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'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Lancet's Secret Admirer 

As I have frequently remarked, there is no subject more vexing than the number of Iraqi deaths that have occurred since the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003, and subsequently subjected the country to a violent miitary occupation that persists to this day. The subject becomes an object lesson in mainstream media manipulation as a consequence of their consistent effort to ignore or discredit the survey work of a John Hopkins University team published in the British medical journal, the Lancet.

After all, the John Hopkins effort initially determined in October 2004 that the war and occupation has resulted in between 8,000 and 194,000 deaths, with the most probable number being approximately 98,000. More recently, in October 2006, the John Hopkins group published the results of a more recent survey in the Lancet, concluding, after the most extensive survey work performed within Iraq, that an estimated 655,000 deaths had now occured, with over 601,000 of them violent ones. The statistically probable range of violent deaths was between 426,369 and 793,663.

Predictably, the Labour government of Tony Blair disputed the findings of the survey (note: the PMOS is the Prime Minister's Official Spokesperson):

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about a survey published today suggesting that 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died as a result of the war in Iraq, the PMOS said that it was important to treat the figures with caution because there were a number of concerns and doubts about the methodology that had been used. Firstly, the survey appeared to be based on an extrapolation technique rather than a detailed body count. Our worries centred on the fact that the technique in question appeared to treat Iraq as if every area was one and the same. In terms of the level of conflict, that was definitely not the case. Secondly, the survey appeared to assume that bombing had taken place throughout Iraq. Again, that was not true. It had been focussed primarily on areas such as Fallujah. Consequently, we did not believe that extrapolation was an appropriate technique to use.

Turns out, however, that the Ministry of Defense's top scientific advisor, as recently reported by the BBC, believed the findings to be all too credible:

Shortly after the publication of the survey in October last year Tony Blair's official spokesperson said the Lancet's figure was not anywhere near accurate.

He said the survey had used an extrapolation technique, from a relatively small sample from an area of Iraq that was not representative of the country as a whole.

President Bush said: "I don't consider it a credible report."

But a memo by the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, on 13 October, states: "The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to "best practice" in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq."

But, of course, no mainstream article on the work of the John Hopkins survey teams and statisticians would be complete without a self-serving criticism from someone associated with Iraq Body Count:

Dr Michael Spagat of Royal Holloway London University says that most of those questioned lived on streets more likely than average to witness attacks: "It would appear they were only able to sample a small sliver of the country," he said.

Dr Spagat has previously conducted research with Iraq Body Count, an NGO that counts deaths on the basis of media reports and which has produced estimates far lower than those published in the Lancet.

And, pray tell, what kind of research would that be? Unless Iraq Body Count has abandoned its dubious practice of giving credibility to mortality information developed from articles published by media outlets, it is hard to imagine.

But, let's play along. Spagat says that it would appear that they were only able to sample a small sliver of the country. Yes, that's what survey teams and statisticians do, and the scientific advisor for Ministry of Defense found that the approach to be robust, and he wasn't the only one.

Spagat then proceeds to state, without any factual foundation, that most of those questioned lived on streets more likely than average to witness attacks. Who determined this, and how? Even if we accept such a statement as true, what does it actually mean, for example, is it a little more than average or a lot more? For more about the obssessive compulsion of the participants of Iraq Body Count to discredit the John Hopkins efforts, click on the Iraq Body Count label.

Hat tip to lenin over at Lenin's Tomb.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

War and Liberalism 

For a man often described by liberals as a dry drunk, a man born on third base, an insensitive lout, President Bush is actually pretty smart. After 9/11, he realized that he could manipulate the crackpot realism of American liberals to concentrate more and more power within himself.

Nothing has distracted him from doing so to greater and greater effect. Bad poll numbers, adverse election results, public scorn . . Bush knows that none of these things alter the fundamental reality of American politics. Liberals value the symbolic over the substantive, indeed, they fear substantive political dialogue of of any kind. Hence, Bush has acted with the confidence that liberals will choose meaningless gestures to avoid challenging him, no matter how unpopular he becomes.

Last week, House Democrats, more specifically, the liberals in the Out of Iraq caucus, had one last chance to prove Bush wrong by denying him the funds he needs to perpetuate the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. They could have also exposed his intention of attacking Iran. Of course, in the end, they did neither. While retaining the privilege of voting against the bill themselves, they urged others to provide the necessary votes for passage.

Ever fearful of the unknown, of the prospect that the populace would seize control of issues related to war and peace from more hawkish elites, even the liberals of the Out of Iraq caucus did what was required to get the bill passed. Votes of specific House members against the bill were cosmetic, not just because some of them, like Woolsey, Watson, Lee and Waters, actively urged others to vote for it, but also because members were probably released to vote against the bill once Pelosi had the 218 votes needed for approval. Amazingly, representative Barbara Lee actually had a town hall meeting against the Iraq war in Oakland the day after she lobbied other members to vote to continue to fund it!

For those of us resistant to the temptations of self-delusion, the outcome was predictable, but still shocking, shocking because people otherwise known for their relative political integrity immolated themselves. Such an immolation was predestined by the conduct of most liberals since 9/11, and the record is consistent. Any attempt to mobilize the general public against war, against violent assaults upon the peoples and cultures of other countries, against the erosion of our civil liberties must, at all costs, be suppressed.

Given the choice between energizing a populist movement for the fulfillment of domestic needs instead of using 9/11 for colonial intervention, liberals, at best, selected the course of ineffectual, theatrical opposition. Even the catastrophe of Katrina did not cause them to question their core belief that populism presents a grave social threat to the preservation of the American system, so much so that the international state violence of the neoconservatives is begrudgingly accepted. If one accepts the controversial premise that military neoliberalism is now the only plausible means of enforcing a US inspired global economic system that prioritizes the privileges of finance capital above all human concerns, they may well be correct.

Along these lines, a brief consideration of the career of Joseph Lieberman is instructive. He entered politics as an opponent of the Vietnam War, but, by 1988, he successfully ran to the right of liberal Republican Lowell Weicker to win a seat in the Senate. Weicker personified two evils: he was too dovish on foreign policy, and his style, if allowed to go national, implicitly threatened elites by appealing to people across party lines.

Ned Lamont presented a similar threat last year, and prominent Democratic Senators like Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer answered Lieberman's fire alarm for assistance. Lieberman is frequently reviled for being a turncoat, a hypocrite, but he is, in fact, a visionary, he anticipated the current political landscape of the country, and, indeed, the world, before the Cold War ended and has played an essential role in shaping it. Unlike other liberals, who feign opposition to neoconservative policy, while facilitating the funding of it, Lieberman expresses his support for it unabashedly.

