiguously: The Palestinians had to go….The aim of the plan was in fact the destruction of both the rural and urban areas of Palestine….Indifferent as to whether these Palestinians might decide to collaborate with or oppose their Jewish State, Plan Dalet called for their systematic and total expulsion from their homeland….

Once the decision was taken, it took six months to complete the mission. When it was over, more than half Palestine’s native population, close to 800,000 people, had been uprooted, 531 villages had been destroyed, and eleven urban neighborhoods emptied of their inhabitants. The plan decided upon on 10 March 1948, and above all its systematic implementation in the following months, was a clear-cut case of an ethnic cleansing operation, regarded under international law today as a crime against humanity….

I accuse, but I am also part of the society that stands condemned in this book. I feel both responsible for and part of the story and, like others in my own society, I am convinced…that such a painful journey into the past is the only way forward if we want to create a better future for us all, Palestinians and Israelis alike. Because at heart, this is what this book is about….

Ethnic cleansing today is a well-defined concept….  Israel’s 1948 Plan D…contains a repertoire of cleansing methods that one by one fit the means the UN describes in its definition of ethnic cleansing, and sets the background for the massacres that accompanied the massive expulsion….

…beyond the numbers, it is the deep chasm between reality and representation that is most bewildering in the case of Palestine. It is indeed hard to understand, and for that matter explain, why a crime that was perpetrated in modern times and at a juncture in history that called for foreign reporters and UN observers to be present, should have been so totally ignored. And yet, there is no denying that the ethnic cleansing of 1948 has been eradicated almost totally from the collective global memory and erased from the world’s conscience.

Some related links:

Even if this is a highly controversial subject, it is vitally important that we open the door and begin to discuss it honestly. I truly believe that anyone who genuinely cares about the future of the State of Israel or Palestine should honestly engage in this most difficult review of the past, and consider how much it continues to vividly color the present, even up to and including the complete closure of Gaza, the building of the separation wall, the checkpoints in the West Bank, and yes, the US occupation of Iraq.

Posted by b on July 27, 2007 at 01:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

July 26, 2007

Why Wait?

Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee voted for contempt charges against Joshua Bolten, White House chief of staff, and former Bush counsel Harriet Miers. The Washington Post reports:

The vote represents the first concrete step toward finding Bolten and Miers in criminal contempt of Congress. The issue will next be considered by the entire House, and if a similar vote occurs there, the citations could be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. But a floor vote appears unlikely before the end of next week, when the House recesses for a five-week summer break.
[...]
A Pelosi aide confirmed that a floor vote is unlikely until after Labor Day, giving Congress and White House counsel Fred F. Fielding another month and a half to negotiate a settlement of the legal standoff.

For a long time the White House has made it abundantly clear that it will risk a confrontation with Congress and a constitutional crisis. It hopes to avoid this inherent risk though, but not for the price of giving up on Cheney's legal fantasies of a unitary executive. Instead, like with any Iraq retreat, the White House simply tries to run out the clock.

A confrontation is in Congress' best interest. If this administration gets away with its assertion of unitary executive, and executive privilege, the next presidencies will build on those rights and Congress' role will forever be diminished. Any short term gain in voters opinion in 2008 by holding back on a confrontation now is much smaller than a long term loss in congressional authority.

The White House will not cave in here. There is nothing left to negotiate. Pelosi has all rights and means to set the House agenda. The process following a House vote on contempt charges will already be slow and intentionally slowed down further when it hits the courts.

So why are Democrats delaying the process now? Bush wants to run out the clock. Don't let him do so.

Why wait?

Posted by b on July 26, 2007 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

July 25, 2007

U.S. - Europe: Nothing Left to Provide

Two weeks ago there was a meeting at President Putin's home in Moscow. High powered delegations of U.S. and Russian foreign policy and business establishment discussed global policy.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported:

The panel called "Russia-USA: A Look Into the Future," led by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, declined to comment on the first Moscow session, but said it was a successful beginning to a series of high-level meetings.

"We discussed many issues. Our goal was not to get media coverage, score public relations points, or press home any propaganda messages. We came here to solve problems," Primakov said.

"We agreed to hold the next meeting in mid-December in Washington, D.C.," where the panelists will meet with President George W. Bush, he added.

Kissinger thanked Putin for his hospitality and praised the Russian leader for his realistic and open approach.

"We appreciate the time that President Putin gave us and the frank manner in which he explained his point of view," he said.

When asked whether U.S. unilateral interventionism was on the agenda, Kissinger said that "nuclear proliferation" and "nuclear threats," rather than U.S. policies, are the biggest danger to world peace.

In diplo-speak "frank manner" describes some fairly loud behavior. Like when Putin's fist hit the table. Kissinger evades the question on the unilateral vs. multilateral issue, certainly the biggest point Russia has on its agenda, and instead quacks about "nuclear threats", i.e. the missile defense system the US wants to place at Russia's door. (As there are no rational reason for such an installation, Russia assumes that these are offensive weapons pointed at Moscow.)

The U.S. media embargoed any news about the event. No mention of it in the NYT, WaPo, LAT, WSJ or elsewhere. There was a tiny bit in the Guardian, the International Herald Tribune hides it in general piece running a week after the event. Why wasn't this news?

At GlobalResearch Mike Whitney, while asking the same question, is also looking at the bigger picture:

[T]he US and Britain have placed Russia on their “enemies list” and are planning to execute a guerilla war of harassment, slander, and covert operations intended to deepen the divisions between Europe and Russia. Naturally, Putin will continue to be demonized in the western media as a looming threat to democratic values.

Ultimately, the goal is to pit Europe against Russia while the Pentagon, the CIA, and M-15 settle on a long-term strategy for gaining access to vital petroleum and natural gas supplies in Central Asia and the Caspian Basin. That is still the main objective and both Putin and Kissinger know it.

So far, Putin appears to have the upper-hand in this regard because he has skillfully strengthened alliances with his regional allies--under the rubric of the Commonwealth of Independent States---and because most of the natural gas from Eurasia is pumped through Russian pipelines.

That sounds about right to me, though the aim likely exceeds the Caspian Basin. There are parts in U.S. policy that want to revive some cold-war scheme for tactical reasons. The strategic endgame is about a tame Russia, its resources under U.S. corporate control, unable or unwilling to challenge any U.S. move.

But even with the help of some continental European countries the U.S. is unlikely to achieve that goal. Even though there are U.S. friendly politicians in Europe, like Merkel in Germany and the nutty Kaczynski brothers in Poland who would like to go along, they can not ignore a simple fact.

If Russia turns off gas supply to Europe and instead sells to China and Japan, homes here will stay cold and voters will turn up political heat. The only alternative to hydrocarbonize Europe are  natural gas supplies from Iran. But the U.S. is balking at those too.

Since WWII the U.S. has lost the capacity to export energy. Since the end of the cold war the other major U.S. export, "security" in form of a nuclear umbrella, is no longer needed in Europe. The missile defense sham is a sorry try to revive that need. But so far there are no takers. A non-existing technology against a non-existing threat is a hard sell.

So I do expect that this will turn out to be a last ditch U.S. effort. Europe, old and new, will turn away from the U.S. and endorse those who sell warm water instead of cold wars.

The big 1990 victory in the cold war may not have been the beginning of the U.S. empire, but the beginning of its end. It ended the need for the last product the U.S. could supply and where customers felt a demand. Real international power comes from providing needed products, not from fake marketing campaigns.

Bush certainly is a lousy salesman. But it's also the product. What, other than destruction, can the U.S. provide?

Posted by b on July 25, 2007 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

July 24, 2007

OT 07-51

Sorry for little posting - busy days - but there is always interesting News & Views ...

Open thread ...

Posted by b on July 24, 2007 at 01:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (95)

The New Iraq War Marketing Slogan

The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.
...
The latest plan, which covers a two-year period, does not explicitly address troop levels or withdrawal schedules. It anticipates a decline in American forces as the “surge” in troops runs its course later this year or in early 2008.
U.S. Is Seen in Iraq Until at Least ’09 as recorded by NYT stenographer Michael Gordon

Some thoughts:

  • This was the plan all along, the "surge" talk was just the marketing as is the "sustainable security" slogan.
  • The new marketing gimmick "sustainable security" is right out Fred Kagan's, original architect of the "surge", pen and published in the Weekly Standard some weeks ago.
  • This was decided on in the White House, not in Baghdad.
  • For the soldiers this will mean several additional 18 month tours with less than 12 months breaks in between. Expect some mutiny.
  • Possible chance of success in Baghdad: Zero
  • Possible chance to kick the ball to the next president: One hundred

Posted by b on July 24, 2007 at 10:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

