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Monday, January 31, 2005

Plus Ca Change 

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U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote :
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror


by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday.  Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.....


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Solid Win For Bush 

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Finally something went right in Iraq.

They voted in numbers that reflects the notion that perhaps we have been wrong.

Perhaps the insurgency is not the loudest voice over there perhaps this is the shining moment the neo cons have always wanted.

Perhaps this is what Bush had in mind and it might all work out.

For me, it will never justify this war.

Or the torture.

But if Iraq does stabilize, then history will little remember 1600 soldiers lives and the thousands who paid even higher prices.

If it did mellow out over tehre, it would probably be the very first thing in Bush's career that has ever gone right.

Which means that we need to wait and see.

because if this administration has proven one thing, it is this: if it can be mishandled. Itw ill be mishandled.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Good For Them. But Don't Pop The Cork Just Yet 

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don't you think we should wait a few days before we start celebrating?

it's bad luck.

we celebrated after the invasion'

we celebrated after mission accomplished

we celebrated after uday and qusay were 86ed

we celebrated after saddam was taken

we celebrated after Allawi took over

we americans are great at patting ourselves on the back and bad at looking real problems in the face.

i expect some real good will come from this

but if 6 months down the road, the death rate hasn't abated, the hatred for us hasn't subsided, the cost of this bloody mess hasn't dropped, or the Army is still struggling, then we'll know it's another one of those "turning points"

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From BBC 

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"Posted by Louay al-Tahan Iraqi businessman, Baghdad, 30 January

We were quite worried early in the morning, so we decided to wait till things were clearer. We kept close watch on the TV and called friends and relatives. We heard some explosions but not as loud as they usually sound. Finally at around 11:00 local time we decided that it was safe enough to try to vote.

The polling station is about 200m from where I live in the Mansoor district of Baghdad, so we walked there and it was amazing. The turnout was high. All our neighbours and friends were there. We were welcomed by a group of election officials, and then searched very closely. Everybody was smiling and happy, even the security people - something we are not used to here in Iraq. All the people leaving the polling station were so pleased showing off their finger marked with indelible ink. We went in, another group of officials checked our ID cards against the list of registered voters.

A ballot paper was handed to us. We waited in line for an empty voting booth. I made my selection along with my wife and then put them in the ballot boxes. It was great no-one interfered or imposed their opinion on any one. The officials were very helpful. The helped some elderly people inside, gave general instructions on how to use the ballot papers. When we left the station people were congratulating each other.

In all, I think it has been a great success... as far as I can see transparent and not biased in any way. During the whole process I didn't see any Americans in the area. Afterwards we took loads of photos with friends and family. I called friends in other parts of town to congratulate them or to encourage them to vote.

Later in the afternoon, at about 1600, it felt so safe and quite, I took my wife and two daughters for a walk. This is something we haven't done for quite a while. We walked by two busy polling stations. It was amazing people we don't know were asking us if we had voted, and congratulating us on doing so. "

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Kos says 

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Sat Jan 29th, 2005 at 12:18:26 PST

Glenn Reynolds joins a long list of 101st Fighting Keyboarders who, rather than question the bullshit rationales for war, and rather than question the incompetent waging of the war by this administration, would rather lash out at the "Left" for calling bullshit what it is.

Expect more of this. This war is long past lost. Time to pack it in, and save the lives of our men and women in uniform that will otherwise face a barrage of bullets and RPG rounds during their extended stay in the desert.

In the feverish minds of the war apologists, it doesn't matter that no WMDs were found, that torture chambers are still open for business, that this war is now rivaling Saddam's brutality for sheer number of Iraqis killed, that the Army, Marines, and National Guard are all having trouble recruiting, that our equipment is degrading to the point where we're creating a hollow military, that the war is costing us $200 billion and counting, that Israel is not safer as a  result of this war, that nearly 1,600 allied troops and counting have died on this fool's errand, that the US's original choice to lead Iraq -- Chalabi -- was an Iranian spy who told our enemies that we had cracked their communications code, that most of Iraq is not under government control, that terrorists are now using the lawlessness in Iraq to recruit and train a whole new generation of terrorists, that our "Coalition of the Willing" is now a mere shell of its former self, that the world hates the United States, that the Euro is suddenly the hot currency, that Europe and Asia are both creating security organizations excluding the US, and that tens of thousands of our soldiers are coming home physically and mentally maimed.

None of that matters to them.

But they see the war getting out of hand. They've see our chances of victory go from little to nothing. And they've got to blame someone. Anyone. And of course, it can't be Saint George, because he's perfect and can do no wrong. So blame Kennedy. Blame Boxer. Blame France. Blame Canada. Blame anti-war bloggers. Because it is they who have botched up the Iraqi campaign to the point of no hope. If it wasn't for them, our troops would still be basking in a flood of rose petals.

The faith-based lunatics taking up residence in the White House and the Pentagon have ample ideological company in Tennessee law schools and other hidey holes of the wingnut blogosphere.

But at the end of the day, whether they'll ever admit it or not -- we were right, they were wrong. Reality isn't being too kind to their side.


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Friday, January 28, 2005

No to Gonzalez 

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I can't say that I have any representation in the government. Few people elected from Texas have an IQ over 87 and this state will cut services to children and poor people and execute retarded people.

That said, do we really need an AG who is a war criminal?

Electing Bush showed the world we approved of Abu Gharaib. Appointing Gonzalez will show the world we don't give a damn.


No.




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More reason To Hate Us 

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At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.

Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag.

It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots -- thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow -- where he had made remarks earlier in the day -- to Auschwitz?

There is little doubt that intellectually Cheney approached the Auschwitz ceremony with thoughtfulness and respect. But symbolism is powerful. That's why the piercing cry of a train whistle marked the beginning of the ceremony and the glare of searchlights signaled its end. The vice president might have been warm in his parka, ski cap and hiking boots. But they had the unfortunate effect of suggesting that he was more concerned with his own comfort than the reason for braving the cold at all.


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Thursday, January 27, 2005

This is what your government does in your name- AP: Gitmo Soldier Details Sexual Tactics 

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Thu Jan 27, 2:07 PM ET

By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider's written account.

A draft manuscript obtained by The Associated Press is classified as secret pending a Pentagon (news - web sites) review for a planned book that details ways the U.S. military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get terror suspects to talk.

It's the most revealing account so far of interrogations at the secretive detention camp, where officials say they have halted some controversial techniques.

"I have really struggled with this because the detainees, their families and much of the world will think this is a religious war based on some of the techniques used, even though it is not the case," the author, former Army Sgt. Erik R. Saar, 29, told AP.

Saar didn't provide the manuscript or approach AP, but confirmed the authenticity of nine draft pages AP obtained. He requested his hometown remain private so he wouldn't be harassed.

Saar, who is neither Muslim nor of Arab descent, worked as an Arabic translator at the U.S. camp in eastern Cuba from December 2002 to June 2003. At the time, it was under the command of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who had a mandate to get better intelligence from prisoners, including alleged al-Qaida members caught in Afghanistan (news - web sites).

Saar said he witnessed about 20 interrogations and about three months after his arrival at the remote U.S. base he started noticing "disturbing" practices.

One female civilian contractor used a special outfit that included a miniskirt, thong underwear and a bra during late-night interrogations with prisoners, mostly Muslim men who consider it taboo to have close contact with women who aren't their wives.

Beginning in April 2003, "there hung a short skirt and thong underwear on the hook on the back of the door" of one interrogation team's office, he writes. "Later I learned that this outfit was used for interrogations by one of the female civilian contractors ... on a team which conducted interrogations in the middle of the night on Saudi men who were refusing to talk."

Some Guantanamo prisoners who have been released say they were tormented by "prostitutes."

In another case, Saar describes a female military interrogator questioning an uncooperative 21-year-old Saudi detainee who allegedly had taken flying lessons in Arizona before the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Suspected Sept. 11 hijacker Hani Hanjour received pilot instruction for three months in 1996 and in December 1997 at a flight school in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"His female interrogator decided that she needed to turn up the heat," Saar writes, saying she repeatedly asked the detainee who had sent him to Arizona, telling him he could "cooperate" or "have no hope whatsoever of ever leaving this place or talking to a lawyer.'"

The man closed his eyes and began to pray, Saar writes.

The female interrogator wanted to "break him," Saar adds, describing how she removed her uniform top to expose a tight-fitting T-shirt and began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner's back and commenting on his apparent erection.

The detainee looked up and spat in her face, the manuscript recounts.

The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner's reliance on God. The linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating, touch him, then make sure to turn off the water in his cell so he couldn't wash.

Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact with women other than a man's wife or family, and with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean.

"The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength," says the draft, stamped "Secret."

The interrogator used ink from a red pen to fool the detainee, Saar writes.

