Monday, May 31, 2004

Budget cuts memo leaked

Sorry, I'm a little late with this one...the memo was leaked on the 27th.

A memorandum from the White House Budge Office, recently obtained by the Associated Press from congressional sources who requested anonymity, instructs government agencies to prepare for massive cuts to domestic programs in 2006, even as the administration pushes for $1 trillion in new tax cuts.

...As revealed in the White House memo, with the exception of the Defense Department which would grow 5.2 percent to $422.7 billion and the Justice Department which would increase 4.3 percent to $19.5 billion, in the 2006 budget nearly every major domestic program would be slated for large decreases.

The Veterans Affairs Department budget would fall 3.4 percent from $29.7 billion in 2005 to $28.7 billion. This would include a $910 million cut to the existing veterans health care budget and a $53 million cut for the homeownership program, nearly reversing the $78 million funding increase that Bush pledged for a homeownership program in 2005.

...Even money for domestic security at the Homeland Security Department and other agencies, a budget John Kerry has promised to increase, a budget that would seem to be immune from any cuts, would drop by 3 percent, from $30.6 billion in 2005 to $29.6 billion.

The document reveals that the Bush Administration is also ordering cuts in the following agencies: 2.4 percent less for the Education Department; 2.6 percent less for the Environmental Protection Agency; 2.1 percent for the National Institutes of Health; 1.9 percent less for the Interior Department.

Meanwhile, the Administration is requesting a $1 trillion reduction in taxes, with most of the reduction going to the wealthiest Americans.
  Intervention Magazine article


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Let's look at this again

A firefight erupted Sunday night in Kufa, Iraq, when U.S. troops clashed with insurgents loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the troops' commanding officer said.

Lt. Col. Pat White said...about 30 insurgents were killed. There was no information on possible U.S. casualties.

...The encounter comes after about three days of a shaky truce that has been marked by sporadic fighting. Al-Sadr pledged on Thursday to withdraw most of his militia from the Najaf region, which includes Kufa, if U.S. forces did the same.
  CNN article

Interestingly enough, it's a truce, even though there has been "sporadic" fighting. I don't think I understand the meaning of "truce" as we are using it here.

But here's what I want to look at again....

About 100 Iraqi police who arrived in Najaf over the past week to begin joint patrols with U.S.-led coalition forces on Sunday apparently deserted their posts, U.S. military officials said.

In the past few days, U.S. forces coordinated and trained with Iraqi police to begin patrols in Najaf, a Shiite holy city, that has been besieged by fighting between U.S. forces and al-Sadr's militias.

It is not clear why the police left the city, but their disappearance added to the skepticism at the U.S. military base in Najaf that a unilateral peace agreement announced three days ago by Shiite representatives would quell the ongoing violence.

Skepticism about quelling the violence in Najaf. What about being able to handle the whole friggin' country come July 1, 2004, about four weeks away?

Coalition officials had hoped to eventually turn over the security situation in Najaf to Iraqi police, a measure called for by al-Sadr's agreement with other Shiite leaders.

While Iraqi police officers left no clues to a motive for their disappearance, al-Sadr's militia considers them collaborators with U.S. occupying forces and often targets them for attacks. Additionally, Iraqi police are not provided with body armor that might protect them while on duty.

I think it's quite "clear why the police left the city". No clue?!? The reporter is clueless, that's for sure. Al Sadr's militia will kill them if they get the chance, and they don't have any protective armor. What's not clear?

Jeezus. Can I be a reporter, please?

Interesting timing on this "revelation"

U.S. Army investigators obtained concrete evidence in August that Sgt. Donald Walters had been held in a building in southern Iraq, a Defense Department document shows.

But it wasn't until Thursday, just a few days after notifying family members, that the military announced Walters had been executed by Iraqi paramilitaries. Until then, he was thought to have been killed during the same March 23, 2003, combat that led to Jessica Lynch's capture.
  Seattle Times article

So quit thinking about those Abu Ghraib torturers and focus on the evil bastards we're fighting, who actually execute people. Our people. Our soldiers who are over there risking their lives so you can be free to whine about the price of gas.

What it doesn't answer is why it took so long for the military to reverse itself and announce that Walters, 33, was shot in the back after being captured.

A spokesman for the Department of Defense said he would not comment on the investigation.

Well, I'll give you one good reason: the photo op was Jessica Lynch. The story was Jessica Lynch, and the heroic rescue. We didn't need a story about a food service soldier being shot in the back after being captured.

And I'll give you another one: it may not be true.

The Army's official report last summer on the March 23 attack concluded that "some information" suggested that Walters died alone while fighting his way toward a canal.

Like you'll ever know the truth about any of it.

"These criminal investigators are really tenacious," said his widow, Stacie Walters of Kansas City, Mo. "They're like pit bulls with this. They are on the hunt for these animals, and they will be brought to justice."

Yep, we've got some seriously gullible goobers here in Missouri.

Now, I remember reading something about this guy back when the Lynch story was captivating the American public. It wasn't hard to find.

So...flashback to July 2003....
For Mrs. Walters, however, the standing ovation and praise lavished on the young woman soldier, who was captured by Iraqi forces and later freed in a dramatic American raid, served only to highlight the contrasting treatment of her dead son, who fought in the same unit.

It was, fellow soldiers have told her, Sgt. Donald Walters who performed many of the heroics attributed to Pfc. Lynch by early news reports, and Sgt. Walters who was killed after mounting a lone stand against the Iraqis who ambushed their convoy of maintenance vehicles near Nasiriyah.

"The fighter that they thought was Jessica Lynch was Donald. When he was found he had two stab wounds in the abdomen, and he'd been shot once in the right leg and twice in the back. And he'd emptied his rounds of ammunition. Just like they said Jessica had done at first."

..."There is some information to suggest that a U.S. soldier, that could have been Walters, fought his way south of Highway 16 towards a canal and was killed in action. Sgt. Walters was in fact killed at some point during this portion of the attack. The circumstances of his death cannot be conclusively determined," the report says.

Fellow soldiers who witnessed the ambush have been less guarded. "One told me that if I read reports about a brave female soldier fighting, those reports were actually about Don," said Mrs. Walters.
  Washington Times article

Doesn't sound like he was captured, does it? The fellow soldiers describing what happened to him. And even if that's not quite the right story, the Army's story to the Walters family at the time is pretty pathetic.

Last week, with no fanfare, the Army released a detailed report of the incident, which made it clear that a lone American fighter did, indeed, hold out against the Iraqis — but that the soldier was not Pfc. Lynch. It said that following the ambush, Sgt. Walters might have been left behind, hiding beside a disabled tractor-trailer, as Iraqi troops closed in. The report confirmed that he died of wounds identical to those first attributed to Pfc. Lynch.

..."I just can't imagine him being left out there in the desert alone," said Mrs. Walters, who is still haunted by images of her son's lone stand.

She has her own theories about the Army's reluctance to give him due credit.

"Perhaps the Army don't want to admit to the fact that he was left behind in the desert to fight alone," she said. "It isn't a good news story."

No, but with a little tweaking, it's a good one now.

Mrs. Walters and her husband now are struggling to persuade the U.S. military to acknowledge fully their son's bravery. Sgt Walters has been posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, but his relatives argue that higher honors are deserved. The Army says the investigation into the incident is now closed.

What? Closed, you say? What was that about tenacious investigators? Newly tenacious, I guess, since they'd already closed the case back in July of last year. And even now, his parents are agreeing with his wife that they have confidence in the army's investigation, according to the Seattle Times article.

I'd say the Army has pulled this one out of the pile and cajoled or bribed the Walters family into a new story. Make them happy. Make the yahoos here in the states remember that we're fighting "animals" over there in Iraq.

If it's animals at work, assuming they actually shot the man in the back during an attack, let's not forget this little scene.