July 23, 2007

A Poem

by remembereringgiap
(lifted from a comment)

one hundred and fifty one
& we were/joined by subversives/in foolish moves/we might have
made a fortune/while discussing milton/with the saints/who swore black
& blue paintings/were sold easily/to wellwishers/who wore waste
& always spoke/from the corners/of their mouths/like elegant gangsters
from forties films/where everyone was/on the take/& went down
nightly to harlem/to get fix/from art pepper/perhaps imitating black
man on other/side of city/sitting in studio/painting pretty picture
before he became/married to museum/of modern art/he was poor
mark rothkowitz/who really wanted/to be scholar/of the torah
reading a chapter/or a verse/in private place/where he’d worship
to whatever god/was left after/city of riga/fell to kingdom/come with all
stories of scherezades/that used to/fill that town/even during pogroms
a dirty joke/was always told/at the bootmakers/to one of/his gentile friends
of whom himmler/once spoke clearly/when he was/speaking of good
jew he said/when planning final/solution he sought/this perfect pedagogue
who preffered chickens/even though vegetarian/like his master
he was once/asked if perhaps/there was good/jews to be/had he thought

one hundred and fifty two
some could be/saved from source/he was silencing/in the east
but he broke/thought & said/that every one/had good jew/that everyone had
their good jew/was our misfortune/he had said/hoping it would
become song/like horst wessel/lieder he learnt/to sing loudly
with his boys/when they were/trampling through snow/somewhere near stalingrad
he could hear/sound of shattering/glass inside shell/of a city
& he knew/it was not/synagogue this time/it was inside/head he held
as austrian intellectual/drifted past him/& vomited behind/a burning tank
where he might/meet an acquaintance/& discuss hofmanstahl
before next shelling/from that city/that was inside/the world’s heart
wherever that was/it has gone/a long time/& this understood
by mr nixon/so recently deceased/on my anniversary/who remade asia
in his own/image he sold/to baptist preachers/when they sought
a room in/the white house/when they had/day to spare/in washington city
after seeing negroes/shoot each other/in the streets/like they had

one hundred and fifty three
been told tellingly/by a boy/from state department/who held degrees
from three european/universities that had/reputation for scholarship
before the storm/most was modest/especially learning language
of the landlords/who you might/have seen in/interludes in opera
that were elaborate/short stories that/they couldn’t sell/to television tycoon
who is now/running modern italy/from an office/decorated by dancers
from some company/perhaps from houston/somewhere in texas
certainly from country/where everyone is/falling over once/inside interior space
wherever that it/you will find/your family feuding/over of argument
you had thought/was over once/you had bribed/teacher who told
you difference between/silver & gold/pride & shame/translating the taboos
you would pay/homage to heroes/who were all/heretics at some
time a larceny/you had learnt/from the best/it is said/by mr baudelaire
oh how weary/i am how/weary i have/been for many/years already of
this need to/live twenty four/hours every day/he had written
to his mother/who sought solace/from corrupt clerics/whom she knew
as good men/go they were/not so bad/after all is/said & done

one hundred and fifty four
knowing her son/would join haunted/who had begun/wandering with winds
through most modern/& civilised cities/that are in/retrospect only ruins
that are no/better than old/ones we read/about after ascension
of all angels/we might have/read about augustine/for example another
who was carrying/note in hand/as he was/going to give/message to messiah
who was about/to confront crowd/with some good/news he couldn’t
sell to anyone/but the boy/who might today/join hamas in/hebron after hell
it is said/after good doctor/came in shooting/with the guns/he had bought
somewhere in brooklyn/it is mentioned/in a report/i’m not reading
because my heart/breaks too often/to read much/more to mention
day to day/events in middle/east or west/north or south/wherever that is
you can take/compass & ruler/that i’m carrying/because i am
not going anywhere/except these memoirs/that are defiling/minutes of past
i do not/want to live/again even anecdotally/at this time/or any other
because i have/witnessed that experiment/& i have/sent back invitations

Posted by b on July 23, 2007 at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

July 22, 2007

Getting Out Of Iraq?

All is well in Iraq and getting better by the day. The "surge" is working and only needs to be prolonged a bit and reinforced here and there to finally gain U.S. control over a peaceful country with lots of valuable liquids underneath.

That is more or less the official administration story.

But if that is so, why would Iraqi collaboraters press for U.S. visas?

The American ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan C. Crocker, has asked the Bush administration to take the unusual step of granting immigrant visas to all Iraqis employed by the U.S. government in Iraq because of growing concern that they will quit and flee the country if they cannot be assured eventual safe passage to the United States.

The Danes preparing their way out of Iraq recently evacuated all their Iraqi friends and their families.

Is Ryan Crocker planing for the final escape?

Maybe yes. Another hint of such came on Friday in Charles Krauthammer's column:

Maliki & Co. are afraid we are arming Sunnis for the civil war to come. On the other hand, we might be creating a rough balance of forces that would act as a deterrent to all-out civil war and encourage a relatively peaceful accommodation.

In either case, that will be Iraq's problem after we leave.

Since when is Krauthammer thinking of leaving Iraq at all? Or is he just misleading and ignoring the danger Crocker sees?

Someone recently blew up more bridges:

"Unknown gunmen planted explosive charges under the bridges of al-Haqlaniya and Wadi Hajlan in western Iraq and totally destroyed them at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Al Qai'da doesn't blow up bridges in Anbar. They need them to move Saudi lunatics from Syria to  the places where they blow themselves up.

But those Sunnis now armed and payed by the U.S. may be willing to defend their turf against foreign extremists. But as soon as that is done, they will not hold back from continuing their fight against the occupation. Destroying these Anbar bridges is likely part of that fight.

The Green Zone puppets are getting antsy too:

An American withdrawal from Iraq would cause bloodshed and leave the country dominated by radical militias, Iraqi politicians from across the parliamentary spectrum have warned.
...
Only members of parliament allied with radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are now pushing for an immediate pull-out.

Something is in the air above Iraq. Are that helicopters shuttling from the embassy roof to the airport? (Russian helicopters according to Time magazine's graphic!?) Or have al-Sadr and the Anbar Sunni sheiks finally come to like Thunderclap Newman clips?

We have got to get it together now

Hand out the arms and ammo
We're going to blast our way through here
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here, and you know it's right
And you know that it's right

We have got to get it together
We have got to get it together.

Posted by b on July 22, 2007 at 01:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

July 21, 2007

Historical Revisionism

 

historical revisionism
by anna missed
8x10 color photograph
(bigger)

Posted by b on July 21, 2007 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

July 20, 2007

Taking the Constitution Down - Step by Step

- With Bush's additions to the Supreme Court it now has a solid conservative majority that will likely sign off any nutty theory Cheney/Bush will present to it.

- The Department of Justice is so politicalized that there is no way it will ever act against any crime the current presidency commits.

- For yet unknown reasons Congress has taken impeachment off the table but prominently put nuking Iran on the table.

- An executive order issued this week threatens to take away anything material - house, car and toothbrush - away from:

any person determined .. [by the administration] .. to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of .. threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or ...

- Cheney/Bush assert that any serious oversight steps by Congress are not legal whenever they claim executive privilege:

.. administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege.

If I'd be blogging from the U.S. or had assets there, I'd be tempted to evaluate myself as "significant risk" and to shut the blog down or at least to avoid any future Iranq threads.

The above items are steps on a ladder up to something (or down to something) which build onto each other. Each of these steps is a bit shocking to those who care to notice them. After each step some Democrat issues some outraged statement and some editorial board is miffed but nothing serious happens. Nobody takes to the streets.

This is quite similar to the process described by Milton Mayer in They Thought They Were Free.

The end of the ladder build before our eyes can not yet be seen.

But while we study and discuss the above and now weight the personal danger of being a "significant risk" the yet unknown next step is already being prepared.

A senior adviser to Bush explained this to Ron Suskind back in 2002:

"while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

That guy wasn't joking.

Posted by b on July 20, 2007 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

July 19, 2007

The Uniqueness of the Holocaust

Reflecting on comments in this thread, here is a personal view on the Holocaust I'd like to discuss.

Ethnic cleansing, killing a group of somehow assumed "lesser value" people, has happened before and after the 1940s and such still happens today. Such has been tried or done by about each ruling powers of their time and area. There are certainly comparable deeds in history that at least, relatively to general population numbers, reached or even exceed the numbers of the Holocaust.

The historic difference of the Holocaust, the German (and cooperating others) systematic killing of their Jewish bethren, is the total amorality of using industrial methods to do so.

Evacuation orders and train schedules synchronized to be 'just in time' for the furnaces being ready again and cleaned from the last round of burning corps - optimization of throughput in killing - that is unique.

As a German and even an industrial engineer, that is what really personally hits me right in the stomach. To me technology must carry a promise of moral use, of some progress for mankind's well being.

Designing a system for maximum throughput of killing people is outside of any otherwise compareable and equally despicable behavior.

That is the uniqueness, and guilt, of the Holocaust.

Posted by b on July 19, 2007 at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (223)

OT 07-50

Fresh news & views ...

Posted by b on July 19, 2007 at 02:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (99)

July 18, 2007

Senate Agrees to Stay in Iraq

The filibustering last night was simply a show stage by Senator Reid to appease the crowd.

Behind the stage setting and headlines, the Imperial Senate is united in its will to keep Iraq occupied until a pink pony appears on the Senate floor.

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed an amendment today to the Defense Authorization bill offered by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which puts every Senator on record acknowledging the consequences of a vote for or against a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq. [...]

  • The Cornyn amendment, in the form of a Sense of the Senate resolution, in part says, “A failed state in Iraq would become a safe haven for Islamic radicals, including al Qaida and Hezbollah, who are determined to attack the United States and United States’ allies.” Further, the resolution acknowledges, “The Iraq Study Group report found that a chaotic Iraq could provide a still stronger base of operations for terrorists who seek to act regionally or even globally.”
  • The Cornyn amendment concludes by stating that “the Senate should commit itself to a strategy that will not leave a failed state in Iraq; and the Senate should not pass legislation that will undermine our military’s ability to prevent a failed state in Iraq.

The amendment (pdf) was accepted by a vote on 94-3.

---

On another note: The former White House assistent and current occupation spokesman Gen. Bergner is recycling an old propaganda scheme: U.S. says top Al Qaeda in Iraq figure captured.

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.

"Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the Al Qaeda in Iraq network," Bergner said. He said Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu Ayub Masri, the Egyptian-born head of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Bergner said Mashhadani served as an intermediary between Masri and Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman Zawahri.

Remember my oldie on how to Make Your Own Iraq dispatch?

Posted by b on July 18, 2007 at 07:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

Russia's Terrorizing Market Prices

According to Simon Jenkins, asking for market prices is terrorism.

Russia will not lay aside oil and gas as weapons to terrorise former colonies on its western border, any more than the west is going to stop attacking Putin for suppressing free speech.
Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian

Let's consider this terror. In 2006 U.S. average wellhead prices for natural gas were about $275 per 1000 cubic meters.