"She then started to place her hands in her pants as she walked behind the detainee," he says. "As she circled around him he could see that she was taking her hand out of her pants. When it became visible the detainee saw what appeared to be red blood on her hand. She said, 'Who sent you to Arizona?' He then glared at her with a piercing look of hatred.

"She then wiped the red ink on his face. He shouted at the top of his lungs, spat at her and lunged forward" — so fiercely that he broke loose from one ankle shackle.

"He began to cry like a baby," the draft says, noting the interrogator left saying, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

Events Saar describes resemble two previous reports of abusive female interrogation tactics, although it wasn't possible to independently verify his account.

In November, in response to an AP request, the military described an April 2003 incident in which a female interrogator took off her uniform top, exposed her brown T-shirt, ran her fingers through a detainee's hair and sat on his lap. That session was immediately ended by a supervisor and that interrogator received a written reprimand and additional training, the military said.

In another incident, the military reported that in early 2003 a different female interrogator "wiped dye from red magic marker on detainees' shirt after detainee spit (cq) on her," telling the detainee it was blood. She was verbally reprimanded, the military said.

Sexual tactics used by female interrogators have been criticized by the FBI (news - web sites), which complained in a letter obtained by AP last month that U.S. defense officials hadn't acted on complaints by FBI observers of "highly aggressive" interrogation techniques, including one in which a female interrogator grabbed a detainee's genitals.

About 20 percent of the guards at Guantanamo are women, said Lt. Col. James Marshall, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command. He wouldn't say how many of the interrogators were female.

Marshall wouldn't address whether the U.S. military had a specific strategy to use women.

"U.S. forces treat all detainees and conduct all interrogations, wherever they may occur, humanely and consistent with U.S. legal obligations, and in particular with legal obligations prohibiting torture," Marshall said Thursday.

But some officials at the U.S. Southern Command have questioned the formation of an all-female team as one of Guantanamo's "Immediate Reaction Force" units that subdue troublesome male prisoners in their cells, according to a document classified as secret and obtained by AP.

In one incident, dated June 19, 2004, "The detainee appears to be genuinely traumatized by a female escort securing the detainee's leg irons," according to the document, a U.S. Southern Command summary of videotapes shot when the teams were used.

The summary warned that anyone outside Department of Defense (news - web sites) channels should be prepared to address allegations that women were used intentionally with Muslim men.

At Guantanamo, Saar said, "Interrogators were given a lot of latitude under Miller," the commander who went from the prison in Cuba to overseeing prisons in Iraq (news - web sites), where the Abu Ghraib scandal shocked the world with pictures revealing sexual humiliation of naked prisoners.

Several female troops have been charged in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Saar said he volunteered to go to Guantanamo because "I really believed in the mission," but then he became disillusioned during his six months at the prison.

After leaving the Army with more than four years service, Saar worked as a contractor briefly for the FBI.

The Department of Defense has censored parts of his draft, mainly blacking out people's names, Saar said. He needed permission to publish because he signed a disclosure statement before going to Guantanamo.

The book, which Saar titled "Inside the Wire," is due out this year with Penguin Press.

Guantanamo has about 545 prisoners from some 40 countries, many held more than three years without charge or access to lawyers and many suspected of links to al-Qaida or Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime, which harbored the terrorist network.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Paisley Dodds is an Associated Press reporter based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has been covering the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since it opened in 2002.

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On the Web:

http://www.defenselink.mil



SHIT


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The Honorable Ron Paul 

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America’s policy of foreign intervention, while still debated in the early 20th century, is today accepted as conventional wisdom by both political parties. But what if the overall policy is a colossal mistake, a major error in judgment? Not just bad judgment regarding when and where to impose ourselves, but the entire premise that we have a moral right to meddle in the affairs of others? Think of the untold harm done by years of fighting-- hundreds of thousands of American casualties, hundreds of thousands of foreign civilian casualties, and unbelievable human and economic costs. What if it was all needlessly borne by the American people? If we do conclude that grave foreign policy errors have been made, a very serious question must be asked: What would it take to change our policy to one more compatible with a true republic’s goal of peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations? Is it not possible that Washington’s admonition to avoid entangling alliances is sound advice even today?
In medicine mistakes are made-- man is fallible. Misdiagnoses are made, incorrect treatments are given, and experimental trials of medicines are advocated. A good physician understands the imperfections in medical care, advises close follow-ups, and double-checks the diagnosis, treatment, and medication. Adjustments are made to assure the best results. But what if a doctor never checks the success or failure of a treatment, or ignores bad results and assumes his omnipotence-- refusing to concede that the initial course of treatment was a mistake? Let me assure you, the results would not be good. Litigation and the loss of reputation in the medical community place restraints on this type of bullheaded behavior.

Sadly, though, when governments, politicians, and bureaucrats make mistakes and refuse to reexamine them, there is little the victims can do to correct things. Since the bully pulpit and the media propaganda machine are instrumental in government cover-ups and deception, the final truth emerges slowly, and only after much suffering. The arrogance of some politicians, regulators, and diplomats actually causes them to become even more aggressive and more determined to prove themselves right, to prove their power is not to be messed with by never admitting a mistake. Truly, power corrupts!

The unwillingness to ever reconsider our policy of foreign intervention, despite obvious failures and shortcomings over the last 50 years, has brought great harm to our country and our liberty. Historically, financial realities are the ultimate check on nations bent on empire. Economic laws ultimately prevail over bad judgment. But tragically, the greater the wealth of a country, the longer the flawed policy lasts. We’ll probably not be any different.

We are still a wealthy nation, and our currency is still trusted by the world, yet we are vulnerable to some harsh realities about our true wealth and the burden of our future commitments. Overwhelming debt and the precarious nature of the dollar should serve to restrain our determined leaders, yet they show little concern for deficits. Rest assured, though, the limitations of our endless foreign adventurism and spending will become apparent to everyone at some point in time.


Since 9/11, a lot of energy and money have gone into efforts ostensibly designed to make us safer. Many laws have been passed and many dollars have been spent. Whether or not we’re better off is another question.
Today we occupy two countries in the Middle East. We have suffered over 20,000 casualties, and caused possibly 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq. We have spent over $200 billion in these occupations, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars here at home hoping to be safer. We’ve created the Department of Homeland Security, passed the Patriot Act, and created a new super CIA agency.

Our government now is permitted to monitor the Internet, to read our mail, to search us without proper search warrants, to develop a national ID card, and to investigate what people are reading in libraries. Ironically, illegal aliens flow into our country and qualify for driving licenses and welfare benefits with little restraint.

These issues are discussed, but nothing has been as highly visible to us as the authoritarianism we accept at the airport. The creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has intruded on the privacy of all airline travelers, and there is little evidence that we are safer for it. Driven by fear, we have succumbed to the age-old temptation to sacrifice liberty on the pretense of obtaining security. Love of security, unfortunately, all too often vanquishes love of liberty.

Unchecked fear of another 9/11-type attack constantly preoccupies our leaders and most of our citizens, and drives the legislative attack on our civil liberties. It’s frightening to see us doing to ourselves what even bin Laden never dreamed he could accomplish with his suicide bombers.

We don’t understand the difference between a vague threat of terrorism and the danger of a guerilla war. One prompts us to expand and nationalize domestic law enforcement while limiting the freedoms of all Americans. The other deals with understanding terrorists like bin Laden, who declared war against us in 1998. Not understanding the difference makes it virtually impossible to deal with the real threats. We are obsessed with passing new laws to make our country safe from a terrorist attack. This confusion about the cause of the 9/11 attacks, the fear they engendered, and the willingness to sacrifice liberty prompts many to declare their satisfaction with the inconveniences and even humiliation at our nation’s airports.

There are always those in government who are anxious to increase its power and authority over the people. Strict adherence to personal privacy annoys those who promote a centralized state.

It’s no surprise to learn that many of the new laws passed in the aftermath of 9/11 had been proposed long before that date. The attacks merely provided an excuse to do many things previously proposed by dedicated statists.

All too often government acts perversely, professing to advance liberty while actually doing the opposite. Dozens of new bills passed since 9/11 promise to protect our freedoms and our security. In time we will realize there is little chance our security will be enhanced or our liberties protected.

The powerful and intrusive TSA certainly will not solve our problems. Without a full discussion, greater understanding, and ultimately a change in the foreign policy that incites those who declared war against us, no amount of pat-downs at airports will suffice. Imagine the harm done, the staggering costs, and the loss of liberty if the next 20 years pass and airplanes are never employed by terrorists. Even if there is a possibility that airplanes will be used to terrorize us, TSA’s bullying will do little to prevent it. Patting down old women and little kids in airports cannot possibly make us safer!

TSA cannot protect us from another attack and it is not the solution. It serves only to make us all more obedient and complacent toward government intrusions into our lives.