Do you suppose they'll be brought to justice?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

They love us everywhere

This comment on Billmon came from somebody who obviously has a UK heritage:

Pat Buchanan seems to think it is all over bar the shouting.
The neoconservative dream was to create a pro-American, free-market democracy in Iraq to serve as a model and catalyst for Arab peoples and convert Iraq into a base camp of American Empire, flanking Iran and Syria. It was to bring to power an Iraqi DeGaulle named Ahmed Chalabi, who would recognize Israel, build a Mosul-to-Haifa oil pipeline and become the Simon Bolivar of the Middle East.

That utopian vision has vanished. President Bush has rejoined the realist camp. We are not going deeper in. We are on the way out.

Well don't let the door hit you on the arse on the way out.


And, some Australian police really think we're grand:

The West Australian was told some drinkers at the Orient Hotel last Tuesday were Notre Dame University students but the abuse of the US students erupted after a fight at the Zanzibar nightclub.

During that incident, one of the seven WA officers, who are all from the Fremantle district, was allegedly assaulted by one of the American Notre Dame students and had a tooth knocked out.

Enraged, some of the drunken officers tracked the American down to the university's student accommodation.

It was there that several American students, including some who had nothing to do with the clash at the Zanzibar, were made to kneel on the ground and were humiliated.

It is understood the taunting included comments such as "Yankies go home", "What are you doing in our country" and "What are you doing in Iraq".
  The West Australian article

Setting our sights on Syria and Lebanon

Okay, they were already set. Now let's take the next step. Because we don't have our hands full overthrowing governments every-fucking-where else.

Lawmakers yesterday said they are drafting legislation calling for active support of prodemocracy opposition forces in Syria and occupied Lebanon in what would mark the closest the US government has come to calling for the overthrow of President Bashar Al Assad of Syria.

The Syria and Lebanon Liberation Act, expected to be completed this week and then brought before the House International Relations Committee, calls for a ''transition to free, democratic rule in Syria" and ''establishes a program of assistance to independent human rights and pro-democracy forces in Syria and Lebanon." The bill would approve grants for independent media broadcasts, according to a summary of the legislation. article

Really, it's okay with me, because I always think it's better to rip that band-aid off than to remove it inch by painful inch. Have all your kids within a five-year period, don't drag it out.

I say we take 'em all at once. Right now. Get this thing over with, and get on with a totally Americanized world where we can set our own gas prices.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

More Saddam-style justice planned for Iraq

Still on my line of: the New and Improved Saddam, Billmon tells the story of a plan to bring Iraqi police from Baghdad to Najaf to take care of the problem of al Sadr. Apparently, fliers explaining that the cleric had opened fire on the police and been killed when the police defended themselves were prepared in advance. And, apparently, the police, who were sent to replace local police who deserted promptly returned to Baghdad as soon as they arrived in town, "because of lack of accommodation for them." Sure. Ooops. Plan failed. Can we get those fliers back? It'd be a waste to have to reprint them for the next try.

Things really are quite the mess. Check this report.

The old shot-while-resisting-arrest trick....Of course, since the Iraqi police in question - who were brought down to Najaf from Baghdad as part of the "truce" worked out between Sadr and the U.S. Army - promptly deserted as soon as they hit the streets, the plan was a failure right from the start. In fact, if I had to guess, I'd say the deserters themselves probably decided to dump the fliers they'd been given by their American masters in Baghdad.

I swear, at this rate the coaltion really will be forced to bring Saddam back on a consulting contact before this fiasco is over.

Saddam: Ok, I'll do it. But you gotta make peanut head give me my gun back!
Billmon post

And from Billmon's readers, a comment for your sports fans...

The US presence in Iraq in some ways reminds me of the guy in the pick-up games of hoops who has far less skill than any of the other players, but yet somehow thinks that because he brings the ball up court, or makes a pass, picks up the odd loose ball, is instrumental to the outcome.

Events have overtaken the US ... we are now the guy pushing the ball up the court - the game is being decided by those whose home court we are playing on and at a level beyond our skill.

...a couple for your movie fans...

There are strong influences of Mel Brooks in this Occupational Government.

And you all thought the Keystone Cops were retired.

...and one for your folks who are still trying to help out the misadministration...

Do we really have confidence that this wasn't planted by pro-Sadr people, insuring against anything like this actually happening?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Venezuelan referendum

The National Guard says it shut down an Opposition scheme to rig the referendum process in Maracaibo.

Several lists belonging to the National Elections Council (CNE) were seized, leading the authorities to believe that they have discovered a fraudulent, “parallel CNE.”

...It was also reported that opposition members, trying to pass themselves off as members of Comando Ayacucho, tried to alter signature repair lists at the Huron Perez Educational Unit in Maracaibo.

Investigations are continuing, with the goal of dismantling other ID forgery centers and fraudulent parallel CNEs.

And Mr. Jimmy says he's satisfied with the legality of the process and Chávez' promise to abide by the results, whatever they may be. Whew. You wouldn't want Mr. Jimmy on your case, now would you?

I don't know what Carson would make of Mr. Jimmy, but he'd be proud of Mr. Hugo for having that bottom button undone on his jacket: sometimes, always, never - from top to bottom on your jackets there fellas.

Chavez "is completely willing, eager to go to the referendum," Carter said after the meeting at the Miraflores Presidential Palace.

...Carter said he had "found everything to be in order." He noted isolated incidents of intimidation and technical problems but said they were "relatively minor and have not disturbed the overall process."
  CNN article

So there. Now let it go.

Previous Venezuela posts
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Sunday, May 30, 2004

New Iraq®

I keep wondering if we won't eventually see the new and improved Saddam. Maybe that's why they shaved him and cleaned him up when they got him out of that spider hole.

Or maybe something close.

So it does indeed look like we will have a return of "sovereignty" to Iraq at the end of the month -- CIA-style sovereignty, that is, leading, I suspect, to the emergence of a Sunni-dominated government that represents a melding of the pre-Saddam Baath Party and the military dictatorship that preceded it, albeit with a new pro-USA flair.

As I said in my earlier post: It looks like things are finally getting back to normal.
Billmon post

If we can just get all this fighting stopped, we'll have what we wanted all along - a new Saddam who behaves like the old Saddam before the old Saddam got out of our control, and then we can get those military bases set up.

Sharon Bush can kiss her ass goodbye

But maybe she already lost it.

A new book on the Bush dynastyis set for release just six weeks before November's knife-edge presidential election. The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty by Kitty Kelley will have an initial print run of 500,000, and the main source is believed to be Sharon Bush, the ex-wife of Neil, President George W Bush's wayward brother.

Kelley, whose unauthorised biographies of Frank Sinatra, Jackie Onassis and the British Royal Family have told tales of affairs, electric-shock treatment and more affairs, has turned her attention to America's first family.

The book could be the most damaging yet for the President, with the publishers, Random House, promising it will "cause controversy".
  Independent article

Can't wait to see what happens.

More details from Abu Ghraib

I'm pretty sick of this, but it deserves to be recorded, and it deserves to be reported time and time again, until it is dealt with appropriately, permanently. Tearing down a prison and trying a few people does not deal with it.

Berg suspicions grow

Nick Berg, the American beheaded by terrorists was allegedly working in Iraq as a spy for American intelligence.

It is suspected by some Washington insiders that Berg's links with espionage may have led to his gruesome execution that was filmed on a videotape by terrorists.

"Washington is rife with rumors that Berg had a connection to U.S. intelligence.

Previous Berg post

Iraq war for Israel

Follow-up to Senator Hollings' hot bath:

The retired general, Anthony Zinni, a past chief of the U.S. Central Command and President Bush's former Middle East special envoy, told "60 Minutes" on Sunday that the neoconservatives' role in pushing the war for Israel's benefit was "the worst-kept secret in Washington." Three days earlier, Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, a South Carolina Democrat, rose on the Senate floor to defend a newspaper essay he had written earlier in the month making the same charge. Both men complained that they had been unfairly labeled antisemitic for speaking out.

Their comments come just weeks after the United Nations' special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, called Israel a "poison in the region" and said that American support for Israeli policies was making his job more difficult.
  Information Clearinghouse article

Now Jewish Congresswoman Nita Lowey is in trouble for suggesting that Bush's foreign policy is making Jews less safe.

One Democratic activist, who asked not to be identified, defended Lowey's comments: "There is certainly a strong stream within the party, and particularly among progressives and many Jews are progressives that George Bush's inability to play well with others and his inability to think diplomatically and multinationally ... has increased world hatred of the United States. There are many in the Arab world who believe that America is run by and owned by Jews. So it is not that hard to get from A to B. I tend to think that any independent analyst would tend to say the same thing. So why try to give [Bush] the benefit of the doubt? If he could connect these dots it would modify his behavior and make him think more diplomatically."

Not if he thinks God has called him to bring about the Rapture.

Hollings said he was motivated by a concern for Israel, which he insisted has been threatened by the turmoil in Iraq. But the South Carolina senator drew sharp criticism from Jewish communal leaders, Jewish political activists from both parties, and Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including Senator John Kerry.

Foxman sent Hollings a letter May 14 arguing that the senator's remarks were "reminiscent of age-old, antisemitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate the government."

During his floor speech, Hollings spoke angrily about critics who raised such claims. "I won't apologize," Hollings declared during a May 20 speech from the Senate floor. "I want them to apologize to me."

Zinni sounded a similar note in his "60 Minutes" interview, complaining that he was "called antisemitic" for writing an article in which he mentioned Bush's neoconservative advisers.

"I mean, you know, unbelievable that that's the kind of personal attacks that are run when you criticize a strategy and those who propose it," Zinni said. "I certainly didn't criticize who they were. I certainly don't know what their ethnic religious backgrounds are. And I'm not interested."

Halliburton prospered from Cheney's position?

Imagine that.

A Pentagon e-mail said Vice President Dick Cheney coordinated a huge Halliburton government contract for Iraq, despite Cheney's denial of interest in the company he ran until 2000.

The March 5, 2003 e-mail, from an Army Corps of Engineers official, said that top Pentagon official Douglas Feith got the job of shepherding the contract, according to the newsweekly Time that hits newsstands Monday.
  Servihoo article

Come Monday....

The Saudi attack

A speaker identified as Abdul Aziz al-Moqrin, believed to be al-Qaida's chief in the Saudi region, claimed responsibility in an audio recording posted Sunday on a Web site known for militant Islamic content. The speaker said the attack was part of a campaign to drive "crusaders" from "the land of Islam." The speaker also said the body of an American killed in the rampage was dragged through Khobar's streets.

If there wasn't any TV footage, then, it didn't happen.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Staying the course

Well, we will, once we figure out what it is.

The Chalabi to Allawi switch isn't the only recent scramble of confusion over Iraq.

The administration has said they will be there "as long as necessary and not a day longer," but aides were scrambling a few weeks ago to assure Congress that if the new Iraqi government asks American forces to leave, they will - whether their mission is completed or not.

It has all sown such confusion that a European foreign minister, asked on a recent visit what he thought of the latest administration plan for the handover, smiled and responded, "Last week's or this week's?"
  NY Times article

And we will never negotiate with terrorists.

A few weeks ago, officials from President Bush on down said there was only one fate for the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, leader of the Shiite militia that has been occupying the Iraqi city of Najaf: "Kill or capture."

Under a deal last week, Mr. Sadr walks, the murder charges against him apparently dropped. And while the White House had said that his militia must be broken up, the deal will allow it to stay intact as long as it stays off the streets.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Airport security

Those guys that check your luggage to make sure you're not smuggling a bomb on the plane? Don't pack anything they might like to keep for their personal use or can fence.

Since last March, federal screeners have been arrested for theft from passengers' property at John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as Miami International, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County and Denver International airports. A baggage handler at Long Beach Municipal Airport in California was arrested at the end of April, accused of stealing from passengers' bags.

...According to Mr. Wills, the transportation agency has asked for a limit on the government's share of any payments to no more than $3 million a year. Given that roughly 20,000 claims were filed in 2003, a $3 million liability cap would translate into a payment of about $150 per claim. "It's not a lot of money," Mr. Wills said.
  NY Times article

Well, no, maybe it's not a lot of money per claim, but 20,000 claims in one year?!?

Damn, how about a little better screening of the screeners?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

DEA loses a computer

Just one too many security risk laptops gone missing, if you ask me.

This is the fourth one since I've been blogging in October.

Talk Left has an account:

DEA Loses Laptop With Informant Data

Whoops. An auditor for the DEA has lost his laptop with data concerning over 100 informants, including over 4,000 pages of sensitive case-file information that if delivered into the wrong hands could allow traffickers to identify the informants. The loss story sounds fishy, because first the auditor told the DEA the laptop was stolen from his car trunk while he was inside a coffeehouse, but later...

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

And Al really likes Kerry

Or he used to. Or something like that.

Here's Al Giordano's translation of Kerry's statement on Venezuela.

Kerry saysKerry means
The coming days will be critical for the future of democracy in Venezuela.…to a small group of Republican spoiled brats in Florida who my advisors insist are "swing voters."
President Chavez and all Venezuelans must understand that the international community will be watching closely to ensure that the signature validation process proceeds openly and impartially.You really promise they will love me in Florida if I read this aloud, Rand?
Yet after being democratically elected and promising reform, President Chavez has treated opponents as enemies rather than seeking to heal the divisions that have plagued Venezuela.If that idea catches on with Democrats they'll start saying we should have done that in 2000.
He has undermined the constitution…Obviously, I haven't read it.
…and used his Bolivarian Circles to repress peaceful dissentWhereas my MeetUp groups are filled with lazy fucks.
…his government systematically moved to expand its powers.Unfair! My running-mate Dick Gephardt owns the copyright!
Particularly concerning are recent reports of numerous human rights violations.I feel their dolor. Mine are violated the same exact way every time my maids stop smiling at me.
The disturbing trend towards establishment of an authoritarian regime must be reversed now…Hey Shrum, wasn't that line supposed to go into the speech about Ashcroft?
Given the need to verify hundreds of thousands of signatures, more time should be granted if necessary to allow this process to be completed in an orderly manner.Yes, I know, I know, sigh, the Venezuelan oligarchs won't be able to fix enough signatures in three days: most of their backers are already in Florida.
To date, the Bush administration has regrettably chosen not to play a true leadership role…How come there's nothing in this speech about Vietnam, Mary Beth? D'oh! Oh. Right. Never mind.
Indeed, their tacit support for the ill-conceived April 2002 military coup against Chavez has undermined their ability to play that role.That was supposed to be my Bay of Pigs, not his, the greedy bastard.
With our credibility…Which I further damage today…
and the hopes of so many at stake…If they don't get their referendum, they'll all move to Florida by 2008.
I call on the Administration and our allies in the region to stand strong for the democratic process in Venezuela.There is a democratic process in Venezuela? Holy shit! Wait, Randy, tell me again why I'm making this statement?

Read Comments: Kerry's Foreign Policy Hijackers, including:

I strongly disagree with the notion but forth by several otherwise informative posts on the NarcoSphere that Kerry's statement on Chavez was an unfortunate but necessary political tactic. You are either in favor of democracy or against it, and John Kerry has clearly indicated that he is an opponent of democratic institutions.

He could, for instance, have taken issue of Chavez's friendship with Castro if he wanted to placate Cubans in Miami, as well as criticizing statements by Chavez on foreign policy issues. A more harmless expedient type would go to Miami, talk about the economy and then his own Catholic beliefs, and lament the ban on Catholicism in Cuba. What per cent of Miami's Cubans and Venezuelans would not be cowed by that? Kerry, as expedient, spineless folks go, is not of the harmless variety.