MoveON.org has been one of my personal obssessions, but it is important to understand its centrality in preventing the emergence of an empowered antiwar movement. It has done so by calculated appeals to liberal pragmatism in relation to the electoral process. Sensing opportunity, MoveON.org organized against the invasion of Iraq in late 2002 and early 2003 on the slender pretext that it hadn't been authorized by the UN, as if to suggest that the colonial enterprise would have otherwise been acceptable. It participated in protest marches as part of a broader strategy to exploit antiwar sentiment to expand membership, while simultaneously limiting criticism of the impending conflict to the methodology of approval instead of the more compelling immorality of it.

The Iraqis? They were rarely, if ever, mentioned. Focusing upon the lack of UN authorization enabled grassroots liberals to subsequently support the occupation as questions related to the launching of the war were now considered irrelevant. It was a crude, but necessary finesse. Post-invasion, the Iraqis remained invisible, as the new mantra was Support the Troops.

Iraqis had died, and continued to die, in large numbers, with those still living lacking food, shelter, electricity and an uncontaminated water supply, but the new emphasis was about the extent to which the occupying force lacked sufficient body armour. Visitors to the MoveON.org website in 2004 and 2005 were subjected to a politically expedient fetishization of the military that, after repeated encounters, induced nausea. Removing the troops and liberating the Iraqis from the predations of the occupation was apparently not congruent with the objective of electing more Democrats.

Support the Troops is therefore one of the most insidiously effective advertising slogans in recent memory. It satisfied the legitimate motivation of people to empathize with the plight of soldiers in Iraq, while, paradoxically, enabling Democratic politicians, including liberals, to perpetuate the occupation. Or, to be more precise, people experienced the emotional release of remorse, while ensuring that there was no change in policy. Meanwhile, plans for the privatization of the Iraqi economy, and transnational control over the Iraqi oil supply, elicited little comment, except among global justice advocates. Support the Troops additionally served the essential purpose of concealing bipartisan support for the planned neoliberal transformation of Iraqi society.

The consequences of this success are dire. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have fled the country and the US military is being destroyed by politicians who refuse to extract it before the command and control structure is shattered. It is a defeat so calamitous, so impossible to acknowledge, that the only solution is to expand the war to Iran and beyond. A more violent confrontation is required to conceal the stain of failure, even if the outcome is likely to be the end of US hegemony. Was it ever possible to peaceably scale back the American Empire? We will never know, but we do know that American liberals are among those responsible for excluding the possibility.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Remember the Gang of Four 

The supplemental funding bill has cleared the House with exactly the number of votes required for passage:

The House of Representatives voted today, by the narrowest possible margin and after an unusually emotional debate, to set a timetable for bringing American troops home from Iraq.

The bill received 218 votes in favor, the minimum needed for passage in the 435-seat chamber. There were 212 votes opposed. The Democratic leadership held the voting open for two additional minutes past the originally scheduled 15 to lock up the majority. Vote-counters had predicted beforehand that the outcome would be very close.

Of course, the timetables are not binding upon the President, as he now has the funds to continue to do as he wishes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, even, when the mood strikes, Iran, assuming, of course, that they survive the Senate, which is doubtful.

Who made this victory for the proponents of perpetual war in the Middle East possible? It's shocking, and should never be forgotten:

With Democrats holding 233 seats and Republicans with 201, Democrats were able to afford only 15 "no" votes. Accordingly, Pelosi, and her leadership team spent days trying to convince members that the bill was Congress' best chance of forcing Bush to change course—an argument that was aided when they added more than $20 billion in domestic spending in an effort to lure votes.

They got a breakthrough Thursday when four of the bill's most consistent critics said they would not stand in its way. California Democrats Lynn Woolsey, Diane Watson, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters said they would help round up support for the bill despite their intention to personally vote against it because it would not end the war immediately. "Despite my steadfast opposition, I have told the speaker that I will work with her to obtain the needed votes to pass the supplemental, but that in the end I must vote my conscience," said Rep. Diane Watson, D- Calif.

Is there any need to comment upon such self-serving personal and political expendiency? No doubt all four forcefully went about the task of persuading others to vote for the bill, because, if they failed, they would have then faced the prospect of drawing straws to determine who would be required to vote against their conscience for Pelosi. Rarely has there been such a compelling example of the much maligned situational ethics associated with some Californians.

Woolsey, Watson, Lee and Waters, the Gang of Four that rescued funding for the President's wars in the Middle East, while keeping their own voting records scrupulously clean. The Iraqis and the Afghans will have to liberate themselves, as there is no prospect that the American political system will relinquish its grip upon their countries. A revolt within the US military is possible, probably more so as a consequence of this vote, but remote.

War with Iran is now a near certainty, as it provides an escape route for those who voted for this measure as well as those who only worked for its passage. Defeat of the bill was not only essential for the ongoing vitality of the antiwar movement in this country, as discussed here yesterday, but to also impair the ability of the President to expand the war. The Iranians, like the Iraqis and the Afghans, have been left to their own devices. We will have nothing to say about the decisions they make as to how to best defend themselves. No doubt the Gang of Four will express appropriate sentiments of sadness as violence in the Middle East intensifies as a consequence of their actions.

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Sell Out 

In the end, it became an urgent necessity for the Democrats to destroy the credibility of any opposition to the war within Congress as they approved funding for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan:

Liberal opposition to a $124 billion war spending bill broke last night, when leaders of the antiwar Out of Iraq Caucus pledged to Democratic leaders that they will not block the measure, which sets timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.

But, as Representative Lynn Woolsey observed during a Democracy Now! debate yesterday, the timelines are fraudulent:

REP. LYNN WOOLSEY: Well, of course, we want a date certain, and we want our troops home from Iraq. And that is my position. My position is that on November the 11th, the Democrats were voted into office as the majority to do bold actions to bring our troops home. And I just don't believe that this supplemental does enough. It is $100 billion more to pay for the President's surge for his escalation of this war. There are virtually no enforcement measures in this legislation that will make the President do anything that we’re telling him to do. . .

Here in Sacramento, California, the state capitol, we commonly know that there are two essential attributes of the legislature process, control over money and the need to provide a mechanism for enforcing directives. Everything else is just puffery, public relations for the members. In this instance, as explained by Woolsey, House Democrats relinquished their ability to influence the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by agreeing to fund them for nearly the rest of Bush's term.

Predictably, MoveON.org celebrates such acquiescence as a victory:

"This is huge," said Tom Matzzie, Washington director of the influential liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org. "We're going to have a bill that will have a deadline that the president is going to have to sign or veto."

It is an old cliche, but one really does wonder how the leaders of MoveON.org sleep at night. Note Matzzie's Freudian slip: passage of the bill is important because the president is going to have to sign or veto it. Just another inside the Beltway game of gotcha, another insider point to be scored in a game that is irrevelant to the rest of us, and, especially, the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, who will now be subject to the predations of the occupation indefinitely, or, at least, until the Democrats fully fund these wars through the regular budget process.