The airport mess has been compounded by other problems, which we fail to recognize. Most assume the government has the greatest responsibility for making private aircraft travel safe. But this assumption only ignores mistakes made before 9/11, when the government taught us to not resist, taught us that airline personnel could not carry guns, and that the government would be in charge of security. Airline owners became complacent and dependent upon the government.

After 9/11 we moved in the wrong direction by allowing total government control and a political takeover by the TSA-- which was completely contrary to the proposition that private owners have the ultimate responsibility to protect their customers.

Discrimination laws passed during the last 40 years ostensibly fuel the Transportation Secretary’s near obsession with avoiding the appearance of discrimination toward young Muslim males. Instead TSA seemingly targets white children and old women. We have failed to recognize that a safety policy by a private airline is quite a different thing from government agents blindly obeying anti-discrimination laws.

Governments do not have a right to use blanket discrimination, such as that which led to incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II. However, local law-enforcement agencies should be able to target their searches if the description of a suspect is narrowed by sex, race, or religion.

We are dealing with an entirely different matter when it comes to safety on airplanes. The federal government should not be involved in local law enforcement, and has no right to discriminate. Airlines, on the other hand, should be permitted to do whatever is necessary to provide safety. Private firms-- long denied the right-- should have a right to discriminate. Fine restaurants, for example, can require that shoes and shirts be worn for service in their establishments. The logic of this remaining property right should permit more sensible security checks at airports. The airlines should be responsible for the safety of their property, and liable for it as well. This is not only the responsibility of the airlines, but it is a civil right that has long been denied them and other private companies.

The present situation requires the government to punish some by targeting those individuals who clearly offer no threat. Any airline that tries to make travel safer and happens to question a larger number of young Muslim males than the government deems appropriate can be assessed huge fines. To add insult to injury, the fines collected from airlines are used for forced sensitivity training of pilots who do their very best, under the circumstances, to make flying safer by restricting the travel of some individuals. We have embarked on a process that serves no logical purpose. While airline safety suffers, personal liberty is diminished and costs skyrocket.

If we’re willing to consider a different foreign policy, we should ask ourselves a few questions:

1. What if the policies of foreign intervention, entangling alliances, policing the world, nation building, and spreading our values through force are deeply flawed?

2. What if it is true that Saddam Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction?

3. What if it is true that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were never allies?

4. What if it is true that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein did nothing to enhance our national security?

5. What if our current policy in the Middle East leads to the overthrow of our client oil states in the region?

6. What if the American people really knew that more than 20,000 American troops have suffered serious casualties or died in the Iraq war, and 9% of our forces already have been made incapable of returning to battle?

7. What if it turns out there are many more guerrilla fighters in Iraq than our government admits?

8. What if there really have been 100,000 civilian Iraqi casualties, as some claim, and what is an acceptable price for “doing good?”

9. What if Rumsfeld is replaced for the wrong reasons, and things become worse under a Defense Secretary who demands more troops and an expansion of the war?

10. What if we discover that, when they do vote, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis support Islamic (Sharia) law over western secular law, and want our troops removed?

11. What if those who correctly warned of the disaster awaiting us in Iraq are never asked for their opinion of what should be done now?

12. What if the only solution for Iraq is to divide the country into three separate regions, recognizing the principle of self-determination while rejecting the artificial boundaries created in 1918 by non-Iraqis?

13. What if it turns out radical Muslims don’t hate us for our freedoms, but rather for our policies in the Middle East that directly affected Arabs and Muslims?

14. What if the invasion and occupation of Iraq actually distracted from pursuing and capturing Osama bin Laden?

15. What if we discover that democracy can’t be spread with force of arms?

16. What if democracy is deeply flawed, and instead we should be talking about liberty, property rights, free markets, the rule of law, localized government, weak centralized government, and self-determination promoted through persuasion, not force?

17. What if Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda actually welcomed our invasion and occupation of Arab/Muslim Iraq as proof of their accusations against us, and it served as a magnificent recruiting tool for them?

18. What if our policy greatly increased and prolonged our vulnerability to terrorists and guerilla attacks both at home and abroad?

19. What if the Pentagon, as reported by its Defense Science Board, actually recognized the dangers of our policy before the invasion, and their warnings were ignored or denied?

20. What if the argument that by fighting over there, we won’t have to fight here, is wrong, and the opposite is true?

21. What if we can never be safer by giving up some of our freedoms?

22. What if the principle of pre-emptive war is adopted by Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and others, “justified” by current U.S. policy?

23. What if pre-emptive war and pre-emptive guilt stem from the same flawed policy of authoritarianism, though we fail to recognize it?

24. What if Pakistan is not a trustworthy ally, and turns on us when conditions deteriorate?

25. What if plans are being laid to provoke Syria and/or Iran into actions that would be used to justify a military response and pre-emptive war against them?

26. What if our policy of democratization of the Middle East fails, and ends up fueling a Russian-Chinese alliance that we regret-- an alliance not achieved even at the height of the Cold War?

27. What if the policy forbidding profiling at our borders and airports is deeply flawed?

28. What if presuming the guilt of a suspected terrorist without a trial leads to the total undermining of constitutional protections for American citizens when arrested?

29. What if we discover the army is too small to continue policies of pre-emption and nation-building? What if a military draft is the only way to mobilize enough troops?

30. What if the “stop-loss” program is actually an egregious violation of trust and a breach of contract between the government and soldiers? What if it actually is a backdoor draft, leading to unbridled cynicism and rebellion against a voluntary army and generating support for a draft of both men and women? Will lying to troops lead to rebellion and anger toward the political leadership running the war?

31. What if the Pentagon’s legal task-force opinion that the President is not bound by international or federal law regarding torture stands unchallenged, and sets a precedent which ultimately harms Americans, while totally disregarding the moral, practical, and legal arguments against such a policy?

32. What if the intelligence reform legislation-- which gives us bigger, more expensive bureaucracy-- doesn’t bolster our security, and distracts us from the real problem of revamping our interventionist foreign policy?

33. What if we suddenly discover we are the aggressors, and we are losing an unwinnable guerrilla war?

34. What if we discover, too late, that we can’t afford this war-- and that our policies have led to a dollar collapse, rampant inflation, high interest rates, and a severe economic downturn?

Why do I believe these are such important questions? Because the #1 function of the federal government-- to provide for national security-- has been severely undermined. On 9/11 we had a grand total of 14 aircraft in place to protect the entire U.S. mainland, all of which proved useless that day. We have an annual DOD budget of over $400 billion, most of which is spent overseas in over 100 different countries. On 9/11 our Air Force was better positioned to protect Seoul, Tokyo, Berlin, and London than it was to protect Washington D.C. and New York City.
Moreover, our ill-advised presence in the Middle East and our decade-long bombing of Iraq served only to incite the suicidal attacks of 9/11.

Before 9/11 our CIA ineptly pursued bin Laden, whom the Taliban was protecting. At the same time, the Taliban was receiving significant support from Pakistan-- our “trusted ally” that received millions of dollars from the United States. We allied ourselves with both bin Laden and Hussein in the 1980s, only to regret it in the 1990s. And it’s safe to say we have used billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in the last 50 years pursuing this contradictory, irrational, foolish, costly, and very dangerous foreign policy.

Policing the world, spreading democracy by force, nation building, and frequent bombing of countries that pose no threat to us-- while leaving the homeland and our borders unprotected-- result from a foreign policy that is contradictory and not in our self interest.

I hardly expect anyone in Washington to pay much attention to these concerns. If I’m completely wrong in my criticisms, nothing is lost except my time and energy expended in efforts to get others to reconsider our foreign policy.

But the bigger question is:

What if I’m right, or even partially right, and we urgently need to change course in our foreign policy for the sake of our national and economic security, yet no one pays attention?

For that a price will be paid. Is it not worth talking about?



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Juan Cole Writes The Speech Bush Should Have Given 

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My fellow Americans:

I want us to go to war against Iraq. But I want us to have our eyes open and be completely realistic.

A war against Iraq will be expensive. It will cost you, the taxpayer, about $300 billion over five years. I know Wolfowitz is telling you Iraq's oil revenues will pay for it all, but that's ridiculous. Iraq only pumps about $10 billion a year worth of oil, and it's going to need that just to run the new government we're putting in. No, we're going to have to pay for it, ourselves. I'm going to ask you for $25 billion, then $80 billion, then another $80 billion. And so on. I'm going to be back to you for money more often than that unemployed relative that you don't like. The cost of the war is going to drive up my already massive budget deficits from about $370 billion to more like $450 billion a year. Just so you understand, I'm going to cut taxes on rich people at the same time that I fight this war. Then I'm going to borrow the money to fight it, and to pay for much of what the government does. And you and your children will be paying off that debt for decades. In the meantime, your dollar isn't going to go as far when you buy something made overseas, since running those kinds of deficits will weaken our currency. (And I've set things up so that most things you buy will be made overseas.) We'll have to keep interest rates higher than they would otherwise have been and keep the economy in the doldrums, because otherwise my war deficits would cause massive inflation.

So I'm going to put you, your children, and your grandchildren deeply in hock to fight this war. I'm going to make it so there won't be a lot of new jobs created, and I'm going to use the excuse of the Federal red ink to cut way back on government services that you depend on. For the super-rich, or as I call them, "my base," this Iraq war thing is truly inspired. We use it to put up the deficit to the point where the Democrats and the more bleeding heart Republicans in Congress can't dare create any new programs to help the middle classes. We all know that the super-rich--about 3 million people in our country of 295 million-- would have to pay for those programs, since they own 45 percent of the privately held wealth. I'm damn sure going to make sure they aren't inconvenienced that way for a good long time to come.

Then, this Iraq War that I want you to authorize as part of the War on Terror is going to be costly in American lives. By the time of my second inaugural, over 1,300 brave women and men of the US armed forces will be dead as a result of this Iraq war, and 10,371 will have been maimed and wounded, many of them for life. America's streets and homeless shelters will likely be flooded, down the line, with some of these wounded vets. They will have problems finding work, with one or two limbs gone and often significant psychological damage. They will have even more trouble keeping any jobs they find. They will be mentally traumatized the rest of their lives by the horror they are going to see, and sometimes commit, in Iraq. But, well we've got a saying in Texas. I think you've got in over in Arkansas, too. You can't make an omelette without . . . you gotta break some eggs to wrassle up some breakfast.

I know Dick Cheney and Condi Rice have gone around scaring your kids with wild talk of Iraqi nukes. I have to confess to you that my CIA director, George Tenet, tells me that the evidence for that kind of thing just doesn't exist. In fact, I have to be frank and say that the Intelligence and Research Division of the State Department doesn't think Saddam has much of anything left even from his chemical weapons program. Maybe he destroyed the stuff and doesn't want to admit it because he's afraid the Shiites and Kurds will rise up against him without it. Anyway, Iraq just doesn't pose any immediate threat to the United States and probably doesn't have anything useful left of their weapons programs of the 1980s.

There also isn't any operational link between a secular Arab nationalist like Saddam and the religious loonies of al-Qaeda. They're scared of one another and hate each other more than each hates us. In fact, I have to be perfectly honest and admit that if we overthrow Saddam's secular Arab nationalist government, Iraq's Sunni Arabs will be disillusioned and full of despair. They are likely to turn to al-Qaeda as an alternative. So, folks, what I'm about to do could deliver 5 million Iraqis into the hands of people who are insisting they join some al-Qaeda offshoot immediately. Or else.

So why do I want to go to war? Look, folks, I'm just not going to tell you. I don't have to tell you. There is little transparency about these things in the executive, because we're running a kind of rump empire out of the president's office. After 20 or 30 years it will all leak out. Until then, you'll just have to trust me.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Excerpts from a speech from Tom Kertes's diary at Kos 

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Seymour Hersh



The amazing thing is we are been taken over basically by a cult, eight or nine neo-conservatives have somehow grabbed the government. Just how and why and how they did it so efficiently, will have to wait for much later historians and better documentation than we have now, but they managed to overcome the bureaucracy and the Congress, and the press, with the greatest of ease. It does say something about how fragile our Democracy is. You do have to wonder what a Democracy is when it comes down to a few
men in the Pentagon and a few men in the White House having their way.


(...)What they have done is neutralize the C.I.A. because there were people there inside -- the real goal of what Goss has done was not attack the operational people, but the intelligence people. There were people -- serious senior analysts who disagree with the White House, with Cheney, basically, that's what I mean by White House, and Rumsfeld on a lot of issues, as somebody said, the goal in the last month has been to separate the apostates from the true believers....George Bush feels just as virtuous in what he is doing. He is absolutely committed -- I don't know whether he thinks he's doing God's will or what his father didn't do, or whether it's some mandate from -- you know, I just don't know, but George Bush thinks this is the right thing. He is going to continue doing what he has been doing in Iraq. He's going to expand it, I think, if he can. I think that the number of body bags that come back will make no difference to him. The body bags are rolling in. It makes no difference to him, because he will see it as a price he has to pay to put America where he thinks it should be……Let's all forget this word "insurgency". It's one of the most misleading words of all. Insurgency assumes that we had gone to Iraq and won the war and a group of disgruntled people began to operate against us and we then had to do counter-action against them. That would be an insurgency. We are fighting the people we started the war against. We are fighting the Ba'athists plus nationalists. We are fighting the very people that started -- they only choose to fight in different time spans than we want them to, in different places. We took Baghdad easily. It wasn't because be won. We took Baghdad because they pulled back and let us take it and decided to fight a war that had been pre-planned that they're very actively fighting. The frightening thing about it is, we have no intelligence. Maybe it's -- it's -- it is frightening, we have no intelligence about what they're doing. A year-and-a-half ago, we're up against two and three-man teams. We estimated the cells operating against us were two and three people, that we could not penetrate. As of now, we still don't know what's coming next. There are 10, 15-man groups. They have terrific communications….There's a lot of anxiety inside the -- you know, our professional military and our intelligence people. Many of them respect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as much as anybody here, and individual freedom. So, they do -- there's a tremendous sense of fear.
More on the scale of the war. …
We can't win this war. We can do what he's doing. We can bomb them into the stone ages. Here's the other horrifying, sort of spectacular fact that we don't really appreciate. Since we installed our puppet government, this man, Allawi, who was a member of the Mukabarat, the secret police of Saddam, long before he became a critic, and is basically Saddam-lite. Before we installed him, since we have installed him on June 28, July, August, September, October, November, every month, one thing happened: the number of sorties, bombing raids by one plane, and the number of tonnage dropped has grown exponentially each month. We are systematically bombing that country…It's going to go very bad, folks. You know, if you have not sold your stocks and bought property in Italy, you better do it quick. And the third thing is Europe -- Europe is not going to tolerate us much longer. The rage there is enormous. I'm talking about our old-fashioned allies. We could see something there, collective action against us. Certainly, nobody -- it's going to be an awful lot of dancing on our graves as the dollar goes bad and everybody stops buying our bonds, our credit -- our -- we're spending $2 billion a day to float the debt, and one of these days, the Japanese and the Russians, everybody is going to start buying oil in Euros instead of dollars. We're going to see enormous panic here. But he could get through that. That will be another year, and the damage he's going to do between then and now is enormous. We're going to have some very bad months ahead.


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Senator Feingold 

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As all of my colleagues on this Committee know, I believe that Presidents are entitled to a great deal of deference in their cabinet nominations. I have voted in favor of a number of this President's nominees, including the current Attorney General, with whom I had serious disagreements on matters of policy and general ideology. My votes may not have always pleased my political supporters, or my party's leadership. But in carrying out my part in the constitutional scheme, as one who is asked to advise on and consent to a President's nominations, I am guided by my conscience, and by the history and practices of the United States Senate. Rejecting a cabinet nominee is a very rare event.  The decision to do so must never be taken lightly.

Mr. Chairman, I have reached the conclusion, after a great deal of thought and careful consideration, that I cannot support Judge Gonzales's nomination.


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Ah…Propaganda 

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A syndicated columnist, who has repeatedly supported the Bush
administration's push for a $300 million initiative to encourage marriage, also had a $21,500 federal contract to help promote the proposal, the

Washington Post reported Tuesday.



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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Kevin Drum on the Budget Deficit 

THE BUDGET FANTASYLAND CONTINUES....Hot on the heels of the CBO's projections, the White House made their own budget projections today:

President Bush will ask Congress for an extra $80 billion next month, mostly to cover costs of the war in Iraq, and White House officials predicted this afternoon that the budget deficit would hit a new record of $427 billion this year.


....White House officials said today that they were still on track to fulfill President Bush's campaign promise of reducing the budget deficit in half by 2009.

So last year's deficit was $412 billion, and this year's deficit will be $427 billion, but they're still "on track" to cut the deficit in half.


Clap your hands!

Bush’s Free Press Pass 

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If the president of China, Russia, Japan or Germany had given a major speech in which he claimed the divinely ordained right to remake the entire world as he saw fit, the American media would lose little time in denouncing that individual as a megalomaniac and threat to world peace. There have been no such blasts from US newspaper and television pundits, however, against George W. Bush, whose inaugural address put forward just such a perspective.

Bush presented a messianic picture of America as the world’s liberator, declaring, “Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world. All you who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” He made no reference in the 18-minute speech to the ongoing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the United States plays the role of neo-colonial overlord, and tens of millions of people regard American imperialism—and Bush in particular—as their oppressor.

