Tuesday, November 30, 2004

How Much Power Do Drug Companies Have Over Children? 


Guinea Pig Kids

Vulnerable children in some of New York's poorest districts are being forced to take part in HIV drug trials.


Noam Chomsky And The Bullshit Mandate 


There are many other illustrations of the same lack of concern of planners about terror. Bush voters, whether they knew it or not, were voting for a likely increase in the threat of terror, which could be awesome: it was understood well before 9-11 that sooner or later the Jihadists organized by the CIA and its associates in the 1980s are likely to gain access to WMDs, with horrendous consequences. And even these frightening prospects are being consciously extended by the transformation of the military, which, apart from increasing the threat of "ultimate doom" by accidental nuclear war, is compelling Russia to move nuclear missiles over its huge and mostly unprotected territory to counter US military threats – including the threat of instant annihilation that is a core part of the "ownership of space" for offensive military purposes announced by the Bush administration along with its National Security Strategy in late 2002, significantly extending Clinton programs that were more than hazardous enough, and had already immobilized the UN Disarmament Committee.

As for "moral values," we learn what we need to know about them from the business press the day after the election, reporting the "euphoria" in board rooms – not because CEOs oppose gay marriage. And from the unconcealed efforts to transfer to future generations the costs of the dedicated service of Bush planners to privilege and wealth: fiscal and environmental costs, among others, not to speak of the threat of "ultimate doom." That aside, it means little to say that people vote on the basis of "moral values." The question is what they mean by the phrase. The limited indications are of some interest. In some polls, "when the voters were asked to choose the most urgent moral crisis facing the country, 33 percent cited `greed and materialism,' 31 percent selected `poverty and economic justice,' 16 percent named abortion, and 12 percent selected gay marriage" (Pax Christi). In others, "when surveyed voters were asked to list the moral issue that most affected their vote, the Iraq war placed first at 42 percent, while 13 percent named abortion and 9 percent named gay marriage" (Zogby). Whatever voters meant, it could hardly have been the operative moral values of the administration, celebrated by the business press.

I won't go through the details here, but a careful look indicates that much the same appears to be true for Kerry voters who thought they were calling for serious attention to the economy, health, and their other concerns. As in the fake markets constructed by the PR industry, so also in the fake democracy they run, the public is hardly more than an irrelevant onlooker, apart from the appeal of carefully constructed images that have only the vaguest resemblance to reality…

…It is instructive to look more closely into popular attitudes on the war in Iraq, in the light of the general opposition to the "pre-emptive war" doctrines of the bipartisan consensus. On the eve of the 2004 elections, "three quarters of Americans say that the US should not have gone to war if Iraq did not have WMD or was not providing support to al Qaeda, while nearly half still say the war was the right decision" (Stephen Kull, reporting the PIPA study he directs). But this is not a contradiction, Kull points out. Despite the quasi-official Kay and Duelfer reports undermining the claims, the decision to go to war "is sustained by persisting beliefs among half of Americans that Iraq provided substantial support to al Qaeda, and had WMD, or at least a major WMD program," and thus see the invasion as defense against an imminent severe threat. Much earlier PIPA studies had shown that a large majority believe that the UN, not the US, should take the lead in matters of security, reconstruction, and political transition in Iraq. Last March, Spanish voters were bitterly condemned for appeasing terror when they voted out of office the government that had gone to war over the objections of about 90% of the population, taking its orders from Crawford Texas, and winning plaudits for its leadership in the "New Europe" that is the hope of democracy. Few if any commentators noted that Spanish voters last March were taking about the same position as the large majority of Americans: voting for removing Spanish troops unless they were under UN direction. The major differences between the two countries are that in Spain, public opinion was known, while here it takes an individual research project to discover it; and in Spain the issue came to a vote, almost unimaginable in the deteriorating formal democracy here.

These results indicate that activists have not done their job effectively.

Turning to other areas, overwhelming majorities of the public favor expansion of domestic programs: primarily health care (80%), but also aid to education and Social Security. Similar results have long been found in these studies (CCFR). Other mainstream polls report that 80% favor guaranteed health care even if it would raise taxes – in reality, a national health care system would probably reduce expenses considerably, avoiding the heavy costs of bureaucracy, supervision, paperwork, and so on, some of the factors that render the US privatized system the most inefficient in the industrial world. Public opinion has been similar for a long time, with numbers varying depending on how questions are asked. The facts are sometimes discussed in the press, with public preferences noted but dismissed as "politically impossible." That happened again on the eve of the 2004 elections. A few days before (Oct. 31), the NY Times reported that "there is so little political support for government intervention in the health care market in the United States that Senator John Kerry took pains in a recent presidential debate to say that his plan for expanding access to health insurance would not create a new government program" – what the majority want, so it appears. But it is "politically impossible" and has "[too] little political support," meaning that the insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical industries, Wall Street, etc. , are opposed.


To Us Falluja Is Freedom, The World Sees Falluja As Brutal Aggression 


CBS depiction of the war is no different than ABC, CNN, NBC or FOX. We can see from this brief summary of one week's news that American media is little more than the "information arm" of the US military. In every case, the events are shaped to create a favorable impression of our involvement. The allusions to weapons caches, anthrax labs and torture rooms are invoked to feed ethnic and racial hatred and to rationalize the horrific punishment we are visiting on the innocent civilians of Falluja.

The real story of Falluja is nowhere to be found in American media. 300,000 people were expelled from the city so that the military could exact its revenge against the killers of four mercenaries. By all accounts, the city is in ruins; bodies left on the streets are bloated and some are being devoured by dogs. Those who chose to stay (many because they were invalid or afraid that their homes would be looted) were left for two weeks without food, water or electricity. Even now, the relief efforts of the Red Crescent have been stymied by the Marines; leaving many of the wounded without medical attention. Half of the city's mosques have been damaged or destroyed; roads and infrastructure have been laid to waste, and upwards of 2,000 people have been killed. This is the real picture of Falluja; a picture that is scrupulously omitted from any mainstream newspaper or TV station in the country.

It's impossible to know when the American media morphed into the corporate-friendly bullhorn for aggression that it is today. But, we can say with certainty that the main outlets speak with one voice on the war in Iraq. Everything down to the labeling of the siege ("The Battle for Falluja") has been focus-group tested and picked up by all the main stations. In fact, there was no "Battle for Falluja"; it was a brutal siege in the same tradition as Germany's assault on Stalingrad.



People sure do... 

... hate Bush

People Still hate Bush 


Five Things Paul Martin Should Tell George Bush in Ottawa

1. "The Canadian government has different priorities than your administration."
Canadians believe in peace (74% think Canada made the right decision by not going to war with Iraq), public health care (64% want the health care system to exclude for-profit corporations), clean water (97% want water to be recognized as a human right), and fair trade (60% oppose trade deals, like NAFTA, that give corporations the right to sue governments if public policies impair their profits). Paul Martin must state that these are the priorities of the Canadian people, and therefore those of his government.

2. "Canadians are opposed to deep integration with the U.S."
91% of Canadians believe that we should be able to set our own environmental health and safety standards and regulations, even if this might reduce trade with the U.S. The Prime Minister must state that Canada is a sovereign country and that it has the right to have "made in Canada" economic, foreign and defence policies, and to make its own decisions on regulatory efficiency, resource security, and border issues.

3. "Canadians are opposed to Star Wars.”
69% of Canadians believe that Canada should not support the Bush administration’s missile defence system if it requires dedicating military spending to the program or allowing U.S. missile launchers in Canada. The Prime Minister's former Cabinet colleague Lloyd Axworthy has stated that there should be, "a moratorium on any present deals or discussions related to border security or missile defence on the grounds that in a minority Parliament there is not a mandate for such decisions."

4. "Canada will enforce its Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act."
According to this Act, a war crime is any conduct defined as such by "customary international law." United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stated that the U.S. invasion of Iraq is illegal under the terms of the UN Charter. The Toronto Star's editorial board has stated, "Martin should lobby Bush to comply with the Geneva Conventions in dealing with the hundreds of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and other detention centres."

5. "The Canadian Council of Chief Executives does not speak for Canada."
This year, 100 Canadian corporate executives went to Washington and met with Andrew Card (Bush's Chief of Staff), Condoleezza Rice (now Secretary of State), and General John Gordon (Bush's Homeland Security Advisor) to advance their agenda of deep integration. Although John Manley (the Deputy Prime Minister at the time, now the co-chair of an American-based task force on North American integration) was also present, Martin must state that the CCCE's promotion of further regulatory, economic and policy integration with the U.S. does not have hi s support.


Fucking Pitiful 

A Texas Convicted on Questionable Evidence To Be Executed

People Hate Bush  

Did I Mention? People Hate Bush 

Mature, Open Minded White House Bans Columnists Who Criticize Policy 


Tom Brokaw Says

Hat tip Atrios

"The idea that this White House has not given Tom Friedman a long, in-depth interview is astonishing to me. I have had a very good relationship with them, I have gotten to interview the President a lot. I have had access on the phone and other areas and I have been very vigorous in my discussions with them. But no reporter that I know covering national politics and the international policies that are of such great concern today know as much about them as Tom Friedman does and they have completely shut out the NEW YORK TIMES."

That's your gov't folks. Children. Whiny little assholes who can't be bothered with opposing views...


Atomic Weapons Expert Warns That Bush Administration Will Use Junk Science and Misinformation To Accuse Iran Of WMD Development 


First, The Author’s CV:

Physicist James Gordon Prather [send him mail] has served as a policy-implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. – ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Gas centrifuges are not used exclusively for uranium isotope separation. Cascades of gas centrifuges are used to separate – in kilogram quantities for commercial sale – the isotopes of zinc, tungsten, molybdenum, krypton, xenon, germanium, iron, sulfur, oxygen and carbon.