He is entitled to his opinion of any democratically elected leader, but to repeat the double speak that Chavez is an enemy of democracy is to truly be an enemy of democracy. This simply cannot be dismissed as a tactical maneuver from which no broader conclusions can be made about a Kerry presidency.

An excellent comment to which there is more. Have a look. Major good points made there about Kerry and democracy.

Previous posts on Venezuela
More information on Venezuela

al-Qa'ida attack on Saudi oil execs

Why did al-Qa'ida choose people instead of pipelines to attack the oil industry in Saudi Arabia?

Okay, I haven't mentioned the attack yet, but I bet you've heard about it. Billmon asks this very simple question, and says his only answers are of the tin-foil hat variety.


And there's one idea he doesn't mention (because I guess it would take a whole tin-foil suit of armor): maybe al-Qa'ida reall is a CIA organization, like the conspiracy nuts say.

....but hey, think what you will anyway.

The Saddam Show

Okay, I'm going to get past the fact that Bush is so proud of the gun that Saddam was captured with and which was mounted and presented to him privately, that he keeps it in his memorobilia office (the same one where Bill Clinton provided Monica Lewinski with some memorable things), and shows it to visitors. I'm going straight to this:

Bush shows Saddam's gun to select visitors, telling them it is unloaded, both now and when Saddam was captured, Time reported.

So what was the bad man in the spider hole that we so heroically charged and "captured" doing there with an unloaded gun?

And I had only wondered why he looked so dissheveled and why he had $75,000 in U.S. cash on him, and why the report about how he was found lying face down in the hole disappeared from the news right away.

Saddam Show

The Chalabi story isn't over

I don't remember which of the bloggers said that, but...

The "vision" was Chalabi's from the get-go. He just made the neocon fools think it was theirs. As his daughter said:
[her father’s problems could be traced to the fact that] “a foreigner, and an Arab, had beaten the Administration at their own game, in their own back yard.”

Read Digby's post poking around into the real story of Ahmad Chalabi.

....or do what you will anyway.

Allawi problems

It's right about this time in attempting a new dish, that I just chuck the whole thing and order in Chinese.

"First of all the man has a bad reputation among Iraqis for his US-UK links. Also, there is resentment because Allawi's Iraqi National Accord party has a large number of former Baathists," said Aljazeera correspondent in Baghdad Atwar Bahjat.

"However, because of his relative success in dealing with the security issue in Iraq, a considerable number of Iraqis support his nomination, hoping he would restore security and stability," Bahjat said.

..."Allwai's nomination pleased the secularists, technocrats, and professionals. But obviously it angered hardline Shia politicians like Al-Hakim and Bahr al-Oloum," he said.
  Aljazeera article

Aren't you glad it isn't your responsibility to get that democracy going over there? And this is just the first one. They've got several other positions yet to fill, including the biggie of president.

Iraqi politicians dismissed media reports suggesting the nomination was made by the IGC, saying Allawi was nominated by the US.

Harun Muhammad believes it was a result of an understanding between the US and the United Nations.

Well, now, if that proved to be true, I would just be shocked.

Aljazeera's correspondent confirmed that IGC members dissociated themselves from Allawi's appointment.

"A number of IGC members speaking on condition of anonymity said it was a US nomination. They said the US brought down its ally al-Chalabi, and selected its other ally, Allawi," the correspondent said.

They really trust us, don't they?

Spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, Dr Muhammad Ayash said the nomination changed nothing on the ground.

"The fact that the rulers of Iraq are appointed by an occupation force taints Allawi's nomination," he said.

"We are clear about what we want. We want the US-led occupation forces out of Iraq, so that Iraqi people would choose their government themselves. Iraqis will remain suspicious about any official appointed by US occupation," Ayash said.

Damned paranoid, tin-hat conspiracy theorists.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Australia's PM snubs the wife of a Gitmo detainee

Well, he's a busy man.

Meanwhile the news of a possible military trial for Mamdouh Habib was criticised by his wife Maha.

"He shouldn't be going to military court, not even David Hicks should be going to military court," Mrs Habib said.

"I think they've suffered enough, they [are] still suffering up until now.

"They've been tortured you know and as I understood from the witnesses, they don't know why they were charged, why [they] were picked up.

"They don't know why they weren't released."

Mr Habib's family waited outside Channel Seven's Sydney studios from 5:00am (AEST) to confront Mr Howard, but he ignored them as he left.

Mrs Habib says she was upset Mr Howard did not stop to speak to her.

"Being up from five o'clock with the kids, waiting just to spare one minute out of his time where he was spending about one-hour-and-a-half on his coffee for morning tea," she said.

"He could have spared us one minute just to discuss it, to give him the letter and make sure that he has got it and just listen to what a three-and-a-half-year old wants to say to him."
  ABC Net Australia article

David Hicks' father is none too happy either. Apparently pressure from PM Howard has gotten a June 2 hearing for a possible August military trial.

[Mr. Hicks] says the Supreme Court matter on whether his son is being detained on US soil and how his son is being treated should be dealt with first.

"It's almost as if it's a last minute rush, you know...Let's get it through the system before the elections. The elections are coming up and things just don't fit right with me.

I can't imagine what it must be like to have a family member "detained" in a black hole like Guantanamo detention, without charge, no visits, knowing what kind of treatment people are getting there, for even a few days, much less two years.

We need to get Gitmo shut down.

They came for the Communists, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a Communist;
They came for the Socialists, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a Socialist;
They came for the labor leaders, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a labor leader;
They came for the Jews, and I didn't object - For I wasn't a Jew;
Then they came for me - And there was no one left to object.

- Martin Niemoller, Protestant Pastor in Nazi Germany, 1892-1984

First they came for the Muslims, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.

Then they came for the immigrants, detaining them indefinitely solely on the certification of the attorney general, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an immigrant.

Then they came to eavesdrop on suspects consulting with their attorneys, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a suspect.

Then they came to prosecute noncitizens before secret military commissions, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a noncitizen.

Then they came to enter homes and offices for unannounced "sneak and peak" searches, and I didn't speak up because I had nothing to hide.

Then they came to reinstate Cointelpro and resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups, and I didn't speak up because I no longer participated in any groups.

Then they came to arrest American citizens and hold them indefinitely without any charges and without access to lawyers, and I didn't speak up because I would never be arrested....

Forum Column (from the Daily Journal, 11/20/02). Stephen Rohde

Update 2:30 pm: Additional on Hicks and Habib:

The lawyer for an Australian detainee at Guantanamo Bay has said the government must press Washington to release videotapes of a US military squad assigned to subdue prisoners at the prison camp in Cuba.

...Kenny said there also were tapes of Hicks being beaten while being held in Afghanistan by US forces after he was captured fighting with the Taliban.

...The US military has denied any major instances of abuse at Guantanamo. A spokesman at the base, Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert Mulac, said on Friday that "there are no beatings on the tapes" and that the squad actually was known as the "Initial Response Force".

...Jamal al-Harith told the Seven Network that Habib had been subjected to beatings and four days of sleep depravation.

"Blood was coming out of his nose and out of his ears," al-Harith said.

"They were moving him out back and forth, cell to cell every two hours and he wasn't allowed to sleep. He was very tired and sometimes he complained he couldn't walk, but they'd drag him."

Al-Harith, who said he was held in a cell near Habib in Guantanamo Bay, claimed that prostitutes were used to humiliate prisoners during interrogations.

Another British former Guantanamo Bay detainee said Habib was abused by his captors.

"I could see him being dragged by chains that were attached to his feet and him screaming in agony," Tariq Dergul told Channel Seven.
  Aljazeera article

Pat Tillman

This should really burn some ass.

For all those people shouting down anyone who wasn't patriotically, nationalistically, groupthinkingly whipping out their little flags over the deal anyway.

Former NFL star Pat Tillman, the San Jose native whose death touched a nation because of his self-sacrifice in joining the elite Army Rangers and fighting in Afghanistan, was likely killed as a result of friendly fire, the Army announced Saturday.

The military said Tillman was probably shot after a fellow soldier fired at a friendly Afghan soldier in Tillman's unit on April 22. Other soldiers then opened fire in the same direction, the military said.

Good freaking God.

The San Francisco Chronicle report says American officials announced (at Fort Bragg) that Tillman's unit was charging in to rescue some trapped compatriots (so the hero glory can possibly overshadow the fucked-up story), while an Afghan officer says there were no enemy soldiers anywhere, they shot in response to an exploding landmine.

The Oakland Tribune doesn't mention the phony hero story, but just recounts an unclassified Army investigation report saying Tillman's group had split off from another, to take a vehicle that had broken down to be repaired, when a landmine exploded, and the other group reacted.

This puts me in mind of retired Special Forces Sgt. Stan Goff's accounts of how the military works, particularly in regards to telling its troops lies and propaganda that create a Hollywood version of American heroics and the enemy du jour as something foreign and evil.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Not playing with a full deck?

Here's a little help.

Here's a fun idea. Do you want to make your Democrat friends mad? Get them a deck of these Pro-Bush playing cards, tell them to "Vote Bush" and watch them fume. Can you imagine your Uncle Charlie's face (who is a die-hard liberal) when you give him a deck of these babies.

Okay, then. (To quote South Knox Bubba)

Go check out some more. And, hey, Newt (whoever he is) also offers an anti-Bush deck, too. I mean that's the beauty of America. You don't have to take a stand (or even if you do, like Newt) - you can capitalize on either side of an issue.

And, could I make a comment on this card?

Or, actually, it's ask a question....

Does it follow then that the unprecedented chaos in Iraq, not to mention Washington, means that there is no God, or just that he's not with us? And if he's not with us, then is he against us?

I need a clarification here, Newt.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

More on Allawi

Not only did he insist that Saddam had ties to al-Qa'ida, he apparently is the source of the WMD in 45 minute feces.

He is the person through whom the controversial claim was channelled that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could be operational in 45 minutes.
  Independent article

Where is the exit to this fun house? It's getting late.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Chalabi's/Neocon's/NY Times' shill

More on Judith Miller in a good post with good comments at The Blogging of the President: Judith Miller goes postal

Karpinski says she was 'set up'

In an interview yesterday, however, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski insisted she was "set up" by Army officials who had her sign the letter when she really had no idea of the depth of the problems uncovered at the now-infamous prison outside Baghdad.

In addition, Karpinski said she was notified in an e-mail yesterday that she was being suspended from duty, but has not yet been given a formal explanation.

"You'd think somebody would pick up the phone and call me," she said. "That should have been the protocol courtesy. I am a general officer. Nobody could spend the 25 cents to call me?" article

You know what? I think Janis should stop whingeing. 'Set up' my ass. If she were set up, it's because she is easily duped. Why's she signing a letter without checking into the factuality of its content?

General Karpinski, you were part of the whole ugly, unconscionable scene. You want protocol? Protocol is part of why you are where you are.

(Link found at POAC)

Arsenal ready to attack liberals

"I'll see you tomorrow, buddy," James Breit called out to his son as U.S. marshals led Michael Breit out of the courtroom.

Rockford police took Breit into custody April 18 after investigating a report of shots fired at Breit's Sunnyside Drive apartment. Breit told police he accidentally shot a round from his new AK-47 assault rifle into a door frame as he attempted to dismantle the gun. Police asked Breit if they could look around. That's when they discovered the cache of guns and bomb-making materials.

Breit allegedly told investigators that he was stockpiling weapons in case there was a revolution and he needed to use them against liberals. Police say they found an essay Breit wrote, "Revolutionary Strike Force," which outlined a plan to kill 1,500 people at a Democratic presidential caucus.

Breit faces federal charges of illegally receiving explosives with intent to use them to kill, injure or intimidate any person, or damage or destroy any property. If convicted, Breit could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
  Rockford Register article

But you will be happy to know that he has been released to his parents' custody in the meantime.

(Link found at POAC)

More about Jerklow

Because I really grew fond of the man* during his (repeated) drunk driving manslaughter trial and his whole 100 days of jail time for it. It appears the man was even closer to the bottom of the political cesspool than I thought.

From Cursor:

Following a South Dakota state Supreme Court ruling that pardons must be made public, the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader reports that crimes secretly pardoned by former Gov. Bill Janklow, included sexual contact with a child, indecent molestation of a child, rape, manslaughter, and his son-in-law's drunk driving and drug charges. Earlier: Janklow and the case of Jancita Eagle Deer.

Janklow is sprung
Just when you think you've heard the topper....
Enough to bring you to your knees
Law and Disorder
Dear Bill
Jerklow update
Jerklow update
Jerklow not giving up yet
Governor indicted on federal charges
No, this just in on the Jerklow case.
This just in on the Jerklow manslaughter trial
Bill Jerklow (R-S.D.) on trial

Rebuilding Iraq

Hmmmm.....maybe it's not going so well as we thought.

A US newspaper reports that military equipment and oil rig parts are being smuggled out of Iraq in a scale tantamount to looting.

"This is systematically plundering the country," John Hamre, of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, was quoted as saying by the New York Times on Friday.

While occupation authorities have approved the removal of scrap metal from Iraq, including thousands of damaged Iraqi tanks, the newspaper said material seen in scrap yards in neighbouring Jordan include new material from Iraq's civil infrastructure.

...Oil rigs and water plants were being stripped of equipment, which then were being carted out of Iraq.

One hundred semitrailers loaded with what is billed as scrap metal arrive in Jordan every day from Iraq bearing legitimate scrap metal, but also inestimable amounts of plundered material, said the paper.

...The head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency's verification office in Iraq, Jacques Baute, told the newspaper that satellite photographs the agency uses to monitor hundreds of military-industrial sites for the removal of sensitive material show "jarring" results.

Entire buildings and complexes of as many as a dozen buildings have vanished from the photographs, he said.

"We see sites that have totally been cleaned out," he said.

"There is a gigantic salvage operation, stripping of anything of perceived value out of the country," said Hamre.
  Aljazeera article

Entire buildings!

Oh lord.

Can you say "fiasco"?

Throw Chalabi to the pack

Reminds me of another story. Maybe it was the washing of the hands reference.

Anyhooo...Josh Marshall dissects the Chalabi clamor:

I have sources too. And I hear quite the opposite. From what I'm told, what really cooked Chalabi's goose was that the evidence against him was sufficiently damning that his one-time advocates and protectors inside the government -- folks very high up the ladder -- simply washed their hands of him, wouldn't try to defend him.

Another point: look at these sorta-kinda defenses of Chalabi and you'll often see the argument that Chalabi's main enemies at the State Department and the CIA -- particularly at State -- are hopeless hypocrites because, while attacking Chalabi for his contacts with the Iranians, they are the very ones who endorse fuller engagement with the Iranians. (A finger is often stuck in the eye of Armitage at State.) So why can't Chalabi talk with the Iranians when these jokers have been saying we should do that for some time?

...This is a logic that can't distinguish between Alger Hiss (notorious spy) and Henry Kissinger (signature detentist). Does this one even require explanation?

Let's remember that nothing is proven against Chalabi specifically at this point. Even the charges and claims are coming to us through the press. And engagement or non-engagement with Iran is a legitimate question of policy. But can't we all agree that there is a rather clear-cut distinction between a policy of 'engagement' with the Iranians on the one hand and acting as double agents for them on the other?

I doubt it Josh.

Bar's open!

Billmon returns.

I must confess that I spent a good part of my week off feasting at the schadenfreude buffet – and many good things to eat and drink did I find there, including such delicacies as skewered neocon, fricasseed Judith Miller, fried huevos de Sanchez (and you know I’m not talking about eggs), Republicans on the half shell (or in Denny Hastert’s case, on the half wit) and, last but certainly not least, Shrub-a-la-road, smothered in Max Factor.

...It’s not every week you see the tracks completely come off the GOP tank.

It’s almost as if the mainstream media abruptly awoke from a coma and realized their doctors had been slipping them sedatives and going through their wallets. Even useless tools like Chris Mathews seem to have light bulbs dimly flickering over their heads. Suddenly, the outrages the left side of the blogosphere has been screaming about for months – the crimes, the corruption, and, above all, the sheer incompetence of the “war effort” – are being splashed all over the tube. For the first time since I started Whiskey Bar, I've actually felt redundant.

A nice long post assessing where we are and where we are likely to be going vis-a-vis the New Iraq®.

It wasn't just me

That confusion and seeming contradictions over the Allawi appointment as Prime Minister of New Iraq wasn't just my problem after having one of my wee bit strong home brews and trying to read the reports.

Josh Marshall is having problems with it, too. Here:

the Brahimi plan was supposed to push aside members of the IGC for key posts in the new government. And, more pointedly, not one article I've seen has the same set of facts about just what happened.

Here. And here. And here. And here.

Good old Josh, he's really trying to make sense of it. Or at least follow the nonsense of it. He hasn't said anything yet about Allawi's bogus intelligence claims, though.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Update on Khodorkovsky

Okay, very old news by today's standards. But since I opened the subject when I first started this blog...

The politically charged criminal case against Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, Russia's wealthiest man, opened today, and, if convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

...The case against Mr. Khodorkovsky, whose estimated worth is $15 billion, is widely viewed as one in which the Kremlin is making an example of him to other rich Russian businessmen. The apparent message: by interfering in politics, they could pay the price for what are perceived as their ill-gotten gains won during Russia's wild privatization era.
  NY Times article

And the official charges are fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion.

That'd be news, wouldn't it? A billionaire in the oil industry involved in shady operations.

Well, now that's a good question

Who gave Chalabi the classified information that he funneled to Iran?

At a conservative thinktank in downtown Washington, and across the Potomac at the Pentagon, FBI agents have begun paying quiet calls on prominent neoconservatives, who are being interviewed in an investigation of potential espionage, according to intelligence sources. Who gave Ahmed Chalabi classified information about the plans of the US government and military?

The Iraqi neocon favourite, tipped to lead his liberated country post-invasion, has been identified by the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency as an Iranian double-agent, passing secrets to that citadel of the "axis of evil" for decades. All the while the neocons cosseted, promoted and arranged for more than $30m in Pentagon payments to the George Washington manque of Iraq. In return, he fed them a steady diet of disinformation and in the run-up to the war sent various exiles to nine nations' intelligence agencies to spread falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction. If the administration had wanted other material to provide a rationale for invasion, no doubt that would have been fabricated. Either Chalabi perpetrated the greatest con since the Trojan horse, or he was the agent of influence for the most successful intelligence operation conducted by Iran, or both.
  Guardian article

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Is it just me?

Or is there some totally screwed up conflicting information being passed around about New Iraq® officials?

There's this in the Washington Post today:

The Algerian mediator [Brahimi] had all but settled on Hussain Shahristani, a respected chemist and a Shiite, as his interim prime minister. But Shahristani withdrew his name Wednesday after it became clear U.S. authorities would not approve him, apparently after they conducted a background check, according to U.S. and foreign sources, in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Isn't that contradicted by this May 27 Independent article?

The spokesman for Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy in Baghdad, reacted with fury after US officials were quoted as saying that Hussain Shahristani had emerged as the leading candidate.

...In New York, a UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said the report in yesterday's Washington Post was "pure speculation which is not helpful to the process".

...UN and British officials dismissed suggestions that the Americans had a sinister motive in putting out Mr Shahristani's name, and said that the information was simply out of date. Asked whether the Americans might have been trying to "bounce" Mr Shahristani into the post, a senior British official replied that "it was just a leak".

And this May 25 Reuters article?

The United Nations is expected to pick Hussain Shahristani, a Shi'ite nuclear scientist who spent years in Abu Ghraib prison under Saddam Hussein, as premier of a new interim Iraqi government, U.S. sources said on Tuesday.

A State Department official said Shahristani was one of three finalists being considered for the post, but other sources said he was expected to get the job of leading the caretaker Iraqi government when the United States hands over power on July 1.

Well, whatever....

This is what really snags me:

May 28 Washington Post: The ongoing Chalabi-CIA struggle, essentially over who will control an independent Iraq's intelligence service and whether it will ultimately be used to destabilize Iran, is a topic for another day. The more immediate problems belong to Brahimi, who now must publicly deny that the United States is vetting and then passing or blocking his choices for prime minister and other jobs.

In the closed world of smoke and mirrors that exiles and intelligence agencies inhabit, Shahristani was a source on Hussein's weapons programs for U.S. government agencies and journalists, as were Chalabi, Ayad Allawi and many others.

Everybody being considered was part of the bogus info! So we still install a duper as prime minister. That makes sense. Well, it makes as much sense as hiring Saddam's goon squads into the new police force and forming an Iraqi spy agency out of the remains of Saddam's Mukhabarat and beating the shit out of your own guys in a training exercise.

Okay, technically that doesn't say he provided bogus information. Just that he provided information.

But...he did try to pawn off the now discredited memo about Saddam's connection with Al-Qa'ida:

December 15, 2003
Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq’s ruling seven-man presidential committee, said the document was genuine.

‘‘We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam’s involvement with Al Qaeda,’’ Allawi said. ‘‘But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with Al Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks.’’
  Indian Express article

Still, even Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress calls the bombshell memo "nonsense," and the U.K. Sunday Telegraph reporter who publicized it doesn't stand up too strongly for it either.
  MSNBC article

Who's on first?

Hey, McClellan says Allawi's cool. That's enough for me.

McClellan spoke in praise of the former opponent of deposed President Saddam Hussein, although he withheld any details of the selection process for the new government, which is also to involve a president, two vice presidents and cabinet officers. article

I can't keep up

But I think when we are done over there, Saddam himself may be King.

George Shultz says that life in official Washington is not one damn thing after another. It is the same damn thing over and over again.

...In Iraq today the CIA is building an Iraqi spy agency from the ruins of Saddam Hussein's Mukhabarat -- the secret police unit that was at war with Iran and Syria for two decades. Like ex-Nazis recruited to fight the Soviet peril, these Iraqis come with useful skills and experience in trying to destabilize Tehran. Some of them were on the job during the Iran-Iraq war, when the Reagan administration (in which Shultz served) shared U.S. intelligence with Hussein's regime to prevent the revolutionary ayatollahs of Iran from taking Baghdad. Old intelligence connections die hard.
  WaPo article

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Speaking of bogus information

May 28: Some of the information cited in Attorney General John Ashcroft's warning of a possible terrorist attack comes from a largely discredited group. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.
  MSNBC article

Now that really takes you by surprise. John AssKKKroft throwing out bogus scary shit?!? Impossible.

In warning Americans to brace for a possible attack, Ashcroft cited what he called “credible intelligence from multiple sources,” saying that “just after New Year's, al-Qaida announced openly that preparations for an attack on the United States were 70 percent complete.… After the March 11 attack in Madrid, Spain, an al-Qaida spokesman announced that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack in the United States were complete.”

But terrorism experts tell NBC News there's no evidence a credible al-Qaida spokesman ever said that, and the claims actually were made by a largely discredited group, Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, known for putting propaganda on the Internet.

“This particular group is not really taken seriously by Western intelligence,” said terrorism expert M.J. Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, an international policy assessment group. “It does not appear to have any real field operational capability. But it is certainly part of the global jihad movement — part of its propaganda wing, if you like. It likes to weave a web of lies; it likes to put out disinformation so that the truth is deeply buried. So it is a dangerous group in that sense, but it is not taken seriously in terms of its operational capability.”

“The only thing they haven't claimed credit for recently is the cicada invasion of Washington,” said expert Roger Cressey, former chief of staff of the critical infrastructure protection board at the White House and now an analyst for NBC News. Cressey also served as deputy to former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke

A senior U.S. intelligence official previously told NBC News that this group has no known operational capability and may be no more than one man with a fax machine.

Yeah, well, he had help.

Friday, Ashcroft's spokesman blamed the FBI, and the FBI admitted claims that terrorists were 90 percent ready to attack came not from al-Qaida, but from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades’ statements.

That the FBI apparently took the group seriously also troubles experts.

I know. You feel so much safer since BushCo took charge of things after 9/11.

Oh, good. At least we aren't the only sadists in town.

The records of interviews by Army Criminal Investigation Division agents obtained by the AP include new allegations that coalition forces had beaten prisoners before turning them over to the US.

Sgt. Antonio Monserrate, an Army interrogator, told investigators that two detainees had been "injured by the Polish Army." Monserrate referred to the inmates by their prison identification numbers but did not provide any further details.

Polish occupation forces operate in south-central Iraq. Prisoners also accused Iraqi forces of abusing them but named no other country in the documents obtained by the AP.

Poland has rejected the allegations, saying they were unfair.
  Aljazeera article


That should absolve us of some of the blame. That and the Brits' share.

I wonder if war is such a good idea, after all. How about a war that didn't even ever have to happen?

What I really wonder is if people are such a good idea. Lot, gather up the wife and kids.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Oh. My. God.


Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that U.S. investigators have been unable to locate or identify the Iraqi officers whose recorded voices plotting to deceive United Nations inspectors provided a dramatic highlight to his presentation to the United Nations last year about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

"We can't find those guys. I don't know who those guys were. But the tapes were real tapes. We didn't make them up," Powell said in an interview with six newspapers, including The Sun.
  Baltimore Sun article

You know, it just amazes me. Grown men. Leaders of the world's superpower.

The tapes were real. But we don't know who the guys on them were.

If it weren't for the current security problems, "People would have thrown awards at us" for toppling Hussein [Powell said].

Dear Jesus.

In yesterday's interview, Powell again expressed disappointment that some of the intelligence used in the speech proved to be wrong, including his assertion that Iraq possessed mobile biological weapons labs. He acknowledged that the failure to find the weapons had affected America's credibility.

"I'm very disappointed that all that I said was not accurate. Not all that I said was inaccurate," Powell said. "The part about mobile vans turned out to be not based on good intelligence, but we thought it was when I said it."

Colin, old buddy. Time to cut your losses and shut up. You are sounding dumber and dumber all the time. In fact, you are sounding like your boss. What are you guys snorting up there in the Oval Office? Is it the Ambien, maybe? What?

He's disappointed.

Yeah. So are we.

I wonder if anybody in Iraq is disappointed. I wonder if any mother whose son won't ever be coming home is disappointed.

Aw, never mind.

Missing Billmon

Damn. The Whiskey Bar is still closed. A week now.

And to quote his quote: If we don't find the next whiskey bar, I tell you, we must die.

Well, close to it.

Al Qa'ida wants you to vote for Kerry

Isn't that what the "right" says?

It may sound odd to classify a terrorist group as reformist, but a radical remake of the faith is indeed the underlying intention of bin Laden and his followers. Attacking America and its allies is merely a tactic, intended to provoke a backlash strong enough to alert Muslims to the supposed truth of their predicament, and so rally them to purge the faith of all that is alien to its essence.[3]

...[3] A statement from al-Qaeda following the Madrid bombings clarified this intent. It said the organization hoped George Bush would win reelection, "because he acts with force rather than wisdom or shrewdness, and it is his religious fanaticism that will rouse our (Islamic) nation, as has been shown. Being targeted by an enemy is what will wake us from our slumber." Quoted on the Arabic news Web site "Bayaan lil qa'ida yuhhammal tawqi' kataib abu hafss al massri," March 17, 2004.
  NY Books article

Thanks to Maru for the link.

The second tier Neocons

Wow. Always there's more.

Digby has a revealing post with information about the gang coming up.

Something to look forward to.

Read the whole post, but here's a couple of quotes in it from Josh Marshall back in the day, the last one from a Digby commenter:

In the minds of these second-tier appointees, taking out Saddam Hussein is only part of a larger puzzle....As a plan to pursue in the real world, most of the career military and the civilian employees at the Pentagon -- indeed most establishment foreign policy experts -- see this vision as little short of insane. But to Bush's hawkish Pentagon appointees the real prize isn't Baghdad, it's Riyadh. And the Saudis know it.

In the spring of 2001, shortly after the Bush administration had taken office, a delegation of Saudi diplomats attended a meeting at the Pentagon with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz. As the meeting was breaking up, one of the attendees, Harold Rhode ... approached Adel Al-Jubeir, a soft-spoken Saudi diplomat who once served as an assistant to the Saudi ambassador and today is foreign policy advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah.

Rhode told Al-Jubeir that once the new administration got its affairs in order ... [t]he United States would take care of Saddam, start calling the shots in the region, and the Saudis would have to fall in line. Al-Jubeir demurred.... Rhode then shoved his finger in the diminutive Saudi's chest and told him, "You're not going to have any choice!"

Something tells me that was not only bad mannered, but probably damned stupid, as well.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Oh, boy, here we go again

Looking for new photo-ops I suppose. Not that there'll be any photos of the screaming mobs of protestors. After that multi-million dollar-take-along-half-the-damned-army-for-protection-trip to visit the Queen (where of course the protestors were kept out of his sight), I wonder how much this is going to cost us - and the Italians.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu warned Friday of looming "grave threats" in demonstrations during the visit to Rome of U.S. President George W. Bush next week.

Pisanu did not say the president himself was threatened and he was not referring to a terrorist threat, an Interior Ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity.

Bush will be in Italy June 4-5...
  Seattle Post-Intelligencer article

Jeff Danziger

Can't he just stay home? I mean, he takes the bubble with him when he goes anywhere anyway.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Stanford study

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That is, until someone finds the pictures.

It's 2:30 a.m. Bored prison guards pull prisoners from their cells, strip them naked, chain them together and force them to simulate sodomy. The guards know someone is recording their activities, but they don't let concerns about future consequences interfere with the degradation and abuse.

Sound familiar? It might sound like abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, but these pictures were taken over 30 years ago — at Stanford University.


Ah yes, that good old American morality Mr. Gore says Mr. Bush has corrupted.

Two days into the good doctor's experiment, the normal, adjusted students were playing their prison roles with frightening reality.

Two days.

Humans are just creepy. I'm sorry.

The "prisoners," fed up with having roll calls in the middle of the night, rebelled by pushing their beds against their cell bars and refusing to come out. The "guards" called in reinforcements, pulled the prisoners from their cells, striped them naked, and proceeded to humiliate and abuse them for hours. To further reinforce their power, the guards took away bathroom privileges and forced prisoners to urinate and defecate in buckets inside their cells, and to later clean the mess out with their bare hands. It got worse — so bad that Zimbardo halted the planned two-week study after only six days.

Prisoners and guards in the Stanford Prison Experiment
Photo: Stanford Prison Experiment/

Lucky guy

Iraq has a new prime minister

The Iraqi Governing Council unanimously endorsed Iyad Allawi to become Iraq's new prime minister...

Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nation's top envoy to Iraq has been looking for candidates for the posts of prime minister, president, two vice presidents and 26 heads of ministries. It wasn't clear if Brahimi accepted Allawi's nomination, AP said.
  Bloomberg article

I think Brahimi has been getting the clue that he really doesn't matter. Well, he's certainly been getting hints, anyway.

Panamanian news

I just received an email from a journalist in Panama who read my Venezuelan report. Please have a look at his website: Okke Ornstein: a Dutch journalist in Panamá.

I am shamefully deficit in knowledge about what's going on in that country. (Why does it suddenly seem like there aren't enough hours in the day? I really don't even want to be here most of the time.) But I recently came across this link to a video that I may have posted earlier. 1989 U.S. Invasion of Panama - the Deception If you haven't seen it, do have a look.

I don't know what support we can offer Okke, but he's in trouble for disparaging the head of state: Panamanian authorities meddle with journalist visa.

I will try to make time to check Okke's site daily, and I'll put a permanent link in the sidebar so you can check it for yourself.

Homeland insecure

Representative Christopher Cox, Republican of California and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said the Ashcroft-Mueller news conference mistakenly led some to believe the nation's threat level had been increased. He called it "regrettable" that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge did not join Ashcroft and Mueller.

"Their separate public appearances left the impression that the broad and close interagency consultation we expect -- and which the law requires -- may not have taken place in this case," Cox said. article

Come on Chris, it's every man for himself out there in that jungle these days. If I were you, I'd take cover myself. Where have you been? You expect close interagency consultation? Isn't that what the whole shebang is about? No communication?

A Homeland Security Department spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse, reiterated yesterday that his agency has not seen any change in the "steady stream of threat reporting."

"We do not have any new intelligence or specific information about Al Qaeda planning an attack," he said.

Cassandra Chandler, assistant FBI director for public affairs, acknowledged that intelligence about the threat has been coming in for some time. However, she said it now is being backed by a higher degree of corroboration.

So, what color is the degree of corroboration alert now? Or is that a numerical system? Maybe prior to 9/11 we should have had a color-coded degree of corroboration alert, and we wouldn't be in this mess. Maybe that's what went wrong. Could somebody offer that point to the Worthless Commission? Maybe, we could use icons instead of colors - and when Rummy sees the missile level is up to four, then he could send in the troops. Or something like that. In fact, it could even be used to make specific appropriate war plans. If the alert is in missiles, then you send in the missile defenders, and if it's in little vials, you send in the chemical weapons guys.

Boy, I'm on a roll with the great ideas this morning. Make a path.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Update 10:00 am: Maru always does it better.

Prisoner release

Isn't it uncanny how much progress we're making in Iraq lately? I mean, I'm just talking about the prisoner situation alone. For over a year we've had up to 8,000 prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and just in the last few weeks, we've released three groups, up to 500 at a time! I think we just had to get all those darned details about processing them straightened out, and then, voila! we can get them back out on the streets now. Hoo boy, that was a tough nut to crack, but by golly, we cracked it.

The military said earlier in May that recent releases were part of a months-old program to cut numbers and not linked to the prisoner-abuse scandal...
  Reuters article

Oh, we knew that.

I wonder, though....are we releasing prisoners from the other detention centers we have over there?


U.S. soldiers escorting a convoy of buses filled with Abu Ghraib prison inmates being released came under attack Friday, but there were no reports of casualties. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded in Kufa despite an agreement to end fighting between U.S. forces and Shiite insurgents.
  Fox News article

Sadr himself failed to appear for his weekly sermon at Kufa, disappointing thousands of followers, some of them armed, who had flocked to hear him despite U.S. roadblocks. They chanted defiance of America and said U.S. troops had broken the truce.
  Swiss Info article

Yeah, well, tell it to the Indians.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Al Gore's speech

I've mentioned Al Gore's recent speech in passing in a couple posts, in connection with what other people have said about it. I didn't read it myself until tonight, and so now I'll make my own comments on it.

The concensus seems to be, from the left side of the aisle, that this was a fine speech.

And, this is my answer to that (thanks for the opportunity, Jim):

It's a great speech, I admit. But it's also a great lie. Like any great lie, it sprinkles truths over falsehood and makes you look only in one direction.

He's absolutely wrong about America being so moral and good until George Bush came along. And it makes me realize that we were actually lucky that Gore didn't take the oval office, because he probably would have kept us in the mist and the fog of self-deception. The truth is that our foreign policy has been one of dominance from the beginning. And we have done cruel, inhumane and horrible things to people of other cultures all along. Particularly, but not only, in wars. And most of our wars were wars of dominance and control disguised as missions of mercy. Lucky that Mr. Gore didn't take the oval office, but our luck will not hold if we don't take the opportunity to change directions that Bush has given us by his inadvertently exposing the ugly underbelly of the dragon.

These amoral and imperial actions of our country are things I did not know until recent years. And I certainly was not the exceptional American in that regard. We allow ourselves to be told lies and have things hidden from us because it allows us to feel good about ourselves, and moral, and right.

We are not. And until we change our foreign policy and turn our military into a defense force and return our intelligence agencies back to collecting intelligence and prohibit them from interference in the politics of other countries, and stop them from participating in drug trade and other illegal activities to fund their secret operations, the most we can ever hope for is great speeches.

Update May 28, 6:45 am: I received two emails on this subject, and so I'll put them here.

I still thought it pretty amazing Gore did that and I'm cheering our side. Gotta keep thinking, "Resist not evil for it will rise up against you, but persevere in the good" or something like that.

Maybe that's my problem - I didn't choose a side. And actually, I think, not just philosophically, but according to the laws of physics of this universe, that "resist not evil" statement is actually on the money. As we all learn in Physics 101, resistance creates drag. Or something like that. I'm not a passivist in the strict sense of the ideal, because there are times when I choose to resist. But, if we all took a step back from any situation and looked at it in terms of the laws of physics (to which we seem to be bound here on this planet), we might get a better picture of what we are creating.

Thank you for bringing up the point.

But we must look in one direction at this juncture and at every other juncture in order to change direction.

Every significant change in in the direction of a whole nation requires, it seems to me, a pause and a gathering up of our skirts and valuables and values that we wish to retain and carry on with us in a new direction. It is not like we have forgotten how we acquired this land by the sword and deceit then nor how we butchered in Vietnam just yesterday and how we bullied and stole and are stealing the resources of of the world from those unable to protect and prosper from them themselves..... not at all, but we are talking here, as was Gore, about the future and about the further corruption of our ideals which as shredded as they are still guide us as a people even if not as a nation.

Gore addresses, I think, the corruptions that have happened under this administration taking us farther from the ideals he holds dear. He did not defend the past although he might have been bold enough to include it. But if his sin is one of omitting past transgressions it is a sin of look ahead which is his want as a politician. Holding his feet to the fire is our job.

As your last paragraph might imply, it is not a perfect world, nor can we expect perfection in our politics which is based in cement mixer blending money, ideals, morality and practical necessities seasoned with the nature of the individuals we elect to office. It is our job to nudge, push, and if necessary push our politicians toward the highest of ideals...... it is, after all, a process which we must preserve.

I unfortunately agree with your view. But I shall not succumb to it, nor shall you it seems, otherwise why do you do what you do with such passion?

Well, Jim, it's not passion. It's a lot of things. Maybe some obligation, some frustration, some filling in time until I hop dimensions, and because I was sending articles to individual people, and filling up their mailboxes. Eventually it struck me that the people who give a shit what's really going on will be looking for it, and I don't have to send them information, and the people who don't want to know are just deleting my emails before they open them. I may be slow, but I get there.

But you're right, just because I see it for what it is, that doesn't mean I quit. Maybe I will one day. But right now, until I figure out how to bend time and space at will, and recreate my universe without all the shit I don't like about this one, I guess I'll do what I'm doing.

Thanks for writing. Really.