By announcing their support for this measure, liberals are signalling to the public that there is no antiwar representation in Congress, that there is no meaningful opportunity to change these disasterous policies within the political system. It is amazing that there is still no recognition that the purpose of the supplemental funding bill goes beyond funding the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to the demoralization of the antiwar movement across the country.

MoveON.org played an essential role in running the liberals to ground by manufacturing an illusory grassroots consent, one of the alltime great astroturf success stories. It is an achievement that is probably more highly valued by the neoconservatives than the supplemental funding itself, after all, with a demoralized opposition, future funding should be easily obtained as required. We need only await the announcement of Bush's prime time speech for the purpose of formally telling us that the US air force is already bombing purported Iranian nuclear facilities to bring about the abandonment of the farcical, stage managed charade of political conflict that we observed this week.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

MoveON.org: Liberals for Perpetual War 

Now, even Democratic members of the House are publicly acknowledging the mendacity of MoveON.org:

The most outspoken critics of the $124 billion wartime spending bill in the House are facing withering support in their fight to defeat it.

California Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Lynn Woolsey said that many of their liberal colleagues were caving under pressure from Democratic leaders who, according to at least one congressman, have threatened to block requests for new funds for his district.

They also cited MoveOn.org's endorsement of the measure Monday as a blow to their efforts.

"For people who are undecided and looking for a reason to vote for the supplemental, MoveOn is going to make a difference, providing instant cover for these members," Woolsey said.

"In six months, I fear they will be really sorry because the president isn't going to do what they want," she added, referring to waivers in the bill that allow the president to circumvent certain requirements.

Bipartisan support for the war must now be accomplished by any means necessary:

One congressman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution from leaders, bristled at how aggressively he was being pressured to vote for the bill, singling out Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) as especially forceful.

"I really resent this," the lawmaker said. "Rahm Emanuel told us a vote against this bill is a vote to give the Republicans victory."

The congressman also noted that Democratic leaders had "made clear" to him that they might yank funding requests he had made for projects in his district if he did not support the measure.

Democratic whips, all deputies of Clyburn, approached members on the House floor Monday night.

A jovial Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger went up to fellow Maryland Rep. Albert Wynn as he sat off the floor with a reporter and told Wynn that a vote against the bill was a vote for Republican victory. He waved a copy of the MoveOn.org press release backing the measure.

"Have you seen this?" Ruppersberger asked.

"Yeah, who did that?" replied Wynn, a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus.

"Some people we asked to put out a press release to get you to vote for the bill," Ruppersberger joked. He razzed the noncommittal Wynn a few moments longer, pretending to twist his arm, then headed off to reprise the routine with another Out of Iraq Caucus member, Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.

As posted here yesterday, MoveON.org has revealed itself as little more than the liberal arm of the Democratic Leadership Council. Corporate memberships will no doubt be announced shortly, but probably disguised as foundation grants:

Some anti-war activists assailed MoveOn.org's approach to the Iraq bill, alleging that the organization had used a skewed poll to conclude that 85 percent of its members backed the measure.

"MoveOn put out a dishonest poll that did not offer its members a real choice to end the war, and now the peace movement is lobbying activists to reform MoveOn or drop off its list," David Swanson, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, said in an e-mail to The Politico. "I unsubscribed from MoveOn this morning."

In the poll, MoveOn.org gave its members a choice of supporting, opposing or being "not sure" of the plan proposed by the Democratic leadership, according to an e-mail sent to members Sunday by MoveOn.org official Eli Pariser.

It did not mention a more aggressive withdrawal proposal backed by Woolsey, Waters and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

Pariser said MoveOn.org had held out as long as possible before backing the leadership proposal.

"We were basically declining to take a position as long as we could to strengthen the hand of the progressives. We did the poll at the last time we felt we could have an impact on the final vote."

He said he would support the progressive proposal if it came to a vote. "We'll encourage people to vote for that and for the supplemental," he said. "We are trying to end the war. That's the mandate."

First things first: Eli Pariser, go fuck yourself.

Now, with that out of the way, let's acknowledge the enormity of what the House Democrats are about to do. They are going to give Bush a blank check to continue the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, with cosmetic timetables for withdrawal designed to deceive the public into believing that they oppose Bush's policy. They have provided funding for military operations that can be expanded into an attack upon Iran, as they stripped the bill of language that would have required congressional approval.

In effect, as noted here last week and recognized by Pat Buchanan today, they have green lighted such an attack by adopting a Zionist exemption to the requirement that Congress declare war. In the post-9/11 world, the passage of this bill exposes bipartisan support for overt military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, probably, Iran, with covert operations in Lebanon and Palestine. In short, US war from the beaches of Beirut to the border of Pakistan (and, possibly, even beyond, into the tribal regions of Pakistan itself).

Predictably, as I described last month, after the Times of London reported that several generals were contemplating resignations if Bush expands the war into Iran, the military is the only remaining impediment to an act of collective political suicide:

Such a story is striking, because, if true, it is another indication of the profound dysfunctionality of American social life. The generals have come to the conclusion that others have already reached: there is no one or no institution outside the military capable of derailing the jingoistic plans of a rogue President.

After all, the military may have also been corrupted, but it is confronted with the degradation of its fighting capabilities with each passing day of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. More than anyone else, its generals have the experience to recognize the peril of a war with Iran, as I concluded in my post about military disobedience:

If this war is launched, the consequences could be catastrophic. It could spread throughout the region; it could escalate to the point that the US uses tactical nuclear weapons; it could be, despite the best efforts of US military planners, open-ended. Who is to say that the Iranians cannot fight an asymmetrical conflict against us indefinitely after absorbing the destruction of a brutal air campaign? Apparently, if the Sunday Times article is credible, the US military is equally frightened about these possibilities, if not more so, and, in the absence of any meaningful public domestic opposition, some of its most prominent officers are considering their own form of civil disobedience to prevent it from happening.

But people like Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Eli Pariser, and others in the leadership of MoveON.org, such as Joan Blades, could care less. Self-assured in the belief that they will not personally experience the consequences, they reduce the death and destruction associated with these current and probable future conflicts to political opportunism. Death, torture, brain injuries, loss of limbs, sexual assault, post-traumatic stress, that's for Iraqis, Afghans and enlistees in the Marines, the Army and the Guard, while they fantasize about exploiting the victimization of others for electoral success and the joys of patronage.

As for MoveON.org itself, perhaps it is time to consider public confrontation and humiliation. The next time we learn of a purported MoveON.org antiwar event, like a vigil, or other such cynical nonsense, we might want to stop by and tell the participants, politely, of course, that we know that they, and the organization that they have affiliated themselves with, are the worst sort of hypocrites, professing a morality that conceals the most crass self-interest.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

More on the Mendacity of MoveON.org 

For the introductory post on this subject, go here, just down below. Now, here's more, from Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber over at Counterpunch:

On Sunday, MoveOn distributed a survey asking its members to vote on three options: support the Pelosi bill; oppose it; or "not sure." MoveOn's Eli Pariser described the survey in an email as an opportunity for members to participate in "a big decision coming up this week. ... MoveOn is a member-directed organization - we believe that all of us, together, are smarter than any one of us." In fact, however, MoveOn's survey was designed to conceal from its members the option of supporting the stronger anti-war amendment put forth by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

There are, of course, other ways of running a survey. When TrueMajority.org recently surveyed its members about the best way forward, they offered three choices: the Lee plan, the Pelosi plan, and the option of demanding that Congress reject any further war funding, period. Only 24 percent of TrueMajority's members supported the Pelosi plan - which appears to be the reason why MoveOn's survey gave their members no choice but the Pelosi plan.

Even MoveOn's rules for the war's fourth-anniversary candlelight vigils expressly exclude anything specifically aimed at ending it. "There are many ways to commemorate the war anniversary - but MoveOn and other coalition members are coming together around solemn candlelight vigils," explains their website. "Events other than vigils that honor the sacrifice of our servicemen and women and their families will not be publicly posted here."

The fascinating aspect of this kind of message board control and survey manipulation, which, by the way, is nothing new, is the extent to which it creates the illusion that MoveON.org is an organization that makes decisions according to a process of grassroots consensus.

In fact, MoveON.org, to cite Noam Chomsky, manufactures consent within the boundaries established by Pariser, Joan Blades and their allies within the Democratic Party. It is the political equivalent of an astroturf group, a fake grassroots organization created by a corporate lobbyist or public relations firm to create the impression that the agenda of their client has broad based public support. One wonders the extent to MoveON.org has engaged in similar survey practices on issues such as health care (has MoveON.org surveyed its members about the suitability of a single payer system?) and media consolidation to align its grassroots base with the carefully calibrated policy decisions of the Democrats.

It is especially ironic, because liberals, as a means of concealing their inability to participate in any movement that supports the Palestinians, consistently reviles ANSWER for being a hierarchical organization that makes decisions and imposes them upon participants according to a vanguardist Marxist-Leninist model. Or, to put it more bluntly, ANSWER is Stalinist.

Yet, with MoveON.org, Pariser, Blades and the Democrats have implemented a Marxist-Leninist approach to political organization that has been far more effective than ANSWER could ever imagine. MoveON.org is basically the liberal wing of the Democratic Leadership Council, making sure that liberals, if they were so inclined, do not wander too far away from the pro-war, pro-business platform of the party. Just remember, when the attack upon Iran happens, MoveON.org played an important role in manufacturing liberal consent to finance it.

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MoveON.org: Playing Both Sides of the Street, Again? 

MoveON.org has historically been the Trojan Horse of the antiwar movement, and, according to CODEPINK, it is playing this role yet again:

Dear Richard,

Today, Monday, March 19, marks four years of war in Iraq. We hope you attended one of the hundreds of actions this weekend against the continued bloodshed. Today you have another opportunity to attend rallies, call and visit your congressperson before they vote this week on the supplemental bill that would allocate another $100 billion for war. Tell them "No More Money for War."

You also have an opportunity to pressure one of the largest on-line activist groups, MoveOn.org. MoveOn has not taken a stand against this Supplemental. It asked its members to take a vote on whether or not to support the Supplemental, but failed to explain how disastrous this inside-the-beltway compromise really is:

• It will keep the war going well into 2008;

• It omits Cong. Barbara Lee's amendment, which would have fully funded withdrawal by the end of the 2007;

• It gives the President the right to waive requirements that troops sent to Iraq must be properly trained, equipped and rested;

• The funds can be used for attacking Iran, since the final version removed language saying the president had to get authorization from Congress before attacking Iran.

• And finally, MoveOn neglects to tell its members how absurd it is to give George Bush another $100 billion for war when there is no military solution to the violence in Iraq.

The Democrat leadership says this is the "best bill" they can get passed, but admits that President Bush is likely to veto it anyway. We need to tell Congress to stop the political machinations and use its Constitutional authority to end war by cutting the funds. We need to tell MoveOn to join the rest of the peace movement with the clear, principled call to Congress: Vote No on the Supplemental. Don't Buy Bush's War.

This week, your leadership is crucial. Call your member of Congress at 800-828-0498, and inspire your friends to do the same. Attend a MoveOn candlelight vigil tonight with the real message: No Money for War.

Standing strong,

Dana, Farida, Gael, Gayle, Jodie, Liz, Medea, Nancy, Patricia, Rae, Samantha, and Sonia

Someday, when this war and occupation is over, and the Iraqis have driven us from Iraq, someone will be impolite enough to point out the fact that people like Eli Pariser and Joan Blades were responsible for prolonging it thorugh their politically calculated, pseudo-antiwar efforts in support of the Democratic Party. They personify the party's strategy of triangulation, whereby the suffering of the Iraqis and the senseless deaths of Americans are exploited for electoral advantage.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Steve Gilliard is Fighting for His Life 

Some of you may be familiar with Steve Gilliard's blog, The News Blog. If you haven't visited there recently, you may not be aware that he had open heart surgery last week, and is struggling mightily to survive it.

Indeed, the surgeon only closed his chest yesterday:

OK, i just got a call from jen and she had just heard from steve's mom. as you know, our only information conduit is steve's mom, and she's not getting great communications from the hospital. so here is what we now know:

- steve had surgery last night and they partially closed him up, using staples instead of sutures. we're not sure why this is the case but that's what steve's mom was told.

- steve is still in that covered scenario to help prevent infection - he has not been moved from it nor that changed in any way.

- they are slowly bringing steve out of sedation - SLOWLY. right now they can partly communicate with him by yelling at the top of their lungs and getting him to move extremities, etc. but he is not conscious in any typical way - it's more like light sleep from which he cannot wake, due to the ongoing sedation.

- there have been complications from this surgery, but steve's mom did not have specific info. that is why things have not progressed further, or better.

- steve has been retaining fluids dramatically and he is quite swollen.

- steve is unable to move his right side - there has been no movement when they've done the yell-thing to get him to respond, particularly during when they're needling him for his dialysis. this might be due to the fluid retention and the swelling, or it may be something more ominous. it is a major concern right now.

that is the news. i wish it were better but it is not. the good news is, they are slowly bringing him out of the sedation.

time, as always, will continue to tell.

thanks to jen and steve's mom for keeping us all up to date.

- posted by Jim in LA

Now, it's no secret that Gilliard and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of subjects. I've said as much in my comments there, and, it speaks well of his integrity that he's never censored me, or threatened me with exclusion. Not once, and, as you have probably already guessed, my remarks have been pretty sharp sometimes. He's also been gracious enough to be a guest on my KDVS 90.3 FM public affairs program a couple of times.

Gilliard, you see, is someone who has personally invested a lot of his time and energy in the Internet, going back many years, apparently, and he respects it as an open medium. He's a liberal Democrat, with roots in the world of DailyKos, but unlike many liberal bloggers who market Democrats, and perpetually try to turn lemons into lemonade, he rarely shrinks from criticism when it is warranted. His willingness to confront the complexity of race relations is something that more of us should emulate.

Someone recently commented on Gilliard's blog that the fundamental struggle in this country is between people who bullshit and people who don't, and that Gilliard is one of the people who don't. It reminds me of what the great German film director Fassbinder once told the actor Karlheinz Bohm, something along the lines, whenever I smell bullshit, I start firing in all directions . . . That's Gilliard, and we are not going to lose him.

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The Iraqi People Are Optimistic They Will Succeed 

From uruknet.info:

Drawing an analogy with Vietnam, a long-time Iraqi dissident says the armed resistance in his country against the US is winning, but it will take a long time to make the American troops go home.

Kamal Majid, a Professor Emeritus in the University of Wales (Cardiff), also said here that Iraqis had every right to invite foreigners to join the fighting against the US troops as Washington too had other governments on its side.

"The Iraqi people are optimistic that they will succeed (against the US)," Majid told an "International Conference on War, Imperialism and Resistance" here, drawing thunderous applause at the end of an impassioned speech.

And soon afterwards, the 77-year-old academic, who counts Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih and Irrigation Minister Latif Rashid as his students, told IANS that he expected violence in Iraq to continue for a long time.

"It will take a very long time (to make the Americans pull out)," Majid said. "After all the Americans have invested $350 billion and they are not going to go home easily. They are not going to leave tomorrow. This is also what happened in Vietnam."

An Iraqi Kurd, Majid said he had not visited Iraq for decades - first because he was bitterly opposed to deposed ruler Saddam Hussein and now because he feared death at the hands of Americans and "these people" - a reference to Deputy Prime Minister Salih and minister Rashid. "I hate them," he added.

Majid squarely blamed the Americans for the Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict in Iraq that has claimed hundreds of lives and threatens to rip apart the country as never before.

"There was no such conflict before the Americans came," he said. "My own uncle, a Sunni, had nine children, six of whom married Shias.

"What happened is that the Americans trained death squads (of Iraqis) in Hungary before the invasion to take on members of one another community. My own cousin, a Shia, was trained in Turkey. But when he was asked to kill Sunnis, he just ran away.

"It was the Americans who spoke about Shia majority areas and Sunni triangles. Iraqis never used such expressions earlier. Despite American propaganda (that only Sunnis are against them), three Shia groups are fighting the Americans.

"We do hope that once the Americans leave," Majid added, "Shias and Sunnis will realize that they need to live in peace, and for 200 centuries more."

Majid said that despite media reports about a possible US troops withdrawal, it was unlikely the Americans would leave Iraq.

"The Americans never leave once they go any place. That is why they have not left Okinawa in Japan after World War II. That is why they have not left South Korea. They have not left Haiti, and they have not left Grenada."

And in comments that appeared to justify the use of suicide bombers, he went on: "The Americans decide where to fight and what weapons to use. We also need (to do that). War has no laws. War has no logic. The enemy uses their own bombs, the resistance uses its (weapons).

"The US uses armies from other countries. So it is also our right to invite people from other countries to fight for our rights. They are not foreigners, they are fighting for us."

Hat tip to lenin over at Lenin's Tomb.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What's in a Name? 

My thoughts: Operation Arab Solidarity:

ISRAEL is trying to put a name to the war it waged against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas last year, but not without some infighting. [...]

Asked overnight by Israel's YNet news website to offer a name of their own, readers came up with suggestions such as "Operation Failure", "The Idiotic War", "The Big Shame" and "Amir Peretz's Final War". [...]

A government-appointed commission investigating the war announced today it would publish preliminary findings next month that will draw conclusions about how the war was handled by Mr Peretz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the chief of the armed forces at the time, Dan Halutz, who has since resigned.

House Democrats Green Light an Attack Upon Iran 

From the Associated Press:

Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.

Wow! Am I the only person rendered speechless by this story? Apparently, it is now not only publicly acceptable, but politically astute, to openly subordinate the constitutional requirement that Congress declare war to the perceived interests of Israel. No doubt this is influenced by recent polling showing strong support for the Israelis against the Palestinians, but, even so, the advocacy of a Zionist exemption to the constitutional restraint upon the President's war powers is extraordinary, going far beyond the historic political, miiltary and financial support provided to Israel by the US.

Politically, it confirms the neoconservative contempt for the efforts of the House Democrats to craft an alternative Iraqi policy that would result in the withdrawal of US troops. How can anyone advocate the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, while allowing the President to proceed towards an attack upon Iran? Indeed, how can anyone plausibly advocate the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, as they either support, or remain silent, about US efforts to destabilize Lebanon, Palestine and Iran, while increasing troop levels in Afghanistan? Of course, as the neoconservatives claim, its preposterous.

It is important to avoid what the philosophers describe as binary opposition here, because, yes, it is possible for the Democrats to be both mendacious and stupid.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mori Hicks Article 88 

Spent the morning drinking too much coffee and reading the Australian press, mostly the articles Google News returns given the search string "Mori Hicks Article 88".

I don't know how familiar Americans are with David Hicks. Briefly, he's the Australian John Walker Lindh. He was a convert to Islam who trained in Taliban camps to fight in Afghanistan's perpetual civil war, was captured by bounty hunters after the American invasion, sold to the US, and thrown in Gitmo. Hicks was originally charged with conspiracy, aiding the enemy, and attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent (whatever that means ... if you're interested, there's an interesting discussion of this charge here). All of these charges were dropped and, as of last week, he is now charged with providing material support for terrorism, a crime which, as pointed out here, didn't even exist when Hicks was first imprisoned.

Australians have rallied around Hicks -- from op-eds and blog posts, one gathers that general Australian opinion is something like Hicks may be a ratbag but he's our ratbag (... or "I think the bloke's a ratbag, but I think he needs to get his day in court").

Perhaps more surprisingly, from op-eds and blog posts, one also notices Australians have rallied around Hicks' outspoken military lawyer, Maj. Michael Mori, who has become something of a minor celebrity down under, e.g. here's a gossip column about Mori hobnobbing with Russel Crowe, engagingly titled "Mori watches footy as gays honour Hicks". When Michael Mori spoke before a gathering of lawyers in Sydney the vice-president of the organization that sponsored the event expressed surprise that women had not thrown panties on to the stage:

The vice-president of the NSW Law Society, Hugh Macken, summed up the warm feeling in the room with his opening comment: "I expected this lectern to be awash with underwear."

Mr Macken said Major Mori had done "what is right, regardless of the conduct of others."

"What you have done for David Hicks is above and beyond the call of duty even for a Marine. You have walked the tightrope of remaining true to your legal professional obligations and mindful of your national interests."

The session ended with a standing ovation and Major Mori being mobbed from all sides by his lawyer fans.

All of which perhaps sheds light on the bizarre turn of events in which the chief Guantanamo prosecutor threatened Mori with a court martial, basically for sedition, Article 88 of the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice:

"Certainly in the U.S. it would not be tolerated having a U.S. marine in uniform actively inserting himself into the political process," [Colonel Morris] Davis said. "It is very disappointing to see that happening in Australia, and if that was any of my prosecutors, they would be held accountable."

He added that it would be up to the Marine Corps to decide whether Mori had violated Article 88 of the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice, which makes it a crime for a military officer to use "contemptuous words" about the president, vice president, secretary of defense and other high-ranking officials.

This is all pretty amazing -- and dare I say, heartening: here's a military lawyer tasked with the pointless chore of defending an innocent man in a kangaroo court who is nonetheless raising such a ruckus that the military is threatening to arrest him. Anyway, someone at Guantanamo must have realized the PR implications of threatening to throw Mori in the stockade: a few days ago Col. Morris Davis stated, "I know of no one with any plans to investigate, discipline, or prosecute Major Mori for anything Hicks related or otherwise."

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bush's Leadership 

When I first read about the Walter Reed scandal the thought that ran through my mind was "Hurricane Katrina".

My second thought was, how long until Democratic politicians start issuing press releases about the incompetence of the Bush administration? Not very long ... the synonym for incompetence this time around is "failure of leadership". But what happened at Walter Reed was not a failure of leadership -- any more than what happened in the CPA's Green Zone or in the aftermath of Katrina. A letter written to Josh Marshall gets it about right:

Incompetence, the lack of capacity or skill, is ultimately an exculpating trope. It insinuates that the plan, or effort, was sound and could have succeeded had it been competently carried out. Moreover, the incompetent are in way less liable: their lack of ability lets them off the hook. Thus, "incompetence" insulates the actors from accountability and leaves the policy itself unscathed.

As the letter I quoted above anticipated, the problems at Walter Reed turn out to be primarily due to the effects of privatization -- according to mainstream accounts, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is seeking a memorandum which "describes how the Army’s decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of 'highly skilled and experienced personnel'".

Similarly, the Bush administration's plans for post-Hussein Iraq were to privatize everything and set up a sort of libertartian utopia -- the libertarian utopia, of course, never got much closer to reality than Ahmed Chalabi's coronation ceremony as sovereign king of the Republic of Israel-friendly Arabia but the fact remains BushCo's reconstruction effort was indeed a massive experiment in privatization; think of the KBR contracts, the mercenaries, the outsourcing of interrogation, for godsake.

The Bush administration's response to Katrina was basically to give billions of dollars to a group of private corporations for whom Hurricane Katrina was a fantastic gift -- it took care of a huge problem for big contractors and real estate developers, poor people. These corporations were free to pursue gentrification projects that had been previously out of reach. According to the Black Commentator:

Bush's Gulf Opportunity Zone Act provides billions in tax dodges for (big) business, while the threatened permanent depopulation of Black New Orleans would eliminate the possibility of return for the nearly 8,000 (small) Black businesses that served the neighborhoods.

And recall the list of "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices" drafted by the House Republican Study Committee and unearthed by Naomi Klein.

The Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina simply was not the result of incompetence. The Bush administration demonstrated a steadfast resolve to not resort to a large federal rebuilding effort in New Orleans that conservatives and libertarians should admire. In my opinion, if ever there was a situation in my lifetime that called for a massive and expensive WPA-style federal program, it was the aftermath of Katrina and Bush, true to his conservative credentials, did not initiate such a project despite tremendous public pressure. One might say he demonstrated leadership -- conservatives should applaud Bush's handling of New Orleans. They should applaud the rubble, the wrecked houses, and the gutted neighborhoods that two years later have not been rebuilt by any socialist army of riff-raff and rabble whose paychecks were paid by their Uncle Sam.

Likewise, what happened at Walter Reed was due to the failure of an ideology and of the policies instantiated by those who pursue that ideology. The idea that private sector initiatives rather than public sector initiatives are always more efficient, less prone to corruption, and generally better solutions to all problems is, as I see it, perhaps the central plank of conservatism, and throughout Bush's reign this idea has been proven false time and time again. It has become increasingly in vogue among conservatives to distance oneself from Bush, to argue that Bush is not a real conservative. I am not a conservative and thus don't have strong feelings about this assertion -- but it seems to me that the desire to denounce Bush's conservative bonafides among those who are faithful to the free market gospel has a lot to do with the extent to which Bush has been faithful to that gospel and the extent to which he has demonstrated where such faithfulness leads.

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Chavez Welcomes Bush to South America: He Thinks He is Columbus 

According to the Los Angeles Times:

"If you truly want social justice in the world, order the immediate withdrawal of the troops from Iraq," Chavez scolded Bush, scoffing at the president's recently declared commitment to reverse inequality in Latin America. "Use that gigantic [military] budget for investments in food and health."

The charismatic, media-savvy Chavez seized upon the presence of Bush, who is widely unpopular in South America, as an opportunity not to be missed. Chavez's self-proclaimed status as a target of "the empire" has won him many admirers in the resurgent left, and Bush's "anti-Chavez" tour, as some here have called it, provided fresh rhetorical ammunition.

In Brazil, a country not recently known for heavily attended public protests, there was outrage over the Bush visit:

Some arrived clutching banners telling "Mr Butcher" to go home. Others brought effigies of "The Warlord" dangling miserably from a hangman's noose. A handful dressed up as the grim reaper, while some women paraded through the streets with stickers of George Bush and Adolf Hitler placed tastefully over their nipples.

Fabio Silva had other ideas. He stuffed a sock into his mouth and left it there for three hours. "It means that the Brazilian authorities have tried to censor us - to pretend to Bushy that we don't exist," said the 21-year-old student, using the president's nickname in these parts after briefly removing his gag. "It means that we are remembering the silent victims of Iraq. And it means that the censorship will not shut me up."

If President Bush needed a reminder of his growing unpopularity in Latin America, it was here in Sao Paulo in the shape of a 10,000-strong human wave marching noisily through the financial district.

There was none of the famed Brazilian hospitality. Even before Mr Bush arrived in Brazil on Thursday to begin a six-day tour of Latin America the protesters were out en masse. "Persona non grata" read one placard. "Get out you Nazi" said another. In case the message still hadn't hit home, there was one other taunt - this time in English: "Bush, kill yourself."

Even the New York Times could not deny the depth of popular protest against Bush in Brazil:

The police have clashed with thousands of protesters, many carrying signs calling Mr. Bush a murderer and a fascist. A group of Mayan priests in Guatemala said Friday that they would “purify” a sacred site of “bad spirits” after Mr. Bush visits it early next week.

Security was intense, the most elaborate ever for a visiting head of state in Brazil, local officials said. Two helicopters hovered above Mr. Bush’s extended motorcade here Friday, and his hotel was ringed with military sharpshooters and other security officers, though demonstrators burned an American flag close by.

Bush and Chavez went head to head yesterday, even if Chavez delivered his remarks from nearby Buenos Aires, with the tacit approval of the Argentinian government:

I don’t think America gets enough credit for trying to help improve people’s lives,” Mr. Bush said, speaking at a joint news conference with Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

But while President Bush pressed that point, President Chávez led an “anti-imperialist” rally at which he railed against what he called American hypocrisy and greed, and called Mr. Bush a “political cadaver.”

The Bush plan is ridiculous,” Mr. Chávez said at the gathering in Buenos Aires, across the Río de la Plata from Montevideo, Uruguay, Mr. Bush’s next stop. “He thinks he is Columbus, discovering poverty after seven years in power.”

Mr. Bush kicked off his tour — the longest Latin American trip of his presidency — by completing an agreement with Mr. da Silva to increase the development of ethanol as a leading alternative to oil. Mr. Chávez’s influence in the region stems from Venezuela’s oil wealth, which he is using to build a loose coalition of left-leaning, anti-American countries.

But Mr. Chávez quickly shot back in an interview on a popular morning television program in Argentina, dismissing the ethanol plan as “a crazy thing, off the wall.” He accused the United States of trying “to substitute the production of foodstuffs for animals and human beings with the production of foodstuffs for vehicles, to sustain the American way of life.”

Bush administration officials have sought to play down Mr. Chávez, contending his influence is overblown by the news media and noting that South American polls show him with regional ratings no better than Mr. Bush’s. President Bush refuses even to mention his name.

At the rally Friday night, Mr. Chávez said he had watched Mr. Bush on television in Brazil and concluded that “he is afraid to say my name” because Mr. Chávez’s vision of “21st century socialism” is advancing in the region.

Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, terrorism, security, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq,” he said mockingly. “He seems incapable of developing even a single idea.”

Beyond the popular discontent with Bush and the US that is being exposed by Bush's tour, a discontent that Chavez has encouraged and championed, there are a couple of other things were noting.

First, to state the obvious, South America is becoming more socially and economically independent of the US as it emerges from the catastrophe of the neoliberal economic policies of the 1980s and 1990s. Leaders need not present themselves as supplicants when a US President deigns to visit, and the public is not shy about confronting a President, like Bush, they hold in contempt. Of course, this is somewhat of a simplification, as the evolution away from neoliberalism is not clear and consistent, yet the trend is unmistakeable, with the countries of the continent looking towards regional integration and trade with other parts of the world as an alternative to direct US investment.

Second, as an extreme instance of this trend, Chavez does not censor himself out of concern as to how he will be perceived by people in the US. During a tour to Venezuela in 2005, with a group of others from the US, I would periodically hear one of them say that Chavez was too sharp in his rhetoric, and that he should be advised to tone it down. I did not share this perspective, nor do I do so today, because, while it may make it more personally comfortable to publicly support Chavez in this country when he is more restrained, such an attitude is based upon a lack of understanding that it will ultimately be Venezuelans, Argentinians, Chileans, Bolivians . . . in short, South Americans . . . who will determine whether Chavez succeeds or fails in his challenge to US imperialism in the region.

Chavez speaks to them directly, in their language, having concluded that liberal Americans will do little, if anything, to protect him if Bush goes after him again. Indeed, in a typical instance of liberals catering to the power elite, some actually go out of their way to attack him, as Nancy Pelosi did when she called him a thug. Chavez has always been politically astute, and he doesn't waste time seeking the approval of people who will do nothing for him. He survived the coup of 2002 when the populace poured out in the streets to demand his release from prison, at a time when the entire US political establishment expressed its willingness to accept the coup leaders as the new government.

Lastly, the depth of anger towards Bush displayed by the protesters foreshadows the explosion of hostility that will erupt if we attack Iran. Yet again, as he has frequently done in the last year, as he did here before the UN, Chavez is energizing opposition to this impending attack, even when he does not make specific reference to it. He has been the most active, most vocal opponent of it outside the Middle East, and he deserves great praise for his effort to make the protection of the Iranian people an issue of global concern.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Softer Side of Richard Perle 

Many many moons ago I wrote about a rumor that PBS was supposedly going to air a hagiographical documentary on Richard Perle. This tidbit was mentioned offhandedly in a piece about rightwingers taking over PBS. Well, it may have taken a while, but Richard Perle: The Movie is going to air in April as part of a series called America at the Crossroads.

The deal is that the producer of the show, Brian Lapping, is a personal friend of Perle's, the next door neighbor of Perle's villa in France, so one can imagine how fair and balanced this thing is going to be. According to David Corn the film will show "the softer side of Perle and argue that all those people out there who regard Perle as the Price of Darkness are simply misguided.":

It gets worse. The GOP hacks now in charge at CPB did realize they needed some balance. So they also commissioned a film that would be critical of Bush's foreign policy. Note that the CPB did not take steps to insure that the film on Perle would be balanced. No, it greenlighted a project designed as a puff piece about a man who was utterly wrong about Iraq. Recently on this site I chronicled but a few of Perle's whoppers. Before the war, he said there was no doubt that Saddam Hussein had revved up a nuclear weapons program. He also claimed that Iraq could be easily taken with a military force of 40,000 or less. In other words, he knew nothing, but, not letting ignorance stand in the way, he urged America on to war. You think any of this is going to end up as a significant piece of Lapping's wetkiss?

Actually I'm kind of looking forward to it in a sort of masochistic way. I have a feeling it's going to be strange to watch. The thing was so long in production that it's going to be like a time capsule from a bygone era -- sort of like watching a WWII propaganda film or something.

Anyway, it's nice to know they're putting our tax dollars to good use...

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Just Saying... 

Scooter goes to jail for a little while ... so that's good. But you know what else would be good? -- that even has to do with Joe Wilson and his wife and Cheney and so forth?: to know who the hell forged the Niger documents in the first place. Maybe EmptyWheel can write about that on FireDogLake...

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Free Fire Zone in Afghanistan? 

UPDATE 2: More bad news, as reported by the BBC:

Nine Afghan civilians have been killed in a bombing raid in Kapisa province, Afghan officials say.

US forces have confirmed carrying out an air strike in the area but say they have no accurate casualty information.

The news comes shortly after US forces were accused of killing 10 civilians during a shoot out on Sunday in Nangarhar province.

Apparently, the death toll from Sunday's incident has been reduced from 16 to 10, with the wounded increased from 23 to 35. The details of this subsequent air strike sound eerily like those used by the US military to describe the air war in Iraq:

News of the air strike in Kapisa came first from the province's deputy governor, Sayed Daud Hashimi.

He said the nine dead civilians included five women and three children and that the raid was carried out by Nato forces. Nato have denied any involvement.

But later a US military statement said US-led forces had "dropped two 2,000-pound (900-kilogram) bombs" during an air strike in Kapisa after a Nato base had come under attack.

A US spokesman, Lt Col David Accetta, said the Nato base had come under rocket attack and that "two men with AK-47s" were seen leaving the scene of the rocket attack and entering a compound," the Associated Press news agency reports.

"These men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces."

Local people say that the coalition forces then bombed a mud-brick home, killing nine members of the same extended family.

It is now becoming apparent that the purpose of these air strikes in Afghanistan is the same as they have been in Iraq, to collectively punish the civilian population for the ongoing vitality of the resistance to the occupation. As Michael Schwartz explained in relation to the Iraq air war nearby:

As one American officer explained to New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, the willingness to sacrifice local civilians is part of a larger strategy in which U.S. military power is used to "punish not only the guerrillas, but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the cost of not cooperating." A Marine calling-in to a radio talk show recently stated the argument more precisely: "You know why those people get killed? It's because they're letting insurgents hide in their house."

This is, by the way, the textbook definition of terrorism -- attacking a civilian population to get it to withdraw support from the enemy. What this strategic orientation, applied wherever American troops fight the Iraqi resistance, represents is an embrace of terrorism as a principle tactic for subduing Iraq's insurgency.

There are now just two options left to us. Leave, or wait for the resistance in both countries to force us to leave.

UPDATE 1: Word is spreading about the killings in the Shinwar district of Afghanistan:

Thousands of angry demonstrators took to the streets in Afghanistan yesterday after US forces were involved in a panicked shooting which left 16 civilians dead and 23 injured.

Local people as well as a number of Afghan officials accused the American marines of opening fire indiscriminately following a suicide bomb attack on their convoy in Nangarhar province.

With protests continuing to grow, and the police coming under attack from stone- throwing crowds, the US military maintained that the casualties were the victims of a "complex ambush" in which gunmen had carried out a synchronised attack following the blast in which a marine was injured.

But Mohammad Khan Katawazi, the district chief of Shinwar district, where the deaths took place, insisted that they "treated every car and person along the highway as a potential attacker" as they attempted to speed away from the scene of the explosion.

INITIAL POST: From today's New York Times:

American troops opened fire on a highway filled with civilian cars and bystanders today, American and Afghan officials said, in an incident that the Americans said left 16 civilians dead and 24 wounded as they fled the scene of a suicide car bombing in eastern Afghanistan. One American was also wounded.

Predictably, the US military describes the incident differently than the victims on the ground:

And there were differences in some of the accounts of the incident, with the Americans saying that the civilians were caught in crossfire between the troops and militants, and Afghan witnesses and some authorities blaming the Americans for indiscriminately shooting at civilian vehicles in anger after the explosion.

The United States military said the unit came under fire after a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden car near their convoy “as part of a complex ambush involving enemy small-arms fire from several directions.”

Eyewitness accounts are disturbing, as we have come to expect:

Yet some of the wounded interviewed in the hospital by news agencies said the only shooting came from the American troops. A hospital official, who asked not to be named, said all the wounded were suffering from bullet wounds and not shrapnel from the bomb explosion. . . . Among the dead this morning were a woman and two children in their early teens, said Dr. Ajmal Pardez, the provincial director of health, speaking by telephone from the Jalalabad city hospital. He said the hospital received 10 dead and 25 wounded people from the incident, with four people in critical condition, he said.

After the suicide attack, the American soldiers treated every car and person along the highway as a potential attacker, though none of the people showed hostile intent, Muhammad Khan Katawazi, the district chief of Shinwar, told The Associated Press.

They were firing everywhere, and they even opened fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway,” said Tur Gul, 38, who was standing on the roadside by a gas station and was shot twice in his right hand. “They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot.”

Some of the wounded interviewed by The Associated Press said the soldiers opened fire indiscriminately on passing cars and pedestrians on the busy main road.

When we parked our vehicle, when they passed us, they opened fire on our vehicle,” said 15-year-old Mohammad Ishaq, who was hit by two bullets, in his left arm and his right ear. “It was a convoy of three American Humvees. All three Humvees were firing around.”

And, more, from the Associated Press, the news service that broke the story:

Mohammad Karim, an 18-year-old employee at a hotel near the blast site, said he ran outside after the explosion and saw American forces fire a stream of bullets at a four-wheel drive vehicle.

"I ran to the vehicle to see how many people were inside. We found three dead bodies, and one wounded, but he was also in a very critical condition," he said. "All four people were from one family. The one who was wounded was about 20 years old."

An AP reporter at the scene said the vehicle was riddled by dozens of bullets.

U.S. forces later deleted photos of the vehicle taken by a freelance photographer working for The Associated Press and video taken by a freelancer working for AP Television News. Neither the photographer nor the cameraman witnessed the suicide attack or the subsequent gunfire.

The freelance photographer, Rahmat Gul, said an American soldier took his camera and deleted the photos, saying he didn't have permission to take them. Gul said a soldier later said it was OK to take photos, but that the first soldier came back and angrily told him to delete the photos again. Gul said the soldier then raised his fist as if he was going to strike Gul.

No pictures, indeed. Visual evidence that there is no humanitarian purpose to the US presence in Afghanistan must be suppressed.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

The War Parties 

In case you missed it:

U.S. House of Representatives Democrats will more than fully fund President George W. Bush's request for money to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, but are still debating conditions that could be attached, senior lawmakers said on Thursday.

"There will be $98 billion for the military part," about $5 billion above the Bush administration's request, said Rep. John Murtha, chairman of a defense spending panel overseeing war funds.

Murtha told reporters Democrats were still discussing provisions he wants to attach requiring that U.S. troops have proper training, adequate equipment and enough rest before being deployed into combat. "We don't have it yet. We keep going back and refining it," Murtha said.

Remember how the November election was a repudiation of the war in Iraq? Apparently, we just imagined it, as it looks more and more like rearranging the decks chairs on the Titanic.

Meanwhile, Senator Carl Levin wants to expand the war to Syria.

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