The old price Ukraine paid was about 486% lower than Turkey paid Gazprom (Turkey pays $243 to Russia, $236 to Iran for gas).
Russia-Ukraine gas dispute

---

An hour after Gazprom threatened to cut off supplies, the firm announced that Tbilisi had agreed to pay $235 per 1,000 cubic metres, up from $110.
Georgia 'agrees Russia gas bill'

---

The deal more than doubles the amount Belarus will pay for Russian natural gas in 2007, and will raise it to European levels by 2011.
Belarus, Russia Sign Last-Minute Gas Deal

There you have it - Russia threatened Georgia, Belarus and the Ukraine by asking them to pay the market price for its natural gas. For Jenkins this is the equivalent of suicide-bombing in the London tube.

It is terrorizing.

Depicting these countries as 'former colonies' as Jenkins does is ahistoric. Ukraine has been in a union with Russia since the signing the Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654. Belarus was annexed by Imperial Russia in 1795. Before that it was not independent but under the rule of the Poland and Lithuania union. Georgia was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1800 which prevented it from being conquested by Persia.

Until the 1990s these countries were integral parts of the Russian Empire for hundreds of years. They never were colonies like those the British Empire exploited.

But Jenkins' tirade fits the current British propaganda theme about the nasty Russians who don't extradite their citizens based on flimsy accusations.

Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that Britain had been less successful than Russia in convincing its European partners of the merits of its case. "Quite a lot of people are convinced by the Russian argument that we lecture them about the rule of law and now we're asking them to overrule their own constitution," he said.

The rules of markets and constitutional laws - truely terrorizing.

Posted by b on July 18, 2007 at 06:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

July 17, 2007

No Time for Choice on a Iraq Retreat

Josh Marshall of TPM hase some thoughts on the U.S. retreat in Iraq [emph added]:

Perpetuating the slow-motion disaster that is the status quo is necessary to sustain our denial.
[...]
I know there are many people who are for immediate withdrawal. No delays. Out in a matter of months. But I don't think that's a majority position even among those who are strongly against the war. That is because the situation is so bad and so unpredictable that it is hard to make categorical decisions before we've even got the practice started. Speaking only for myself but I suspect speaking for many others as well, the key is that we start the process. The key is that we make a category decision that the US occupation of Iraq is more the problem than the solution.

Somehow Josh, like the majority, seems to be still in denial. There is no unpredictability, 'start of the process' and then slowgoing before making categorical decisions. It's in or out NOW.

There are some 160,000 U.S. soldiers and a whole bunch of mercenaries keeping this war going. All current part-withdrawl calls from the Democratic as well as the Republican side are aiming for some 'reduction of combat forces' - not for real total retreat. They all are bullshit.

One may be able to reduce troops in Iraq now from 160,000 back to 130,000 without much strategic change by stopping to interfere with the ongoing ethnic clensing at the local level of this or that Iraqi province. But below that count, it will get continuously harder to keep up any base in Iraq. There is a long and endangered supply line that feeds these bases and it needs 24/7 coverage by lots of combat forces to stay open.

Below 130,000 troops in the country, or maybe below 110,000 - the exact point is debatable - the overall position is untenable. The number of troops needed to secure the replenishment of resident troops will succeed these manifold. There comes a point where one needs a brigade of combat roops or two or three to allow for delivery of a single sheet of toilet paper, or a gallon of water, for one platoon outpost somewhere in the Anbar desert.

Any call for retreat of all combat forces while at the same time pretending to hold on to some superbases that do need supply delivered by ground traffic is illusionary. An 'endgame' with just one big base in the Kurdish northern Iraq is equally lunatic as this sets up the U.S. as a Kurdish backup force against Turkey on which roads the U.S. supplies for that base would depend.

It's all or nothing. Nothing is certainly a bad option for the Washington cocktail party consent, but it's the best option available.

General Pace is preparing the public for a troop increase. But with the current recruiting problems and rank attrition there is no hope that any meaningful increase can be sustained long enough to gain anything. Indeed any increase would only be possible by increasing deployment time. The original schedule at the start of the war was one year of deployment and two at home. The new one would be 18 months combat and less than 12 months home with the next deployment already marked on the calendar. Only psychopath will sign that contract line.

Starting the retreat process now, as Josh recommends, without recognizing the inevitable fast flight under fire that will immediately and inevitably follow, is still denial.

The situation is NOT unpredictable. For the U.S. there is only a binary decision left. Get out now and do so fast, or prolong the stay and pay an very, very high material and human price.

All the base equipment, wide LCD TV's and air conditioners or whatever was supplied by ten-thousands of trucks during the last years will be not be recoverable anyway.  Every convoy leaving the country will be attacked  more furiously than any convoy coming in today.

This is inevitable. There is no categorical decision to be avoided anymore. It's now and bad or later and worse. Get a grip on that and tell the people.

Posted by b on July 17, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

Two Simple Questions about the NIE

Five years and ten month ago the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. Conventional wisdom claims that a group named al-Qa'ida conducted these crimes.

Today a new National Intelligence Estimate Report says:

Al-Qa'ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist thread to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots

Question: Why does this organisation and its central leadership still exist?

.. we assess that al-Qa'ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland ...

Question: AQI didn't exist on 9/11/2001. What did create AQI?

Bonus question: Why is "Homeland" written with a capital "H"?

Posted by b on July 17, 2007 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

July 16, 2007

Why Don't They Impeach?

Let me recommend to you to watch the Bill Moyers' discussion on impeachment with conservative constitutional lawyer Burce Fein and the liberal writer John Nichols. Both are for it, as is a majority of the U.S. people.

Within the discussion one issue comes up that I truely do not understand.

Without impeachment of Cheney and Bush, the presidency as an institution will have gained some huge new tools in the "presidential toolbox". If Cheney and Bush are not challenged on the rights they have asserted over Congress, these powers will be inherited by the next presidency.

Why do Republicans feel confident that a new President Clinton, Obama or Gore would not use these powers against them? What if a Democratic persident insists on illegal spying on Republicans? What if s/he picks Republican senators off the streets for aiding the terrorists and throws them into some dungeon to be tortured and forgotton? What if s/he abuses the Justice Department to manipulate elections to install a permanent Democratic majority?

Any Republican senator must have those thoughts and fear that possibility. Why aren't they screaming for impeachment? It is beyond me and I currently can only think of one reason.

Rick Santorum recently said:

"Between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public’s going to have a very different view of this war, and it will be because, I think, of some unfortunate events, that like we’re seeing unfold in the UK.

Why is he so sure on these dates and what may happen or not? Is a "fix" in?

On the other side, why is it that Democrats do not use all means to legislate whatever they want and to impeach. Why are they afraid to force confrontation when the only thing the Republicans understand is fear or force?

Chomsky says both parties are to the right of where the people of the U.S. actually are. I am certain that is so with regard of foreign policy. The Imperial Senate certainly agrees on another war of agression.

But why don't Democrats in Congress try to regain some powers? Trusting a likely Democratic future President to actually give powers back to Congress is delusional. They should legislate some interior issue now and show some backbone on it. Force the Republicans into a physical filibuster and overrule Bush's veto on some popular cause. Force supoenas to be followed.

What are they waiting for?

Posted by b on July 16, 2007 at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

July 15, 2007

OT 07-49

Fresh open thread ... your comments of/on news & views ...

Posted by b on July 15, 2007 at 01:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (110)

July 14, 2007

The Nation's Piece on War

If you haven't read it yet, this is your weekend assignment:

Over the past several months The Nation has interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. [These combat veterans] described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.

One author of the piece also has an OpEd in today's LA Times:

We need to muster the moral courage to face the reality of the war. To wallow in a myth that trumpets our goodness, denies our irresponsible rules of engagement and demonizes those who oppose us will leave us unable to end the occupation and begin the long, slow process of reconciliation.

An assortment of quotes from the (long) Nation report below the fold:

"I guess while I was there, the general attitude was, A dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi"

"And this baby looked at me, wasn't crying, wasn't anything, it just looked at me like--I know she couldn't speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?..."

".. they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, 'cause it's doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. And he didn't--mother­fucker--he shot it and it went in the jaw and exited out."

One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

"So you've just humiliated this man in front of his entire family and terrorized his entire family and you've destroyed his home. And then you go right next door and you do the same thing in a hundred homes."

"I just remember thinking to myself, I just brought terror to someone else under the American flag, ..."

"It was just soldiers being soldiers ..."

"The Geneva Conventions don't exist at all in Iraq, and that's in writing if you want to see it."

"Life is just knocked down to this primal level."

"It becomes this racialized hatred towards Iraqis." [...] "By calling them names," he said, "they're not people anymore. They're just objects."

"Well, one of the bullets happened to just pierce the windshield and went straight into the face of this woman in the car."

"We're using these vulnerable, vulnerable convoys, which probably piss off more Iraqis than it actually helps in our relationship with them," Flanders said, "just so that we can have comfort and air-conditioning and sodas--great--and PlayStations and camping chairs and greeting cards and stupid T-shirts that say, Who's Your Baghdaddy?"

While many veterans said the killing of civilians deeply disturbed them, they also said there was no other way to safely operate a patrol.

The killing of unarmed Iraqis was so common many of the troops said it became an accepted part of the daily landscape.

".. the mentality of my squad leader was like, Oh, we have to kill them over here so I don't have to kill them back in Colorado"

"I mean, I guess I have a moral obligation to say something, but I would have been kicked out of the unit in a heartbeat. I would've been a traitor."

.. veterans said fear often clouded their judgment

"It killed the mother, a father and two kids. The boy was aged 4 and the daughter was aged 3."

"And this colonel turns around to this full division staff and says, 'If these fucking hajis learned to drive, this shit wouldn't happen.'"

"Someone could look at me the wrong way and I could claim my safety was in threat."

"I even specifically remember being told that it was better to kill them than to have somebody wounded and still alive."

"The guys got spooked and decided it was a possible threat, so they shot up the car."

"It's not individual atrocity. It's the fact that the entire war is an atrocity."

"I just--I started thinking, like, Why? What was this for?"

"Instead of blaming your own command for putting you there in that situation, you start blaming the Iraqi people...."

"The only thing that wound up mattering is myself and the guys that I was with. And everybody else be damned."

Read it and talk about it ...

Posted by b on July 14, 2007 at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Annals of Biased Reporting - The Guardian on Berezovsky

The Guardian writes about an official Brazilian request to Britain to extradite the Russian billionaire Berezovsky on money laundering charges. The billionaire, who made his fortune by likely illegal means during the corrupt rule of Boris Yeltsin, is also wanted by Russia for embezzling and for attempting to plot a coup.

In today's report the Guardian writer includes this tiny gem:

The tycoon also faces potential prosecution in Russia over alleged calls for the government's overthrow, stemming from an interview he gave earlier this year to the Guardian.

"Mr. Berezovsky's alleged calls for the government's overthrow" - hmmm.

A dictionary defines alleged as:

Represented as existing or as being as described but not so proved; supposed.

Let's look at the record, the interview Mr. Berezovsky gave to the Guardian on April 13:

"We need to use force to change this regime," he said. "It isn't possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure." Asked if he was effectively fomenting a revolution, he said: "You are absolutely correct."
[...]
"There is no chance of regime change through democratic elections," he says. "If one part of the political elite disagrees with another part of the political elite - that is the only way in Russia to change the regime. I try to move that."

There is an audio clip available that includes the above words right out of Berezovsky's mouth.

In light of the record, why does the writer characterize Berezovsky's "calls for the government's overthrow" as only "alleged"?

Posted by b on July 14, 2007 at 04:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

July 13, 2007

NYT's Sneaky Pro-Bush Headline

Josh Marshall points to some up-is-down press coverage of the Republicans filibustering in the Senate.

Yesterday the NY Times had this headline and piece:

Senate Narrowly Backs Bush in Rejecting Debate on Increasing Time Between Deployments

... The proposal died when the Senate voted 56 to 41 against moving to a vote, four short under the Senate’s rules.

Unlike the NYT headline suggests, the Senate voted not for Bush, but 56-41 against Bush. The Senate also did not vote against moving to a vote. The Senate did vote 56-41 for cloture, i.e moving to a final vote, but this was insufficient as 60 votes were needed.

Back in 2005 the Democrats were the Senate minority. When they filibustered the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador the NYT titled:

Democrats Block a Vote on Bolton for the Second Time

For the second time in a month, Senate Democrats blocked a vote on Monday ... The final tally was 54 to 38, six votes short of the 60 required to break a filibuster, ...

Instead of:

"Senate Narrowly Backs Bush in Rejecting Debate on Increasing Time Between Deployments"

a correct headline would have been:

"Republicans Block a Vote for Increasing Time Between Deployments"

You might think the difference is not important. But as anyone in the news business will confirm, headlines are extremely important for what the readers will remember.

The NYT is practicing sneaky pro-Bush propaganda here.

Posted by b on July 13, 2007 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Sales Tax Question

While I have been around the block a few times, this business model is new to me.

State Rep. Bob Allen (R), Florida, is co-chair of the dying McCain campaign. Via TPM a snippet from an arrest report where a plain-cloth police officer notes:

"Allen engaged me in a conversation in which it was agreed that he would pay me $20.00 in order to perform a 'blow job' on me."

So the customer is paid for receiving the service?  Well, there are all kinds of dumb business ideas.

But which side pays the sales tax attached to such a transaction?

Posted by b on July 13, 2007 at 07:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

July 12, 2007

Destroying Nahr al-Bared

The Lebanese Army is currently (again) trying to storm the Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon:

Security and political sources said on Wednesday the army, concerned about being sucked into a war of attrition, had decided to mount an all-out assault on the camp to root out the militants, who have defied demands that they surrender.

Witnesses said the army was bombarding the camp from all sides, often at a rate of 7 to 10 artillery shells per minute.

The conflict over Nahr al-Bared started over eight weeks ago. Nearly all of the camp's regular Palestianian inhabitants have fled from it since the conflict started. The Lebanese army is fighting a group of only one or two hundred foreigners.

According to Seymour Hersh, this Salafi group was part of a Saudi/Hariri plan. Later there were reports how the group got fired when those plans were allegedly aborted.

The Pakistani military recently solved a nearly similar stand off, within a few days. It was bloody, but there was not all out destruction. The Lebanese army is shelling Nahr al-Barad for eight weeks now. Sometimes a few shells per day, sometimes with very intense fire.

Why does it take the Lebanese army nearly nine weeks and lots of devastating heavy weapon useage to flush out a few hundred fighters?

Let me consinder an answer:

Back in May, I wrote about Nahr al-Bared and a new U.S. Air Base. The short version:

  • The Palestinian refugee camp Nahr al-Bared lies right next to the road that connects the harbour city of Tripoli some 8 miles south to the currently unused Rene Mouawad Air Base 7 miles north of it.
  • There are rumors that the U.S. is interested in using the air base for its own purposes. The major logistics for the base would come through the Tripoli port.
  • A Palestinian camp with some 45,000 frustrated and mostly young and poor people right on top of that 'line of communication' would be a substantial risk to such a base.

Those were my thoughs back in May. We don't know what the Saudi/Hariri plans really were about. But we do know that as a result of the plans and prolonged fighting the camp is now destroyed.

For lack of resources it is unlikely that Palestinian refugees will ever be able to rebuild it.

Posted by b on July 12, 2007 at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

July 11, 2007

Caption Contest

President Bush, second from right, White House Correspondents Association President Steve Scully, right, first lady Laura Bush, second from left, and White House spokesman Tony Snow, left, take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, Wednesday, July 11, 2007, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

A refurbished press room at the White House.  An opening ceremony without any answers to questions by the press. Fake Roman columns, a White House Correspondents Association President eager to help Bush ... and there is even more room for interpretation ...

What's your caption and what's the message of this?

Posted by b on July 11, 2007 at 03:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

Annals of Tolerance

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) told the High Court of Justice that it was prepared to allow construction of the Museum of Tolerance on the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem's Mamila area, although an important archaeologist had determined that the excavation was far from complete.
IAA approves of building museum on ancient Muslim cemetery

The cementary was in use until at least 1948. It was stolen from its legal owners who fled from war or were kicked out of their homes in 1948. Israel has a unique absentees' property law that allows to confiscates land owned by people currently not in Israel. Since 2004 the law is used to acquire land in east Jerusalem which Israel occupies since 1967.

Understandably, the Muslim community in Jerusalem is offended:

Ikrema Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem, demanded a halt to the excavations and said the Muslim religious authorities had not been consulted on the dig. Saying that the cemetery was in use for 15 centuries and that friends of the Prophet Mohamed were buried there, the Mufti declared: "There should be a complete cessation of work on the cemetery because it is sacred for Muslims."

Under Israel's "absentee property" law the cemetery was taken over by the Custodian of Absentee Property after the 1948 war. Mr Saif said the Custodian had no right to sell the cemetery to the Jerusalem municipality in 1992.

The Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance is financed by the Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center which describes itself as a "Jewish human rights organization dedicated to repairing the world one step at a time." In Los Angeles the Center has its central Museum of Tolerance which "challenges visitors to confront bigotry and racism."

Posted by b on July 11, 2007 at 08:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

July 10, 2007

OT 07-48

News & views ...

Of course you have some so let us discuss them ...

Posted by b on July 10, 2007 at 03:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

Ominous Signs of War

The Vineyard Saker has a very thoughtful analysis of political/military options in a USrael attack on Iran: Iran's asymmetrical response options. He concludes:

In any scenario, time would always be on the Iranian side while the Empire would very rapidly run out of options to try force an acceptable outcome.

This lack of a viable “exit strategy” would rapidly force the time-pressed Imperial High Command to consider the use of nuclear weapons to avoid getting bogged down in a rapidly worsening situation. Any actual use of nuclear weapons would result into a general collapse of the entire Neocon empire of a magnitude similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In other words, there are no possible winning strategies for an Imperial aggression against Iran.

Dispite the last sentence, the author believes that the attack on Iran is coming and probably soon. The neocon crazies who run the show in USrael are just that - crazy.

There are ominous signs that something immediate is up.

On Sunday Secretary of Defense Gates canceled his long planed visit to four South American countries. The official reason was to help script the presidential report to Congress on the Iraq situation due on Sunday.

I do not believe for a minute that such a report is reason enough for Gates to stay in Washington.
Gates was put into the Defense job by pressure of the powers behind the Baker/Hamilton report. His job is to prevent any further stupidities by Cheney and the crazy gang of neocons.

Israel is running huge training maneuvers on the Golan Heights. Pat Lang thinks:

They are preparing for a drive into Syria across the Golan heights, a "decisive" battle with the Syrians between there and Damascus and then a left "hook" into Lebanon to execute a "turning movement" against Hizbullah.

This would certainly coincident with an attack on Iran.

Syria has asked all Syrians in Lebanon to come home immediately.

The Arab League chief was in Syria yesterday. Officially the League is trying to mediate on Lebanon. More likely it wants to stop another war. In a historic breakthrough a high level Arab League delegation was supposed to meet Prime Minister Olmert in Israel today. But just an hour ago Israel moved the session to July 25 due to some "special considerations".

The air-craft carrier Enterprise left Norfolk and is heading to the Middle East.

In a major sideshow Turkey has 140,000 troops ready to invade North Iraq.

On the propaganda side the neocon Jerusalem Post today headlines: ''Time running out for Iran strike'. Expect the Israeli Congress members Lieberman and Lantos to repeat that line over and over. 

Yesterday the Washington Post ran a very speculative piece, including a picture, on page A01 enforcing the "nuclear Iran" meme: Tunneling Near Iranian Nuclear Site Stirs Worry. A fact driven piece, without a picture, that counters that meme was today buried on page A12: Slowdown Seen in Iran's Nuclear Program.

Just about any event, Gleiwitz or Tonkin Gulf like, or a real one, can start a multi-front, multi-party war in the Middle East. 

That event could happen tomorrow, or in a few weeks. But it certainly feels like it will be soon.

Nobody will win anything in this war. But that argument will not prevent it from happening.

Posted by b on July 10, 2007 at 07:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (140)

Feeding the Inmates By Conveyor Belts

Gaza_crossingLooking at the map on the left one can tell that Gaza has borders with Israel on the North and East and with Egypt on the South. To the West lies the Mediterranean Sea controlled by Israel.

But as the NYT would have you believe, the borders of Gaza are actually contolled by Abbas' Fatah.

The Karni crossing, build to allow truck traffic between Israel and Gaza has been closed for a while and parts are said to be destroyed.

Israel currently allows only 70% of food that is at minimum needed to feed the 1.5 million people in Gaza to pass the boarder. This has been even down to 20% on some days. In Gaza milk powder, baby milk and vegetable oil are in short supply.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt is closed too. The European monitoring staff that is supposed to monitor the crossing has been retracted. (The staff was forced to live in Israel and never could move without Israeli approval anyway.) There are some 6,000 Palestinians sitting in the desert on the Egyptian side of that crossing who are now waiting for over a week to get back into Gaza. Israel wants them to pass through Kerem Shalom under Israeli control.

From all the above, which misses some details, one would think that there is problem between  Israel and the people in Gaza. One would think that Israel is in control of the border crossings. But somehow this NYT article does not really tell you that. The problem is not between the Palestinian Hamas government in Gaza and Israel, but between Hamas and the Fatah "emergency government" in the West Bank.

Consider the very first paragraph:

In the month since Hamas took over Gaza, the 1.5 million Palestinians there have become more cut off than ever, supplies and jobs slipping away as its rival, Fatah, backed by Israel and the West, presses Hamas.

You see, it is Fatah pressing Hamas. Israel and the West are only backing up.

The anti-Hamas camp of Fatah, Israel and the West is grappling with a problem: While opening Karni and another crossing at Rafah could help revive the expiring economy of Gaza, it could also help strengthen Hamas, which Western governments consider a terrorist group, and its chances of success.

Again, it is Fatah taking the lead here ... Fatah is definitly responsible for this closure.

“We need to differentiate between punishing the people of Gaza and weakening Hamas,” said Nimr Hamad, an adviser to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah. “We don’t want the people to suffer.”

But when it comes to practical solutions for reopening Karni, Mr. Hamad refers the problem back to Israel.

Now isn't that guy an asshole. How can he refer this back to Israel when it is Fatah that is responsible? Sounds like he is just shifting the blame here.

Some Israeli officials and Western diplomats say they believe Fatah is keeping Karni shut to squeeze Hamas — just as Egypt has agreed with Israel to keep closed the Rafah crossing, used for people, to limit movement of individuals and money.

Haven't we recently learned through the pages of the New York Times that Fatah lost all power in Gaza? How then can Fatah hinder the opening of the Karni crossing?

The whole article is an Orwellian up-is-down experience. According to it, this is just an internal fight between Hamas and Fatah. Fatah has closed the borders to Gaza. Everybody else, especially Israel, are reluctant bystanders.

Nowhere does the piece mention Israels legal and moral obligation as occupier to care for the occupied it imprisons in Gaza. Oh sorry, Israel does care. It still allows some water and electricity into Gaza. And there is even a hole in the prison wall through which some bread is fed to the inmates.

A huge conveyor belt has been adapted at Karni to send wheat into Gaza, without the need for elaborate security measures because it passes straight through a hole in a wall from the Israeli side into Gaza.

Ain't that nice?

Posted by b on July 10, 2007 at 02:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

July 09, 2007

When People Die, "We're winning"

While being totally against the U.S. war on Iraq, I still feel some empathy for the troops being send there. Having been a soldier myself, it is painful to see them wasted for no cause. It is outrages to see some hurt because they are led by fundamentalist officers.

In today's Washington Post, David Finkel writes about such a case:

Everything in the Army is supposed to have a task and a purpose, and this simple mission was no different. The task was to get 27 soldiers from Point A to Point B, from their neighborhood combat outpost to an Army base four miles away. The purpose was to attend a memorial service for one of their fellow soldiers, who had died eight days earlier while attempting to make the very same trip.

The platoon is supposed to do counter-insurgency work by caring for the security of Iraqi civilians. But it is ordered  to take a dangerous trip to attend a memorial service.

Who is behind this?

On the early morning trip from A to B that platoon gets ambushed and hit by two IED's, RPG and gun fire. With helicopter support, they fight it off and escape. After two hours of mixed walking, driving and fighting they somehow all make it to the base camp with only minor injuries. In the evening of that day, they hold the memorial service.

Their mission had been a success.

Which meant that soon they would be on their next one: getting from Point B back to Point A.

The platoon and its company commander waste a whole day and make two very dangerous trips to remember someone who will not come back anyway. Who might have ordered such a stupid mission?

Earlier in the piece the reporter explains the dangerous surrounding and gives us a hint:

One explanation for such a surge in attacks: "We're winning. They wouldn't be fighting if we weren't winning. They wouldn't have a reason to," said Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, the battalion commander. "It's a measure of effectiveness."

That is of course a braindead statement in itself. But it is not surprising as  Lt. Col. Kauzlarich has a record of being an kool-aid filled outer wingnut fundamentalist.

Three years ago he was involved in the coverup of the fractice that killed former football professional Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.

As ESPN reported:

Kauzlarich, now 40, was the Ranger regiment executive officer in Afghanistan, who played a role in writing the recommendation for Tillman's posthumous Silver Star. And finally, with his fingerprints already all over many of the hot-button issues, including the question of who ordered the platoon to be split as it dragged a disabled Humvee through the mountains, Kauzlarich conducted the first official Army investigation into Tillman's death.
[...]
In his interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich also said he was not driven to identify Tillman's killer. "You know what? I don't think it really matters," Kauzlarich said.

Tillman was just another soldier under his command. It doesn't really matter to Kauzlarich how that guy died.

Asked about the grief of Pat Tillman's parents:

Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family's unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.

In an interview with ESPN.com, Kauzlarich said: "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."

But for a Christian nut like Kauzlarich, risking the soldiers life by ordering them to take part in a memorial service while neglecting their basic task is obviously fine.

Why should he care? He just knows that any of those who get blown up and die achieve a better life. Isn't that reason enough to die for?

Kauzlarich makes sure his soldiers get a good chance to reach that state of better life by taking on a dangerous mission that doesn't make sense at all.

Because if they die, it only shows that "We're winning."

Posted by b on July 9, 2007 at 06:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

July 08, 2007

Nathan Sharansky - Lying with Statistics

In a Washington Post OpEd arch-zionist, likudnik, human rights promoter and GWB favorite Natan Sharansky is urging against a U.S. pullout:  Leave Iraq and Brace for a Bigger Bloodbath.

In doing so, Sharansky manipulates results to questions asked in a poll he cites, while ignoring questions and answers that do not support his opinion.

His central line of argument is that life in Iraq was bad under Saddam, is not so bad now and would be much worse if the U.S. occupiers leave.

A precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces could lead to a bloodbath that would make the current carnage pale by comparison.

To furthers his arguments he cites some poll numbers:

In a face-to-face national poll of 5,019 people conducted this spring by Opinion Research Business, a British market-research firm, only 27 percent of Iraqis said they believed that "that their country is actually in a state of civil war," and by nearly 2 to 1 (49 percent to 26 percent), the Iraqis surveyed said they preferred life under their new government to life under the old tyranny.

Let's set aside that veteran British journalist Simon Jenkins called it a Halliburton Poll and let's use the poll's actual final numbers (pdf).

Sharansky's first "only 27 percent" number on "civil war" is obviously taken from question 4 of the poll:

Q4: Which of the following comes closest to your own opinion about the state of Iraq at the moment?

Unlike what Sharanksy tries to make his readers assume, "only 27 percent", poll participents could select not between two, but between four possible answers to that question or even abstain. This is what they really said (page 10 table 4):

27% - Iraq is in a state of civil war
22% - Iraq is close to a state of civil war but not in one yet
18% - Iraq is still some way from civil war
21% - I don't think Iraq will ever get as far as civil war
rest - Don't know/Refused/No answer

Technically Sharansky is correct to say:

only 27 percent of Iraqis said they believed that "that their country is actually in a state of civil war"

But does that reflect the actual answers?

If one culminates the answers by modifying the question into a yes/no-one like, for example: "Is Iraq currently more likely in a civil war than not?" 56% of all who did answer the question would have tended to the "more likely" side and 44% to the "than not". That is a tiny bit different from Sharansky's "only 27 percent".

The second data point Sharansky cites is about preference of the "new government" versus the old one. This reflects question 8 of the poll:

Q8: Taking everything into account, do you feel that things are better for you now under the present political system or do you think thinks were better for you before under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein?

First note that the question is different form what Sharansky implies:

by nearly 2 to 1 (49 percent to 26 percent), the Iraqis surveyed said they preferred life under their new government to life under the old tyranny

Some people may feel "things are better" under system A still may prefer system B and vice versa. In that, Sharansky is obfuscating. Now look at the actual answers. Again, unlike what Sharansky implies, this was not a yes or no question:

49% - Better under the current system
26% - Better under the previous regime
16% - Neither, they are just as bad as each other
rest  - Don't know/Refused/No answer

Of those who gave a definite answer 53% think things are better while 46% think things are equal or worse. That is a significant difference but is that a "nearly 2 to 1" margin? And if the survey had also covered the 2 million Iraqis who fled from their country, (it did not,) would that result not be more likely 50-50 than "2 to 1"?

While manipulating some answers to the survey's questions, Sharansky selects to totally ignore  questions/answers that oppose his opinion. In defense of his argumentation and in a sidekick to Amnesty International he says:

By consistently ignoring the fundamental moral divide that separates societies in which people are slaves from societies in which people are free, some human rights groups undermine the very cause they claim to champion.

As you will see that statement is very fitting for the human rights activist Nathan Sharansky himself (btw: if you wonder about those italics look here or here)

The Iraqis, which Sharansky wants to save from being slaves, do not agree at all with the theme of his column, the prediction of a "bloodbath" without an occupation. In the very poll he uses to argument his case question 2 asks:

Q2: [T]hinking ahead, do you believe that the security situation in Iraq will get better or worse in the immediate weeks following a withdrawal of Multi National Forces?

The answers (page 4 table 2):

29% - A great deal better
24% - A little better
15% - A little worse
11% - A great deal worse
6% - Stay the same
rest - Don't know/Refused/No answer

More than 2 to 1 (59 percent to 26 percent) of the Iraqis surveyed say that the security situation will be better or the same without the occupation troops. Only 11% think it will be a great deal  worse (yes, I'm using his tools here.)

If Sharansky really wants the Iraqis to be free, instead of occupation slaves, why does he ignore their opinion and argues the opposite of what they say?

Well, as he, in lack of any self conscience, explains:

some human rights groups undermine the very cause they claim to champion.

Posted by b on July 8, 2007 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

What Could, And Should, Have Occurred

by Parviz

Note by Bernhard:
Parviz characterized her/himself in a previous comment: "Hello, I'm an Iranian living in Iran [...] I am fiercely anti-Mullah [...] I operate under a pseudonym and with a real but totally misleading email address, for obvious reasons."
Links below were added by Bernhard.

America had a historic opportunity, following the Iranian regime's considerable assistance in defeating the Taliban in Oct/Nov. 2001, not just to gain (because it already had it following 9/11) but to maintain global sympathy and establish unprecedented credibility even in the Muslim world, namely, by sending the 100,000+ troops to assist their overstretched colleagues in Afghanistan. This would have hit the bases of those people responsible for 9/11 and would have deprived the Taliban and Al Qaeda of the literally $$$ billion in funds resulting from America's botched planning that increased Afghan opium production by 4000 % (U.N.F.A.O. data). The results of proper policy and planning would have been as follows:

  1. By NOT invading an imaginary enemy 3000 km West of the real enemy, America would have removed the rallying cry for all 1 billion+ Muslims world wide, namely, that America used 9/11 as a God-given excuse to expand its military bases in the Middle East, partition one of Israel's major potential threats and control the region's oil supplies.
  2. By instigating a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, at a FRACTION of the physical and financial cost needed to destroy Iraq, America would have proved that its invasion was truly about spreading democracy, would have established alternative (non-opium) sources of income for the Afghan warlords and would have turned its ally Karzai into a democratic, national hero with full support of the masses. This would have brought greater pressure to bear on Iran than the misguided invasion of Iraq.
  3. Oil prices would have remained in a range of $ 20-$30, depriving Iran's domestically unpopular regime of the financial windfalls available both to retain power at home and spread its influence abroad.
  4. The Iranian reformists would have gained added momentum and strengthened President Khatemi whose efforts were undercut precisely by America's insane policies: Following America's rejection of Spiritual Leader Khamenei's comprehensive peace overture in May 2003 (confirmed by the entire U.S. intelligence community -- See Flynt Leverett Op-Ed titled "The Gulf Between Us") Khatemi became a lame-duck reformist for his final 2 years: Khamenei was finally forced to listen to the Radicals (Baseejis, Revolutionary Guards) who had been claiming all along that America would accept nothing less than total regime change. Result? Iran said "No more Mister Nice Guy" and manipulated the 2005 presidential election in Ahmadinejad's favour so as to bare the nation's teeth and fangs.
  5. By consolidating Afghanistan and controlling the border with Pakistan, America would have been able to lend greater assistance to President Musharraf in controlling and eventually eradicating the Pakistan cells which had created the Taliban, facilitated 9/11 and participated in the Madrid and multiple U.K. bombings. (The greatest danger to world peace is Pakistan as represented by its fanatical Madresehs and Pakistani armed forces who both hate America and already possess the nuclear weapons needed to cause unimaginable global chaos). But who can blame Musharraf for playing both sides of the field (see this week's excellent CNN report by Nic Robertson titled "Pakistan: The Threat Within"), when the U.S. focussed 90 % of its efforts on Iraq and ignored the real terrorists entirely?

This was all predictable. One of the most shocking scenes I personally witnessed was John Kerry reading excerpts from Dr. Vali Nasr's book to the new Democratic majority in the Senate, explaining to them for half an hour the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, describing the in-bred hatred between the two sects, particularly in Iraq! One would have thought that the U.S. Government would have read the book BEFORE invading Iraq, not 4 years later!!!

Posted by b on July 8, 2007 at 06:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

July 07, 2007

Toothache Sucks ..

My curse upon your venom'd stang,
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang,
And thro' my lugs gies mony a twang,
Wi' gnawing vengeance;
Tearing my nerves wi' bitter pang,
Like racking engines!
[...]
Where'er that place be priests ca' hell,
Whence a' the tones o' mis'ry yell,
And rankèd plagues their numbers tell,
In dreadfu' raw,
Thou. Toothache, surely bear'st the bell
Amang them a'!

Robert Burns
Address To The Toothache

Posted by b on July 7, 2007 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

July 06, 2007

Open Thread

News & views ...

(We live off comments here so please leave some ...)

Posted by b on July 6, 2007 at 04:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (81)

The Change in World-Wide Perception of U.S. Behavior

(Updated below)

Citing worldwide polls of public opinion, Glenn Greenwald writes about The tragic collapse of America's standing in the world.

While I believe that this is chiefly a result of a media and communication revolution, Glenn traces the serious decline of U.S reputation since 1999/2000 back to U.S. behavior (emph.add.):

The collapse of America's moral standing in the world -- the intense and widespread contempt in which we are held -- is, without question, a direct by-product of our behavior over the last six years.

In an update he adds:

In comments, Che Pasa, echoing the objections of several other commenters, argues that this post conflates two logically distinct issues -- how America is perceived in the world versus what America, in fact, is. Thus, he argues, simply because America was liked and respected around the world prior to the Bush administration does not negate the claim that America has been a net force for Evil, since public opinion may simply have been wrong.

Glenn does not buy this:

[W]hat is indisputably true is that world opinion regarding America has profoundly shifted -- for the worse -- since 2000. The question, then, is why has that happened? My answer is the simplest and most obvious one (which does not mean it is right): namely, public opinion of America has fundamentally changed over the last six years because our behavior in the world, our national character and our defining values have fundamentally changed.

I agree that the behavior of the U.S. in the world has deteriorated under Bush. But that change is not fundamental.

There is an even simpler answer for the crash of world public opinion about the U.S.: The revolution in information distribution through worldwide TV news and the Internet.

Before the late 1990s, access to international media and alternative views was difficult to get anywhere in the world. In my homecountry one could walk to major railway stations and buy a decent collection of international papers, or one could listen to BBC and a few other international views on the radio.

But now there are BBC, CNN, AlJazeera, Euronews, Arte and others on the regular cable TV. With a cheap satellite dish hundreds of international TV stations are available 24/7. Instead of a few expensive international papers from the international press kiosk, there now is instant access to hundreds of regular news-media on the web. 

A billion people now have cheap and simple access to terrabytes of original data, making it much easier to verify the truthiness of what the news-media are disseminating. Millions of blogs add  immediate commentary and analysis.

I agree with Glenn's commentator Che Pasa. The behaviour of the U.S. has not changed that much. What has changed is the perception of this behavior. This because of new unfiltered and cheap access to information.

Wars of aggression have been fought by the U.S. for decades. A few days ago James Caroll wrote a recommendable piece about US intelligence agencies after World War II in the Boston Globe:

In Iraq, they have run the gamut from pre war falsification of weapons data to surveillance of American citizens to kidnapping to torture of prisoners. During the Cold War, it was "black operations" that included staging coups, assassinating foreign leaders, infiltrating American organizations, conspiring with Mafia groups, spying on journalists -- perhaps even murder.

The atrocities of the war on Vietnam are not different from those in the war on Iraq. But while the facts of the massacre of My Lai took years to leak into some world knowledge, the pictures of torture at Abu Ghraib were seen by hundreds of millions within a few hours.

Colin Powell's presentation before the U.N. Security Council was broadcasted live worldwide, as were the facts proving that it contained nothing but a bunch of lies.

For the U.S. to go back to political behaviour "before Bush" would therefore not help to change the world wide public opinion. Over decades the U.S. has eliminated one or the other South-American leader without much worldwide public noise. But the U.S. supported coup attempt against Chavez in Venezuela in 2002 was transmitted live. The documentary about it has been broadcasted worldwide and downloaded over and over.

While, as Glenn assumes, Bush's political behaviour is certainly a part of a declining U.S. reputation, the much faster and wider distribution of knowledge about such behaviour is, in my view, playing an even bigger role.

To regain world wide reputation, the U.S. will therefore have to make an even deeper correction of its behavior than Glenn assumes. Bombing of pharmaceutical factories in Sudan like Clinton did will not regain the U.S. any good reputation. To publicly reject its inherent urge to imperialism would be a good start.

UPDATE

Citing some of the above, Glenn responds:

This is precisely the viewpoint I was describing, critiquing and refuting. Bernhard's attempt to explain how it can be that worldwide perceptions of the U.S. have changed drastically since 2000 if our behavior is fundamentally the same is, in my view, completely unconvincing.

This explanation (which was echoed by several commenters and e-mailers yesterday) ascribes an ignorance to people around the world that is more fictitious than anything else. The pre-Internet era was not the Dark Ages. ...

The times before Gutenberg also knew sunshine. But the arrival of the printing press certainly changed the fabric of the society. Without it, the Renaissance and the Reformation would not have happened. 

With the arrival of the Interent the costs of consuming information has decreased by several orders of magnitude.

This morning, for the price of one copy of my local monopolistic rightwing fishwrap, I skimmed through some ten major papers from five different countries on three continents. By noon I had added a dozen blog posts and alternative magazine pieces.

Some 1,154,358,778 worldwide Internet users have the ability to do the same. Most of course don't use the net with such an intensity, but the opinion leaders do and others use their access to check at least on major issues.

Of course this has changed the worldwide information level about and the perception of U.S. politics.

Why that is considered to be a "completely unconvincing" argument is beyond me.

Posted by b on July 6, 2007 at 03:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (78)

July 05, 2007

The Coming War On Syria

Pat Lang comments on a WaPo editorial about an alleged military build up by Hizbullah in Lebanon:

What are the Israelis doing?  They are preparing for a drive into Syria across the Golan heights, a "decisive" battle with the Syrians between there and Damascus and then a left "hook" into Lebanon to execute a "turning movement" against Hizbullah.

Preparing the information battlefield for Israel's coming attack are two editorials today in major U.S. newspapers. Both, of course, blame Syria. Both, the Washington Post and the LA Times, take a recent U.N. report by the U.N. Secretary General to the Security Council as a main point.

The U.N. report, the editorials say, alleges weapon smuggling via Syria to Hizbullah. But one wonders why that report is not linked and is also not made public on the U.N. website. Maybe because it is a bit fishy? Or because it also includes these Israeli misdeeds?

UNIFIL has reported a significant increase in Israeli air violations, through jet and unmanned aerial vehicle overflights of Lebanese territory. These violations occur on an almost daily basis frequently numbering between 15 and 20, and have even reached 32 overflights in a single day.

The alleged massive weapon smuggling is characterized by the Washington Post in the editorial's subtitle as:

"Heavy weapons flow freely across the border from Syria, the U.N. Security Council is told."

As you will see, that is a deliberate half-truth. This is what the U.N. Secretary General's report says:

[T]he LAF and UNIFIL did not detect any illegal transfers of arms south of the Litani River.
...
The Government of Israel continues to claim that Hizbullah is rebuilding its military capacity primarily north but also south of the Litani River. UNIFIL, in collaboration with the LAF, stands ready to immediately investigate any such claims or alleged violations of resolution 1701 (2006) once the necessary specific information and evidence is received.
...
[T]he Government of Israel continues to allege significant breaches of the arms embargo across the Lebanon-Syria border, which it states, pose a serious strategic threat to the security of Israel and its citizens. It has claimed that the transfer of sophisticated weaponry by Syria and Iran across the Lebanese-Syrian border, including long-range rockets (with a range of 250 miles), anti-tank and anti-aircraft defense systems, occurs on a weekly basis, enabling Hizbullah to rearm to the same levels as before last year's war or beyond. It has not provided any further specific evidence to back up these claims.

What the "U.N. Security Council is told" by the Secretary General is that there are Israeli allegations of weapon smuggling. The U.N. says it has not an ounce of proof that such smuggling is taking place and that Israel is not able or willing to give any specifics for its claims. That is all the "U.N. Security Council is told."

The LA Times editorial is warning of a war and blames Syria for an arms buildup:

War fears have been fanned by a notable Syrian arms buildup. Damascus has purchased surface-to-surface missiles, antitank weapons and sophisticated air-defense systems. It is also believed to have received Iranian funds to pay Russia for missiles and a reported $1-billion purchase of five advanced MIG-31E fighter jets.

Now that's nearly funny. A recent Israeli oped says that Russia rejected to supply decent  surface-to surface missiles to Syria. Air-defense and anti-tank missiles are, as their names say, defensive. Five downgraded export version MIGs are a sad joke against Israel's three-hundred U.S. supplied F15s and F16s which include the most modern variants.

Meanwhile the Israeli military is conducting massive maneuvers on the Golan Heights and seems to be disagree with the LA Times:

"Our emergency supplies have been renewed, there is a multi-year plan for weapons and personal equipment."
[...]
[The officers] believe Syria's army has limited capabilities and its air force is far inferior to Israel's. Therefore, a new war would resemble last year's fighting in Lebanon - commando combat in difficult terrain with large areas controlled by anti-tank units.
[...]
In recent months the Golan Heights has become one of the IDF's main exercise areas. At times this requires closing off roads. Infantry troops and rows of tanks, armored personnel carriers and jeeps raise clouds of dust in grazing fields and the air is filled with low-flying helicopters and echoes of explosions.

A new Israeli training village, build and payed for by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is designed to resemble Lebanese and Syrian townships.

While there have been multiple offers from the Syrian side for unconditional talks with Israel, there has been no response from the Israeli side.

Is there any wonder Syrians believe that the Golan maneuvers are in preparation of an Israeli attack?

Lang seems to be pretty sure about this. He adds a question:

Will that coincide with American action against Iran?  Someone should ask the Chenians that.

Posted by b on July 5, 2007 at 02:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

David Broder's National Interest

The dean of Washington journalism, David S. Broder, aptly shows what is wrong with the poltical Washington establishment represented by him. It despises democracy.

In his column A Mob-Rule Moment Broder argues that politicians in Washington should listen less to the people:

A particularly virulent strain of populism has made official Washington altogether too responsive to public opinion.
[..]
In today's Washington, a badly weakened president and a dangerously compliant congressional leadership are no match for the power of public opinion -- magnified and sometimes exaggerated by modern communications and interest group pressure.

He picks two issues to prove his thesis:

The latest cave-ins involve immigration and trade policy, and both seriously threaten the national interest.

And here is the problem. Who, in Broder's world, does define the national interest?

Obviously not the people whose will, he says  expressly, threatens the national interest.

To prove his point that the people are wrong about the failed immigration law he simply states his own subjective opinion:

the defeated legislation offered some prospect of improving at least some aspects of that broken system

With regard to trade he quotes a politician who expresses an opinion he agrees with:

"America needs to remain open for business to the 95 percent of the world's consumers living outside the United States," said U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab. And she is right.

There is no argument of the issues at hand. Just Border's opinion. Obviously in his mind, he himself, and those politicians he agrees with, are the only ones to rightly define the national interests. If voters, the people, have other interests, they are to be ignored.

National interest, which is whatever Broder thinks it should be, trumps the will of the people. Therefore politicians simply shall ignore their voters will.

The point is pretty basic. Politicians are wise to heed what people want. But they also have an obligation to weigh for themselves what the country needs. In today's Washington, the "wants" of people count far more heavily than the nation's needs.

To Broder, the "wants" of the people are, by definition, different than the nation's need. He doesn't even argue why this could be the case at all but states it as a simple fact. Democracy, in his mind, directly contradicts national interest.

He is calling for an oligarchic state with a few ruling people, including him, to further whatever they define as the nation's need or the national interest.

Elections to him are just a tool to win a leading position. If that demands lying to the people, that is fine. Once in positions, politicians are only to do what the national interest, as defined by Broder, demands and what their personal ambitions dictate.

You can win elections by promising people what they want. But you win your place in history by doing what the country needs done.

Broder does not argue for outright dictatorial rule. The Potemkin village of democracy must not be shredded. He argues to use deceit to get elected. After having collected the votes, one is free to do whatever one wants to do. As long as it furthers Broder's personal incarnation of national interest.

It is frightening, though not very surprising, to read such sick contempt for the people in a leading U.S. paper.

It's high time for a cure against this.

Posted by b on July 5, 2007 at 06:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

July 04, 2007

July 4th

New York stock-broker brunch talk:

"Why is the LSE open today? Don't the Brits celebrate Fourth of July?"

Not really - anyway, happy birthday dear(?) U.S. of A.

Reading through the indictment part of your declaration of independence, there are lots of accusations fitting the nation of George W just as they fitted George III's when first written down.

That is the reason why the U.S. is now perceived as the greatest global threat.

There is some hope for change as young people seem to be more aware than the older ones.

In the US itself, North Korea and Iran are seen as the biggest risks. However, the youngest US respondents share the Europeans’ view that theirs is the biggest threat, with 35 per cent of American 16- to 24-year-olds identifying it as the chief danger to stability. FT

Decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires change.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, ...

Either the people of the U.S. will do it themselves, or mankind will have to step in.

Posted by b on July 4, 2007 at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

July 03, 2007

Libby Clemency Shows A Bush Feature

What can one say about the Libby soft-pardon. Is Bush trying to set some record as most despised president ever?

No. The most likely reason to rescue Libby from jail-time by clemency is to keep him quiet. There was the danger that Libby, staring at a cell wall, would feel some urge to talk to Fitz.

Not really pardoning him now helps to let Libby keep the right to pledge the fifth at least as long as the legal appeal process is kept alive. In early 2009 a full pardon will be done and the media, congress and voters will not care anymore.

Essentially Bush is protecting Cheney and himself through the presidential power to pardon someone. That is obstruction of justice.

But the whole Bush/Cheney administration, selected by a dubious legal ruling in 2000, with its war of aggression on Iraq, the tapping of domestic phone calls in ignorance of the FISA law, the corruption of the Justice Department and some thousand things we don't know about is essentially one big long experience in obstruction of justice.

This is not a defect of the Bush/Cheney administration, its a feature.

The clapping on the right for the Libby clemency shows that their base just loves this. It may even lift Bush's poll ratings.

Posted by b on July 3, 2007 at 01:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Iraqi Oil Law Drafting, Drafting, Drafting ...

At the request of the U.S. State Department, [USAID] is providing a petroleum advisor to Iraq from February to June through its contract with BearingPoint, USAID spokesman David Snider told Dow Jones Newswires in an e-mail.

"The advisor will be providing legal and regulatory advice in drafting the framework of petroleum and other energy-related legislation, including foreign investment," he wrote.
IRAQ: USAID Provides Adviser to Iraq Government on Oil Law, CorpWatch, April 28th, 2006

Somehow the various Iraqi parties don't seem impressed by the draft product Bearing Point delivered. This is a slow non-stop merry-go-round ...

Iraq cabinet approves draft oil law, IHT, February 26, 2007

The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft of a law Monday that would set guidelines for countrywide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the immense oil industry.