Nor did he mention that, for the past half-century, the vast majority of the dictatorial and antidemocratic regimes in the world have based themselves on military, political and economic assistance from the United States. Even as he addressed the crowd on Capitol Hill on the evils of tyranny, his administration continued to maintain close ties with barbaric quasi-feudal monarchies in Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf sheikdoms and Morocco, with military dictatorships in Egypt, Pakistan and half a dozen African countries, and with ex-Stalinist police-state regimes throughout Central Asia and in China.

US newspaper editorials and television news programs have generally treated Bush’s speech respectfully, praising the president’s supposed idealism and devotion to freedom, with criticism limited to suggestions that he was overly optimistic about what could be accomplished through US pressure on dictatorial regimes, or that his generalities about freedom and democracy were unaccompanied by specific proposals for action. No one would know, based on such accounts of the inaugural address, that the man who delivered the speech is reviled throughout the world as the greatest single purveyor of violence and oppression.

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Then again, maybe not 

From Steve Gilliard


While all the eulogies about Carson will "celebrate" his life, they forget how cruel, even cold Carson could be for his amusement. Unlike the desperately needy Leno, the conformist O'Brien, and the creepy, sadistic Letterman, Carson kept the worst aspects of his character off screen, but he was hardly the kindly figure he seemed on late night TV.


First, he would get young comics on and then only if he liked their act, would invite them to sit down. Now, if you were Jerry Seinfeld, this worked out, but Carson loved to lord it the young comics he invited on, knowing it was the great break in their career. If they became famous before 1993, they had to pass the Tonight Show test.

Then there was the grudge against Saturday Night Live. He refused to promote the show in it's early years because he felt they were seeking to replace him.

While people are recalling how Carson retired, they forget the numerous cruelities he inflicted on Jay Leno for taking his job. He never appeared on his show, and openly praised the sadistic and difficult Letterman, despite using Leno as his main substitiute host for years. While Leno's jokes are usually lame, he could at least be dealt with, Letterman took pride in being difficult. When NBC had to choose, they chose Leno and have been amply rewarded with an easy going team player. Letterman, and Carson never forgave this, missing no opportunity to go after Leno, and holding a deep, long grudge. Of course, Leno beats Letterman and has for nearly a decade.

Carson was also a wife beating drunk, according to his ex-wives and never really got on with his sons. One time, he nearly broke the face of one wife at a party in one of his violent rages.

Warm and loving are not adjectives associated with Johnny Carson. You can say he was talented, but as a human being, he had some issues. Like violence against women.


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Johnny. 

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It was his mellifluous voice. It was the voice of America; non-judgmental, never morose or overly serious. His voice soothed me because I think it soothed everyone in America. Johnny Carson’s death now is the death of irony itself. At another time when we were involved with another bullshit war, at times when racism and injustice and corruption tore us apart, we all ended up sitting together in Johnny Carson’s living room every night. It was the only time my dysfunctional family could sit together and not fight, and sometimes even we would all laugh.

My conservative Air Force father loved Johnny Carson, my long haired rebellious older brothers liked Johnny and I, a yeshiva bucher, also like Johnny Carson. In Johnny’s day there were many things to comfort us when the chips were down. We more stringently protected our own civil liberties. We had Walter Cronkite and David Huntley and Chet Brinkley and we trusted all of them to tell the truth. We had not made that many mistakes and everyone in the world wanted to be an American.

Today we have no real guiding comfort that unites us all. There is no news in America that’s trusted nor should any of it be. There are no leaders who inspire all of us. But today is different. Today we should look at Johnny Carson as the ultimate non-partisan. He was the least prejudiced of us all, the most accepting of others and their views, and he did it all with grace and a smile.

He was a real uniter, and boy do I miss him.



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Monday, January 24, 2005

Dollar Is Going To Hell 

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During the past few years the US has become dependent, not so much on millions of investors around the globe but on a few individuals in a few of the world's central banks.

In 2003, the most recent year with full international statistics, central banks financed 83 per cent of the US current account deficit, with Asian central banks accounting for 86 per cent of flows.

A similar picture is emerging for 2004. Despite a good start to the year, when the private sector was a large net purchaser of dollar assets, central banks came to the rescue again. The People's Bank of China has let it be known that China increased dollar reserves by $207bn (€159bn) in 2004, financing nearly a third of the US current account deficit, estimated at $650bn.

Self-interest has supported much of this flow of cash. The US has lapped up cheap finance to fund its unquenchable appetite to spend. Asian governments have until now been keen to oblige, in order to keep their currencies from appreciating. But all investors have their limits and they may start worrying about their degree of exposure.

If new official flows to the US were to be curtailed, the dollar would plunge, creating a huge hole in the accounts of central banks holding dollars.


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Sunday, January 23, 2005

polsci major to be's diary – Daily Kos 

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AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.
READ ON!:

A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. They are mad. They die. Pass the shepherd's pie, please.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You break for lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION: You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

A BRAZILIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You enter into a partnership with an American corporation. Soon you have 1000 cows and the American corporation declares bankruptcy.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You worship both of them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported on them.

AN ISRAELI CORPORATION: There are these two Jewish cows, right? They open a milk factory, an ice cream store, and then sell the movie rights. They send their calves to Harvard to become doctors. So, who needs people?

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when the cow drops dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them World-Wide.

A GERMAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You reengineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.
READ ON!:



A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. They are mad. They die. Pass the shepherd's pie, please.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You break for lunch.

A RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

A SWISS CORPORATION: You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge others for storing them.

A BRAZILIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You enter into a partnership with an American corporation. Soon you have 1000 cows and the American corporation declares bankruptcy.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You worship both of them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported on them.

AN ISRAELI CORPORATION: There are these two Jewish cows, right? They open a milk factory, an ice cream store, and then sell the movie rights. They send their calves to Harvard to become doctors. So, who needs people?

AN ARKANSAS CORPORATION: You have two cows. That one on the left is kinda cute.

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Must. Read. Every. Word. 

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Best Book Report/Essay/Tome Ever


What's notable about the incidents of torture and abuse is first, their common features, and second, their geographical reach. No one has any reason to believe any longer that these incidents were restricted to one prison near Baghdad. They were everywhere: from Guantánamo Bay to Afghanistan, Baghdad, Basra, Ramadi and Tikrit and, for all we know, in any number of hidden jails affecting ''ghost detainees'' kept from the purview of the Red Cross. They were committed by the Marines, the Army, the Military Police, Navy Seals, reservists, Special Forces and on and on. The use of hooding was ubiquitous; the same goes for forced nudity, sexual humiliation and brutal beatings; there are examples of rape and electric shocks. Many of the abuses seem specifically tailored to humiliate Arabs and Muslims, where horror at being exposed in public is a deep cultural artifact.

Whether random bad apples had picked up these techniques from hearsay or whether these practices represented methods authorized by commanders grappling with ambiguous directions from Washington is hard to pin down from the official reports. But it is surely significant that very few abuses occurred in what the Red Cross calls ''regular internment facilities.'' Almost all took place within prisons designed to collect intelligence, including, of course, Saddam Hussein's previous torture palace at Abu Ghraib and even the former Baathist secret police office in Basra. (Who authorized the use of these particular places for a war of liberation is another mystery.) This tells us two things: that the vast majority of soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere had nothing to do with these incidents; and that the violence had a purpose. The report of the International Committee of the Red Cross says: ''Several military intelligence officers confirmed to the I.C.R.C. that it was part of the military intelligence process to hold a person deprived of his liberty naked in a completely dark and empty cell for a prolonged period to use inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical and psychological coercion.''…

… How do you break these people? According to the I.C.R.C., one prisoner ''alleged that he had been hooded and cuffed with flexicuffs, threatened to be tortured and killed, urinated on, kicked in the head, lower back and groin, force-fed a baseball which was tied into the mouth using a scarf and deprived of sleep for four consecutive days. Interrogators would allegedly take turns ill-treating him. When he said he would complain to the I.C.R.C. he was allegedly beaten more. An I.C.R.C. medical examination revealed hematoma in the lower back, blood in urine, sensory loss in the right hand due to tight handcuffing with flexicuffs, and a broken rib.''

Even Bybee's very narrow definition of torture would apply in this case. Here's another - not from Abu Ghraib:

A detainee ''had been hooded, handcuffed in the back, and made to lie face down, on a hot surface during transportation. This had caused severe skin burns that required three months' hospitalization. . . . He had to undergo several skin grafts, the amputation of his right index finger, and suffered . . . extensive burns over the abdomen, anterior aspects of the outer extremities, the palm of his right hand and the sole of his left foot.''

And another, in a detainee's own words: ''They threw pepper on my face and the beating started. This went on for a half hour. And then he started beating me with the chair until the chair was broken. After that they started choking me. At that time I thought I was going to die, but it's a miracle I lived. And then they started beating me again. They concentrated on beating me in my heart until they got tired from beating me. They took a little break and then they started kicking me very hard with their feet until I passed out.''

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American Awful 

Published: January 23, 2005


astounding editorial


At a time when the self-appointed guardians of family values have been denouncing television programming for everything from wardrobe malfunctions to SpongeBob's squishiness on gay tolerance, it's interesting that "American Idol" seems to be getting a pass. Fox's hugely popular search for the next singing sensation started its fourth season last week with a series of vicious encounters between hopeful but pathetically untalented young people and celebrity judges being paid to make fun of them. While the contests do not feature bare breasts or four-letter words, they send a truly dreadful message to millions of young viewers about the proper way to treat fellow human beings.

The high points of the early episodes of the show are the moments in which desperately clueless singers deliver unbearable versions of pop standards in front of judges who either burst into derisive laughter or helpfully advise the would-be idols that they are way too fat, badly dressed, funny looking or simply "honestly, excruciatingly awful." While some of the contestants have the sort of impenetrable self-obsession that seems to invite that kind of treatment, others react in ways that make it clear they are simply weak and vulnerable. The producers seem to feel it's funny to watch a trio of wealthy and famous adults making fun of a simple 16-year-old girl whose only sin was being "pretty sure I have a good voice" when she didn't.

About 100,000 contestants, all in their teens or 20's, auditioned for "American Idol," and the ones who wound up on national television survived at least two elimination rounds. While Fox said the survivors were chosen to be a good cross section, it is hard to imagine that any of the extremely naïve contestants understood that they were being moved along only because they showed promise for being ridiculous. In the ensuing battle for the "tickets to Hollywood," the viewers are invited to roar while young people who in many cases appear to be poor, of low intelligence or even mildly disturbed, sing enthusiastically and then stand gape-mouthed with shock while their heroes insult them on national television.

One of the points of any reality show is to allow the audience to watch as contestants humiliate themselves by screeching at their spouses on a race around the world, by being voted off the island first, or by failing to get a rose from the bachelor or bachelorette whom they have been desperately and publicly wooing. But there is a very wide gap between demonstrating that life is full of hard knocks and embarrassment, and glorying in the abasement of the utterly defenseless.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Rumsfeld scraps Munich visit over war probe because he could be arrested 

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21 January 2005

MUNICH - United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has cancelled a planned visit to Munich.

Rumsfeld has informed the German government via the US embassy he will not take part at the Munich Security Conference in February, conference head Horst Teltschik said.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a complaint in December with the Federal German Prosecutor's Office against Rumsfeld accusing him of war crimes and torture in connection with detainee abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Rumsfeld had made it known immediately after the complaint was filed that he would not attend the

Munich conference unless Germany quashed the legal action.

The organisation alleges violations of German legislation which outlaws war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide independent of the place of crime or origin of the accused.

The prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe reportedly is examining the roughly 170-page complaint to see if an investigation is warranted.

The Center for Constitutional Rights said it and four Iraqis tortured in US custody had filed a complaint with German authorities against Rumsfeld, former CIA director George Tenet and eight other senior military and civilian officials over abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.

The organization said it had turned to German prosecutors "as a court of last resort" because the US government "is unwilling to open an independent investigation" and had "refused to join the International Criminal Court".

Several of those it wants investigated are stationed in Germany, it added.



I think I actually predicted this


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Friday, January 21, 2005

Army Official Historian Gives Bush Bad Grade 

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Army Historian Cites Lack of Postwar Plan; Major Calls Effort in Iraq 'Mediocre'



The U.S. military invaded Iraq without a formal plan for occupying and stabilizing the country and this high-level failure continues to undercut what has been a "mediocre" Army effort there, an Army historian and strategist has concluded.

"There was no Phase IV plan" for occupying Iraq after the combat phase, writes Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq. While a variety of government offices had considered the possible situations that would follow a U.S. victory, Wilson writes, no one produced an actual document laying out a strategy to consolidate the victory after major combat operations ended.

"While there may have been 'plans' at the national level, and even within various agencies within the war zone, none of these 'plans' operationalized the problem beyond regime collapse" -- that is, laid out how U.S. forces would be moved and structured, Wilson writes in an essay that has been delivered at several academic conferences but not published. "There was no adequate operational plan for stability operations and support operations."


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Mr Freedom Sure Likes Dictators  

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President Bush's soaring rhetoric yesterday that the United States will promote the growth of democratic movements and institutions worldwide is at odds with the administration's increasingly close relations with repressive governments in every corner of the world.

Some of the administration's allies in the war against terrorism -- including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan -- are ranked by the State Department as among the worst human rights abusers. The president has proudly proclaimed his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin while remaining largely silent about Putin's dismantling of democratic institutions in the past four years. The administration, eager to enlist China as an ally in the effort to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, has played down human rights concerns there, as well.


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Fear, Not Power 

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--be honest, is there a better nom de plume in all of blogdom?--has a superb post today about the DC inaugural lockdown. I only caught snippets of the coverage today--jury duty--but I was impressed once again by how skillfully the reporters, pundits, and historians managed to dismiss the evidence of their own eyes. Despite the fact that there was no specific terrorist threat, the security was unprecedented even for these unprecedented times, with FBI snipers on rooftops, clusters of antiaircraft missiles, layers of police and checkpoints, video command centers monitoring every spilled cup of coffee (CNN's Kelli Arena provided an inside peek), and rows of empty bleachers. The commentators noted this clampdown with a sigh of regret, and mentioned the "irony" of President Bush using the words "freedom" and "liberty" dozens of times in his address while the city was under such tight constriction. But this has gone past way irony now into total cognitive dissonant breakdown. Commentators refuse to recognize the ominous import of the stepped-up militarization of the parade and pageantry, and increasingly of civilian life in this country under a president who likes to wear neat little uniforms that say, "Me commander-in-chief." It's ridiculous for Judy Woodruff and Doris Kearns Goodwin (I think it was her I heard nattering) and Jeff Greenfield to wax patriotic about presidents and inaugurals past as if there were some heartening continuum at work when there are snipers perched on the roof of the White House and enough riot police to protect a Latin American dictator. As the columnist that Mannion reprints says, What's on display in Washington today isn't strength, it's fear. Fear the White House wants every American to share, so that they won't mind--will accept--endless rows of men in visored helmets and boots



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Moving To Canada 

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They threatened to run for the border if Bush was re-elected. But how many did? Today, as the President is sworn in on the steps of the Capitol, Andrew Buncombe meets the Americans who are choosing to begin new lives in self-imposed exile

20 January 2005

At their home in a comfortable, quiet Seattle suburb, Mike Teller and his partner Bob Vesely will not be cheering today. Indeed, while the celebratory thousands line the streets for the presidential inauguration 3,000 miles away in Washington DC, Teller and Vesely will think of their future and the greener pastures they believe await them. They'll be thinking of escape.

The clue to their getaway destination flies from a pole in front of their house - a Canadian flag. "We used to fly the US flag, but we changed it to a Canadian flag at the start of the Iraq war," says Vesely, 45, an IT manager. "It was our protest."

If the couple get their way, before too long they will be swapping the Stars and Stripes for the red and white maple-leaf pennant - formally known as the National Flag of Canada - that now flutters in the breeze outside their home. Having toyed with the idea for many months, Teller and Vesely recently decided to leave the US and move to Canada. They made their decision on the morning of 3 November, the day after the American presidential election that ensured that George Bush, rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, would be taking the oath of office on the western edge of the Capitol building later today.

And they are not alone. Even before the election, there were many people vowing that they would leave the country if President Bush was re-elected. In the aftermath of November's result, which many Democrats and progressives can still barely believe, large numbers of disgruntled, disaffected and simply fed-up Americans began focusing in earnest on a better, brighter life north of the border. Teller and Vesely have hired an immigration lawyer and sent off their applications.



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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Watch this video 


Torturing Women 



The next day, a stocky American officer in boots and a T-shirt told Selwa she was responsible for the disposal of waste. As a former detainee told Human Rights First senior associate Ken Hurwitz during an interview last August, this is a ritual that serves purposes both utilitarian and penal: Human waste is dumped in metal containers, mixed with lighter fluid, and set on fire. Detainees are forced to stir the mixture to speed its dissipation. It’s a wretched job, done in shifts by young men and boys, and the stench is overwhelming.

That afternoon, the American officer lit a mixture of human feces and urine in a metal container and gave Selwa a heavy club to stir it. She recalls, “The fire from the pot felt very strong on my face.” She leans forward and sweeps her hands through the air to show how she stirred the excrement. “I became very tired,” she says. “I told the sergeant I couldn’t do it.”

“There was another man close to us. The sergeant came up to me and whispered in my ear, ‘If you don’t, I will tell one of the soldiers to fuck you.’”

She looks down at the floor.

“It is a shame on them,” says Riva Khoshaba, a 28-year-old Assyrian American lawyer who was born in Iraq. She is sitting across the table in the Amman hotel and looking sympathetically at Selwa. “Not on you.”

Selwa closes her eyes and nods her head, trying to show that she is listening. But it’s almost as though she is sitting at a table far away and can hear Khoshaba’s words but can’t make out their meaning. Selwa nods again and sinks back into her chair.

“I said, ‘I will go on.’ I stirred for two hours,” Selwa says. “Then I fainted.”

For Selwa, it was only the beginning of a nightmarish journey. In early October of 2003, she was strip-searched and given an ID bracelet and a prisoner number. She had arrived at Abu Ghraib.

....


In the barrels of newsprint that have been devoted to Abu Ghraib since 60 Minutes II released the now-infamous photos on April 28, 2004, one aspect of the story has received scant attention in the American media: the detention of women. The liberation of women in Iraq and (especially) Afghanistan has been, at times, a major talking point for Bush administration officials as they have touted the successes of their war on terrorism in the Middle East. Yet in Iraq, the benefits of a free society have eluded at least part of the female population.

Forty-two women have been held at Abu Ghraib, according to a U.S. Department of Defense statement provided at the request of a U.S. senator and forwarded to me, though none are interned there now. (Many of the women were released in May, shortly after the scandal broke, and the last woman was let go in July.) Overall, 90 women have been held in various detention facilities in Iraq since August 2003, says Barry Johnson, a public-affairs officer for detainee operations for the Multi-National Force, the official name of the U.S.–led forces in Iraq, speaking on a cell phone from Baghdad. Two “high-value” female detainees are now being held, he says. More women may be in captivity, he adds, explaining that “units can capture and keep them up to 14 days.” In addition, approximately 60 children, or “juveniles,” are being held.

Some women and children are picked up because they’re a “security threat,” Johnson says. And some women are detained because they’re the sisters, wives, or girlfriends of suspected insurgents -- that is, because the military thinks these women might provide information on the insurgency. But this practice, like the instances of torture exposed last year, violates the Geneva Conventions, which stipulate that no one can “be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed.” In one such incident, a 28-year-old mother of three, including the 6-month-old baby she was nursing, was captured on May 9, 2004. The American Civil Liberties Union obtained a memo in which a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer described her detainment as a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The treatment of civilian women by American forces is a charged issue for Iraqis -- and especially for those who oppose the American presence. The terrorists who kidnapped CARE International Director Margaret Hassan, for example, demanded the release of women held by U.S. and coalition forces. Hassan is now believed to be dead. Women and children have been reluctant to speak to American journalists, which is one reason their internment has received little attention in the U.S. media. Recently, though, some have begun to step forward.

* * *

Let people know what happened to us,” says Victoria, a 54-year-old former bank director, on the phone from her home in the al-Dora section of Baghdad. She and Selwa, and about a dozen other women, were held together in close quarters at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities. During my trip to Amman in early December 2004, and in later telephone conversations, I spoke with four of these women. I also spoke with six men who were held at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere and had witnessed, overheard, or claimed they knew about instances of women being abused.

Seven of the people I interviewed are plaintiffs in a pair of class-action lawsuits brought by a group of American attorneys, including Khoshaba, working with the left-leaning, New York–based Center for Constitutional Rights, against two private companies, the San Diego–based Titan Corporation, which hired translators who worked at Abu Ghraib, and the Virginia-based CACI International Inc., which provided interrogators. Three of the people I interviewed are not part of the lawsuits. (The suits seek redress for all detainees, not just women.)



From Kos Diaries- AlexHamilton , predictions and comments 

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Tue Jan 18th, 2005 at 17:07:49 PST



Entering the second term of President Bush is a phrase I thought only possible in a nightmare. Below I have added some of the issues I expect to come up in the next 4 years. This is only speculation. Add your own expectation in the comments section.

What to expect over the next 4 years...

1. President Bush and the administration continue to hawk Iran as harboring terrorists and producing WMD. Expect a variation of the PR campaign that included "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." A bombing campaign is carried out against Iran. (1-3 years)

2. No Child Left Behind continues to be a law that only pundits paid by the government will support. Underfunding an already faulty law is a killer...(0-4 years)


3. North Korea will continue with no resistance to build nuclear weapons as we refuse to negotiate with them. No case will be built to attack this regime as they most likely already possess nuclear capabilities.(0-4 years)

4. The Iraq fiasco continues long after the elections on January 30th 2005. American fatalities pass 2000 with little surprise. A civil war looms as the Sunni minority in Iraq loses power and the Shiite government begins to look more and more like an Iranian style theocracy. Support for a separate Kurdistan grows within the Kurdish population.(6 months-3 years)

5. The budget deficit continues to remain above pre-Bush record levels. Counting extra spending in Iraq, Bush makes little to no progress on his promise to halve the deficit. Nobody seems to notice. (0-4 years)

6. The economy remains stagnant barely creating enough jobs to keep pace with population. Exportation of jobs to India continue at an alarming rate. The continuing stagnation is used as further justification with officials claiming there would have been a depression without the cuts. In reality, they have only provided minimal stimulation and ballooned our deficit to record levels. (0-4 years)

7. Social security remains intact, and the creation of private accounts is thwarted. Republicans jump off the President's ship on this one. (0-1 year)

8. More abuse alegations arise from detention centers in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. The world looks on us with continually more disdain as we are seen as supporting torture. (0-4 years)

9. Numerous Republicans break rank with the President as the War on Terror begins to become a liability. Sen. McCain and Colin Powell are major players.(2-4 years)

10. Information leaks from the CIA, even after Goss' purge, showing that administration officials had much more information on Iraq's lack of WMD before the invasion. Cheney forced to resign in scandal as his office is most closely tied to the information released. (1-2 years)

After all of this, the democratic candidate is elected President by a clear majority, even winning some southern states.

Good and bad missing? (none / 0)

I vacillate between pessimism and optimism about 06 and 08.

My pessimistic side says add:

1. WMD 'terrorist' attack on US soil. Democracy dies. Public applauds. Bush grows toothbush (rather than 'brush') mustache.

2. Cheney's heart "just can't take 4 more years", so resigns for Bush's replacement in 08 to be anointed in time run as an 'incumbent'.

My optimistic side says add:

1. Iran bombing not only outrages world, makes the wars even worse, but also doesn't make a dent in Iran's nuclear program, proved when they test one a few months after the bombing. US public turns on Bush not for being a warmonger, but an incompetent warmonger.

2. Repub in-fighting causes it to collapse in 06, so Dems win big despite fighting 'conventional wisdom' to buy into the new militarism and 'values'.

3. China nukes the US dollar. Economy collapses, but slowly. Majority of public calls Bush "Hoover". Dems win huge in 08

..

Richard Armitage Admits Error on the way out 

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"I'm disappointed that Iraq hasn't turned out better. And that we weren't able to move forward more meaningfully in the Middle East peace process."


Then, after a minute's pause, he adds a third regret: "The biggest regret is that we didn't stop 9/11. And then in the wake of 9/11, instead of redoubling what is our traditional export of hope and optimism we exported our fear and our anger. And presented a very intense and angry face to the world. I regret that a lot."


I regret that nincompoops like you pressed this war forward when average armchair policy wanks like me knew it would turn out this way. Idiots!

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

No More Perfect Metaphor For Bush Administration 

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Some 6,000 police are being deployed, backed by 7,000 troops who will be placed on alert. Sniper teams will be stationed on rooftops. Plainclothes specialists looking for chemical, biological or radiological agents will mingle through the crowd, carrying hand-held detectors. Twenty-two checkpoints will be set up to search spectators and screen them with metal detectors.

Police will not allow backpacks, packages, any bags larger than 8 inches by 6 inches by 4 inches, or thermoses and coolers of any size. Umbrellas will be prohibited so as to allow authorities a clear view of the crowd. Even miniature American flags that Bush supporters wanted to wave as the motorcade passed will be banned.

No poles or other supports will be permitted for signs or placards—a measure that cannot by any stretch of the imagination be justified on the grounds of a potential terrorist attack. Rather, it is aimed at inhibiting the constitutionally protected right of peaceful assembly and political expression.

Vehicles will be banned from more than 100 square blocks of downtown Washington DC. Residents of the area will have to submit to searches and show identification to get into their homes. Hotel and office parking garages in the vicinity will be inspected and closed.

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Why We Don't Get The News In Iraq 

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BAGHDAD, 17 January 2005 — “Hotel journalism” is the only word for it. More and more, Western reporters in Baghdad are reporting from their hotels rather than the streets of Iraq’s towns and cities. Some are accompanied everywhere by hired and heavily armed Western mercenaries. A few live in local offices from which their editors refuse them permission to leave. Most use Iraqi “stringers” — part-time correspondents who risk their lives to conduct interviews for American or British journalists — and none can contemplate a journey outside the capital without days of preparation unless they “embed” themselves with American or British forces.