For example, large quantities of zinc-acetate-dihydrate are used as an additive in water-cooled water-moderated nuclear power plants – particularly those burning plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide [MOX] fuels – to reduce corrosion and cracking of key components. However, the use of naturally occurring zinc would result in increased radiation exposure to plant workers, because Zn-64 – constituting 48 percent by isotopic concentration in naturally occurring zinc – is transformed into radioactive Zn-65 in the reactor environment. Hence, the lucrative market for large quantities of "depleted" zinc-acetate-dihydrate wherein the Zn-64 isotopic concentration is reduced to less than 1 percent.

So, until IAEA-safeguarded "nuclear materials" are actually introduced into them, the origin of the centrifuges, the construction of cascades and the operation thereof is none of the IAEA's beeswax. And who knows? Maybe the Iranian's secret plan all along has been to take over the "depleted zinc" market.

Atomic Weapons Expert Warns That Bush Administration Will Use Junk Science and Misinformation To Accused Iran Of WMD Development


Red Cross Says We Are Torturing People 


WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 - The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The finding that the handling of prisoners detained and interrogated at Guantánamo amounted to torture came after a visit by a Red Cross inspection team that spent most of last June in Guantánamo.

The team of humanitarian workers, which included experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were participating in planning for interrogations, in what the report called "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."


Monday, November 29, 2004

War Games Show Bush Blew It  


What about a pre-emptive strike of our own, like the Osirak raid? The problem is that Iran's nuclear program is now much more advanced than Iraq's was at the time of the raid. Already the U.S. government has no way of knowing exactly how many sites Iran has, or how many it would be able to destroy, or how much time it would buy in doing so. Worse, it would have no way of predicting the long-term strategic impact of such a strike. A strike might delay by three years Iran's attainment of its goal—but at the cost of further embittering the regime and its people. Iran's intentions when it did get the bomb would be all the more hostile.

Here the United States faces what the military refers to as a "branches and sequels" decision—that is, an assessment of best and second-best outcomes. It would prefer that Iran never obtain nuclear weapons. But if Iran does, America would like Iran to see itself more or less as India does—as a regional power whose nuclear status symbolizes its strength relative to regional rivals, but whose very attainment of this position makes it more committed to defending the status quo. The United States would prefer, of course, that Iran not reach a new level of power with a vendetta against America. One of our panelists thought that a strike would help the United States, simply by buying time. The rest disagreed. Iran would rebuild after a strike, and from that point on it would be much more reluctant to be talked or bargained out of pursuing its goals—and it would have far more reason, once armed, to use nuclear weapons to America's detriment.

Most of our panelists felt that the case against a U.S. strike was all the more powerful against an Israeli strike. With its much smaller air force and much more limited freedom to use airspace, Israel would probably do even less "helpful" damage to Iranian sites. The hostile reaction—against both Israel and the United States—would be potentially more lethal to both Israel and its strongest backer.

A realistic awareness of these constraints will put the next President in an awkward position. In the end, according to our panelists, he should understand that he cannot prudently order an attack on Iran. But his chances of negotiating his way out of the situation will be greater if the Iranians don't know that. He will have to brandish the threat of a possible attack while offering the incentive of economic and diplomatic favors should Iran abandon its plans. "If you say there is no acceptable military option, then you end any possibility that there will be a non-nuclear Iran," David Kay said after the war game. "If the Iranians believe they will not suffer any harm, they will go right ahead." Hammes agreed: "The threat is always an important part of the negotiating process. But you want to fool the enemy, not fool yourself. You can't delude yourself into thinking you can do something you can't." Is it therefore irresponsible to say in public, as our participants did and we do here, that the United States has no military solution to the Iran problem? Hammes said no. Iran could not be sure that an American President, seeing what he considered to be clear provocation, would not strike. "You can never assume that just because a government knows something is unviable, it won't go ahead and do it. The Iraqis knew it was not viable to invade Iran, but they still did it. History shows that countries make very serious mistakes."


What Falluja Was Really Like 


Ofori said more than once that getting a Combat Infantryman's Badge meant little to him. The ribbons, he said, were for talking, and he was here to fight so he could go home.

He respected the insurgents, he said, for their willingness to fight to the death.

The streets outside were littered with dead men, their corpses left for cats and dogs to gnaw on after the sun set. The sight of bearded insurgents, eyes open, lying in gutters was no longer a novelty.

Walking through the house, Ofori turned his gun toward a doorway. Shots rang out. A fighter in the room had been waiting with a grenade in hand. He'd probably been listening the entire time as the men sat on the sofa next door, their voices wafting through the holes in the wall.

When he jumped forward, he didn't scream "Allahu Akbar" - God is Great - as insurgents often did. He moved in silence, until Ofori's fire blew him back. Ofori looked down for a few seconds and walked out of the room. The soldiers behind him went inside to ogle. "Damn, look at Hajji," one said.

Walking into the garage, Ofori found a dead fighter lying on the ground next to a pickup truck outfitted with a machine gun.

Having heard of the incident, the New York Post wrote a headline calling Ofori a "Coney Island Hero."

His mother told the newspaper, "he doesn't like that Army food."

Later in the day, an RPG tore through the torso of Lt. Iwan, the company's executive officer, ripping his body apart. He was 28.


Wingnut Hypocrisy ( Is That Redundant?) 


I normally quote Frank Rich every week or excerpt lots of his comments. I haven’t recently, even though he does the one thing that I really think is amazing and call attention to the hypocrisy of “Christians” and the GOP. This one is cited by Hecate and I cite it for two reasons. One, Hecate asks, why doesn’t the Left grab onto these truths about the red states huge appetite for porn, versus the blue states. The reason is that we don’t have a fair press anymore. Hell our media have been replaced with infotainment. Shit, why not publish the whole casualty count? It isn’t that WE aren’t doing the job. The problem is that we have to be fair and honest but the American media is useless. Until we have our own outlets, we will lose this argument. Secondly, the last paragraph here- the hit that Desperate Housewives is in Oklahoma City, home of the Christian Wrong, add to that the divorce rate in Tdxas is the highest in the country and the divorce rate in Liberal Massachusetts is the lowest in the country.

It's beginning to look a lot like "Groundhog Day." Ever since 22 percent of the country's voters said on Nov. 2 that they cared most about "moral values," opportunistic ayatollahs on the right have been working overtime to inflate this nonmandate into a landslide by ginning up cultural controversies that might induce censorship by a compliant F.C.C. and, failing that, self-censorship by TV networks. Seizing on a single overhyped poll result, they exaggerate their clout, hoping to grab power over the culture.

The mainstream press, itself in love with the "moral values" story line and traumatized by the visual exaggerations of the red-blue map, is too cowed to challenge the likes of the American Family Association. So are politicians of both parties. It took a British publication, The Economist, to point out that the percentage of American voters citing moral and ethical values as their prime concern is actually down from 2000 (35 percent) and 1996 (40 percent).


Why are the Democrats not pointing this out? Are they so terrified that a Racist Radical Cleric like Dobson or Fallwell will call them "unchristian" that they can't even point out facts? Let's be clear about this. In 1996, when 40 percent of Americans based their votes on "moral values," they re-elected Bill Clinton. Now that the number of Americans who base their votes on "moral values" has been cut almost in half, they selected George Bush. And this gives the Racist Radical Clerics the ability to force their "religion" down everyone's throats?

And where's the discussion over what "moral values" means to different people? I've never thought that lining your own pocket at the public's expense, lying America into a war, or stirring up hate against minority groups were American values.

Oh, and Rich notes one very telling statistic: "Desperate Housewives is hardly a blue-state phenomenon. A hit everywhere, it is even a bigger hit in Oklahoma City than it is in Los Angeles, bigger in Kansas City than it is in New York."

-Hecate 7:35 AM


If Fucking Only. 


Neocons join the lynch mob for ‘arrogant’ Rumsfeld
Sarah Baxter, New York

THE American defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, should be sacked, according to a growing chorus of conservative commentators who want him replaced by a figure with wider appeal.

In a seemingly innocuous Thanksgiving message to readers last week, William Kristol, the neoconservative editor of The Weekly Standard magazine, slipped in a surprise demand for Rumsfeld’s dismissal.

“What remains to be done is to announce new leadership for the department of defence,” wrote Kristol. “This, surely, would be an important opportunity for a strong, Bush-doctrine-supporting outsider, someone who of course would be a team player, but someone who could also work with the military and broaden support for the president’s policy.”

Boiled down, this meant: almost anybody but Rumsfeld, whose performance has not always matched his swagger. His failure to install enough troops on the ground after last year’s invasion of Iraq has upset American generals and alienated supporters of the war.

“I am allergic to Rumsfeld,” said Ralph Peters, a former lieutenant-colonel and robust media champion of the war on terror. “We did a great thing in Iraq, but we did it very badly.

“He is an extremely talented man but he has the tragic flaw of hubris. His arrogance is unbearable. My friends in uniform just hate him.”

The calls for Rumsfeld to be dismissed have intensified since the departure was announced of his cabinet rival, Colin Powell, the secretary of state. With the liberal-leaning Powell being the first to go, conservatives no longer see the need to hold back their opinions.

The defence secretary’s job security has not been enhanced by allegations that he lobbied to scupper the intelligence bill in Congress last week against President George W Bush’s wishes. Rumsfeld made little secret of his opposition to the bill’s plan for the national intelligence director to be given sweeping powers over the $40 billion intelligence budget, 80% of which is currently controlled by the Pentagon.

Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, who first worked with Rumsfeld in the 1970s, are known to feel loyal to the architect of the swift military victories in Afghanistan and — initially — in Iraq. There is a feeling that he deserves to remain in place until after the Iraqi elections in January.

Unlike Powell, Rumsfeld lacks an obvious replacement. Robert Novak, the right-wing pundit, believes Paul Wolfowitz, the neoconservative deputy defence secretary, is a “good possibility” who has been subjected to a “healthy dose of reality” about the limits of American power.

Eating Their Young Part Three


You Won’t See This Only Kudlow And Cramer 


Worries about the sustainability of the US economic recovery were stoked om Sunday after the stores group Wal-Mart, seen as a bellwether for the country's retail sector, announced that sales had grown by only 0.7 per cent in the year to November - a much lower rate than the 2-4 per cent increase Wal-Mart had estimated just 10 days ago.

The world's largest retailer revised its estimates down on Saturday evening after disappointing sales on "Black Friday", the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally one of the biggest shopping days in the US.

The retailer reported that sales had fallen "below plan" in the last week of November


Sunday, November 28, 2004

Blue Jay 

Just saw this on 60 minutes.

Imagine a kid who at the age of twelve, has written 5 major symphonies. Imagine a kid who the top composition instructor at Juliard says comes along probably once in a hundred years. Imagine a kid who can take a complex sonata, turn the sheet music literally upside down and then play the entire sonata upside down and backwards.

In fact, this kid named Jay Greenberg, hears the music rise in his head. He begins to hum it, to whistle, and on the way home he is composing. He sits down to a Mac iBook and in 25 minutes writes an incredible piece of classical music, fugues, sonatas, symphonies, and more as if he is reading them and they are already composed.

Naturally, he's a Democrat.

Dinosaurs, Then and Now 


I recently watched a program on History Channel that I felt was incredibly right and incisive an answered questions for me that I have struggled with for a long time.

Why are there so many stories, across the world's ancient cultures describing dragons, and griffons and chimera of all sorts? I mean, how could there be almost no evidence of modern day dragons when it seems that the ancient Chinese, Assyrians, Mongolians, and English all described them?

The answer is so cool. A paleontologist mapped out two things: one was the trading routes of ancient Asian tribes through to Europe, particularly where the people had long and strong histories of dragons. She correlated this map with one where dinonaur bones have been extracted in quantity.

In an eerie coincidence, these two scientists believe that the ancient Greeks, the Mongol tribes, the Chinese traders were all talking about the dinosaur bones they uncovered. Imagine what would a Chinese merchant do if he was presented with a partial Tyrranosaur skeleton. These were big deals. Proof that giant animals or gods exited. These researchers felt that the Griffon could be cobbled together with an imperfect re-assembling of the hundreds of Protocreatops found all over northern China and into Central Asia.

They showed how the carnival traders in the old west often put Mastodon bones together wrong and created "giants" which were then reshown at state fairs and in travelling carnivals. They were simply put together wrong.

Today, millions of dumb kids think that Dinosaurs lived along side of people and the world is only 10,000 years old.

So it goes that Dinosaur bones have confused the medevals, those that lived in medeval times, and those that live today.


Gonzales Is A Fascist 


Isaac Tristan, in Wonk! says the AG designate, Alberto Gonsales, is "...essentially the architect of the legal decisions that led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo". But it's worse than that. The Wikipedia page for Mr. Gonzales shows that he is also the architect of the brutal death penalty regime in Texas during G.W. Bush's tenure as Governor. If you are convicted of a capital crime in Texas, even if your state-appointed lawyer slept through the trial, and never said a word in your defence, a conviction is a conviction, and your life is to be switched off. Even innocence is not an excuse once you have been declared guilty. There was a Texas Supreme Court case some time back, in which the eye witness admitted to have been lying, and other evidence proved that the acused could not have committed the crime he was convicted of. The AG stated he believed that the man was innocent. Nonetheless, the man had either lost his only appeal, or else the appeal time had expired, and the state supreme court decided that there was nothing anyone could do.


Ditto Post Below. 


Over the past month or so the "military option" for Iran has been the hottest topic of debate in Washington. Senior officials say military intervention is not being considered. However, it is an open secret that influential neo-conservatives at least hope Iraq will be sufficiently stable within a year to free up the US military for its next campaign.

Military strategies have been discussed among the community of think-tanks and armchair generals. But the options remain unattractive, partly because of Iran's ability to retaliate itself or through its allies, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah. Daniel Byman, a terrorism expert, said Iran had the capability to make Iraq "a living hell for the US".

Ms Pletka, however, said the limits of US military abilities had been exaggerated. "That's the end of the road," she said of the military option.


Itching For A Fight 


Don’t Kid Yourself- The Neocons Are Just waiting To Attack Iran

Of course, nobody should expect a pacifist White House - and the Syrian regime should not rely on the magic of entropy to save it from punishment if it persists in aiding Iraqi terrorists. But with the administration's new focus on the Israel-Palestinian question, along with early signals that Ms. Rice will devote serious attention to the Europeans who did not support the Iraq war, we are seeing the natural tendency of democracies to revert to the moderate mean rather than go off the rails.



brilliant!!!! must read!!!

Eric S. Margolis, 2004

May 17, 2004

PARIS - Fifty years ago this month, France watched and wept for 57 days as its colonial troops defending the entrenched camp at Dien Bien Phu were submerged by endless waves of Vietnamese infantry.

In an act of incredible folly, French generals air-assaulted 15,700 soldiers into a broad valley in the remote mountains of North Vietnam in hopes of bringing the forces of General Vo Nguyen Giap to decisive battle. Instead, the French were cut off, pounded by enemy artillery, and relentlessly ground down in ferocious, hand-to-hand combat by 50,000 Vietnamese soldiers.

The fall of each strongpoint in the valley of death — Anne Marie, Dominique, Claudine, Hugette — was a dagger driven into the heart of France. Paris begged President Eisenhower to use nuclear weapons to stop the Vietminh, but he refused.

On 7 May, 1954, Foreign Legionnaires defending the last French strongpoint, Isabelle, were overrun. Nearly 10,000 French troops were killed or wounded, the rest taken captive. French soldiers were an army of lions, led by asses. France's rule over Indochina was broken and the first Vietnam War ended. Fourteen years later, US Marines almost suffering a second Dien Bien Phu at the idiotic battle of Khe Sanh.

Many Europeans retain vivid and negative memories of the continent's recent colonial past in Asia, Africa, and the Mideast. They share a collective sense there is no profit or honor in messy colonial wars, and a desire to avoid foreign entanglements.

In Vietnam, America learned many hard lessons about waging war in a nation where much of the population did not want them. Unfortunately, these lessons have been forgotten, or were never learned, by the Bush Administration, most of whose desk warriors evaded military service during Vietnam. So many grave errors made in Vietnam or now being repeated in Iraq.

Here are some maxims of colonial warfare the US will painfully relearn:
Most Arabs don't want to be `liberated' or what President Bush calls `freedom.' They want freedom from US occupation, and freedom for Palestine.

2. People will accept misrule, robbery, abuse, and torture by their own fellow citizens — but not by foreigners.

3. The occupying power will always find locals ready to cooperate and join the colonial police and army for money. Ten percent will serve loyally; 50% will do nothing. The rest will covertly fight the occupiers, provide the resistance with intelligence, or quietly sabotage the occupation.

4. Most of those who cooperate with the occupation will maintain secret links with the resistance. Massive defections will occur the minute the occupiers show the first signs of thinking about withdrawal.

5. Tribal, clan, ethnic and religious loyalties will also prove stronger than political ones imposed by the occupier. You cannot buy loyalty; you can only rent it.

6. An inevitable byproduct of colonial adventures is an unwanted, usually massive influx of people from the conquered country.

7. Colonial occupations almost always cost far more than planned and produce negative earnings for the invader. Occupying Iraq and Afghanistan now costs at least US $6 billion monthly. The costs of garrisoning and running colonies usually exceeds what can be looted from them.

8. It's always cheaper to buy resources than plunder them. The Soviets thought they would pay for their invasion of Afghanistan by stealing its natural gas. The Washington neo-conservatives who engineered the Iraq war ludicrously claimed its stolen oil would fully cover the costs of invasion and occupation.

9. Guerilla wars waged among civilians inevitably produce hatred for occupiers and corrupt the invaders. Torture, brutality, mass reprisals against civilians, and black marketeering become epidemic, even among the best-discipline troops. The longer occupation troops stay on, the more they become corrupted, brutalized, and addicted to drugs — so do the nations that sent them.

10. Americans make poor colonialists. They lack the historical and cultural knowledge, subtlety, patience and Third World street smarts to be first-rate colonizers, like the French or British. They lack the ruthlessness and brutality of Dutch, Japanese, Spaniards, or Russian colonialists. Or the ability to blend with the local population, as did Portugese.

But Americans — and Canadians — make splendid liberators. France and Europe will still gratefully remember this fact long after the modern-day empire-builders currently misdirecting US foreign policy are forgotten.

Doomed To Repeat The Past


Bush Folds 

US vows to end banned tariff rule- no wonder, with the dollar down and everyone hating us, how can we emerge victorious on international disputes.


The US says it will comply with a World Trade Organisation ban on the US practice of levying tariffs on imports it regards as excessively cheap.

President George W Bush said on Friday that he would work with Congress to bring the US into compliance.

The announcement follows a WTO ruling allowing the EU, Japan and other countries to impose tariffs on US imports in retaliation.

The US steel industry has been the main beneficiary of the American law.

The co-called "Byrd Amendment" allows US firms to blow the whistle on practices by trading partners they regard as unfair .

The money raised by the tariffs can be passed on to American companies.

Everywhere You Go, People Hate Bush 


(Americans Hate Him Too)

OTTAWA (CP) - Protesters are frantically organizing to yank the welcome mat out from under U.S. President George W. Bush when he arrives here Tuesday.

Sporadic graffiti heralds what could be a nasty reception as he starts a two-day visit to Canada.

The black scrawl spray painted across a walkway near Parliament Hill uses a familiar obscenity to tell Bush to stay away.


Democrats Make Appeal for Hungry on Radio 


Associated Press

Growing numbers of Americans were hungry this Thanksgiving, and the nation should do more to help them enjoy its bounty, the Democrats said Saturday in their weekly radio address.

"Unfortunately, the blessing of abundant food is not shared by all Americans," Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said. "A recent report from our Department of Agriculture documented an increase in hunger in America, particularly among our children."

Vilsack, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said sharing is an American value rooted in the country's origins when American Indians helped the Pilgrims four centuries ago.

"On that day, sharing became an American value," Vilsack said. "Living up to that value requires us to do what we can, and what we must, to stop hunger in America."

Vilsack also asked that America's military, past and present, be remembered during the holiday season.

"As we think about all of our blessings, we should always stop and say thank you to all those who have served to make America strong and secure," he said. "Our prayers should include those who have lost their lives, the families left behind, and those who have been injured and the difficult times that lie ahead for them.

"With these thoughts and prayers, we should rededicate ourselves to ensuring that all who've served our country receive the health and income benefits they have earned by their service."

Vilsack, a two-term governor, has become more prominent within the Democratic Party in recent years. His name was mentioned as a running mate for the Democrats' 2004 presidential candidate, John Kerry, and as a candidate to head the Democratic National Committee. He said he wasn't interested in that job because of his responsibilities as governor.


NASA's Planetary Smackdown 


You can learn something about a rock by looking at it. But what most geologists really want is to smack it with a hammer.

And that's just what planetary scientists will do July 4 when NASA's Deep Impact mission reaches the comet Tempel 1 after a trip of six months and 80 million miles.

If all goes well, an 820-pound copper "hammer" the size of a bathtub will separate from its mother ship and, 24 hours later, smash into the comet's icy nucleus at about 23,000 mph.

The high-speed impact will wallop the pickle-shaped comet with energy equivalent to 4.8 tons of TNT, said Michael A'Hearn, a University of Maryland astronomer and principal investigator on the $311 million mission.

Nobody's sure what will happen next. There's a small chance the impactor will blow the 2 1/2-mile-long comet to smithereens, or simply bore right through it like a bullet through a snowball. More likely, scientists say, it will blast open a crater the size of a football stadium. It all depends on what Tempel 1 is made of.

Which is exactly what scientists hope to learn.

The blast also will reveal the comet's interior chemistry and nail down more precisely what conditions were like when it formed at the solar system's birth more than 4.5 billion years ago.

The Deep Impact spacecraft is undergoing final tests at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It will blast off atop a Delta 2 rocket Dec. 30, and if all goes well, rendezvous with Tempel 1 on Independence Day.


Saturday, November 27, 2004

Actual Casualty Count Is about 26,200 


!!!!!!The total number of casualties is about 25,000, plus the more than 1,200 killed. Since about 300,000 men and women have served in Iraq, it makes for a casualty rate of about 9%. !!!!

That's 42 a day or one every hour hour roughly


This Is Just Fucking Sad 


Food and Drug Administration whistle-blower David Graham says that he expects as soon as next week to be forced from his job in the Office of Drug Safety.

"I'm going to be transferred, and I don't want to go," said Graham, who told a Senate committee Nov. 18 that the FDA is "virtually defenseless" against another "terrible tragedy and a profound regulatory failure" like Vioxx, an arthritis drug pulled off the market over concerns that it increased the risk of heart attack, stroke or sudden cardiac death.

Graham, associate director for science and medicine in the FDA office, went on to name five other drugs - Meridia, Crestor, Accutane, Serevent and Bextra - that he says threaten the public's safety.

"He's going to be exiled from work reviewing drugs and put to work in the office of the commissioner," said Graham's attorney, Tom Devine, adding that Graham has no legal recourse against such a move. "He'll be paid to fill space under the watchful eye of a baby sitter."


Read This Thread And You Can See Why NeoCons Worship The Businessman 


David Brooks Channels Ayn Rand

Just once, I'd like to see someone like Bono or Bruce Springsteen stand up at a concert and speak the truth to his fan base: that the world is complicated and there are no free lunches. But if you really want to reduce world poverty, you should be cheering on those guys in pinstripe suits at the free-trade negotiations and those investors jetting around the world. Thanks, in part, to them, we are making progress against poverty. Thanks, in part, to them, more people around the world have something to be thankful for.

What Globalization Begets ( Oh Holiday Cheers!!)

Across the country yesterday, millions of Americans - most of them taking the entire day off from work - rushed into suburban malls, filled downtown shopping streets and department stores and mobbed discount stores everywhere.

David Brooks Says This Is What We Should Be Cheering. What Does He Know About Labor? He Sits At An Air Conditioned Desk In New York

In Indonesia, a 21-year-old woman who worked at Mattel's Jakarta plant talked about friends and colleagues who have assembled Barbie dolls for 30 days straight without time off.

Even at a Mattel-owned plant in Guanyao, where the hours are within company guidelines, workers are so fatigued that those who return early from lunch sleep at their spots on the assembly line, their heads resting on their hands.

In environments like these, the slightest break can seem like a tremendous perk.

Near the city of Dongguan, two young women recently sat in a fourth-floor room sectioned off by crude corrugated-metal walls. They have little to show for their drudgery; they share a mattress and a hot plate. But they said their life at a Mattel contractor factory had been good. Unlike at the last plant where they worked, the Mattel vendor gives them a "day off."

But as the two friends described their "day off," it became evident that they don't get anything close: On Sundays, they explained, they get to leave work at 5 p.m., having put in eight hours instead of the typical 12.

"That's a gift," said one of the women, a migrant from Henan province who frequently flashed a broad, toothy grin that made her look even younger than her 20 years. "You don't have to work through the night."

Fear of Retaliation

At the Shenzhen factory, where about 1,000 people are employed, it seems everybody knows the drill.

Before Mattel comes through twice a year for inspection, workers said, managers promise to pay them time-and-a-half if they repeat the company line: that they work just eight hours a day, six days a week, as allowed by Chinese law.

In truth, they slog for far longer than that.

Inside a tiny metal-walled shed a short walk from the factory, the 24-year-old worker reclined on his bed with his fiancee by his side and recalled how he was recently ordered to work 24 hours straight without rest.

"On the second morning we just kept working," he said, wrinkling his nose as the eye- watering vapors of cooking peppers drifted through the room from a building a few feet away. His fiancee pressed the tummy of a defective Winnie the Pooh that she had rescued from the trash at work. The bear meowed three times — she had sewn in a computer chip from a pet toy that someone had found on the factory floor — and the woman laughed.

If all goes well, the couple said, they can each earn about $65 a month, half of which they send home to their families in rural China.


Dolphins Save Swimmers 


Dolphins Must Be Democrats

A group of swimmers has told how a pod of dolphins protected them from a great white shark off New Zealand's coast.

The lifeguards were training at a beach near Whangarei on the North Island when they were menaced by a 3-metre shark, before the dolphins raced in to help.

The swimmers were surrounded by the dolphins for 40 minutes before they were able to make it safely back to the beach.

Marine biologists say such altruistic behaviour is not uncommon in dolphins.

Lifeguard Rob Howes was in the water with two colleagues and his teenage daughter.

It was an uncomfortable experience, as they were circled by a great white shark, which came within a couple of metres.

He said around half a dozen dolphins suddenly appeared and herded the swimmers together. The mammals swam in tight circles to create a defensive barrier as the great white lurked under the surface.


Friday, November 26, 2004

Actual Wounded, Over 20,000 


20,802 US Soldiers Heavily Wounded

believe it or not...
Can anyone believe how dirty and dishonorable the US administration is?

The official number of US soldiers wounded in Iraq that was announced by the US DOD (department of defense) is 8458 in Iraq and 423 in Afghanistan.

Can anyone believe that the US military hospital at Germany (alone), the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, announced that 20,802 troops have been treated at Landstuhl from injuries received in "Operations Iraqi Freedom" (occupying Iraq) and "Enduring Freedom" (occupying Afghanistan).

The interesting part of the news that I didn't find these numbers on AlJazeera (the No.1 enemy of Rumy and other little bush supporters). These Numbers were published by the well-known, Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community, "Stars and Stripes".

more than 17,200 from these soldiers were injured in Iraq, and more than 3,000 were injured in Afghanistan as I read in a local newspaper.

These numbers are just for the US soldiers that were moved to Germany. There are other thousands that were injured inside Iraq and Afghanistan and treated in small local military clinics and hospitals, or moved to other US military hospitals.

The official number of Us soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is 1375 and 144. I wonder what the real numbers are.

The small bush administration is re-identifying the meaning of "lies".


French Medicine 


From the Atrios comments section

Food for thought:

Why can't we have this?

Here is the current situation in France:

- cost of a visit to the doctor: 20 euros. What the patient has to pay: 1 euro.

- who is your doctor? Anyone, or the one you like. You can change doctor whenever you want, or see multiple doctors if you need it.

- drugs: depends which drug you need but the cost are covered for about 80% of all drugs i think. To keep the prices down, there is a big push by the government to convince people to get generic drugs to reduce the costs.

- all your data (social security ID, health history, etc) is on a personnal card like a credit car, when you go buy your drugs you just give it to the pharmacist and this is how he gets paid, i usually never have to give any cash and i don't have to fill any form since it's all electronic transactions, so no paper work at all.

- who is covered: everyone. Even people without any revenue, it's called the CMU (universal health care coverage).

Overall the system is very good, i have tried the US system and i can safely say that the french system is orders of magnitude better. I lived in Belgium which has a similar system, don't know about other european countries but i think they are pretty similar.

To conclude i think Europe has much better health care systems, with much better coverage at a fraction of the cost. If democrats had a spine they would hammer republicans on this.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Dead-Checking, A Way Out And You Don’t Have Any Idea How Fucked Up It Is Over There. 


Reporter Evan Wrights Said Shooting Wounded Iraqis Is A Regular Event

In April 9, 2003, the day the statue of Saddam Hussein was being toppled in Baghdad, symbolizing the promised liberation of Iraq, I was embedded with a Marine unit engaged in fierce combat about 30 miles north of the city, on the outskirts of Baquba. Late that afternoon, the Humvee I was in was following about 50 feet behind a Marine Light Armored Vehicle when it pulled alongside a Toyota pickup pushed to the side of the road, its doors riddled with bullet holes. The head of at least one occupant was visible in the truck, but I couldn't determine if he was moving or not. Nor did I see any weapons. As our Humvee stopped behind the truck, a Marine in the vehicle ahead of us leapt out, pointed his rifle into the window of the pickup and sprayed it with gunfire. It was a cold-blooded execution.

53 Year Old Veteran Called Up

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A 53-year-old Vietnam veteran from western Pennsylvania has been called up for active service with the U.S. military in the Iraq war, The Tribune Review of Greensburg, Pennsylvania reported on Wednesday.

How Bad Is It Exactly?

DOÑA ANA RANGE, N.M. — Members of a California Army National Guard battalion preparing for deployment to Iraq said this week that they were under strict lockdown and being treated like prisoners rather than soldiers by Army commanders at the remote desert camp where they are training.

More troubling, a number of the soldiers said, is that the training they have received is so poor and equipment shortages so prevalent that they fear their casualty rate will be needlessly high when they arrive in Iraq early next year. "We are going to pay for this in blood," one soldier said…

… "I feel like an inmate with a weapon," said Cpl. Jajuane Smith, 31, a six-year Guard veteran from Fresno who works for an armored transport company when not on active duty.

Several soldiers have fled Doña Ana by vaulting over rolls of barbed wire that surround the small camp, the soldiers interviewed said. Others, they said, are contemplating going AWOL, at least temporarily, to reunite with their families for Thanksgiving.


Wingnut William Lind Says We May Have A Way Out

Between now and January, the Bush administration will have to decide whether or not to take the last dignified exit from Iraq. That is, to announce before the Iraqi elections that we will be leaving soon after them. If Bush and his neocon handlers miss this opportunity, our only choice will be to remain in Iraq until we are driven out in a humiliating defeat. Like the kid who knows he has to eat his spinach, we will be better off pretending to choose the inevitable.

Happy Thanksgiving 


I don't really know how long I will sit here today. I have a turkey in the oven and a family asleep.

I will say I thank God everyday that intelligent people come and see what we have to say, and sometimes share their thoughts too. We hope we can somehow make a difference. We have a lot to be thankful for. But we have a long long way to go before we are again the great country we once were.

I hope you pig out and fall asleep.

Finally, absolutely click on the New York Times and read Modo and Friedman.


I should add, may the troops all come home whole, and soon. And may their families be cared for as well.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The “Education” President  


Nearly a quarter of low- and moderate-income college students who currently qualify for federal Pell grants will see their awards reduced or eliminated under a change in federal rules that Congress allowed in its new spending bill passed over the weekend, according to an estimate from higher education analysts.

About 85,000 of the 5.2 million students currently eligible to receive Pell grants will become ineligible. And 1.2 million others will get a smaller award under a new formula the government will use to determine how much families can afford to pay for college, according to estimates from the American Council on Education, or ACE. The change will take effect for students starting or returning to classes next summer or fall.

Higher education officials worry that the change, estimated to save the government about $300 million in next year's budget, will hurt students already struggling to pay for college.


Apocalypse (Almost) Now-By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF-MUst Read 


Wow. Kristof Knocks One Out Of The Park

If America's secular liberals think they have it rough now, just wait till the Second Coming.
The "Left Behind" series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world's Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: "Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching."
Gosh, what an uplifting scene!
If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series, we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering. We should hold ourselves to the same standard.
Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the co-authors of the series, have both e-mailed me (after I wrote about the "Left Behind" series in July) to protest that their books do not "celebrate" the slaughter of non-Christians but simply present the painful reality of Scripture.
"We can't read it some other way just because it sounds exclusivistic and not currently politically correct," Mr. Jenkins said in an e-mail. "That's our crucible, an offensive and divisive message in an age of plurality and tolerance."
Silly me. I'd forgotten the passage in the Bible about how Jesus intends to roast everyone from the good Samaritan to Gandhi in everlasting fire, simply because they weren't born-again Christians.
I accept that Mr. Jenkins and Mr. LaHaye are sincere. (They base their conclusions on John 3.) But I've sat down in Pakistani and Iraqi mosques with Muslim fundamentalists, and they offered the same defense: they're just applying God's word.
Now, I've often written that blue staters should be less snooty toward fundamentalist Christians, and I realize that this column will seem pretty snooty. But if I praise the good work of evangelicals - like their superb relief efforts in Darfur - I'll also condemn what I perceive as bigotry. A dialogue about faith must move past taboos and discuss differences bluntly. That's what blue staters and red staters need to do about religion and the "Left Behind" books.
For starters, it's worth pointing out that those predicting an apocalypse have a long and lousy record. In America, tens of thousands of followers of William Miller waited eagerly for Jesus to reappear on Oct. 22, 1844. Some of these Millerites had given away all their belongings, and the no-show was called the Great Disappointment.
In more recent times, the best-selling nonfiction book of the 1970's was Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth," selling 18 million copies worldwide with its predictions of a Second Coming. Then, one of the hottest best sellers in 1988 was a booklet called "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988." Oops.
Being wrong has rarely been so lucrative.
Now we have the hugely profitable "Left Behind" financial empire, whose Web site flatly says that the authors "think this generation will witness the end of history." The site sells every "Left Behind" spinoff imaginable, including screen savers, regular prophecies sent to your mobile phone, children's versions of the books, audiobooks, graphic novels, videos, calendars, music and a $6.50-a-month prophesy club. This isn't religion, this is brand management.
If Mr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins honestly believe that the end of the world may be imminent, why not waive royalties? Why don't they use the millions of dollars in profits to help the poor - and increase their own chances of getting into heaven?
Mr. Jenkins told me that he gives 20 to 40 percent of his income to charity, and that's commendable. But there are millions more where that came from. Mr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins might spend less time puzzling over obscure passages in the Book of Revelation and more time with the straightforward language of Matthew 6:19, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth." Or Matthew 19:21, where Jesus advises a rich man: "Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. . . . It will be hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
So I challenge the authors to a bet: if the events of the Apocalypse arrive in the next 10 years, then I'll donate $500 to the battle against the Antichrist; if it doesn't, you donate $500 to a charity of my choosing that fights poverty - and bigotry.
Gentlemen, do we have a deal?


GOP Eats Own Young 


Istook secretly derails legislation of those who criticized him.


Bush Election Shock And Awe To Germans 


Then again, there is this week’s pointed snub to José Luis Zapatero: the Spanish prime minister, who had pulled out all Spanish troops from Iraq after his election, was unable to place a congratulatory phone call to the President – while his predecessor Aznar was invited to the White House for a 40-minute private chat. Gerhard Schröder, too, knows that George the Younger neither forgets nor forgives. It looks as though the next four years will be a test of responsibility and maturity on all sides. One thing only is certain: there will be no lack of opportunities.

You Have To Ask Yourself How Orphaning A Child Will Somehow Make Us Secure 


this is pitiful

No one keeps track of exactly how many American children were left behind by the record 186,000 noncitizens expelled from the United States last year, or the 887,000 others required to make a "voluntary departure." But immigration experts say there are tens of thousands of children every year who lose a parent to deportation. As the debate over immigration policy heats up, such broken families are troubling people on all sides, and challenging schools and mental health clinics in immigrant neighborhoods.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

China to US: Get Your Shit Together 


China's timetable for freeing up the renminbi is expected to have an impact on sales of US goods to the mammoth and growing Chinese market as well as the consumption of Chinese goods in America.

The recent, adjustment to Chinese interest rates is seen by some in Washington as evidence that Beijing accepts administrative measures that are no longer an effective means of managing an increasingly liberalised market.

At last weekend's G20 meeting, finance ministers and central bank governors called for a global effort to reduce trade imbalances, and in partiuclar, the US current account deficit. John Snow, the US treasury secretary, repeated his commitment to work towards halving the US budget defict and to increase net US national saving, which would reduce the current account deficit.

But President George W. Bush's assurances at the weekend that his administration is committed to a strong dollar policy appeared to do little on Monday to encourage buying of the dollar, evidence of how far the White House's credibility on currencies has been undermined by the rising deficit. In mid day trading in New York the dollar was at 1.304 against the euro and 103.21 against the yen.


Their Own Currency, Their Own Constitution, and Now Their Own Army 

More proof that the EU is a new country


EU approves rapid reaction force
European Union defence ministers have agreed to set up a military rapid reaction force, to be deployed at short notice to conflicts around the world.

The force, to be in place within three years, will consist of a number of units each made up of 1500 troops.

France, Italy, Britain and Spain will each form a unit, and other EU states will be expected to contribute troops.

Ministers expect the first of the battle groups to be operational by next year, with eight more by 2007.

The development is part of an EU effort to develop an independent defence capacity that can be deployed outside of US-led Nato missions.

UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said the battle groups were not a precursor to the EU developing a standing army.

"Battle groups will be capable of dealing with a range of peace support and humanitarian tasks," Mr Hoon said.

"They are particularly intended for situations where an early intervention with a highly capable battle group-size force could deal with an emerging crisis."

Rapid reaction forces could be deployed to fill a gap before UN peacekeepers can be deployed, as a French-led operation did in the Bunia region of eastern Congo earlier this year.

Americans Mostly Stupid 


We've Been Way Too Successful
As a Nation, and slowly but surely it is going to cause us to become a second-banana nation (and then there will be hell to pay). But it sure explains why Bush is President.

This is just goddamned too sad for words...

Americans do not believe that humans evolved, and the vast majority says that even if they evolved, God guided the process. Just 13 percent say that God was not involved. But most would not substitute the teaching of creationism for the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Support for evolution is more heavily concentrated among those with more education and among those who attend religious services rarely or not at all.

There are also differences between voters who supported Kerry and those who supported Bush: 47 percent of John Kerry’s voters think God created humans as they are now, compared with 67 percent of Bush voters.

Overall, about two-thirds of Americans want creationism taught along with evolution. Only 37 percent want evolutionism replaced outright.

More than half of Kerry voters want creationism taught alongside evolution. Bush voters are much more willing to want creationism to replace evolution altogether in a curriculum (just under half favor that), and 71 percent want it at least included.

60 percent of Americans who call themselves Evangelical Christians, however, favor replacing evolution with creationism in schools altogether, as do 50 percent of those who attend religious services every week.

It's bad enough that the Bush voters are so comprised of morons, but the fact that a healthy share of Kerry voters are too is an additional tragedy.

This is a direct bi-product of what a joke evangelicals have made of public biology education. For example, this poll taken thirteen years ago...and anyone doubt it's worse now?

Table 8. Ranking of 21 Nations on Knowledge Question about Human Evolution, 1993 International Social Survey

Nation Rank % Correct *
East Germany 1-----81.6
Japan 2-----81.0
Czech Republic 3-----77.6
West Germany 4-----72.7
Great Britain 5-----76.7
Bulgaria 6-----60.9
Norway 7-----65.0
Canada 8.5---67.5
Spain 8.5---64.2
Hungary 10----62.8
Italy 11.5--65.2
Slovenia 11.5--60.7
New Zealand 13----66.3
Israel 14----56.9
Netherlands 15----58.6
Ireland 16----60.1
Philippines 17----60.9
Russia 18---41.4
Northern Ireland 19----51.5
Poland 20----35.4
United States 21----44.2

It is also an indication of why other nations are going to pass this country by eventually.

Faith-based nation.


Kevin Sites To The Devil Dogs 



When we arrive at the front entrance, we see that another squad has already entered before us.

The lieutenant asks them, "Are there people inside?"

One of the Marines raises his hand signaling five.

"Did you shoot them," the lieutenant asks?

"Roger that, sir, " the same Marine responds.

"Were they armed?" The Marine just shrugs and we all move inside.

Immediately after going in, I see the same black plastic body bags spread around the mosque. The dead from the day before. But more surprising, I see the same five men that were wounded from Friday as well. It appears that one of them is now dead and three are bleeding to death from new gunshot wounds. The fifth is partially covered by a blanket and is in the same place and condition he was in on Friday, near a column. He has not been shot again. I look closely at both the dead and the wounded. There don't appear to be any weapons anywhere.

"These were the same wounded from yesterday," I say to the lieutenant. He takes a look around and goes outside the mosque with his radio operator to call in the situation to Battalion Forward HQ.

I see an old man in a red kaffiyeh lying against the back wall. Another is face down next to him, his hand on the old man's lap -- as if he were trying to take cover. I squat beside them, inches away and begin to videotape them. Then I notice that the blood coming from the old man's nose is bubbling. A sign he is still breathing. So is the man next to him.

While I continue to tape, a Marine walks up to the other two bodies about fifteen feet away, but also lying against the same back wall.

Then I hear him say this about one of the men:

"He's fucking faking he's dead -- he's faking he's fucking dead."

Through my viewfinder I can see him raise the muzzle of his rifle in the direction of the wounded Iraqi. There are no sudden movements, no reaching or lunging.

However, the Marine could legitimately believe the man poses some kind of danger. Maybe he's going to cover him while another Marine searches for weapons.

Instead, he pulls the trigger. There is a small splatter against the back wall and the man's leg slumps down.

"Well he's dead now," says another Marine in the background.

I am still rolling. I feel the deep pit of my stomach. The Marine then abruptly turns away and strides away, right past the fifth wounded insurgent lying next to a column. He is very much alive and peering from his blanket. He is moving, even trying to talk. But for some reason, it seems he did not pose the same apparent "danger" as the other man -- though he may have been more capable of hiding a weapon or explosive beneath his blanket.

But then two other marines in the room raise their weapons as the man tries to talk.

For a moment, I'm paralyzed still taping with the old man in the foreground. I get up after a beat and tell the Marines again, what I had told the lieutenant -- that this man -- all of these wounded men -- were the same ones from yesterday. That they had been disarmed treated and left here.

At that point the Marine who fired the shot became aware that I was in the room. He came up to me and said, "I didn't know sir-I didn't know." The anger that seemed present just moments before turned to fear and dread….

… The Marines have built their proud reputation on fighting for freedoms like the one that allows me to do my job, a job that in some cases may appear to discredit them. But both the leaders and the grunts in the field like you understand that if you lower your standards, if you accept less, than less is what you'll become.

There are people in our own country that would weaken your institution and our nation –by telling you it's okay to betray our guiding principles by not making the tough decisions, by letting difficult circumstances turns us into victims or worse…villains.

I interviewed your Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Willy Buhl, before the battle for Falluja began. He said something very powerful at the time-something that now seems prophetic. It was this:

"We're the good guys. We are Americans. We are fighting a gentleman's war here -- because we don't behead people, we don't come down to the same level of the people we're combating. That's a very difficult thing for a young 18-year-old Marine who's been trained to locate, close with and destroy the enemy with fire and close combat. That's a very difficult thing for a 42-year-old lieutenant colonel with 23 years experience in the service who was trained to do the same thing once upon a time, and who now has a thousand-plus men to lead, guide, coach, mentor -- and ensure we remain the good guys and keep the moral high ground."

I listened carefully when he said those words. I believed them.

So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility.

The burdens of war, as you so well know, are unforgiving for all of us.

I pray for your soon and safe return.
Kevin 1:37 PM


Clinton To ABC, “I Remember” 


Clinton to ABC News: It's payback time
The former president chastises Peter Jennings for ABC's "sleazy" coverage of Whitewater -- and he's right.

Perhaps ABC's most egregious journalistic misstep while chasing the Whitewater story came during a December 1995 "Nightline" broadcast, which cast an extraordinarily damning light on Hillary Rodham Clinton's explanation about previous Little Rock billings her law firm did on behalf of Jim McDougal's Madison Guaranty. Did Clinton, or a young lawyer named Rick Massey, do the work? After ABC's crude bit of editing of a 1994 press conference held by Clinton, "Nightline" viewers saw Clinton tell reporters: "The young attorney, the young bank officer, did all the work." Next the screen showed handwritten notes taken by Hillary Clinton's aides during the 1992 campaign: "She [Hillary] did all the billing," the notes indicated. The "Nightlight" telecast all but labeled the first lady a liar.

What viewers did not know was that ABC not only had taken Clinton's response out of context but had edited out 39 words from Clinton's 1994 press conference response to create a damning scenario. As Conason and Gene Lyons noted in their book "The Hunting of the President, "ABC News had taken a video clip out of context, and then accused the first lady of prevaricating about the very material it had removed." Vlasto produced the segment.

History will show that the Clintons were exonerated of all the Whitewater accusations and that the president was acquitted of all charges in the impeachment trial. For refusing to testify before the grand jury to implicate the Clintons in crimes as Starr had demanded, McDougal was held in prison for 18 months, sometimes in solitary confinement. And when she finally did testify, she said she knew of no wrongdoing by them; she was acquitted of all charges in the case.

The actual insurgent commander answers the question: Is the back of the insurgency broken? 


Mess O Potamia

In one instance, recalled in separate interviews by two rebel sources, Hadid intervened to prevent the execution of a captured national guardsman after the guardsman's weeping mother pleaded for his release.

"I asked Omar once how he could bear to do it, how he could hold himself together when he slaughtered another human being," said one of Hadid's cousins, a 28-year-old man who gave his name only as Abu Nour. "He laughed and swore he'd never personally beheaded a hostage. He said he chose men who don't have hearts to do the actual killing. He said it's a battle, so everything is permissible."

It is unclear what happened to Hadid when U.S. troops entered Fallujah. Hadid's family and close rebel associates say Hadid survived the U.S. assault and is hiding in another town, still alive, still fighting, and still in charge. Some U.S. officials have speculated that he was killed, but they offer no hard evidence.

"I told Omar, `Why don't you take all the fighters outside Fallujah and just let the Americans enter for a while?' Fallujah is not Mecca," said Hadid's uncle, referring to the holiest city in Islam. "Omar's answer was no, we will fight to the end."


Monday, November 22, 2004

Good News and Bad News 


First the bad news. Tom Delay will not be prosecuted.

The GOP is protecting him because they owe him for helping to keep them in power.

Now the good news.

The Virginia Pilot, a newspaper on the east coast is dropping self loathing Asian Asswipe Michele Malkin.

woo hoo


Strangest Story Of The Year 


In Minnesota, pigs are being born with human blood in their veins.

In Nevada, there are sheep whose livers and hearts are largely human.

In California, mice peer from their cages with human brain cells firing inside their skulls.


Where Is The Outrage Here? 


Here’s more proof that we have long ago stopped being the moral giants we claim to be.

While American’s convene in gleeful crowds looking for some vicarious catharsis outside a court room and cheer Scott Peterson’s conviction, little attention was paid to a conviction that was so cruel, so unheard of, so draconian as to be beyond belief. Yes, Laci’s bloated corpse horrified us.

If this doesn’t horrify you, then take your pulse, you might be dead.

But I’ll summarize it. A first time marijuana possession conviction of 6months in jail was meted out to a wheel chair bound quadriplegic who died of negligence while incarcerated.


Sunday, November 21, 2004

Chile Calls off Bush Banquet After Security Dispute 


November 21st, 2004 3:09 pm

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNN) -- Plans for a state dinner for President Bush at Chile's presidential palace were scratched Sunday after the United States insisted on security measures that Chile called unacceptable.

The change came a day after Chilean security guards temporarily blocked one of Bush's Secret Service agents from entering an official dinner.

For the Sunday event, the Secret Service insisted all guests -- totaling more than 230 -- pass through a metal detector, a top level Chilean Foreign Ministry official told CNN. U.S. officials did not dispute this account.

President Ricardo Lagos believed the measure was humiliating for guests, the Chilean official said.

Instead, Bush will attend a small dinner of about 20 people in Lagos' private dining room.

Bush's security at the 21-nation summit has been a big story in Chile, where many have complained the security measures are excessive. U.S. officials have said the measures are necessary to protect a U.S. president when traveling.

The Saturday incident was captured on camera and shown around the world.

Bush was posing for photos with first lady Laura Bush in the Estacion Mapocho Cultural Center when he heard a commotion and saw that one of his plainclothes security agents was being forcefully restrained from entering.

Bush reached into a small crowd, where people were arguing and pushing one another, and pulled the agent through the door of center. (Full story)

Bush then turned around, cocked his head proudly at his maneuver and began to greet his hosts.

The White House downplayed the incident as an unfortunate misunderstanding with Chilean security services.

U.S. officials insisted the change in Sunday's dinner plans did not reflect any tension in U.S.-Chile relations.

The Real Casualty List 

Tonight on 60 minutes, a report indicated that unlike other wars like Persian Gulf I and Vietnam, the non combat related injuries are not being published along with combat wounded or dead.

In other words, if someone shoots you, you are counted a casualty. If in combat you are shot in the leg and must be evacuated from theatre, you are counted as a casualty. But if you are driving and hit a bump in the road and flip over and break your neck, you are not counted.

This is what it means to me.

Official combat death toll for Americans is 1221 in 611 days of fighting and 8000 wounded. That come to 15 medical evacuations a day. Or one every hour and 50 minutes.

A reporter got a letter from the Pentagon admitting to 15000 non combat medevacs on top of the 8000 wounded and 1221 dead. That comes to 24221 casualties in 611 days of fighting which brings us conservatively to 40 medevacs a day.

This researchers opined that he thought the real figure could be 20 or 30 thousand since the beginning of the war.

At 20000 + the 1221 reported dead and 800 wounded = 29221 casualties in 611 days and that means almost 48 casualties a day or one every half hour.

Think about what the truth is and what you are being told

Draining The Swamp 

By Tom Engelhardt

"'We didn't go in with a plan. We went in with a theory,' said a veteran State Department officer who was directly involved in Iraq policy…' The Bush administration's failure to plan to win the peace in Iraq was the product of many of the same problems that plagued the administration's case for war, including wishful thinking, bad information from Iraqi exiles who said Iraqis would welcome American troops as liberators and contempt for dissenting opinions." (Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott, Post-war planning non-existent, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

"'It is only the beginning, from a military point of view,' said Janabi, who heads the mujaheddin shura, an 18-member council of clerics, tribal sheiks and former Baath Party members that assumed control of the city of 250,000 shortly after Marines aborted their first attempt to capture it in April. 'We have succeeded in drawing them into the quagmire of Fallujah, into the alleys and small pathways. They have fallen into the trap of explosive charges, land mines and, now, the defenders' short supply lines inside the neighborhoods.'" (Part of insurgent Sunni Cleric Abdullah Janabi's face-to-face interview with an Iraqi reporter working for the Washington Post in Falluja after the city was declared taken by U.S. forces. Anthony Shadid, Troops Move to Quell Insurgency in Mosul, the Washington Post)

Improving the Odds

Here was our tactical kindness: By threatening the invasion of Falluja for months and launching a bombing campaign against parts of the city long before the assault was to begin, the Bush administration managed to turn an unknown but staggering number -- up to 90% -- of that city's 250,000-300,000 residents out of their homes and into refugees living off relatives elsewhere or in the most pitiful of makeshift camps often without enough food, or clean drinking water, electricity, or medical aid. The first mainstream account of such a camp finally appeared Friday in the New York Times (Robert A. Oppel, Jr., Refugees: Fallujans in Flight: Transit Camps Are Not Much Safer Than Siege They Left), even though some of the residents described in it had been relocated there weeks, if not months before.

It's not simply a matter of journalistic lack of concern. Most non-Iraqi journalists have little choice but to be "embedded," whether in actual U.S. military units (allowing for movement into "no-go" parts of Sunni Iraq but only where the military is conducting operations, not exactly the best perspective from which to get an Iraqi view of things) or essentially in their hotels. Hannah Allam of Knight Ridder Newspapers, for instance, writes:

"The hotel has become a prison, and every foray outside its fortified gates is tinged with anxiety about returning in one piece. Baghdad has never been tougher for journalists. Treacherous roads and kidnapping squads restrict travel. 'Embedding' with the military or going with Iraqi government officials is the safest way to leave the capital. Our ability to uncover and tell the truth about Iraq -- good and bad -- has suffered terribly… As the close calls grew, the Iraq we knew shrank. The northern mountains and southern marshes are off-limits now because the roads out of Baghdad are lined with bombs and gunmen. Even a jaunt to the grocery store is a meticulously planned affair. Do you have a radio? A flak vest? A second car to watch for kidnappers?"

A recent piece in the Washingtonian magazine on-line about the return of the Washington Post's superb Anthony Shadid to Iraq after months out of the country, described the situation of Western correspondents in Iraq this way:

"[S]ome television news crews have hired security firms with armed Americans to follow their teams. Newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post prefer former British military or armed Iraqis in vehicles that follow their cars. 'They could lay down cover fire,' says Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who recently returned from 18 months as the Washington Post's bureau chief in Baghdad. 'It's a matter of improving your odds.'"

While journalists in Iraq narrowed their scope and improved their odds, the American military, after a fashion, did the same. Military commanders gathered 12,000-15,000 American troops and a couple of thousand questionable Iraqi ones and then pulled up the artillery, the planes with their 500-to-2000 pound bombs, the helicopters armed with Hellfire missiles, the lethal AC-130 gunships, the tanks, the Bradley Fighting Vehicles, the mortars, and the heavy machine guns. After months of careful planning in the wake of last April's aborted attempt to take Falluja, they then launched these forces against relatively small numbers of reasonably well-prepared insurgents, a few thousand at most, scattered in a significant-sized city.

In recent years, the American military has paid a great deal of attention to the matter of urban warfare -- much feared by our commanders before the invasion of Iraq. The question then was: Would the American army be caught in a final block-by-block urban battle for Baghdad? (Given the way things are going, the answer may still be yes.) Cities are considered great levelers of the playing field between otherwise asymmetric military forces. The Iraqi rebels are armed largely with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, some mortars, and, of course, those car bombs and IEDs; but in Falluja as elsewhere in urban Iraq, they know the terrain intimately, the warren of city streets, and street fighting has a notorious reputation for cutting down on sight lines and negating technological advantages. As it happens, our military seems to have dealt with this in Fallujah largely by bringing asymmetric amounts of firepower to bear on the slightest signs of resistance even by lone snipers; in other words, as far as can be told, they responded to the challenge of urban warfare in some areas of Falluja by quite literally leveling the playing field.

Rubblizing the Neighborhood

News about the resulting devastation grows worse by the day, though the announced body counts of dead insurgents -- 1,200 or more -- can't be trusted. (I'm reminded of the informal "Mere Gook Rule" of the Vietnam War when it came to body counts: "If it's dead and it's Vietnamese, it's VC [Vietcong].") But the main point no one will make in the American news mainstream -- where U.S. military self-constraint tends to be emphasized and military claims about efforts to avoid civilian casualties are printed without significant comment -- is simple indeed: The levels of destruction in Falluja were not a by-product of the campaign, but the product itself. The rubblizing of whole neighborhoods was meant.

The Bush administration may indeed have invaded Iraq on a theory, not a plan, but the assault on Falluja itself was planned with great care over significant periods of time. So what remains of that city in which hardly a building evidently emerged unscathed (among those that remain standing) must be considered the Falluja that was supposed to be. The brief shots on the nightly news are breath-taking (or breath-stopping) in the visible levels of destruction whenever the camera bothers to pull back for a few seconds. You have to return to 1968 and the old Vietnamese imperial capital of Hue to find a city flattened in anything like this manner by the American war machine; and in that case, the Americans were responding to Hue's surprise seizure by the other side in the midst of the nationwide Tet Offensive.

As I've argued in the past, it was in the Vietnamese countryside -- where we instituted free-fire zones and bombed at phenomenal levels -- that similar planning and results could be found. The free-fire zone that was much of rural Vietnam, including in some cases literal "jungle," has been replaced in Iraq by the "urban jungle." Veteran journalist Simon Jenkins made just this point in a striking piece recently in the British Sunday Times (A wrecked nation, a desert, a ghost town. And this will be called victory). "In Vietnam," he wrote, "the Americans destroyed the village to save it. In Iraq we destroy the city to save it."

Some of you may remember that Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong famously compared guerillas to fish swimming in the sea of the people. During the Vietnam era, there was much talk among American counterinsurgency strategists about how to "drain" that sea. In Vietnam, what this turned out to mean in practical terms was grim indeed -- the forcible removal of Vietnamese peasants from rebel-controlled areas (and so their lands), their resettlement in government-controlled "strategic hamlets" (or as refugees in the South's then swelling cities) and the creation of "free-fire zones" in large swaths of the countryside which was devastated by a bombing campaign of almost unparalleled fierceness (Laos was worse), involving record tons of bombs dropped per square inch of territory. This bombing campaign in the South, unlike the one against North Vietnam, went largely unreported in our media at the time.

This was, of course, a punitive strategy leveled collectively against a population without reference to what any individual peasant might have thought or done. It gave the counterinsurgency strategy of "draining the sea" a bleakness beyond words. It also, not unsurprisingly, alienated the rural population from both the South Vietnamese government and the Americans in ways that seem all too repetitively familiar in Iraq today, and it created an especially atrocity-conducive environment for young Americans sent into an alien and hostile landscape, knowing nothing of Vietnamese culture or history, unable to communicate, and generally having no way to separate friend from foe. Does this sound the least bit repetitive to anyone?

In such circumstances acts of war grow ever more brutal. Just the other day, for instance, Tom Lasseter, a fine reporter for Knight Ridder wrote a small piece about a Marine company in Falluja whose commander had been "shot through the torso" by an RPG. In grief and anger here's what they did, according to Lasseter: "In the surrounding neighborhood, troops furious at the news of their fallen leader called in revenge, in the form of a 2,000 pound bomb airstrike and a storm of 155 millimeter artillery shells. A mosque lost half a minaret, its main building smoldering in fire and smoke." This is what you tend to do, and do ever more of, under conditions of war in an alien and increasingly hostile land.

Much of this, though not yet on a Vietnamese scale, is already taking place, not in Iraq's "countryside," but in its heavily populated cities. Just as we dropped leaflets warning residents to depart the free-fire zones of Vietnam, so we seem to have dropped endless leaflets on Falluja. (It would be interesting to have some reporter tell us just what these actually said.) It seems that, as in Vietnam where napalm and white phosphorus -- unbearably gruesome weapons -- were commonly employed, American troops have already used white phosphorus in Falluja. ("Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.") Similarly, they seem, at least informally, to have declared parts of Falluja the equivalents of "free-fire zones."

Imagine in any case simply pouring artillery fire into a cityscape. For example, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who flew out to "Camp Falluja" with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen Richard Myers (now, there's high-class embedding for you) to "inspect the toughest problems in Iraq firsthand" had this throwaway line in a piece about -- what else? -- how we've arrived at the "tipping point" in Iraq: "Most of the fighting in Falluja was over by the time we arrived at this headquarters compound, although the tom-tom beat of 155-millimeter howitzers, still pumping rounds into the city, was constant." Remind me one more time about that definition of "over..."

Draining the Swamp

Nor is the media doing a better job of covering the air war in Iraq than they did in South Vietnam. As I've written numerous times, while individual air strikes may be reported daily -- all those "targeted" bombings of "terrorist safe houses" in Falluja, for instance -- the loosing of air power against urban Iraq has now gone on for almost a year with increasing ferocity (as overstretched American troops, lacking any serious support from Iraqi troops or police, have to deal with an ever-widening rebellion). And yet no significant account of the overall use of air power in Iraq or of the military or political calculations behind it has yet appeared. There's a special irony here, since early in the last century the British first tested the punitive abilities of air power on rebellious Iraqi villages.

Iraq may indeed not be "Vietnam," and there may be many other more plausible historical analogies for what's happening in Iraq to draw on, but let's face it, Vietnam is unavoidable. When we train Iraqi troops with hopes that someday they will replace American ones, military officials and reporters naturally speak about "'Iraqifying' security and politics" (as once such officials and reporters talked about "Vietnamizing" them). Similarly when our military men on the ground express "disappointment" in the Iraqi troops we're training and a sneaking respect for the willingness of those they oppose to fight and die ("The insurgency has shown 'outstanding resilience'"), Vietnam will naturally come to mind.

The fact is that "Vietnam = Iraq" will never go away as long as we occupy Iraq. As a start, Vietnam (or avoiding the subject) has been obsessively on the collective brain of the Bush administration for years now; but it's been no less on the minds of others around the world. And that makes good sense. Vietnam was, after all, the last great moment before this one of American imperial overstretch and the last great American defeat. How can people everywhere not be amazed to see so many of its elements uncannily reappear, even after U.S. leaders have spent over three decades trying to obliterate that era from American memory. (It was, after all, the elder Bush at the time of Gulf War I who exulted: "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome!")

If the people of the world in some sense cannot help but be focused on the last remaining superpower and its catastrophic encounter with Iraq, then how could they not help but think about Vietnam as well. It's not a mistake that Saddam's military officers studied the Vietnam experience and evidently considered it in planting the seeds of a post-war insurgency before our invasion even began; nor that rebellious Shiites in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City last June were writing "Vietnam Street" on walls along their embattled avenues ("This is called Vietnam Street because this is where we kill Americans."); nor that a rebellious Sunni cleric in Falluja this week spoke about drawing the Americans into the "quagmire of Fallujah." Even giving some leeway for translation, the reference has to be to Vietnam, just as thoughts of the Vietnam "quagmire" never quite depart from the minds of Americans, top to bottom, assigned to Iraq. (As one American soldier in Samarra recently put it to a French reporter: "I don't think we're going to win this place. It's going to be like another Vietnam. We'll be here for a long time.")

"Quagmire" (or its cognates swamp, quicksand, bog, morass, sinkhole, bottomless pit) was, of course, the single most famous image of the Vietnam war -- we were being drawn in step by step and couldn't extricate ourselves -- and a strange one it was, as I've written elsewhere. After the September 11th 2001 assaults, it was, I believe, the first Vietnam image to come to mind in official Washington and in a curious form that combined the quagmire environment with the counterinsurgency idea of draining the sea. The phrase was "draining the swamp" (assumedly so that the mosquitoes and other evil creatures there would have no place left to propagate), and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld used it within days of 9/11. Tony Karon of Time magazine reported on September 20, 2001 that earlier in the week Rumsfeld had said of Bin Laden and his followers in Afghanistan, "[T]he campaign would combine military, political, intelligence and diplomatic initiatives to ‘drain the swamp they live in.'"

A week later, Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz addressed a meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels saying, "While we'll try to find every snake in the swamp, the essence of the strategy is draining the swamp" -- and, though he didn't quite point a finger at Iraq by name, his references were clear. Everyone there had to know, even then, just two weeks after 9/11, that in his mind the snake of snakes was Saddam, and the swamp of swamps, Saddam's Iraq.

One, two, three, many Fallujas?

In Iraq, the phrase is still "drain the swamp." Falluja was actually our second attempt to drain the Iraqi "swamp" by obliterating it -- our first having been in the Old City of Najaf -- which meant of course draining out of it those hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of whom may have felt little sympathy for the Talibanization of Falluja but undoubtedly now feel great anger at the brutal actions of their occupiers. Unsurprisingly, the process of draining the swamp in Iraq has had the effect of turning what were previously cities into the equivalent of swamps, places fit only for those "snakes."

Parts of Falluja were evidently quite literally turned into "swamps," according to Patrick J. McDonnell of the Los Angeles Times who wrote of "[s]hattered water and sewage pipes have left pools of sewage-filled water, sometimes knee-deep." It seems that our memorial, thus far, in Iraq is a "swamp" where a city once stood. And this is supposed to be, as Jonathan Schell pointed out at Tomdispatch recently, the prelude to a democratic vote. Now that the Falluja solution is in place (actually the Najaf-solution done far more methodically), administration planners will naturally find themselves considering "Fallujah-type solutions" for Sunni Iraq's other rebellious cities. Another lesson of Vietnam was that there's a kind of grim momentum to such things.

And here's the present black humor punch line to the Iraqi joke, as McDonnell of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Reconstruction of Fallouja is on hold as the fighting persists." There is now much press-talk about the reconstruction of Falluja, the difficult task ahead, and the challenges we face, but imagine for a minute that after nearly two years, under far better circumstances, we haven't been able to bring 24-hour a day electricity or clean water to much of Baghdad and then think about just what kind of reconstruction we can possibly do in a destroyed but not fully subjected city in the heart of the inflamed Sunni Triangle. Subject closed.

In the meantime, "draining the swamp" in such wars, it's worth remembering, is hardly a unidirectional activity. As the London Times' Jenkins comments, reaching back to Napoleon's 19th century invasion of Russia (and an early version of the quagmire image),"The Russian general, Kutusov, called Moscow ‘the sponge that will suck Napoleon dry.' Sunni Iraq is taking on the same function for the Americans." And the rebels of various factions are intent on hastening the process by performing their own grim "draining" activities -- draining away all support for the occupiers. The horrific murder of Margaret Hassan of CARE was heavily reported here. Hers was the death of an innocent and the act of brutes, but of course it only hastened the withdrawal of aid organizations from the country (which, though certainly harmful to the American effort, is undoubtedly devastating to the lives of many ordinary Iraqis).

Yet more brutal (if such things can even be measured) has been the remarkably coordinated campaign to "drain the swamp" of anyone willing to associate with the Americans, even laundrywomen on American bases, for instance, no less translators, truck drivers, or policemen. Assassinations, beheadings, the slaughter of innocents via car bombs and roadside bombs, kidnappings, murders of every sort are met on the American side, as on Friday, by the raiding of mosques and hospitals, by the use of weapons that are, by their very nature, indiscriminate in the neighborhoods of great cities. These surely are the gates of hell. It's difficult even to remember a time when Americans could have dreamt about "liberating" Iraqis. That might as well have been in another world.

Our gamblers in Washington cast the die in March 2003 and invaded Iraq based on a "theory." Now, the game is being played out ever more extremely and murderously by others on the ground. In the penultimate paragraph of a recent piece -- oh, those last, seldom-read paragraphs of news reports in our imperial press where reporters can finally slip in their hunches and opinions, usually through the words of others -- Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post quotes a "Special Forces veteran, who speaks Arabic" as summing up the situation this way: "Across Baghdad, Latifiyah, Mahmudiyah, Salman Pak, Baqubah, Balad, Taji, Baiji, Ramadi and just about everywhere else you can name, the people absolutely hate us. . . . The Iraqi people have not bought into what the Americans are selling, and no amount of military activity is going to change this fact."

Simon Jenkins writes this:

"No statement about Iraq is more absurd than that ‘we must stay to finish the job.' What job? A dozen more Fallujahs? The thesis that leaving Iraq would plunge it into anarchy and warlordism defies the facts on the ground. Iraq south of Kurdistan is in a state of anarchy already, a land of suicide bombings, kidnapping, hijackings and gangland mayhem. There is no law or order, no public administration or police or proper banking. Its streets are Wild West. The occupying force is entombed in bases it can barely defend or supply. Occasional patrols are target practice for terrorists. Iraq is a desert in which the Americans and British rule nothing but their forts, like the French Foreign Legion in the Sahara."

But perhaps the simplest way to sum up where matters may rest in Iraq today I ran across in the final lines of a recent long New York Times piece by Edward Wong and James Glanz (Rebels Attack in Central Iraq and the North): " [T]he violence [in Mosul] had calmed since then, and children could be seen playing in some parks. At one playground, Amin Muhammad, 10, and his friends raced around with plastic guns. 'We divide ourselves into two teams,' he said, 'the mujahedeen versus the American forces.'' And in their battles, he said, the mujahedeen always win."

Copyright C2004 Tom Engelhardt

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