The endorsement was a major agreement of the country's ethnic and sectarian political blocs on one of Iraq's most divisive issues.

Yes, it was a great success. But then why, five month later, are we reading the same headline again?

Iraqi cabinet backs draft oil law, BBC, July 3, 2007

The Iraqi government has approved an amended draft law on how to share the country's oil wealth, officials say.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said parliament would begin debating the bill on Wednesday.

Is everything fine now? Certainly not:

Iraq oil law timeline unsure, UPI, July 2, 2007

Iraqi oil law negotiators are unsure when they'll reach a compromise on which oil fields the federal or regional governments will control.

"We hope that very soon, definitely within coming months, one or two months from now," Thamir Ghadhban, energy adviser to Iraq's prime minister, told reporters ...
[...]
Negotiators from the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad last week approved a companion law dictating how revenue from oil sales would be split among the federal and local governments, a major breakthrough in talks ongoing for nearly a year. That law, as well as the oil law and bills governing the Ministry of Oil and Iraq National Oil Co., need approval of the council of ministers and Parliament before they are official.

Ashti Hawrami, KRG's natural resources minister and lead negotiator, told UPI this week via mobile phone from Iraq that with the revenue sharing law out of the way the oil law will come back to the front burner. "We sort of are getting back now to reviewing the draft law and annexes, so it will take some time," he said. Ghadhban, Hawrami's federal government equivalent at the talks, however, said the question on field control will instead be decided by a council that decides the country's oil policy, per language in the draft oil law. "So we don't have any more problem called annexes," he said.

There are multiple laws with several annexes that need to be passed to allow any legal certainty for investment in Iraqi oil. The central oil-law, the revenue-sharing law, the laws governing the central institutions to manage the oil reserves and industry. The media always mixes these up. Not one of these laws has passed the parliament and it is unlikely that any will.

Some central questions, as the "field control" mentioned above, have now been pushed outside of the law to be later fought over within committees.

Some years from now, there might be a legal environment for Iraqi oil riches. But it is not going to happen during Bush's time and the time of the current Congress.

What are the consequences now of missing this "benchmark" demanded by Congress?

Posted by b on July 3, 2007 at 08:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

July 02, 2007

Gordon's Source on Iran

(updated below)

Michael Gordon (NYT co-writer of Judith Miller) has another hate-Iran piece in today's NYT: U.S. Ties Iranians to Iraq Attack That Killed G.I.’s

BAGHDAD, July 2 — Iranian operatives helped plan a January raid in Karbala in which five American soldiers were killed, an American military spokesman in Iraq said today.
[...]
General Bergner declined to speculate on the Iranian motivations. But he said that interrogations of Qais Khazali, a Shiite militant who oversaw Iranian-supported cells in Iraq and who was captured several months ago along with another militant, Laith Khazali, his brother, showed that Iran’s Quds force helped plan the operation.
[...]
“Both Ali Musa Daqduq and Qais Khazali state that senior leadership within the Quds force knew of and supported planning for the eventual Karbala attack that killed five coalition soldiers,” General Bergner said.

Glenn Greenwald points out that Gordon's only source for this piece is a "military spokesman" Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner. The source is not doubted, there are no other sources or viewpoints present. It is in fact, a pure U.S. military press release.

What Glenn doesn't not tell is the background of Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner. Via sourcewatch we learn:

Kevin J. Bergner was named February 3, 2006, by President George W. Bush as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq. Brigadier General Bergner recently served as Deputy Director of Political-Military Affairs (Middle East) at the Department of Defense. He received his bachelor's degree from Trinity University and his master's degree from City University of New York.

Berger left the White House and became spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq only three weeks ago.

You can bet with a very good chance that his statement, which Michael Gordon dutiful stenographs,  has its origins in the White House. This bomb-Iran propaganda, the accusation of direct, official Iranian military intervention in Iraq, is originating from within the center of the Bush administration. It is fed through a "military spokesman" who just left the White House to Michael Gorden who's editors dependably publish it unfiltered in the New York Times.

Given the schemes we know from the start of the Iraq war disinformation campaign, the next step is obvious.

Someone from Bush's administration will appear on television and will cite and confirm Gordon's New York Times reporting as proof for Iran's "bad intent".

Newsweek explained how this worked on Iraq:

The strongest evidence that Saddam was building a nuke was the fact that he was secretly importing aluminum tubes that could be used to help make enriched uranium. At least it seemed that way. In early September, just before Bush was scheduled to speak to the United Nations about the Iraqi threat, the story was leaked to Judith Miller and Michael Gordon of The New York Times, which put it on page one. That same Sunday (Sept. 8), Cheney and national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice went on the talk shows to confirm the story.

Here is the transcript Wolf Blitzer's interview with Rice and there is Cheney on Meet the Press:

VICE PRES. CHENEY: [...]The third thing you need is fissile material, weapons-grade material. Now, in the case of a nuclear weapon, that means either plutonium or highly enriched uranium. And what we’ve seen recently that has raised our level of concern to the current state of unrest, if you will, if I can put it in those terms, is that he now is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium to make the bombs.

MR. RUSSERT: Aluminum tubes.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Specifically aluminum tubes. There’s a story in The New York Times this morning-this is-I don’t-and I want to attribute The Times. I don’t want to talk about, obviously, specific intelligence sources, but it’s now public that, in fact, he has been seeking to acquire, and we have been able to intercept and prevent him from acquiring through this particular channel, the kinds of tubes that are necessary to build a centrifuge. 

Thanks to Michael Gordon "it's now public that, in fact," Iran attacks U.S. forces in Iraq.

Here we go again ...

UPDATE

1. As Glenn just added, the NYT has changed its story:

Gordon's article has now been edited substantially, most notably to include several sentences near the beginning of the article that cast at least some doubt on the military's claims. None of these facts were included in the original version:
...

2. As slothrop in the comments points out, CNN ran about the same story Michael Gorden filed but as an exclusive yesterday. Here is a youtube video of that segment. The CNN's Michael Ware  in Baghdad and the studio anchors express little doubt that all they have been told is really, really, really true.

Associated Press runs the story too and has no caveats either.

According to CNN some "Lebanese Hizbullah fighter" got caught in Iraq and "did confess in interrogations ..."

Let's ask: Does he breathe again now or is he still coughing up water ...

Posted by b on July 2, 2007 at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

The Roberts Principle

by Slothrop

Accepting class balancing as a compelling state interest would justify the imposition of class proportionality throughout American society ... Allowing class balancing as a compelling end in itself would “effectively assur[e] that class will always be relevant in American life, and that the ‘ultimate goal’ of ‘eliminating entirely from governmental decisionmaking such irrelevant factors as a human being’s class’ will never be achieved.” Croson, supra, at 495
...
An interest “linked to nothing other than proportional representation of various classes ... would support indefinite use of class classifications, employed first to obtain the appropriate mixture of class views and then to ensure that the [program] continues to reflect that mixture.” Metro Broadcasting, supra, at 614 (O’Connor, J., dissenting).

The validity of our concern that class balancing has “no logical stopping point,” Croson, supra, at 498 ... is demonstrated here by the degree to which the districts tie their class guidelines to their demographics. As the districts’ demographics shift, so too will their definition of class diversity.

From Roberts's plurality opinion in Seattle

The Seattle/Louisville school district desegragation policies were struck down by the Roberts Court. Anybody could see it coming. Researching to draft an amicus brief for Seattle last year, it was obvious to me then the school districts were sunk. I believe in large part the cases finally resolve "race" as a rhetorically inert concept, incapable of signifying anything but the will of domination. Whitey done won.

What Volosinov called the "univocality" of a sign washed up as a site of confrontation over meaning, explains the semiotics of "race" perfectly. Replacing the word "race" with "class" in Roberts's opinion rehabilitates some of the polyvocality of the sign acknowledging in a more obvious way what the "concept" is in the line of cases from Dred Scott to Brown to Seattle.

The concept is about the kind of 14th Amendment rights associated with class-ism. "Race," as a polyvocal sign in Brown was, if not explicitly, obviously encoded as a signifier of class. "Race" in Brown is no empty abstraction as it is for Roberts. In Brown "race" is another way to say "Negro" and as such, an avalanche of contestation of status is embedded in the word. "Negro" meant seperate but not equal, those persons routinely denied "opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." "Negro" is in part a sign acknowledged by the Court as a site of class conflict, remedied by equal access to public education.

Well, fuck that. Hey, we're equal, time to be seperate. Pity the Chief Justice's decorum for not offering Michael Jorden and Oprah! as exemplars of "race." But the cynicism is there. The triumphant expropriation of political content from the word "race" is total--the victory of semiosis, the Roberts Principle: white=race.

One can only envy their balls. "Class" is a signifier which has none of the effeteness of "race." "Class" is a devil-term signifying communism, the Rosenbergs, Rosie O'Donnell, Michael J. Fox, MSNBC, and hybrid vehicles. So, in order to get at the idea of class without saying the terrible word, "race" was a wobbly juridical surrogate. Farewell.

So, where to take the fight? Good luck opening up the terrain of contestation occupied by "Choice," "Happiness," "legal immigrant," "freedom." Even better luck you'll need to transliterate "class" to circulate signs mediating continuous class-warfare in what passes as the nation’s political consciousness. Whatever that word is, it won't be "class" anymore than it will be "race."

And good luck finding a person of color in a position of power to rip a little hole in the prevailing ideology. Says Thomas: "Indeed, if our history has taught us anything, it has taught us to beware of elites bearing racial theories." Elites: Dubois, CLR James, MLK.. who all understood the ways in which "race" often implicates "class" and "class" always insinuates "race." These are the stuff of Thomas's nightmares.

Well, as Raymond Williams often said "hegemony is never total, twat!" So lurking out there is a word whose political content might include the synchronic deviousness to assault Mr. Thomas and his merry class of gated-community dwellers. My money is on, if you're in America, "Mexican"--if in Europe, "Arab" might do.

Posted by b on July 2, 2007 at 04:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

 
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