Rarely, if ever, has a war been covered by reporters in so distant and restricted a way. New York Times correspondents live in Baghdad behind a massive stockade with four watchtowers, protected by locally hired, rifle-toting security men, complete with “NYT” T-shirts. Journalists with America’s NBC television chain are holed up in a hotel with an iron grill over their door, forbidden by their security advisers to visit the swimming pool or the restaurant, “let alone the rest of Baghdad”, lest they are attacked. Several Western journalists simply do not leave their rooms while on station in Baghdad.


This is journalism?


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SS Bush Plan Dead? 

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via atrios
Harry Reid says:

The President's plan is a dead horse not because of partisan politics but because it is a privatization plan based on massive benefit cuts, risky Wall Street accounts and $2 trillion in new debt. It will undermine Social Security at a time when we should be looking to strengthen the program and help Americans save.

And if a 50 percent benefit cut is not enough, now we learn Republicans are aiming to push even deeper cuts for America's women. Any suggestion that women do not deserve the same benefits as men is just plain wrong.

Retirement security is America's promise to all its workers, and I will ensure that promise is kept.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Our Lazy Press 

A televisual fairyland

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The US media is disciplined by corporate America into promoting the Republican cause

George Monbiot
Tuesday January 18, 2005

On Thursday, the fairy king of fairyland will be recrowned. He was elected on a platform suspended in midair by the power of imagination. He is the leader of a band of men who walk through ghostly realms unvisited by reality. And he remains the most powerful person on earth.

How did this happen? How did a fantasy president from a world of make believe come to govern a country whose power was built on hard-headed materialism? To find out, take a look at two squalid little stories which have been concluded over the past 10 days.

The first involves the broadcaster CBS. In September, its 60 Minutes programme ran an investigation into how George Bush avoided the Vietnam draft. It produced memos which appeared to show that his squadron commander in the Texas National Guard had been persuaded to "sugarcoat" his service record. The programme's allegations were immediately and convincingly refuted: Republicans were able to point to evidence suggesting the memos had been faked. Last week, following an inquiry into the programme, the producer was sacked, and three CBS executives were forced to resign.

The incident couldn't have been more helpful to Bush. Though there is no question that he managed to avoid serving in Vietnam, the collapse of CBS's story suggested that all the allegations made about his war record were false, and the issue dropped out of the news. CBS was furiously denounced by the rightwing pundits, with the result that between then and the election, hardly any broadcaster dared to criticise George Bush. Mary Mapes, the producer whom CBS fired, was the network's most effective investigative journalist: she was the person who helped bring the Abu Ghraib photos to public attention. If the memos were faked, the forger was either a moron or a very smart operator.


It's true, of course, that CBS should have taken more care. But I think it is safe to assume that if the network had instead broadcast unsustainable allegations about John Kerry, none of its executives would now be looking for work. How many people have lost their jobs, at CBS or anywhere else, for repeating bogus stories released by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about Kerry's record in Vietnam? How many were sacked for misreporting the Jessica Lynch affair? Or for claiming that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons programme in 2003? Or that he was buying uranium from Niger, or using mobile biological weapons labs, or had a hand in 9/11? How many people were sacked, during Clinton's presidency, for broadcasting outright lies about the Whitewater affair? The answer, in all cases, is none.

You can say what you like in the US media, as long as it helps a Republican president. But slip up once while questioning him, and you will be torn to shreds. Even the most grovelling affirmations of loyalty won't help. The presenter of 60 Minutes, Dan Rather, is the man who once told his audience" "George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions and, you know, as just one American, he wants me to line up, just tell me where." CBS is owned by the conglomerate Viacom, whose chairman told reporters: "We believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company." But for Fox News and the shockjocks syndicated by Clear Channel, Rather's faltering attempt at investigative journalism is further evidence of "a liberal media conspiracy".

This is not the first time something like this has happened. In 1998, CNN made a programme which claimed that, during the Vietnam war, US special forces dropped sarin gas on defectors who had fled to Laos. In this case, there was plenty of evidence to support the story. But after four weeks of furious denunciations, the network's owner, Ted Turner, publicly apologised in terms you would expect to hear during a show trial in North Korea: "I'll take my shirt off and beat myself bloody on the back." CNN had erred, he said, by broadcasting the allegations when "we didn't have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt". As the website wsws.org has pointed out, it's hard to think of a single investigative story - Watergate, the My Lai massacre, Britain's arms to Iraq scandal - which could have been proved at the time by journalists "beyond a reasonable doubt". But Turner did what was demanded of him, with the result that, in media fairyland, the atrocity is now deemed not to have happened.

The other squalid little story broke three days before the CBS people were sacked. A US newspaper discovered that Armstrong Williams, a television presenter who (among other jobs) had a weekly slot on a syndicated TV show called America's Black Forum, had secretly signed a $240,000 contract with the US Department of Education. The contract required him "to regularly comment" on George Bush's education bill "during the course of his broadcasts" and to ensure that "Secretary Paige [the education secretary] and other department officials shall have the option of appearing from time to time as studio guests".

It's hard to see why the administration bothered to pay him. Williams has described as his "mentors" Lee Atwater - the man who, under Reagan's presidency, brought a new viciousness to Republican campaigning - and the segregationist senator Strom Thurmond. His broadcasting career has been dedicated to promoting extreme Republican causes and attacking civil rights campaigns.

What makes this story interesting is that the show he worked on was founded, in 1977, by the radical black activists Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, to "allow black reporters to hold politicians and activists of all persuasions accountable to black people". They sold their shares in 1980, and the programme was later bought by the Uniworld Group. With Williams's help, the new owners have reversed its politics, and turned it into a recruitment vehicle for the Republican party. Williams appears to have been taking money for doing what he was doing anyway.

These stories, in other words, are illustrations of the ways in which the US media is disciplined by corporate America. In the first case the other corporate broadcasters joined forces to punish a dissenter in their ranks. In the second case a corporation captured what was once a dissenting programme and turned it into another means of engineering conformity.

The role of the media corporations in the US is similar to that of repressive state regimes elsewhere: they decide what the public will and won't be allowed to hear, and either punish or recruit the social deviants who insist on telling a different story. The journalists they employ do what almost all journalists working under repressive regimes do: they internalise the demands of the censor, and understand, before anyone has told them, what is permissible and what is not.

So, when they are faced with a choice between a fable which helps the Republicans, and a reality which hurts them, they choose the fable. As their fantasies accumulate, the story they tell about the world veers further and further from reality. Anyone who tries to bring the people back down to earth is denounced as a traitor and a fantasist. And anyone who seeks to become president must first learn to live in fairyland.


Krugman Calls Bush A… 

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Mr. Bush also systematically misrepresented how the war was going. Remember last September when Ayad Allawi came to Washington? Mr. Allawi, acting as a de facto member of the Bush campaign - a former official close to the campaign suggested phrases and helped him rehearse his speech to Congress - declared that 14 or 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces were "completely safe," and that the interim government had 100,000 trained troops. None of it was true.

Now that the election is over, we learn that the search for W.M.D. has been abandoned. Meanwhile, military officials have admitted that even as Mr. Bush kept asserting that we were making "good progress," the insurgency was growing in numbers and effectiveness, that the Army Reserve is "rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," and oh, by the way, we'll need to spend at least another $100 billion to pay for war expenses and replace damaged equipment. But the accountability moment, says Mr. Bush, is behind us.

Maybe we can't hold Mr. Bush directly to account for misleading the public about Iraq. But Mr. Bush still has a domestic agenda, for which the lessons of Iraq are totally relevant.

White House officials themselves concede - or maybe boast - that their plan to sell Social Security privatization is modeled on their selling of the Iraq war. In fact, the parallels are remarkably exact.

Everyone has noticed the use, once again, of crisis-mongering. Three years ago, the supposed threat from Saddam somehow became more important than catching the people who actually attacked America on 9/11. Today, the mild, possibly nonexistent long-run financial problems of Social Security have somehow become more important than dealing with the huge deficit we already have, which has nothing to do with Social Security.

But there's another parallel, which I haven't seen pointed out: the politicization of the agencies and the intimidation of the analysts. Bush loyalists begin frothing at the mouth when anyone points out that the White House pressured intelligence analysts to overstate the threat from Iraq, while neocons in the Pentagon pressured the military to understate the costs and risks of war. But that is what happened, and it's happening again.

Last week Andrew Biggs, the associate commissioner for retirement policy at the Social Security Administration, appeared with Mr. Bush at a campaign-style event to promote privatization. There was a time when it would have been considered inappropriate for a civil servant to play such a blatantly political role. But then there was a time when it would have been considered inappropriate to appoint a professional advocate like Mr. Biggs, the former assistant director of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Privatization, to such a position in the first place.


Well, you read.



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