Monday, May 31, 2004

GeeDubya playing with a gun. Can't see how that could go wrong. Say, haven't seen Laura lately

Gen. Mark Kimmitt, M.M., on the BBC saying that the people of Iraqi will forgive the US for torturing some of them at Abu Ghraib. His current estimate of bad apples = 20.

The June 30th fake-deadline for Iraq may be used domestically as a way to declare victory in order to safely fire some of the architects of that victory. In other words, DC rumor is that Secretary of Bad Apples Rummy Rumsfeld will be retiring shortly after that date.

News reports say that Bush has a toy, I mean souvenir: the gun Saddam had when he was captured. He likes to show it off to visitors. The Secret Service has to quietly dispose of the remains of some of these visitors, because, well, Bush with a gun. I mean all the work they had to go through to child-proof the electrical outlets so George wouldn’t hurt himself, and then someone just gives him a gun. He keeps it in the study off the Oval Office where Monica used to blow Bill.

This articlelists all the Bush campaign lies about Kerry’s records in one place. And they never stop when they’re disproved, either. It’s kind of awe-inspiring.

The bloggers have been commenting for days that the Bush campaign website has 4 pictures of Kerry on it, none of Bush. It’s true, and a little jarring (go look). There’s also a picture of Laura Bush and one of the secretary for veterans’ affairs, who this week said that soldiers fight better under a Republican president.

You know how Yowie Wowie Allawi is the guy who wants to bring Baathists back into office in Iraq? Well guess who Afghan Prez Karzai is negotiating with? Actually, everyone. He is in talks with former Taliban officials, including Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the former Taliban foreign minister, who was in the custody of Americans, who mysteriously released him. And a fundamentalist/warlord party whose leader is on the US Most Wanted list. There is now at least one minister the US previously tried to capture. Karzai, who plans to run for his office again, hasn’t bothered campaigning, or forming a political party, he’s just negotiating with every warlord and zealot in sight.

The Post says this war has surpassed the death toll (only Americans count, of course) of the Spanish-American War and is catching up with the War of 1812 and Mexican-American Wars (wounded is higher than for both those wars).

In Iraq, someone’s been handing out flyers saying that Sadr was killed by the Iraqi police while resisting arrest. It’s not true, evidently they prematurely released the flyers printed up for when Sadr is killed “resisting arrest.” Oops.

We still don’t know what happened with Brahimi and Allawi. I’m sticking with my theory: naked pictures, with a goat, two chickens, and a Jew. The NYT reporter with the unfortunate name thinks Bremer pressured the IGC which pressured Brahimi. Which doesn’t explain what’s happening now, when the Council is trying to pre-empt the choice of president. Although the role is supposed to be ceremonial, the Council and Bremer are fighting over it. Bremer told them not to hold a vote at all, they told him to fuck himself. Bremer wants an 81-year old who won’t make a fuss, the Council wants one of its own members, who’s already calling for the US to go away. The IGC is clearly trying to make the supposed transitional gov permanent. Since the transitional admin organizes the January elections, what happens in the next few days matters, like having your kid brother in place as governor of Florida when you’re running for president.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

An outrageous abuse of power

Bush, on his talk with the Danish prime minister: “I told the Prime Minister that our government and our coalition will transfer full sovereignty, complete and full sovereignty to an Iraqi government that will be picked by Mr. Brahimi of the United Nations. He said, do you mean full sovereignty? I said, I mean full sovereignty.”

Vaudeville without the laughs. Does anyone really believe the conversation took place in the Abbott & Costello way Bush describes it?

Bush prefaced this with his Mr. Rogers imitation: “It's always good to be with a friend. Friends are candid with each other, friends are open, and friends are constructive -- and that's the kind of conversation we've just and we'll continue to have.”

The NYT (but not the Post) had a story about Richard Perle, James Woolsey and others storming into Condi Rice’s office to demand that the CIA stop telling the truth about Chalabi. Richard Perle, Richard Fucking Perle mind you, called it “an outrageous abuse of power.” As opposed to invading a country in order to install Chalabi in power. God, wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on that wall.

I assume that means Perle et al will start leaking heavily against “Kapowie” Allawi.

So the military knew last November that most of the Abu Ghraib prisoners had done nothing wrong. The very next day, they got the Red Cross report about torture and sexual humiliation at Abu Ghraib.

I’m sorry, John Kerry started a...cookie company? Why didn’t I know this?

The BBC said it, the Indy says it: Wowie Kazowie Allawi has started to form his government. Again, wasn’t that supposed to be Lakhdar Brahimi’s job? I’m telling you, the CIA has naked pictures of him. In a three-way with a goat and a chicken.

No, honestly, I still can’t tell what happened. CIA coup? IGC coup? Allawi coup? Bremer coup? I just know that what was supposed to be the process has been short-circuited. And in more ways than one. It isn’t just that the UN (or its representative, the Algerian with the Italian name) got cut out of the process, but that although this is supposed to be an interim government only, Allawi is clearly going for the whole ball of wax.

I was right about Allawi spying on Iraqi students, according to The New Republic.

Israel is furious at the BBC for having successfully interviewed Mordechai Vanunu. Israel accused the BBC of using “tricks” to do the interview and then sneak the tapes out of the country one step ahead of Shin Bet. Would that be “tricks” like the ones your female whore/agent turned in the honey trap that lured Vanunu to where he could be kidnapped?

At the World War II memorial, Bush talked about how freedom had prevailed. The ceremonies had heavy security and SWAT teams prepared to blow away any terrorists.

WaPo: “SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Springfield will no longer offer health benefits to the unmarried domestic partners of city employees now that same-sex couples are legally allowed to marry in Massachusetts. Mayor Charles Ryan said couples have 90 days to marry and retain insurance coverage.” Shotgun gay marriages, just like the Christian Right always predicted!

A winged condom in flight

Fox drops its upcoming reality show SERIOUSLY DUDE, I'M GAY, in which straight contestants competed to convince their friends they were gay in order to win $50,000. Astonishingly, something too tasteless for Fox, a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Remember the Panchen Lama? Soon after he was declared at the age of 7, he was taken into custody by the Chinese government, and never seen again. Today the Chinese say the 2nd highest leader of Tibetan Buddhism, now 16, is actually not in prison at all, but free, somewhere, he just doesn’t wish to speak to anyone who is not a member of the Chinese government, so that his family, also seized, can live a normal life. So that’s okay, then.

Evidently Brahimi, who we were all told was going to name the members of the Iraqi transition government, was never going to do anything of the sort, if we’re to believe what we were told today. Which we aren’t. Clearly, some sort of coup just happened, and it will take a while to sort out who foisted Iyad “Owie” Allawi on an unsuspecting world. And who had the naked pictures of Brahimi, who certainly had not been planning to appoint a former exile, politician rather than technocrat type, associated with the discredited IGC. Iyad “Zowie” Allawi is a 30-year exile, a man with connections to the CIA and before that with MI6 (to whom he gave the famous claim that Iraq could launch WMDs within 45 minutes, and endorsed the Niger yellowcake forgery), and before that the Iraqi secret service, for whom he presumably spied on his fellow Iraqi students in London. “Howie” Allawi was involved in that coup attempt against Saddam that the CIA believes was snitched out to Saddam by Chalabi (who’s some sort of relative of “Maui” Allawi)(later: evidently he’s Chalabi’s nephew twice over, and is smack in the middle of the cousinate that is the IGC, being related to several of the appointed ministers). His Iraqi National Accord, like Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, would not have existed without money from Western intelligence services. After enormous confusion among the Bushies, Scott McClellan says that “Wowie” Allawi “appears to have broad support among the Iraqi people.” He didn’t explain how he’d know such a thing. Presumably he actually meant broad support among his relatives who were appointed by the US. Although “Yowie” Allawi is invariably described as a neurologist, I have yet to see a hint he ever practiced.

Prank call opportunity of the week: “The Swedish Organisation for Sex Education has rolled out a "condom ambulance" service. Callers who unexpectedly find themselves requiring protection can dial 696969 to summon a delivery from the van, which features the logo of a winged condom in flight. Reuters, Stockholm”

I suggested Ashcroft’s nebulous THEY’RE COMING TO GET YOU, RUN FOR THE HILLS message was purely political, and so it was. His claims about Al Qaida being 90% ready for the attack turn out actually to refer to another body, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which may not actually exist except as a website that takes responsibility for every terrorist attack anywhere, and some blackouts that had nothing to do with terrorist attacks. Chalabi offered better intel than Ashcroft. Good news: the FBI finally figured out how to use computers and get on the Web. Bad news: they believe everything they read there. And today, the FBI issued a warning to several cities of a terrorist attack within the next 24 hours...and then retracted it.

Arizona’s two-time prosecutor-of-the-year award winner is disbarred for eliciting perjury in a death penalty case. During his career, he prosecuted 250 felonies including 140 murders, of which 60 were capital. Can’t find out how many of those were executed. Or convicted, if it comes to that. The prosecutor is only being disbarred, not sent to prison forever.

Thanks to the Laci Peterson law which made the murder of a pregnant woman count as 2 crimes, a federal judge ruled that a pregnant illegal alien can’t be deported because her fetus is a citizen. Which should also mean pregnant women can’t be sent to jail unless there is a separate trial of the fetus, to say nothing of car poor lanes...

Friday, May 28, 2004

Come out with your hands up! Just kidding!

For the story of the arrest of cleric Abu Hamza, McNeil-Lehrer had a graphic with a picture of handcuffs. Hamza has no hands. Hamza was arrested by the British to be extradited to the US under new rules that allow fast-track extraditions without any of those pesky rights (or having to show that they have a case) slowing things down. John “Lost to a dead guy” Ashcroft, who is an idiot, did a lot of big talking about how Hamza could face the death penalty, without realizing that unless he guarantees that that not happen, there will be no extradition (or perhaps realizing, but not caring how much he insults the British as long as he gets a soundbite, and who’ll see a correction anyway). The British home secretary had to be trotted out today to explain that. Hamza basically helped out various terrorist types, helped set up training camps etc, so I suspect it’ll be darned hard to prove anything solid against him.

Gwyneth Paltrow will play Marlene Dietrich in a biopic. You have to be FUCKING kidding.

The US seems to be giving up in Iraq on the instalment plan. Today it agreed to pull out of Najaf, in exchange for neither of its objectives (which were the arrest of Sadr and the disbandment of his militia). You’ll remember this particular uprising, that we just surrendered to, was started when the US shut down a small newspaper.

Guardian piece points out that the Taguba report didn’t just talk about torture of prisoners, but about the sheer unadulterated incompetence at the top and middle of the military structure, and lack of any training at the bottom. Which comes down to using reservists, who cost 1/7 as much as professional soldiers.

The Post has a poll that says Americans don’t approve of torture, but approve of various torture techniques, as long as they aren’t called torture. They are, however, against applying electrodes to genitals and many of the techniques that have actually been used. Women, the poor and Democrats are less likely to approve of torture.

Governor Ahnuuld snuck an item into his proposed budget to seize 75% of all punitive damages awarded in civil suits. And would limit the awarding of punitive damages to one case, no matter how often the defendant did something horrible and lost in court.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Behind the clown nose

2 British MPs are planning to come over and help get Kerry elected. Alan Duncan and Simon Burns. Tories. One of them a gay Tory. Whatever.

It makes sense, given how firmly up Dubya’s butt Tony is, and how badly it works for him. (Later: better biological metaphor by Simon Jenkins in the London Times: “GEORGE BUSH has Tony Blair round his little finger. Indeed I wonder sometimes if Mr Blair is his little finger. When the hand waves the finger waves. When the hand bombs, the finger bombs. When the hand says come, it comes.”) (Jenkins also compares Blair’s plan to send 3,000 more troops, to the holy sites yet, with Churchill’s Dardanelles folly and Gladstone’s sending Gordon to Khartoum. You gotta be impressed. Americans’ ability to apply history to the understanding of foreign policy is confined to how much any given war is or is not like Vietnam and how much our enemy-of-the-day is or is not like Hitler.).

A few days ago Colin Powell said that of course coalition troops would leave if the Iraqi government asked them to. So Blair probably felt safe saying the same thing, evidently believing that Powell has something to do with American foreign policy, which makes him like the actress in the joke who’s so stupid she fucks the writer. Except on the same day, Powell said that US troops would actually do whatever they felt like doing, rather than deferring to any furriners. Blair’s people then had to explain that, evidently, what Blair had possibly meant to say was that if the Iraqi government asked the occupying forces to leave, the British would do so but the Americans would tell them to go fuck themselves.

The real question, which some shrew reporter actually asked, is less will troops leave, but what happens if the US decides to invade Fallujah, say. Can the Iraqis veto the operation? Can Iraqi generals refuse to let Iraqi troops participate? The answer is no and no. I think the Powell position is that we will leave if asked, but that if we stay, we’ll do whatever we damned well want. All or nothing.

Al Gore doesn’t like George Bush. Really. At length. Do you think Kerry will discover this level of passion and outrage 3½ years after he loses to Bush?

The Wall Street Journal has a piece on all that sovereignty we’re transferring. Bremer has been appointing “commissions” with 5-year terms to do the real work of government. The piece quotes the Iraqi in charge of the Ministry of Communications, to whom no one in the occupation government bothered, ahem, communicating, that they were transferring to one such commission all the powers he thought he had to license tv stations, newspapers, and regulate cellphone companies.

Bushism: “I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein.”

Or possibly by Jack Bauer.

Another meaningless vague warning about possible terrorism in the USA? Or are they really just trying to suggest that a vote for Kerry means the terrorists win? Ashcroft: “The Madrid railway bombings were perceived by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida to have advanced their cause. Al Qaida may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences.” (That quote came from Slate. I tried to get more context, but neither the Justice nor Heimat Security’s websites have anything on this oh-so-urgent warning, not having been updated for a few days.) I did find DOJ’s children’s homepage, with an especially slutty, half-naked representation of Justice.

LeftI points out that the prospective UN resolution on Iraq would let the US keep troops there forever, unless rescinded by a UN resolution, which the US could veto.

Oo-kay:
http://www.bushislord.com/

Speaking of clowns, one of Barnum & Bailey’s was just arrested for child porn. Spanky the clown. Customs Agent Albert Fitchett: “But behind the clown nose this man appears to have been supporting an industry that trades in the exploitation of children.”

A 3-point exit strategy that’s better than Bush’s 5-point one, not least because of the two fewer points:

1) Kill all the ones who are trying to kill us, in such a way that none of those who presently do not want to kill us suddenly start wanting to kill us.

2) At the moment of the death of the last person who wanted to kill us, race quickly out of the country before some additional person suddenly decides he/she wants to kill us, thus necessitating our continued presence in Iraq, in order to kill him/her.

3) Having left Iraq quickly, do not look back, so as not to witness individuals claiming they would have liked to kill us, which would then necessitate a return to Iraq, in order to etc., etc.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Bad building. Bad!

Glad I’m not the only one to notice: Salon asks “Is Bush the only American who hasn't discussed the torture scandal enough in the last month to have decided already how to pronounce the prison's name?” Of course he did promise to tear it down, possibly part of a new Bush Doctrine: tear down everything in the world that George W. Bush can’t pronounce. It would take a while, of course, because we couldn’t use the shortcut of nukyular weapons.

Actually, tearing down Abu Ghraib is a rather odd solution, given that I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the actual building that was the problem. I don’t think it’s the haunted hotel in The Shining (which for some reason is my second Shining reference this month). To paraphrase the NRA, prisons don’t force people into naked human pyramids, people force people into naked human pyramids. Although in the period since whenever Bush last spoke about the prison scandal there’ve been another million revelations, this was his only response: punish the building. Bad building, bad! A UN guy commentating in the Guardian notes that the speech “was, of course, laced with repeated denunciations of the inhumanity of Iraqis fighting the occupation. They are "brutal", they show "contempt for all the rules of warfare and the bounds of civilised behaviour". But clearly the period of US penitence over the abuse is now well past; it is once again only the "enemy" who is brutal.”

Saletan at Slate is excellent on the speech.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (in Britain, as you may have guessed) is calling on members of the public to help it prove that the number of insects is declining, by counting the number of dead bugs on their car windshields.

For 6 months, 11 students of high school age beat, humiliated (including the ever-popular making him masturbate in front of them), etc another student, filmed it all and put it on the internet (actually, while 2 newspapers say that, it sounds like they just emailed photos to each other). The students are Germans, and we’ll all just keep our snide comments to ourselves just this once, shall we?

A little more on Nick Berg conspiracy theories. The biggest problem people have with the video (which I still refuse to watch) is that when his head is cut off, there is no blood. Impossible. Unless he was already quite dead. The previous footage of Berg alive, speaking rather more calmly than your average kidnappee, in an orange jumpsuit, was his interrogation by the CIA. His death was either during interrogation, deliberate as a distraction from Abu Ghraib, or he was killed on the street by one of the Iraqis who dislikes Americans (25 million and counting), and his body used for propaganda purposes.

A longish Andrew Cockburn piece on Chalabi’s Iranian connections.

What do lesbians do on a second date?

Kevin and I were discussing how long it would take for Abu Ghraib to become the basis for a reality tv show. ‘Cause you know there was a Fox executive looking at the tv thinking “Naked human pyramid, say....” And the lovely Corp. Graner has thoughtfully provided the show’s title: “I Love to Make a Grown Man Piss Himself.”

What a great time for the US and UK to be trying to get the UN to give their troops immunity for war crimes or whatever after the so-called handover. The draft resolution also allows the military to do whatever is necessary to restore order, and has no expiration date. I wonder how this wording compares to the UN resolution sending troops into Korea in 1950, if that one was quite so Gulf-of-Tonkin-Resolutionesque.

Last Friday I asked, “What is it with the military and thumbs up?” I thought that was rhetorical, but in fact in that list of cultural do’s and don’t’s they all get--always accept a cup of tea when offered by an Arab, don’t point the soles of your feet at them, nudity really humiliates them, etc--is the fact that in the Arab culture, the thumbs-up is very very obscene.

Saw some of Shrub’s speech. First, in case you’re looking for symbolism, he was wearing heavy makeup to cover his scrapes. He said very little (and he will say it 4 more times), and certainly nothing new except that we’ll build the Iraqis a brand spanking new dungeon and tear down Abu Ghraib (with the Iraqis’ permission, he muttered under his breath). The problem, and the reason he would need permission, is timing; obviously it can’t be built by June 30, and so Abu Ghraib poses a problem: handing over the keys to Iraqis on June 30 is bad symbolism, keeping control over is bad symbolism. If it’s going to be destroyed, that would be the day to do it.

In the space of 3 sentences he pronounced Abu Ghraib 3 different ways.

It just struck me... Another quote: “Under Saddam Hussein, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonoured our country and disregarded our values.” It struck me that no one ever says that the prison’s prior history of death and torture disregarded Iraqi values.

Brahimi will wonder about the precise nature of Bush’s claim that he “fully” supports his work, coming as it did immediately after a sentence referring to the “full” sovereignty Iraq will be getting on June 30th.

He wants credit for his great restraint in Fallujah.

Bush says “Iraqis can be certain a free Iraq will always have a friend in the United States of America,” but doesn’t say who that friend will be. Whoever draws the short straw, I suppose.

A Guardian columnist notes that under international law, “sovereignty” is not George Bush’s to transfer, but always inhered in the Iraqi people. Said so in the UN declarations, too.

Actually, reading over the text of Bush’s speech, you see a lot of things like that, where he suggests that the nature of his authority in Iraq is exactly the same as it is in the US (where it also illegitimate, of course, but for entirely different reasons). “We want Iraqi forces to gain experience and confidence in dealing with their country's enemies.” Those people are Iraqis. George Bush doesn’t get to decide which Iraqis are their country’s enemies. Sadr commands “an illegal militia”. Illegal under whose laws? The US is an occupying power; its authority derives from force, not law.

John Kerry responds with the strength and vision we’ve come to expect from this big loser: “What's most important now is to turn these words into action by offering presidential leadership to the nation and to the world.”

I have a suggestion for Brahimi: since his list of the caretaker Iraqi government (puppet-lite, I will be calling it) will also serve as a hit-list for, well, pretty much everybody not in the caretaker Iraqi government, why not combine the administrative chart with the beloved deck-of-cards symbolism. In fact, instead of using the titles president, prime minister, etc, let’s call them King of Hearts, Jack of Spades, etc.

In the NYT Monday, Elisabeth Bumiller has a piece referring to those times when Bush talks at Republicans for 35 minutes, takes no questions and leaves, meets foreign ministers of the G-8, speaks at them for 8 minutes, takes no questions and leaves, and notes that Bush’s 5 Iraq speeches follow in this mould of one-way communication. The article is titled “The Other Long Occupation: Bush in a Bubble.”

In Britain, a baby was born (2 years ago; we’re just hearing this now) from an embryo created with sperm frozen 21 years before. Which means he or she was born with the right to vote and drink, I’m guessing. And the guy’s wife was 9 when he banked his sperm, which is also kinda creepy.

Israel admits that the protesters it killed were innocent, and not armed.

The Post notes, not surprisingly, that the vast majority of same-sex couples getting marriage licenses in SF, Portland and Mass. have been women.

Stormed a mosque

The inevitable Susan Sontag piece on the Abu Ghraib photos. 'Cuz, like Chance the Gardener, she likes to watch.

From the Daily Telegraph: “A group of hunting enthusiasts is setting up its own "church" in an attempt to stop the Government from banning their favourite field sport. The founders of the Free Church of Country Sports, whose supporters include a barrister, a publisher and several businessmen, claim that fox hunting is part of their religion and that legislation to ban it would be an infringement of their rights as a religious minority. ... "We baptise our children by blooding them with the blood of that which we kill. Is this any more strange than dressing them in white and totally submerging them in water?" ... "If you look at it from a Race Relations Act point of view we are ethnically and culturally different. We feel that there is a considerable element of discrimination against us.’”

“Inbred” is not an ethnic group.

They blamed Bush’s little mountain bike accident on the recent rain in Crawford. There has been no recent rain in Crawford. Do they have to lie about absolutely everything?

That was a rhetorical question.

American troops stormed a mosque today. That sort of thing always goes down well, doesn’t it? So many eras of peace, stability and democracy have begun with the phrase “stormed a mosque.”

Spike Milligan’s headstone is finally put up. “I told you I was ill.”

From the Guardian: “The original US autopsy said [Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush] had died of a heart attack. It now appears he was suffocated during interrogation when a CIA officer put him in a sleeping bag and sat on him.”

The Bush daughters have graduated, Jenna with a degree in English, Barbara with one in humanities. Their father, of course, lacks both.

The Sunday Times (London) says that the Israeli army has a hit list of 1,000 Palestinians to be assassinated in Gaza before the withdrawal.

The Sunday Times also has an article about Nick Berg’s death and the conspiracy theories around it. Given British libel laws, you have to know how to read between the lines of such stories; it seems to me they’re strongly suggesting that the tape was in part faked, made in Abu Ghraib or someplace like it, that he was in fact executed by Americans. It actually makes a sick kind of sense. The timing was good (i.e., distracting) for the Bushies. Details for the conspiracy minded: the orange jumpsuit, one of the killers has an American cap and, evidently in frame 9,306, a rather pale ear, the can’t-be-a-coincidence connection between Berg and Zacarias Moussaoui (who used Berg’s email password), his father appearing on a right-wing site March 7 on a list of enemies of the country but listing the son’s company, that the US still isn’t admitting that they were the ones holding him, although he was released one day after his parents filed a writ, that the sound on the tape may be dubbed and the accent is wrong.

AP has a video of the wedding the US bombed. The US is still denying that it bombed a wedding.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

I love to make a grown man piss himself

From the WaPo: “He said that he asked Graner, a Pennsylvania prison guard in civilian life, about the photographs. Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.'"

Who doesn’t?

The NYT bleeped out the second sentence in that quote.

That’s from an article which says it wasn’t softening up, it was just for fun.

It’s Newsday, which makes it dubious. But interesting, and plausible. It’s suggested that Chalabi has for years been the agent through which Iranian intelligence manipulated the United States, ultimately manipulating it into taking out Iran’s old enemy Saddam. The question is, who would leak this? This makes everyone involved look bad. Still, if you could come close to proving that Bush was conned by Iran, and paid for the privilege, he can start packing his bags now.

Chalabi tells Al Arabiya that the raid “showed that I was with the Iraqi people all along.” Even Chalabi is now defining Americans and Iraqis as being on opposite sides.

The Post says that the Kurds are threatening not to join any government in which they don’t have one of the top 2 positions. When you do everything at the last minute with an iron-clad deadline like Bush is insisting on, this does give any one of the parties a great deal of leverage. Another sign that Bush doesn’t know how to negotiate.

Or hold a conversation. It was a little story, but Thursday Bush held a closed-door briefing with Congressional R’s, to reassure them about things before the American elections. They were surprised that he took no questions. He’s unable to deal on an unscripted basis even with his own followers, who were supposed to be reassured simply on Bush’s say-so. Bush genuinely doesn’t understand that his word isn’t good enough. He doesn’t know how to create an argument--indeed, he doesn’t himself make decisions based on arguments. In fact, he doesn’t really know what an argument is, mistaking it for accepting at face value the assertions of one of the good guys (or Fox News). It’s not just that he gets the news from Condi or Rove rather than the newspapers because he’s lazy and doesn’t want his beliefs contradicted by inconvenient facts, he thinks it would be discourteous to the people he trusts to listen to any contradictory views, just as he thinks it’s lese-majesty for anyone to do other than believe everything he tells them.

Atrios (and every other blogger and now me) points out that Thursday Bush condescendingly said that Iraqis are ready to “take the training wheels off” and run their own country. Today, Bush fell off a mountain bike.

Friday, May 21, 2004

An active kind of death zone

The government’s attempt to prosecute Greenpeace using an 1872 law aimed at keeping brothel-keepers off ships was laughed out of court.

Dennis Hastert lectured John McCain about sacrifices in wartime. Really.

And no, Hastert slimed his way out of Vietnam.

Hastert also mocked McCain’s credentials as a Republican. Honestly, can we have an exchange of prisoners, on a bridge in Berlin on a foggy night, where McCain joins the D’s (admittedly, on its right wing), and the R’s have to take Zel Miller?

I find that through an oversight I’ve failed to mention William “My God Can Beat Up Your God” Boykin’s role in getting the Abu Ghraib torture-and-comic-photo center up and running. In fact, that’s why he couldn’t be fired last fall, despite being the poster boy for the invasion of Iraq as holy crusade (Americans may have forgotten about Boykin quickly, but I had a new alert set up at news.google, and believe me the Arabic media figured out a way to insert him into every story for months).

Kerry has promised that if he’s elected, virtually all US troops will be out of Iraq by the end of his first term. Um, that’s 2009. The AP notes that he’s using the same peace-with-honor language as Nixon in 1968. In an interview with AP, he used the sort of language that will make him the 2nd D prez candidate to be soundly trounced by Dubya in debates: “Look, you may have some deployments of people for a long period of time in the Middle East depending on what the overall approach to the Middle East is. I'm not going to tell you we won't shift deployments from one place to another, but we're not going to be engaged in an active kind of death zone the way we are today.” Also, he has to stop saying that he’s going to get other countries to send troops. That will not happen, and no one believes it will, including Kerry.

By the way, have you been reading the “Kerryisms” on Slate?

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=2027&e=5&u=/chitribts/giboymistreatedtogetdadtotalk
(I like a URL that tells you what it is)
This story is no surprise to the few of us who haven’t forgotten that the US military arrested the wives and mothers of generals and other Iraqis they wanted to surrender themselves. Another fine old Iraqi custom, like torture and rape, to which American occupiers adopted like a duck to water.

Jon Stewart’s commencement address at William & Mary:
Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I…I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it. ...

But here’s the good news. You fix this thing, you’re the next greatest generation, people. You do this—and I believe you can—you win this war on terror, and Tom Brokaw’s kissing your ass from here to Tikrit, let me tell ya. And even if you don’t, you’re not gonna have much trouble surpassing my generation. If you end up getting your picture taken next to a naked guy pile of enemy prisoners and don’t give the thumbs up you’ve outdid us.

The whole thing here.

Gay Republicans in North Carolina are shocked to discover that non-gay Republicans in North Carolina don’t like gay Republicans.

What is it with the military and thumbs up?

Another Write your own Tom Friedman column, totally different from the last one I sent. And funnier.

Yesterday, the US couldn’t keep its story straight over whether it bombed a house or a wedding party, whether they did it with planes or helicopters. It’s still not clear today, with footage of the mass burials going all over the Arab world. The US’s response: to demand the name of the cameraman from Al Arabiya. The Marine general in charge claims not to understand how all those women and children got dead, although “bad things happen in wars,” but says “These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive.” There should be another, what, eight million military-age males, so let’s get cracking! The Indy comprehensively demolishes the US case. Mark Kimmitt, M.M., defends the massacre by darkly observing that guns, Syrian passports and a satellite phone were found. Wedding gifts? Seriously, guns in Iraq not a big surprise, Syrian passports 10 miles from the Syrian border--what are the odds? a satellite phone in an area with no other phone service... The general poo-poos that there would be a wedding in “the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border... 80 miles from the nearest civilisation”. The survivors respond: that’s where we live, you moron! They also say they did not fire guns off (and certainly not at 2 in the morning, when the attack occurred). This is the first report that answers the obvious question: the bride and groom did both survive. The musicians did not.

Guardian editorial, “Lies about Crimes.”

The FDA bans gay men donating sperm anonymously. Is sperm a food or a drug?

So what to make of the raid on Chalabi’s home? So many reasons have been given for it--thefts of Iraqi government property, currency fraud, his militia is extorting people, giving intelligence to Iran, to make him look good to the Iraqis, he was plotting a coup, and half a dozen I can’t think of at the moment--and most of them good, unlike the reasons for the invasion of Iraq, so many of them false and so many provided by Chalabi. Poetic justice, or something. American policy in Iraq right now is so disjointed and incoherent that I can’t even guess how this fits in. Heard Rumsfeld actually insist that the US had nothing to do with this (a lie), knew nothing about it (a lie no sane person would believe), you should really ask the Iraqis.

Fur-lined toilet seats are a luxury. Dangerous rhetoric is a necessity

Nancy Pelosi says that the Boy-Emperor has no clothes, and Tom DeLay practically calls her a communist in response, saying that “if the Democrats truly want to be considered for national leadership again”, they need never to say anything bad about Bush ever again, which is an interesting definition of leadership. “She should apologize to the president and to the troops because this nation cannot afford the luxury of her dangerous rhetoric.” Luxury.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Michael Howard has decided that it’s ok to criticize Blair’s war policy as incompetent, and Labour is responding just like DeLay--irresponsible, threatening the morale of troops, etc.

And Bush will take out ads accusing Kerry of “playing politics with national security”. Did I mention those accusations of playing politics will be made in advertisements directed at the person running against Bush?

I can no longer keep up with torture allegations. They just pile up on top of each others like a pyramid of hooded naked Iraqi prisoners, if I may wax metaphoric. We’ve got Delta Force’s “battlefield interrogation facility” (does every single unit get its own dungeon?) , we’ve got Afghanistan. We’ve got Reuters employees tortured, NBC or is it CBS. We’ve got new pictures every day, and new details: maxi-pads, crawling over glass, food in the toilet, yet more deaths in custody, more prisoners raped, smeared with shit, ridden like animals, force-fed pork and made to curse Islam and thank Jesus (Ann Coulter would be proud).

A story in the NYT today notes that the Pentagon’s list of approved interrogation techniques is classified. Why? The prisoners know what’s being done to them, so the only reason is public relations, which is not only not a legitimate reason to classify something, it’s against stated policy, as set forth by Bush in Executive Order (you could look up the number yourself).

Kerry campaign slogan: “Let America be America Again.” That’ll stop people saying he wants to make America be like France. Wonkette notes it captures the essence of Kerry, stilted yet empty. (Wonkette makes the same obvious France joke I did, but I came up with mine independently; not a good sign for that slogan). Still, the similarity to “let Reagan be Reagan” makes me think he wants America to be a drooling, imbecilic, incontinent has-been, in which case we might as well vote for Bush.

Iraqi universities are complaining that the US has done nothing to rebuild them after the post-invasion looting. The same AP article says that in vocational schools, pupils are taught “theoretical carpentry” because of lack of tools. Some problems contain their own solutions.

The US is still denying having bombed a wedding party.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Iraq is proving uncooperative

Son of a bitch C-SPAN. The week they decide not to carry Prime Minister’s Questions live is the week someone throws purple-powder-filled condoms at Tony Blair. And hits him! The not-quite-terrorist group turns out to be Fathers-4-Justice (boys will be boys), who want equal access to their children.

Remember yesterday how the US occupiers didn’t even know how toilets work in Iraq? Well, today a helicopter opened fire at a wedding, YET AGAIN!, presumably after they fired into the air in celebration. Supposedly 40+ dead.

Quote of the Day, from unnamed US official in WaPo: “There's overwhelming pressure with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the White House to deliver a successful Iraq transition, and Iraq is proving uncooperative.”

From the British government: “An exciting new arts project was announced today by Arts Minister Estelle Morris. It will give people with mental health issues a chance to express their responses to the Arts and give an insight to all of us about a variety of mental states. The Minister was announcing the latest Culture Online project, MadforArts, which will provide a forum for thousands of people with experience of mental health issues to give their views on a piece of art, architecture or music.” MadforArts? Mad, mad I tell you!! What I like is the contrast between the totally PC “experience of mental health issues” and “mad.”

We now know that the Red Cross reported on conditions in Abu Ghraib & elsewhere months before Rumsfeld testified, under oath, that he first learned of it. Now can we fire his ass?

Israel fired a missile, 4 tank shells, and machine guns at unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Evidently the crowd didn’t respond to a...wait for it...“warning missile.” