Friday, March 31, 2006

Why Do Kandaharis Believe the US is in League with the Taliban? 

From The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists via Green Knight via Digby:

U.S. military and civilian officials remain obsessed with "Al Qaeda" and any possible manifestations of an Osama bin Laden-style, ideological confrontation. This concern acts as a set of blinkers, blinding Americans to the real problems in Afghanistan....

The steadily worsening situation in southern Afghanistan is not the work of some ineffable Al Qaeda nebula. It is the result of the real depredations of the corrupt and predatory government officials whom the United States ushered into power in 2001.... Taliban leaders strut openly around Quetta, Pakistan, where they are provided with offices and government-issued weapons authorization cards; Pakistani army officers are detailed to Taliban training camps; and Pakistani border guards constantly wave self-proclaimed Taliban through checkpoints into Afghanistan....

This state of affairs is so bewildering that Kandaharis have reached an astonishing conclusion: The United States must be in league with the Taliban.... The point is not whether there is any factual basis for this notion, it's that everyone here believes it. In other words, in a stunning irony, much of this city, the Taliban's former stronghold, is disgusted with the Americans not because of their Western culture, but because of their apparent complicity with Islamist extremists.

Oh, man...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Klimowicz's Iraq War Fatalities 

I hadn't seen this project before ... it's an attempt by Tim Klimowicz, a graphic designer, to "encompass the entire war in a single animation". Although Klimowicz seems to have intended the project to be educational rather than expressive -- he seems to have not consciously set out to produce an art piece -- I think it's one of the better pieces of political artwork I've seen in awhile.

Hat tip No Capital.

Jill Carroll Conspiracy Theories 

It's sometimes hard to predict the things that will really irritate the jingoistic mind. This whole Jill Carroll situation is a little surprising to me. You would think the story of an American woman abducted for months by Iraqis would fire up the wingers in the obvious way and that her release wouldn't cause them that much cognitive dissonance, but it apparently does.

Although the right's top blogs aren't officially endorsing it, among the commenters and in the blogs of the bottom feeders, the boys are spinning a conspiracy theory in which Jill Carroll was in cahoots with "the terrorists" and faked her own kidnapping in order to make the occupation look bad ... I kid you not. Here for example is an actual comment from Free Republic:

I will always believe this to be a set up situation...I think she was in on it and I said at the time if she was released unharmed she was part of the I will prepare to hear how she wouldn't have been in the situation to begin with if the US hadn't invaded and OCCUPIED the poor little Iraq's...

Does anyone else wonder why no other American Woman "Journalists" are kidnapped??? -- Just this one who has been an apologist for the terrorists from the beginning..and foreign females from liberal papers????

which seems to imply that the two Simonas were in league with the terrorists as well. Maybe Tom Fox faked his own death to smear egg in the face of bourgeois Christians by, you know, demonstrating what actually living by the words of Christ looks like?...

Granted the conspiracy theories upon Carroll's release follow from the crazy viciousness with which the Free Republic and LGF folks attacked Ms. Carroll while she was abducted but are nonetheless pretty insane. What is Carroll's crime in these people's eyes? -- Being a woman, a journalist, not an idiotic jingoistic rightwinger, and getting kidnapped by insurgents who were insufficiently bloodthirsty for the tastes of America's enlightened patriots?

Dan Savage 

People in Atrios' comments are apparently shocked that Savage Love author Dan Savage was pro-Iraq War but anyone who reads his column regularly shouldn't be too surprised. He's a very very anti-left liberal. I remember he basically turned his sex column into an anti-Nader soapbox in 2000 and got really vicious.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie 

Billy Bragg wrote and recorded a song about the murder of Rachel Corrie to the tune of Bob Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol". It's good and sad and well-written. Here's the MP3. This is my favorite part:

Rachel Corrie had 23 years
She was born in the town of Olympia, Washington
A skinny, messy, list-making chain-smoker
Who volunteered to protect the Palestinian people
Who had become non-persons in the eyes of the media
So that people were suffering and no one was seeing
Or hearing or talking or caring or acting
And the horrible math of the awful equation
That brought Rachel Corrie into this confrontation
Is that the spilt blood of a single American
Is worth more than the blood of a hundred Palestinians

From The Guardian via Empire Burlesque.

Monday, March 27, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: V for Vendetta 

Remember, remember
the fifth of November,
the gunpowder treason and plot.

I know of no reason
why the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

V for Vendetta is the one of the most exciting pulp action political allegories since Executioners, a 1993 futuristic Hong Kong martial arts film featuring the Heroic Trio of Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and the now deceased Anita Mui. Both films are noirish, violent and psychologically disturbing as they emphasize the irresistable temptation to seize and maintain power by appeals to fear in all its variations. Both also shamelessly steal from The Phantom of the Opera, displaying, yet again, the inexhaustible artistic potential of this seemingly simple story, although V for Vendetta does so more than Executioners, and both look to feminine heroines for salvation. Stephanie Bunbury, of the Australian newspaper, The Age, has chronicled the making of the film in detail, with an emphasis upon its cultural sources.

V for Vendetta is overtly political in its purpose, as the official Warner Brothers website ominously declares: People should not be afraid of the governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. Conversely, to this day, as Executioners is known primarily only to Hong Kong action film fans, it is still mistakenly viewed by many as little more than a high wire special effects extravaganza, and hence judged in comparison, sometimes unfavorably, to other productions in the genre.

In fact, Executioners was politically visionary, with a story line that exploited anxieties about the transfer of Hong Kong from Britain to China as an opportunity to explore the far more serious interrelated subjects of spectacle and military neoliberalism, with the latter concept being one that did not gain common currency until after the turn of the century, as a consequence of 9/11 and the publication of books like Afflicted Powers. The plot now strikes the ear as banal. The wealthiest man in Hong Kong conspires with the head of the military to destabilize the government and impose martial law by depriving the city of its water supply (seven years before Cochabamba, Bolivia violently erupted after Bechtel took over the municipal water supply and implemented nearly exponential prices increases!). Fortunately for Hong Kong, Michelle, Maggie and Anita overcome the combined forces of militarism and finance capital, if only to the extent that Hong Kong still has water. A small victory, but a victory, nonetheless.

While V for Vendetta is more a response to events than an anticipation of future ones, or, so we can only hope, the protagonist, the mysterious V, has a far more ambitious goal: the instigation of a 21st Century anarchist revolution that echoes the earlier Bolshevik one in St. Petersburg in 1917. Adult comic fans know that the film is based upon a 1980s series written by Alan Moore and predominately illustrated by David Lloyd. Moore reportedly created the series to give artistic expression to his revulsion of Thatcherism.

V is inspired by Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605, a plot to blow up Parliament, portrayed in the film's prequel to the activities of V as an attempted act of liberation instead of a conspiracy of Roman Catholics, consistent with the incorporation of Fawkes into anarchist histories as the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions. His failure has been forever enshrined in British history as he was recently acknowledged as one of the "100 Most Famous Britons".

As Fawkes is hung for treason, a voiceover from the narrator, Evey, a young woman who finds her life inextricably bound with V's, states: 400 years later, an idea can change the world. Wikipedia thereafter describes the momentum of the film into the not-so-distant future:

. . . . The story then moves to the movie's present day, where government spokesman Lewis Prothero gives a speech showing England to be under the rule of a religious, fascist, and bigotted regime. There is a curfew in effect.

Evey, a young woman who breaks curfew is caught on the street by members of the secret police, known as "fingermen." They are about to rape Evey when a man dressed in black, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, intervenes by either incapacitating and killing the fingermen. After introducing himself to Evey as V, he takes her to a London rooftop to show her an event. As the clock strikes midnight of the fifth of November, Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" begins playing through the city's PA system and the citizens of London go outside, astounded, to listen to the symphony. In the symphony's climax, The Old Bailey is blown up and fireworks are released.

The Norsefire regime, the futuristic totalitarian regime of Britain headed by High Chancellor Sutler, explains the destruction of The Old Bailey as a voluntary act of emergency demolition on the part of the government. The police are also dispatched to find Evey, who was identified based on closed-circuit television images showing her in the company of V.

Clearly, the most controversial aspect of the film is the daring inducement to the audience to interpret it in light of emerging developments in the United States, such as Guantanamo and the war in Iraq (clearly, periodic references to the US being in the throes of a perpetual civil war are cosmetic). V is, by turns, warm, engaging, refined, violent and deranged. Through his ability to perform spectacular stunts, he disorients both the government and the people as he proceeds to undermine the regime, constituting the flip side of a cinematic coin that bears the image of German film director Fritz Lang's infamous creation, Dr. Mabuse, a 1920s and 1930s movie meglomaniac that disrupted society to lay the ground for fascism.

V for Vendetta has that electric quality that one associates with the greatest creations of the silent era, before cinema was reduced, except in rare instances, to commercially providing immediate representations of reality. Slavish adherence to plot rationality (how did V get all those masks and mail them to everyone in London?) is bravely jettisoned to the higher aspiration of exploring the limits of film as a method of story telling and political agitation in its own right. One critic deliriously responded to the film's poster art provocations, its masterful juxtaposition of a cinema verite present with a dystopian future, a London tricked out with noirish settings culturally expropriated from the industrial past and the postmodern present, and its blunt, politically uncompromising character, by invoking Eisenstein. Now, this, unlike the movie, is certainly over the top. But, having been mesmerized by the film myself, I can certainly understand how someone couldn't resist the comparison.

Moore has expressed unhappiness with the film's conception of V, asserting that he wanted to contrast the extremes of anarchism and fascism, seeking to encourage the audience to determine if V was insane or justified in his actions. Personally, I believe that Moore is too harsh on the scriptwriters, the Wachowski brothers of Matrix fame, and the disagreement highlights an essential aspect of the film. V carries out a killing spree for reasons of revenge (evocative of the great Vincent Price cult film, Theatre of Blood, wherein Price, playing a Shakespearan actor, kills the critics who denied him a prestigious acting award), but for V, the personal is the political, as they used to say, with his vengence releasing the latent discontent of the populace against their authoritarian government.

Accordingly, the Wachowski brothers are traveling over a terrain that is most disconcerting to anyone who believes that the hegemony of the US empire can be overcome solely through non-violence. V is a flawed, egomanical character that reveals the extent to which rebellions are often lead by marginalized figures who live outside of societal convention in profoundly troubling ways. Revolutions invariably, as shown in the film, involve a complex interweaving of violent and non-violent components. One need only look at the extent to which the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela basks in the security offered by the resistance in Iraq, a resistance that prevents the US from taking action thousands of miles away, as a contemporary example.

Significantly, however, the true protagonist of the film is Evey (a strong performance by Natalie Portman), not V. V needs someone who will carry his vision forward, because it will die with him, a solitary dream, a fantasy, if the next generation does not share it. Evey's evolution into a fearless, nameless (she ultimately survives with a fake ID), confident woman as she is forced to confront more and more harrowing degrees of loss, violence and deprivation, most memorably in a prolonged incarceration sequence, is therefore central to the film's premise. In this, V transcends his desire for grandiose revenge, and creates an enduring social legacy, much as the character of Prospero does at the conclusion of the great Shakespeare play, The Tempest, but the legacy requires that someone grasp it, and that person is Evey. Thus, the Wachowski brothers, paradoxically through the genre of the comic book action film, insist that we engage with the past, present and future by recognizing history as it is, not as we would like it to be.

Indeed, a detective, Eric Finch, played by Stephen Rea, is involuntarily compelled to do so in one of the film's most compelling sequences, as V, reminiscent of Prospero, skillfully stage manages his impending insurrection, navigating the chaos around him with ease. V's willingness to voluntarily hand over his movement, no strings attached, to Evey, leaving success or failure to her, distinguishes him from the fascist, Mabuse.

All along the way James McTeigue, the director, utilizes some effective alienation effects, as the past (Fawkes), our ephemeral present (through flashbacks of Evey, V and Valerie, an incarcerated lesbian) and the impending future, the present setting of the film's narrative, are powerfully contrasted. The surface normality of our times, with our knowledge of its concealed atrocities, and our belief that we are privileged enough to remain securely and happily independent of them, degenerates into the explicit brutality of an authoritarian future. Valerie's recollection of her affectionate London life with her partner, as the world around them becomes more and more intolerant of any expressions of compassion, is especially poignant.

A fusion of fear, fascism and media manipulation relentlessly devours all remaining sanctuaries of personal kindness and autonomy, as Evey's dear friend Gordon, who shelters her, tragically discovers as a result of V's obssessive pursuit of Old Testament revenge and revolutionary transformation. Yet another splash of ice cold water from the Wachowski brothers: a radical consciously goes forward despite the certain knowledge that some good hearted innocents will inevitably be consumed by the conflict around them, something that John Sayles acknowledged as an essential feature of his brilliant 1987 film about a turn of the century West Virginia coal miners strike, Matewan. J. Hoberman of the Village Voice has warmly described V for Vendetta as a supremely tasteless movie. Let's have many more of them.

Stiff Competition 

Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania is sponsoring a contest in which artists submit poster designs on the theme of emergency contraception in emergency rooms, pharmacy refusals of contraceptive prescriptions, or abortion bans. The contest is open to anyone anywhere, ie. it's not a western Pennsylvania thing. Here's the web site and here's an excerpt from the press release:

Stiff Competition is back, and Planned Parenthood Western Pennsylvania's Action Fund (PPWPAF) proudly invites you to participate in Stiff Competition 2006: Firm Beliefs.

It's been two years since our last Stiff Competition, and things have certainly changed in the world of reproductive freedom. Abortion is banned in South Dakota, some women have been turned away from their local pharmacies when they tried to fill their birth control prescriptions, and more than half of all sexual assault victims can't obtain emergency contraception from statewide emergency rooms.

Our competition this year has changed slightly. We want participants to be thinking about and supporting major issues affecting reproductive freedom, but instead of designing condom packaging, we are asking entrants to create engaging and eye-catching posters that will be used to educate the public and legislature about three of Planned Parenthood's most vital issues.

Friday, March 24, 2006

For Your Reading Pleasure 

Just when you thought conservative-on-conservative mudslinging couldn't get any funnier, I bring you a post on the official blog of the John Birch Society bitching about the phony conservatives of the National Review:

[...] Since William F. Buckley has descended into senescence and left his publication in the hands of “mini-cons” -- youngish writers spawned by neo-conservatives, or unduly influenced by them – the magazine has abandoned any pretense to conservatism beyond a tribalist attachment to the Republican Party.

NR's “symposium” discussing George W. Bush's 3rd anniversary war speech in Cleveland is the sort of discussion one could imagine reading in the state-controlled Soviet press of the mid-1980s. The panelists seem indecently eager to elbow each other out of the way and step over each other's lines as they regurgitate the potted Party phrases. [ ... ]

“We're fighting pure evil in Iraq,” exclaims Comrade Peter Brookes of the Heritage Foundation in his ten-point contribution. “How many Iraqi women and children have al Qaeda/the insurgents slaughtered?”

I'd guess that the bodycount rolled up by those barbarians is awful – maybe a significant fraction of that compiled by the “liberators.” The insurgents, after all, don't have the means to drop high-yield explosives on residential neighborhoods, as “coalition” forces did in the opening phase of “Shock & Awe.”

Reciting a non-sequitur favored by the Hannity crowd, Brookes writes: “No terrorist attacks here since 9/11. Coincidence? I don't think so.”

I don't think so, either. A terrorist attack on the US would be redundant, given the speed with which the Bush administration is bankrupting our nation and ruining our military – not to mention isolating us from our traditional allies.

Iran-Contra conspirator (and Mussolini fan-boy) Michael Ledeen, who really should be looking at striped sunlight rather than plotting new wars of aggression, was disappointed that Bush's speech displayed inadequate zeal to open up a second front with Iran.

“No talk of democratic revolution,” sneered Ledeen. “No mention that Iran is the leading sponsor of terrorism. No encouragement for the Iranian people. Instead, a cheerful reference to talks between our ambassador to Iraq and the Iranians, as if diplomacy could end a war that Iran has been waging against us for 27 years.”

Almost without exception NR's panelists blamed the media for the unfolding debacle in Iraq. That's the problem: Thanks to the “wreckers” (to use the Stalinist term) in the dreaded MSM, people just won't clap for Tinkerbell.

I like this article. Comparisons of the National Review with "the state-controlled Soviet press of the mid-1980s", with Soviet "commissars", with a "neo-conservative Politburo " and a comparison between the NR's criticism of the MSM with Stalin's persecution of dissidents thrown in for good measure? ... Such nostalgia! It instills in the reader a pleasant feeling of continuity with the past: wherever the Birchers look, they're still seeing red.

A Question of Sovereignty 

At least one South Dakota-based tribe plans on taking a stand regarding the state's abortion ban: (from

"When Governor Mike Rounds signed HB 1215 into law it effectively banned all abortions in the state with the exception that it did allow saving the mother’s life. There were, however, no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. His actions, and the comments of State Senators like Bill Napoli of Rapid City, SD, set of a maelstrom of protests within the state.

Napoli suggested that if it was a case of “simple rape,” there should be no thoughts of ending a pregnancy. Letters by the hundreds appeared in local newspapers, mostly written by women, challenging Napoli’s description of rape as “simple.” He has yet to explain satisfactorily what he meant by “simple rape.”

The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

“To me, it is now a question of sovereignty,” she said to me last week. “I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction.”

Strong words from a very strong lady. I hope Ms. Fire Thunder challenges Gov. Rounds and the state legislators on this law that is an affront to all independent women."

Hat tip Uggabugga.

The Haditha Massacre 

Allegations of two separate but similar atrocities are currently being made against US forces in Iraq. Witnesses accuse US marines of committing execution-style murder of Iraqi civilians in the city of Ishaqi, as discussed by Richard below and by Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque.

Another incident occurred in Haditha last November but was broken by Time Magazine just a few days ago. Time obtained a videotape shot by Iraqis of the aftermath of the Haditha massacre from a group affiliated with Human Rights Watch. The military had originally claimed that an insurgent bomb was responsible for the deaths at Haditha -- Time's videotape proves this claim false.

Brad Blog is hosting a movie file composed of Arabic coverage of Haditha appended on to a report from the BBC. Raw footage from Time Magazine's video is included in the Arabic coverage.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Odds You'd Have to Lay on Hitchens in a "Recantation Pool" 

Jonathan Schwarz flags some premium Hitchens bashing by Dennis Perrin in which Perrin argues that Hitchens is actually "getting worse".

The cited post struck a chord with me because when I read about Johann Hari I considered briefly organizing a "recantation pool" -- like one of those celebrity death pools -- in which you place bets on the identity of the next big name jackass to retract expressed pro-Iraq War beliefs. I decided that it was too late for such an endeavor -- I can't think of enough people who still might turn.

What for instance would it take for Hitchens to see the light? Come hell or civil war, you know he's sticking this one out, and will predictably over-compensate by, as Perrin puts it, getting worse...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Marine Death Squads? 

UPDATE: This is an important story that requires us to try to understand the reality of the US occupation in Iraq and the conduct of US troops there. To effectively engage it, we must suspend some of the common principles of blogging that cherish brevity and sharpness of wit and analysis. Readers should, in my view, try to independently evaluate the coverage of this story. Accordingly, I am liberally citing newspaper articles to establish the broadest possible context.

While it may be laborious, I encourage readers to first read the initial post below in full, and then proceed to read this update. As we do so, we should ask many questions, such as, are the explanations of the US military persuasive? Should we believe what the Iraqis, including Iraqi police, tell the media? If not, why not? Is there reason to believe that the US military will effectively investigate these incidents, especially given past experience? Even if we believe the US explanations, what does this say about a conflict that seems to necessarily involve the random killings of so many non-combatants?

Along these lines, Reuters has more:

The U.S. military hit back on Wednesday at what it called a "pattern of misinformation" following Iraqi police accusations that its troops shot dead a family of 11 in their home last week.

Responding to comments by police and residents in the town of Ishaqi, north of Baghdad, that U.S. officers had failed to attend a meeting on Wednesday about the incident, Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, a senior spokesman, told Reuters:

"There was no meeting scheduled with any Coalition investigators today. There appears to be a distinct pattern of misinformation surrounding this entire incident."

"This is another clear sign of that happening, making allegations for the sake of prompting media reporting and attempting to discredit Coalition operations. This is a pattern we've seen the terrorist-backed insurgency use repeatedly."

Relations between the U.S. military and Iraqi police in the mainly Sunni area north of Baghdad -- where many including police are sympathetic to the insurgency -- are strained, with police accusing U.S. troops of killing civilians and the military questioning the credibility of the police.

Reuters, consistent with other reports, emphasizes obvious contradictions between the accounts of the US military and residents:

The Ishaqi inquiry was announced days after the launch of a criminal investigation into events in the western town of Haditha in November, when U.S. Marines shot dead 15 civilians.

In Ishaqi, police said 11 people including five children under school age were found bound and shot in their home after the U.S. raid. The military said at the time that four people, including a guerrilla fighter, were killed.

Local journalists filmed the bodies of five young children, four women and two men who police said were killed in the raid.

Johnson said: "We have said repeatedly we know of four people killed after Coalition forces came under direct fire from the house, resulting in a heavy engagement to suppress it. The loss of life included two women and a child."

Residents remain outraged:

A week later, residents were still expressing anger. "We heard a barrage of shooting for 20 minutes and then we heard bombs," said Thiya Hussein, who said his cousin was killed. "After the Americans left we went to the house and found 11 people lying in blood together in one room. Five of them were children. They were bound in plastic handcuffs and shot. The baby, Husam, who was six-months-old, was shot dead. A 75-year-old woman was shot in the head," he told Reuters.

Another neighbor, Abbas Abid, said: "The house was damaged and the family was shot and lying in one room. Three cars were burned and four cows were shot also."

Accusations American soldiers have killed innocent people has fueled anger at the occupation among Iraqis, who complain that little disciplinary action has resulted from inquiries.

INITIAL POST: From the Minneapolis Star Tribune today:

Residents gave new details Monday about the shootings of civilians in a western Iraqi town, where the U.S. military is investigating allegations of potential misconduct by American troops last November. The residents said troops entered homes and shot and killed 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine.

And, not surprisingly, the description of the incident by residents is most disturbing:

A U.S. military statement in November described it as an ambush on a joint U.S.-Iraqi patrol that left 15 civilians, eight insurgents and a U.S. Marine dead in the bombing and a subsequent firefight. The statement said the 15 civilians were killed by the blast, a claim residents denied.

The residents said the only shooting done after the bombing was by U.S. forces.

"American troops immediately cordoned off the area and raided two nearby houses, shooting at everyone inside,'' said Rsayef, who did not witness the events but whose 15-year-old niece says she did. "It was a massacre in every sense of the word.''

Rsayef and another resident, former city councilman Imad Jawad Hamza, who spoke with hospital officials and residents, said the first house to be stormed was that of Abdul-Hamid Hassan Ali, which was near the scene of the bombing.

Ali, 76, whose left leg was amputated years ago because of diabetes, died after being shot in the stomach and chest. His wife, Khamisa, 66, was shot in the back. Ali's son, Jahid, 43, was hit in the head and chest. Son Walid, 37, was burned to death after a grenade was thrown into his room, and a third son, 28-year-old Rashid, died after he was shot in the head and chest, Rsayef and Hamza said.

Also among the dead were son Walid's wife, Asma, 32, who was shot in the head, and their son Abdullah, 4, who was shot in the chest, Rsayef and Hamza said.

Walid's 8-year-old daughter, Iman, and his 6-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman, were wounded and U.S. troops took them to Baghdad for treatment. The only person who escaped unharmed was Walid's 5-month-old daughter, Asia. The three children now live with their maternal grandparents, Rsayef and Hamza said.

Rsayef said those killed in the second house were his brother Younis, 43, who was shot in the stomach and chest, the brother's wife Aida, 40, who was shot in the neck and chest while still in bed where she was recuperating from bladder surgery. Their 8-year-old son Mohammed bled to death after being shot in the right arm, Rsayef said.

Also killed were Younis's daughters, Nour, 14, who was shot in the head; Seba, 10, who was hit in the chest; Zeinab, 5, shot in the chest and stomach; and Aisha, 3, who was shot in the chest. Hoda Yassin, a visiting relative, was also killed, Rsayef and Hamza said.

The only survivor from Younis's family was his 15-year-old daughter Safa, who pretended she was dead. She is living with her grandparents, Rsayef said.

The troops then shot and killed four brothers who were walking in the street, Rsayef and Hamza said, identifying them as the sons of Ayed Ahmed - Marwan, Qahtan, Jamal and Chaseb.

U.S. troops also shot dead five men who were in a car near the scene, Hamza and Rsayef said. They identified the five as Khaled Ayad al-Zawi and his brother Wajdi as well as Mohammed Battal Mahmoud, Akram Hamid Flayeh and Ahmad Fanni Mosleh.

It was not clear if the nine men were involved in the attack as the military statement said.

According to the Defense Department, the Marine who was killed near Haditha that day was Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20, of El Paso, Texas. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Dr. Walid al-Hadithi, chief physician at Haditha General Hospital, said that about midnight the day of the attack, two U.S. Humvees arrived at the hospital - one carrying the bodies of men and the other those of women and children.

"They (the Marines) told me the women and children were shot in their homes, and they added that the men were saboteurs,'' al-Hadithi said. He said he was given a total of 24 bodies. "All had bullet wounds.''

Time magazine said its investigation showed that walls and ceilings in both houses were pockmarked with shrapnel and bullet holes as well as sprays of blood. The video did not show any bullet holes on the outside of the houses - holes that might support the military report of a gunbattle.

The military, after being shown the videotape in January, concluded civilians were killed by Marines, Time said, victims of "collateral damage.''

Patrick Cockburn has provided some additional background in a Counterpunch article:

The Marines claim they heard shots coming from the direction of Waleed's house. They burst in to the house and Eman heard shots from her father's room. They then entered the living room, where the rest of the family was gathered. She said: "I couldn't see their faces very well - only their guns sticking in to the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny."

The US soldiers started shooting in to the corner of the room where Eman and her eight-year-old brother, Abdul Rahman, were cowering. The other adults in the room tried to protect the two children with their bodies and were all shot dead. Eman and her brother were both wounded.

"We were lying there, bleeding and it hurt so much. Afterwards some Iraqi soldiers came. They carried us in their arms. I was crying, shouting, 'why did you do this to our family?' And one Iraqi soldier tells me, 'we didn't do it. The Americans did it'."

The Marines' explanation is that they heard the sound of a Kalashnikov being readied to shoot and had then fired their weapons. The Marines say they were fired at from a second house, where they broke down a door, threw in a grenade and opened fire. The eight who died in the second house included the owner, his wife, the owner's sister, a two-year-old son and three young daughters.

In a third house the Marines searched four young men were shot dead. A military investigation decided these were insurgent fighters, along with four others killed in the street.

The Marines later delivered 24 bodies to a hospital in Haditha, claiming they had been killed by shrapnel from a bomb. Dr Wahid, the director of the hospital, said: "It was obvious to us there were no organs slashed by shrapnel. The bullet wounds were very apparent. Most of the victims were shot in the head and chest - from close range."

An US military investigation decided the deaths were "collateral damage". Relatives were paid $2,500 (£1,400) for each of the dead.

Even more alarming, this may not be the only such incident. As MSNBC reported last Wednesday:

U.S. forces flattened a house during a raid north of Baghdad early Wednesday, killing 11 people — mostly women and children, while insurgent attacks elsewhere left four dead, police and relatives said. The U.S. military acknowledged the raid and said it captured one insurgent. It took place near Balad, about 50 miles north of the capital. But the military said only four people were killed — a man, two women and a child.

The Daily Star of Lebanon interviewed the residents themselves:

Associated Press photographs showed the bodies of two men, five children and four other covered figures arriving at Tikrit General Hospital accompanied by grief-stricken relatives.

The U.S. military said in a statement its troops had attacked a house in Ishaqi, the town 100 kilometers north of Baghdad, to capture a "foreign fighter facilitator for the Al-Qaeda in Iraq network."

"There was one enemy killed. Two women and one child were also killed in the firefight. The building ... [was] destroyed," the military said, adding the Al-Qaeda suspect had been captured and was being questioned.

Major Ali Ahmad of the Iraqi police said U.S. forces had landed on the roof of the house in the early hours and shot the 11 occupants, including the five children. "After they left the house they blew it up," he said.

Another policeman, Colonel Farouk Hussein, said autopsies had been carried out at Tikrit hospital and found that "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head."

The bodies, their hands bound, had been dumped in one room before the house was destroyed, Hussein said. Police had found spent American-issue cartridges in the rubble.

"It's a clear and perfect crime without any doubt," he said.

Ishaqi's town administrator, Rasheed Shather, said the town was shocked: "Everyone went to the funeral. We want the Americans to give us an explanation for this horrible crime."

One man who described himself as a relative said one was just seven months old.

Both incidents are apparently under investigation at this time. Anyone with additional information and links is encouraged to post in the comment section.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Internal Exit Strategy 

Jim Hoagland writes in the Post that an internal withdrawal is underway in Iraq. US troops are being pulled off the streets:

The quiet change was suggested in classified briefings for friendly diplomats and visiting foreign officials: U.S. troops will be moving out of Iraq's streets and then out of Iraq's cities by the end of this year as part of a coordinated drawing down and concentration of all foreign forces. Troops from Italy and other nations will leave the country, and a reduced British force will redeploy into a smaller area of operational responsibility.

This is part of a new internal exit strategy that President Bush hinted at in Monday's Iraq speech. [ ... ] This is what Bush calls Iraqis standing up to allow Americans to stand down

Seems like someone or other wrote about such a strategy several months ago...

Hoagland neglects to mention where the troops will be when they're no longer on "Iraq's streets" but one can guess: (from the AP, yesterday)

The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that's now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters, a "heli-park" as good as any back in the States.

At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq's western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.

At a third hub down south, Tallil, they're planning a new mess hall, one that will seat 6,000 hungry airmen and soldiers for chow.

Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad.

"I think we'll be here forever," the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told a visitor to his base.

Consorting with Terrorists of All Sizes and Shapes 

Yesterday the press surprisingly covered Bush's assertion during the Q&A in Cleveland that he never linked Saddam Hussein to September 11th. Some commentators even mentioned that the statement was blatantly false -- here, for example, Truth Dig summarizes Keith Olberman's coverage -- but no one apparently told the GOP foot soldiers.

On CNN Victoria Clarke was stressing the mythical connection between Iraq and international terrorism last night more-or-less at the same time CNN's sister stations were fussing over Bush's statement: (transcript here)

BLITZER: Was there discussion, you were inside the inner- circles, was there a discussion of an insurgency exploding and potentially a civil war erupting.

CLARKE: There was a very rigorous going over of the many bad things that can happen when you take action. You weigh the potential bad things happening against the risk of inaction. We decided because of the pattern of abuse, because Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction, because he was consorting with terrorists of all sizes and shapes, the president made the decision to go to war.

Also News Hounds flags the same phenomenon on FOX.

Bushinator v1.01 

I added Bush's Cleveland speech to the Bushinator's input and now it can't shut up about Tal Afar; see here, for example. Go figure.

(Maybe the Bushinator has been secretly reading The New Republic)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Johann Hari Recants 

This blog often dwells on the subject of the so-called liberal hawks of the New Republic and elsewhere, but seldom mentions the even more oxymoronic phenomenon of leftist hawks.

The Independent's Johann Hari supported the invasion of Iraq while still self-identifying, I believe, with the left. Hari's pre-war position was that the Iraqi people supported the invasion and therefore the invasion was justified. In other words he was on board with the neoconservative fantasy that US troops would be showered with rose petals, hugged by children, and generally treated in a manner that couldn't be characterized as serving primarily as targets for homemade bombs. Just before the invasion, for instance, Hari asked,

"Those who still deny all this evidence will know soon enough, once the war is over, what the Iraqi people thought all along. When it emerges… that they wanted this war, will the anti-war movement recant?"

But Johann is the one who has ended up recanting. From The Independent, 4/18/2006:

So when people ask if I think I was wrong, I think about the Iraqi friend – hiding, terrified, in his own house – who said to me this week, “Every day you delete another name from your mobile, because they’ve been killed. By the Americans or the jihadists or the militias – usually you never find out which.” I think of the people trapped in the siege of a civilian city, Fallujah, where amidst homes and schools the Americans indiscriminately used a banned chemical weapon – white phosphorous – that burns through skin and bone. (The Americans say they told civilians to leave the city, so anybody left behind was a suspected jihadi – an evacuation procedure so successful they later used it in New Orleans.). I think of the raw numbers: on the largest estimate – from the Human Rights Centre in Khadimiya – Saddam was killing 70,000 people a year. The occupation and the jihadists have topped that, and the violence is getting worse. And I think – yes, I was wrong. Terribly wrong.

The lamest defence I could offer – one used by many supporters of the war as they slam into reverse gear – is that I still support the principle of invasion, it’s just the Bush administration screwed it up. But as one anti-war friend snapped at me when I mooted this argument, “Yeah, who would ever have thought that supporting George Bush in the illegal invasion of an Arab country would go wrong?” She’s right: the truth is that there was no pure Platonic ideal of The Perfect Invasion to support, no abstract idea we lent our names to. There was only Bush, with his cluster bombs, depleted uranium, IMF-ed up economic model, bogus rationale and unmistakable stench of petrol, offering his war, his way. (Expecting Tony Blair to use his influence was, it is now clear, a delusion, as he refuses to even frontally condemn the American torture camp at Guantanomo Bay).

Good times, good times...

Ultra-liberal NPR... 

The Continental Op reports:

NPR has walked away from contract negotiations with NABET-CWA Local 52031, the union representing the network's technical staff, and has unilaterally implemented changes that the union rejected at the bargaining table. Federal law prohibits an employer from unilaterally changing terms and conditions of work unless and until the parties have bargained to impasse. Moreover, a labor arbitrator, sustaining a grievance by the union, expressly ordered NPR to "cease and desist" from making the disputed changes. NABET-CWA (together with AFTRA, which represents other NPR workers) has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over NPR's illegal refusal to bargain.

If you're an NPR listener, send a message to CEO Kevin Klose, telling him to obey the law and resume good faith bargaining.

What's the Deal with Kevin Phillips? 

In the Times today Alan Brinkley favorably reviews Kevin Phillips's American Theocracy. Brinkley describes the book as a well-researched and "alarming" analysis of the current American political milieu...

Although Phillips is scathingly critical of what he considers the dangerous policies of the Bush administration, he does not spend much time examining the ideas and behavior of the president and his advisers. Instead, he identifies three broad and related trends — none of them new to the Bush years but all of them, he believes, exacerbated by this administration's policies — that together threaten the future of the United States and the world. One is the role of oil in defining and, as Phillips sees it, distorting American foreign and domestic policy. The second is the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government. And the third is the astonishing levels of debt — current and prospective — that both the government and the American people have been heedlessly accumulating. If there is a single, if implicit, theme running through the three linked essays that form this book, it is the failure of leaders to look beyond their own and the country's immediate ambitions and desires so as to plan prudently for a darkening future.

which is all fine and good ... but what I found interesting, and maybe I'm just being slow on this one, was that the guy who predicted and lauded the ascendancy of the hard right in 1969's The Emerging Republican Majority apparently jumped ship a long time ago. I've seen Phillips appear as pundit before, but I had no idea it was the Emerging Republican Majority Kevin Phillips...

Anyway, I think it's positive that in American Theocracy Phillips apparently makes an argument in a mainstream NYT-reviewed book that is usually relegated to leftwing publications: that there is a connection between the crises being manufactured by current American policies and the rise to political dominance of Christian fundamentalism. Phillips argues that one reason the culture of debt has flourished recently -- huge national and huge corporate debts, etc. -- is because voters who think the world is about to end don't mind if you rack up a huge IOU for future generations. The same point can be made about the destruction of the environment and much more.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bushinator v1.0 

I wrote a computer program called the Bushinator that randomly generates gibberish in the style of a Bush speech on staying the course in Iraq.

The program figures out the probability that a word will follow a given pair of words for all pairs of adjacent words in an input file and then spews out random text that exhibits the same probabilities. I used as input six Bush Iraq speeches (here, here, here, here, here, and here) plus Bush's 2nd inaugural address.

Bushinator output reads like the weird ravings of a coked-up sufferer of glossomania with an obsessive-compulsive fixation on the writings of neoconservative ideologues -- in other words, it sounds a lot like Bush. Here's an excerpt:

These terrorists have nothing to offer the Iraqi security forces have given their lives are going to be prepared to take that future away from them by tearing their country, you could be taken seriously now, it's important for the students being here, but I want to thank you for your service to our enemies. Predecessors of mine have used a litany of excuses for violence -- the progress we are on the offense, and we will not waver, we expect to see how they ran and left their agents -- is noteworthy." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for them and their neighbors, democracies respect the rights and choices of their own citizens, and cuts the throat of a brutal terrorist named Abu Abdullah, who had been helping us. Mr. President --( applause) -- which stands in stark contrast to what the enemy, to liberation, to hold those areas securely, and may God continue to fight the enemy, that I will discuss the third country, and use the vacuum created by an additional three-to-seven weeks of specialized training. With our help, the Iraqi people are resolute.

They will fail. America's will is strong at the most professional armed forces in Iraq. And they understand a defeat to their courage every day. More than 60 influential Sunni clerics issued a fatwa calling on young Sunnis to join the political process evolve, made up of coalition soldiers and families of the United States and outside the country to somebody else, prior to the ratification of a major black-market operation in nuclear technology led by nine coalition battalions providing support. Many people of the Iraqi people. And our nation is united and determined to deny the militants in Pakistan. We're facing a set of killers -- dedicated to the American people at risk. Everywhere we have learned the lesson of this veneer of religious rhetoric, most of the suicide bombings and mass murder out of the Iraqi security forces are at different levels of readiness. Some have also argued that extremism has been established north of Baghdad are followers of the troops to the American people do not have wanted us to get out of Iraq will continue to be complacent, my job is not a plan for victory.( Applause.) Our commanders on the ground have determined that we are helping to capture terrorists and train Iraqi officers in the Middle East, and conducting operations together in the hands of the world, and we'll give these brave Iraqis the skills and training the Iraqi people.( Applause.)

And here's another:

" The terrorists can kill the innocent lives they are making the National Academy of Sciences, all Iraqi communities. If by" stay the course." The leaders of Iraq by violence. First of all the decisions, you've seen it in the Oval Office?( Laughter and applause.) I'm proud that the seeds of freedom, and sharing them with our troops can know that as Iraqi forces are gaining the confidence of all Iraqis -- more than 130 -- with the Iraqi army and police are trained. When you stand for democracy and security. And I want to thank you for your devotion to freedom that will protect minority rights. The terrorists believe that, and you kept that oath underseas[ sic] remnants of the Iraqi people have gone from living under the boot of a free government will emerge from Iraq.

As the Iraqi people. So is the great liberating tradition of patriotism and freedom still runs strong here in our military is to be done in the Arab world. Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the last few months, Iraqi insurgents, and our will to power. These combined operations are giving Iraqis a stake in the year ahead. A few Americans have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure -- until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. And I didn't particularly like it then.( Applause.) Wars are not actively fighting us -- and yet systems and forms of government on the ground, not only cleared the city with T-72 tanks and armored infantry vehicles. During the past two weeks, the world. Yet with the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror. And now Europe is completely different, in Beslan. Over a dozen shipments of suspected insurgents. To complete the mission they are assisting the Iraqis; it will yield a victory. A lot of lives -- Japanese lives and American lives. The Iraqi people expressed in free elections. Iraqi leaders have made it clear to any country that divides into factions and leaders advance competing agendas and seek their share of political power. Instead of attending far-away training camps, recruits can now access online training libraries to learn about private efforts in your vital work will be tough moments that test America's resolve, and where Iraqi security forces a truly national institution -- one that is a Philadelphia cop who helped train Iraqi police is not to address the graduating class of 2005. I knew that at times people would say, well, maybe it won't.

And, oh hell, here's one that mentions September 11th:

So we will stay in the Middle East, and that use terror will be seated in Baghdad. He said, I said, well, he said, if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001. The stakes in Iraq. They know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate -- and in your own lives. Some have shown that democracies yield the future of that constitution in a net decrease of several thousand troops below the pre-election baseline of 138, 000 border police trained and equipped -- which is near our goal for a quarter-century: They know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did:" It's beyond description. They were called into action because the enemy -- capturing and killing Americans across the broader Middle East, people may look back at this Academy had prepared them morally, mentally and physically for the challenges of life are in the past year -- and al Qaeda and other free nations with ever-increasing violence.( Applause.) I'm proud to be a child in Iraq. We saw the restraint of the great strengths of our strategy -- it must also have an opportunity to make it easier for local leaders and residents to accelerate the training has improved, so they can protect their communities from the city, they performed with courage and determination. They're getting better." Iraqi forces took the lead in the face of an outrageous terrorist attack. Iraq's leaders know that the attacks on our television.

They're hyped-up, they look sharp, they're beginning to help. They failed to break their confidence is growing and they will assume responsibility for their people. Some have also argued that extremism has been transformed into a capable Iraqi police officers. I spoke to the peoples of the United States is forefront in my mind, America is proud to be strong in diplomacy. Secretary Rice explained last week, we will see when they see it. America's belief in the cities taken from the Last Chance Bar.

The above were take from the following complete Bushinator speeches: bushinator1, bushinator2, and bushinator3.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Operation Swarmer 

I think they should have called it "Operation Restore Poll Numbers" -- I've never been a big proponent of wag-the-dog explanations of foreign policy decisions but come on...

Anyway, so a couple days ago Bush made what amounts to a mumbled promise to draw down the American presence in Iraq by the end of 2006 while Knight Ridder reports that U.S. military airstrikes have been steadily increasing for the past five months and today we get the biggest air assault since 2003. Umm ... Didn't someone sort of predict all of this?

COINTELPRO in my Backyard 

Knight-Ridder reports that the FBI placed a spy in Pittsburgh's Thomas Merton Center from 2002 to 2005:

The documents released on Tuesday were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act. They showed that the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI's Pittsburgh office conducted a secret investigation into the activities of the Thomas Merton Center beginning as early as Nov. 29, 2002, and continuing as late as March 2005. [ ... ]

The ACLU contended that the documents are the first to "show conclusively" that an anti-war group was targeted for "its anti-war views."

"These documents show that Americans are not safe from secret government surveillance, even when they are handing out fliers in the town square, an activity clearly protected by the Constitution," said Marty Catherine Roper, an ACLU staff attorney.

The center, founded in 1972, describes itself as a group of people from diverse faiths who believe in "nonviolent struggle" for peace and justice. Merton, an American Roman Catholic monk, author and poet, died in 1968.

An FBI report dated Nov. 29, 2002, identified the center as "a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism."'

There have been lots of stories like this in recent years but this one hits home for me because its, you know, about my home. I live and work in Pittsburgh. The Merton Center is the local leftwing organization for which I have the most respect and in fact I did graphic art work for the Merton Center during the time at which it was apparently infiltrated by the FBI -- I think I designed the cover of their annual report in 2003.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bush's Favorite Speech, Richard Perle Triumphalism, and Seventeen Year Locusts 

I think it will be interesting to see if this iteration of Bush's typical stay-the-course speech ends up hurting him in the polls in today's political climate. Dana Milbank observes that judging from his body language Bush himself has little interest in the charade:

Bush seemed not entirely comfortable, referring frequently to his text, battling feedback on the sound system and reading quickly through applause lines. He stumbled over the word "detonated," while "perpetrators" became "perpetuators" and "gathered" became "garnered."

The guy has lost many of his prominent supporters -- even Richard Perle is admitting mistakes for godsake...

Speaking of Perle ... I used to say that the only good thing about the war in Iraq was the extent to which it distracted the Bush administration while countries throughout Central and South America took timid (and in some cases not so timid) steps towards throwing off the shackles of neoliberal economic policies, but I now think it may prove to have another positive consequence -- a positive consequence similar to the hysterical bit of Richard Perle triumphalism in which Perle asserted that a positive outcome of the neoconservatives' big adventure was that it would "take the United Nations down with [Saddam Hussein]" Perle got it partially right. I think Bush's war might end up taking the neoconservative ideology down with Saddam Hussein.

The trouble is they don't call Richard Perle "The Prince of Darkness" for nothing -- you need a wooden stake to kill Dracula. Billmon probably had it right a couple of years ago when he compared neoconservatives to seventeen year locusts:

The neocons, it would appear, have moved from their twilight into their götterdammerung. Although this could also be seen as simply another phase in their natural political life cycle.

Like the the 17-year locusts - who this summer will return to annoy the northeast United States for the first time since 1987 - the neocons seem to emerge periodically to infest the government and wreck havoc on American foreign policy, then return to their underground hiding places to await the next turn of the cycle. During their off years, I'm told, the 17-year locusts survive by patiently sucking sap from the roots of trees. The neocons, of course, extract a similar form of sustainance from the bank accounts of conservative think tanks and their donors. We can only hope that the damage done this time around can be repaired before the critters next reemerge into the sunlight.

Hopefully, Bush's foreign policy will not survive the Bush administration.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Paging Marc Cooper and David Corn: Moqtada al-Sadr on Line 6 

Who could forget? Purported leftist Marc Cooper sanctimonously condemning advocates of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq as sacrificing Iraqis to a future of indiscriminate, exponentially increasing violence:

Those who ought to have the best answers, the anti-war movement, have none -- other than a discordant call for U.S. Troops Out Now. I sympathize with the quandary of the peace movement, because I pretend to have no viable answers. I know only that the present course is leading to disaster. And that withdrawal of U.S. troops – who shouldn’t be there in the first place—would bring only more bloodshed.

Read no further than this painfully distorted account of my position by Dennis Perrin to capture the moral tone-deafness of the radical left. Here we go once again withthe same-old primitive reductionism i.e. Opposing Immediate Withdrawal = Supporting Bush’s War.

Rather than face the ugly truth that things could actually get worse in Iraq if the current political vacuum were enlarged by an American withdrawal, it's easier to stand apart and accept an Iraqi apocalypse as satisfying payback for Bush's sins.

I challenge the "Out Now" readers to put themselves in the shoes of an Iraqi tonight as they read Perrin’s piece. Car bombs exploding around you like firecrackers and the streets running red with blood. Do you think that the wholesale murder by the car bombers –intent on rubbing out the tenuous Iraqi government—is going to decrease or increase if the American troops were pulled? Do you think that the people behind the bombs would establish a regime more humane, more democratic or, instead, even more authoritarian than the current U.S.-backed administration? You can keep your answers private, but at least ponder them seriously.

In the end, Perrin throws up his hands, declares that no matter what, the U.S. troops are destined to be bogged down Iraq forever, and that – to top things off—he argues that Iraq is worse than Vietnam.

The second assertion is demonstrably false, if only by the lesser magnitude of death in Iraq…a far lesser magnitude. War is evil. A war that kills 3 million people is more evil than one that kills 100,000. Or am I missing something? The whole formulation is beside the point. (Yet, there is some sort of wondrous political point to be scored by proving, say, that Bush is worse than Nixon. A game, by the way, we don't have the luxury to play).

The first assertion, about an indeterminate stay of the American troops is nevertheless and -- unfortunately -- quite plausible. And more than plausible, perhaps inevitable, especially if the anti-war left can do no better than propose immediate withdrawal. I find it extremely difficult to imagine that being a persuasive counter (at least for those who give a rat’s ass about the Iraqi people themselves) to the status quo.

Indeed, it’s a moral forfeit that cedes undue and dangerous credence to the Bush admin’s disastrous stay-the-course strategy.

We need a third position that moves toward an end of the U.S. occupation but does not, in the process, abandon the Iraqi people to car-bomber fascists.

It will be of little consequence to those blown apart by suicide-bound fanatics to stand over their corpses and say: “It’s all Bush’s fault. There was nothing we could do.”

As noted by Perrin in his passionate post, David Corn, perhaps a little more self-confident, and uninterested in establishing himself as the Christopher Hitchens of the West Coast, dealt with the problem more honestly:

All this does not mean it's wrong to call for withdrawing the troops. One can argue that Bush's war - pitched to the public with the phony arguments that Saddam Hussein's regime was loaded with WMDs and in cahoots with al Qaeda – does not deserve the life of one more American soldier, one more Iraqi civilian, or one more emergency spending bill. I'm sympathetic to that case. But those pushing for withdrawal have to acknowledge that a pullout may well come with serious costs. In the short run, those costs might include more violence in Iraq and a more out-in-the-open civil war that yields a terrible outcome.

Before the war, I and others argued that an invasion of Iraq could lead to a situation in which there would be no good options. That prediction has come true. Bush has created a mess that defies an obvious and low-cost solution. Military experts of late have been saying that the insurgency probably will last for years (perhaps decades) and that establishing an effective Iraqi security force could take five years or more. Yet Bush refuses to admit these realities. He has not told the public what his five-year (or fifteen-year) plan is. He has refused to discuss the price the American public will have to bear for his misguided war in Iraq. Withdrawal, though, would come with a price, too. It may be the best of lousy alternatives. But its advocates ought to acknowledge it is not cost-free. Unless they want to risk comparison to the fellow who started the war.

There might have been some surface plausibility to such views in the spring and summer of 2005, despite the fact that many Iraqis have been consistently blaming the presence of US troops for the escalating violence, as they did most recently over the bombing of the Imam Ali Al Hadi shrine in Samarra. But they have become increasing untenable in the face of persistent Iraqi support for resistance attacks on US/UK forces, as disclosed by British Ministry of Defense polling data revealed by the London Telegraph:

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province;

• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

A recent UPI poll confirmed continuing strong Iraqi support for attacks on US/UK forces, while, understandably, reflecting opposition to ones directed at Iraqi governmental institutions and civilians, with Iraqis wanting US/UK troops withdrawn over a period ranging from 6 months to 2 years. One can infer that the Iraqis perceive the attacks as a necessary means of forcing the troops to the leave the country, as they also explicitly said, quite understandably, that they don't believe that the troops will ever depart. Even US troops themselves, in the absence of a stronger military commitment, have expressed approval of a withdrawal within a year.

Such results would appear to partially validate the Cooper/Corn perspective. But someone is paging them over the public address system: Marc Cooper and David Corn, there is a phone call for you, please go to one of the white courtesy phones in the lobby. Turns out Moqtada al-Sadr would like to speak with them to ask this question: to what end shall the troops remain? He's concerned because it doesn't appear that the protection of Iraqis is a priority for them in the future anymore than it has been in the past:

Rumsfeld previously had been reluctant to say what the US military would do in the event of civil war, but in an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee he was pressed on the matter by Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd.

“The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the - from a security standpoint - have the Iraqi security forces deal with it, to the extent they are able to,” Rumsfeld told the committee.

Not surprisingly, Sadr, a consistent opponent of the occupation, responded angrily:

Sadr also criticised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who had said last week that Iraqi troops, not U.S. forces, would intervene if civil war broke out in Iraq, JTW said.

"May God damn you," Sadr said of Rumsfeld. "You said in the past that civil war would break out if you were to withdraw, and now you say that in case of civil war you won't interfere."

Let's repeat that: You said in the past that civil war would break out if you were to withdraw, and now you say that in case of civil war you won't interfere.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Sounds kinda like what Cooper said back in the spring of 2005: We need a third position that moves toward an end of the U.S. occupation but does not, in the process, abandon the Iraqi people to car-bomber fascists. It will be of little consequence to those blown apart by suicide-bound fanatics to stand over their corpses and say: “It’s all Bush’s fault. There was nothing we could do."

At least, Rumsfeld's hypocrisy has the virtue of brevity. So, Sadr would like to talk with Marc and David about it, and ask them: why are the troops still in Iraq? Once they start talking, I'm sure that Sadr has some even more pointed questions, such as: Why are US troops doing the opposite of what the Iraqi people want, attacking the insurgents, while failing to protect us against suicide bombings? Why are they using drones to call in airstrikes that indiscriminately kill civilians to prevent roadside bombings of US troops without providing basic security for us?

I can imagine that Corn would engage in such a conversation candidly, but it would be difficult for Cooper. It would require him to acknowledge that, contrary to what he wrote in his blog entry, the anti-war movement, especially the left participants in it, have some pretty clear answers to these questions. Unfortunately, they are answers that he probably doesn't want to hear, as they involve references to things like oil, neoliberalism, imperialism and the inescapable relationship between militarism and capitalism, to explain that the presence of US troops in Iraq has never been about the protection of Iraqis.

Monday, March 13, 2006

George Clooney Gets It Right 

Bless his heart, there's someone out there who doesn't believe in contesting a lie with another, equally egregious lie. Eli Stephens, over at Left I on the News, has already publicized George Clooney's remark about the complicity of the Democratic Party in launching the Iraq war, but it deserves repetition across the entire blogosphere:

In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit. Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, 'We were misled.' It makes me want to shout, 'Fuck you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic.'

It is a critical issue, because we are no doubt going to hear more from the Democrats during the 2006 congressional campaign as to how they were purportedly victimized by the President, when they were, in fact, willing partners in the Iraqi colonial enterprise, as most of them remain to this day. Indeed, Congressman Rahm Emmanuel is working hard to make sure that the primaries do not produce anyone who will contest the neoconservative company line within the Democratic Party, even going to extreme of courting crossover Republicans to challenge progressives.

For my November 2005 deconstruction of John Edwards' self-serving attempt to claim that Bush deceived him and other Senate Democrats in regard to the presence of WMDs in Iraq, go here. Some Democratic bloggers like to claim that they are part of a rational, result oriented, reality based community as opposed to the faith based community allegedly promoted by the Bush Administration. Given the statements of many elected Democrats when it comes to Iraq, and the concerted effort to suppress any change in policy, it is hard to read such claims as much more than a reflection of a sincere, but embarassing arrogance. An aspiration to perceive reality, leaving aside the philosophical implications of the effort, is based upon an objective search for the truth, something that remains beyond the capability of the politicians and campaign contributors that currently control the Democratic Party.

Friday, March 10, 2006

263 Doctors: Stop the Forcefeeding and Restraint at Guantanamo 

From a letter to the Lancet, a British medical journal, as reported today in the Guardian:

We write regarding the forcefeeding and restraint of Guantanamo Bay detainees currently on hunger strike. The World Medical Association specifically prohibits forcefeeding in the Declarations of Tokyo and Malta, to which the American Medical Association is a signatory.

Fundamental to doctors' responsibilities in attending a hunger striker is the recognition that prisoners have a right to refuse treatment. The UK government has respected this right even under very difficult circumstances and allowed Irish hunger strikers to die. Physicians do not have to agree with the prisoner, but they must respect their informed decision. Those breaching such guidelines should be held to account by their professional bodies. John Edmondson (former commander of the hospital at Guantanamo) instigated this practice, and we have seen no evidence that procedures have changed under the current physician in charge, Ronald Sollock.

Edmondson, in a signed affidavit, stated that “the involuntary feeding was authorized through a lawful order of a higher military authority.” This defence, which has previously been described as the Nuremberg defence, is not defensible in law. In a reply to an earlier draft of this letter, Edmondson said that he was not forcefeeding but “providing nutritional supplementation on a voluntary basis to detainees who wish to protest their confinement by not taking oral nourishment”.

Recently, it was confirmed that health-care staff are screened to ensure that they agree with the policy of forcefeeding before working in Guantanamo Bay. On his departure, Edmondson was awarded a medal for his “inspiring leadership and exemplary performance [which] significantly improved the quality of health care for residents of Guantanamo Bay” and “scored an unprecedented 100% on both the Hospital and the Home Health surveys.” The New York Times, however, reports that hunger striking detainees are strapped into restraint chairs in uncomfortably cold isolation cells to force them off their hunger strike.

We urge the US government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as forcefeeding and restraint chairs are abandoned forthwith in accordance with internationally agreed standards.

We declare that we have no conflict of interest.

Co-signatory Dr. William Hopkins, a psychiatrist from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, elaborated further in the Guardian:

Doctors force-feeding prisoners at Guantánamo are acting as an arm of the military and have abrogated their medical-ethical duties.

The American Medical Association should launch disciplinary proceedings against any of its members known to have participated in violating prisoners' rights in this way.

Much has been said and written about how the "war on terror" has corrupted our politics and media. It has not, however, been recognized the extent to which professionals serving with the US military, such as the health care staff at Guantanamo, have even more frighteningly debased themselves. One wonders how anyone, much less Arab Americans and Muslims, would feel comfortable being treated by these people upon their return.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Buchanan on India and Iran 

Pat Buchanan exposes the poverty of thought that currently grips the bipartisan American political elite when it comes to nuclear proliferation and Iran. His analysis of Bush's recent deal to provide assistance to the Indian nuclear program strikes to the heart of matter:

What did Bush give – and get?

India will be given the same access as Japan to U.S. technology and nuclear fuel, which will enable India to divert its fuel to weapons.

India agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect 14 of its 22 nuclear facilities, while eight, military in nature, are off-limits. This is a like a college president agreeing to let cops search the dorm for a stash of marijuana – as long as they stay off the sixth, seventh, and eighth floors.

Would the United States permit Iran, which signed the NPT and has allowed IAEA inspections of all known nuclear facilities, to agree to a deal like this? No way. We don't trust them – but we trust a democratic India that already has the fruits of its past deceit, a nuclear arsenal.

Unilaterally, Bush has decided that democracies who refuse to sign the NPT and secretly build, test, and maintain nuclear weapons will be exempt from the laws. Nations we do not entirely trust, like Pakistan, get no help. Nations we detest, like Iran, face sanctions and preventive wars.

Sign the petition to try to stop the next preemptive US war before it happens.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dean vs. Perle 

C-SPAN3 is going to air the debate between Howard Dean and Richard Perle tonight at 10:41pm. The debate is about a year old -- I discussed it in this old post. Early on in the festivities Richard Perle gets hit by a shoe -- don't know if CSPAN will air that part...

Baghdad Burning Oscar Special 

Good old Riverbend... (Personally, I think Chalabi should've gotten more than just special effects)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Peter Pace on the Jafari Chomsky Thing 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace was on Meet the Press this weekend talking about Iraq. It was really dull. Pace stuck to standard Faerie Land position, i.e. everything's fine; the press isn't reporting all the good news, etc. The funny thing about the Faerie Land position is the extent to which its exact opposite is now true: Everything is horrible and the press isn't reporting the extent of the horror. Anyone who reads Juan Cole regularly knows that bombings that would have been big news in the fall of 2003 are hardly reported anymore.

Anyway, apparently Russert just read the Lawrence Kaplan New Republic article I discussed a few posts back because he kept on bringing up bits and pieces of it which led to the only interesting exchange in the interview. Russert mentions Kaplan's anecdote about the prime minister of Iraq being a Chomsky fan: (transcript here)

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Jafari said that one of his favorite American writers is Professor Noam Chomsky, someone who has written very, very strongly against the Iraq war and against most of the Bush administration foreign policy. Does that concern you?

GEN. PACE: I hope he has more than one book on his nightstand.

MR. RUSSERT: So it troubles you?

GEN. PACE: I would be concerned if the only access to foreign ideas that the prime minister had was that one author. If in fact that’s one of many, and he’s digesting many different opinions, that’s probably healthy.

Good times, good times.


The polls are open... This blog is up for most deserving of wider recognition.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Guantanamo: First Person Account 

Yet another disturbing account of what actually transpires at Guantanamo, from taped responses to questions submitted to a detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, broadcast and published by BBC World News. Note the significance of the use of the restraint chair, as discussed here recently, in these excerpts:

Fawzi al-Odah said hunger strikers were strapped to a chair and force-fed through a tube three times a day.

The BBC Today programme's Jon Manel submitted questions for Mr Odah to his lawyer, Tom Wilner, who has access to the camp.

There was no opportunity for the BBC to challenge Mr Odah's responses.

Mr Odah, who has been held at the base since 2002, was one of 84 inmates at Guantanamo who went on hunger strike in December. Just four are still refusing food. Through his lawyer, Mr Odah described his treatment during his hunger strike.

"First they took my comfort items away from me. You know, my blanket, my towel, my long pants, then my shoes. I was put in isolation for 10 days.

"They came in and read out an order. It said if you refuse to eat, we will put you on the chair [for force feeding]."

He told how detainees were given "formulas" to force them to empty their bowels and were strapped to a metal chair three times a day, where a tube was inserted to administer food.

"One guy, a Saudi, told me that he had once been tortured in Saudi Arabia and that this metal chair treatment was worse than any torture he had ever endured or could imagine," Mr Odah said.

Mr Odah told the BBC that he felt like an old man despite being only 29. He described a regime where young military guards routinely beat detainees who caused problems.

"If anything bad happens to the United States anywhere in the world, they immediately react to us and treat us badly, like animals," he said.

"I'm always tired. I have pain in my kidneys. I have trouble breathing. I have pain in my heart and am short of breath. I have trouble urinating and having bowel movements. "Death in this situation is better than being alive and staying here without hope," Mr Odah added.

The US has said it is holding Mr Odah because he is a dangerous "enemy combatant", who travelled through Afghanistan with the Taleban, fired AK-47 rifles while at an al-Qaeda training camp and fought against US and coalition forces.

He dismissed the general allegations, branding them as "rubbish" and "absolutely untrue".

Such conduct by US forces at Guantamano certainly serves the purposes of irrational vengence, gratification of sadism and intimidation of Muslims, but the connection of these practices to the "war on terror" is hard to discern, unless one concludes it is being prosecuted to achieve similar goals. The refusal to close Guantanamo, as urged by many around the world, including the authors of a UN human rights report, raises some profound moral questions.

First, to what extent would Cuba, where Guantanamo is located, or any group of affiliated nations, or even a group of armed militants, be justified in using force to shut down Guantanamo? Given the lack of recourse to any political or legal process that presents the prospect of stopping the abuse of detainees there, what is the alternative? Are there non-violent possibilties for confronting the atrocity of Guantanamo, and, if so, what are they?

Similarly, what should we think of people who voluntarily enter the US military and serve there? Should we explain it by reference to the social pressures that might induce someone to enlist and accept deployment to Guantanamo? Or should we should insist upon the application of principles of personal responsibility for one's actions?

I have already addressed the subject of personal responsibility in the context of military service to perpetuate the occupation of Iraq, but willing participation in the operation of Guantanamo places it in even sharper relief. Especially when you consider that it is the government's public position that there is no prohibition against the use of torture at Guantanamo.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Stop the War on Iran Before It Starts 

There is an online petition effort to mobilize opposition to an impending war with Iran:, and you can additionally send an e-mail to specified recipients, such as the President, the Vice President, members of Congress and others, if you are so inclined. A proposed one is thoughtfully provided, and it can be edited to personalize one's perspective, as I did:

It is with grave concern that I observe the growing threat of a new U.S. war--this time against the people of Iran.

The media is filled with reports of an alleged nuclear threat posed by Iran and the assumed need for the U.S. to take military action. Credulous journalists, as they did before the war in Iraq, rely upon purported intelligence sources, while an array of politicians and analysts create a climate of crisis. Meanwhile, dissenting voices are concealed from public view.

And, again, there is the effort to manipulate international institutions to legitimize war. The International Atomic Energy Agency succumbs, and describes an Iranian project as one that presents the possibility of developing uranium enrichment for weapons development, based upon, naturally, unspecified US intelligence.

Despite the fact that Iran has submitted to inspections beyond what is required by Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it faces the prospect of a referral to the UN Security Council for sanctions. None of the inspections have found any evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program.

Has the catastrophe of the UN sanctions regime in Iraq, a catastrophe in which poverty, disease and infant mortality spiralled out of control, been forgotten? Are we now to exponentially replicate this hellish experience in Iran? And, if sanctions fail to compel Iran to comply with the demands of the U.S. and the UN, the next step is inevitable, a war even more violent and destructive than the ongoing one on Iraq.

Only one government has used nuclear weapons against civilian populations, the U. S. Predictably, the U. S. also continues to have the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction on the planet. Alarmingly, it has developed a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons, weapons that can be launched by military commanders without the approval of the President merely to deter potential threats.

Could it be that there are some in the U. S. military and foreign policy establishment that want to provoke a war with Iran to legitimize their use? It certainly sounds implausible until one observes intensified political opposition to the U. S. around the world, even as the U. S. military is bogged down in Iraq. In the absence of troops, tactical nuclear weapons may be the only alternative remaining for a country insistent upon maintaining global hegemony.

It also seems to have been forgotten that Iran has suffered greatly at the hands of the U.S. The U.S. overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr. M. Mossadegh and returned the Shah to the Peacock Throne - 'the proudest achievement of the CIA'. As a result, Iran lost not only lost a progressive government, but the ability to utilize its oil resources for its own development as well, as the Shah autocratically ruled Iran for the benefit of U.S. oil corporations.

It is essential that all voices opposed to the devastation of a new war in the Middle East speak out now. I urge an immediate end to Washington's campaign of sanctions and threatened military action against the people of Iran. We need funds for human needs, not endless war for empire.

Please consider adding your name to this effort as well, and informing others about it.

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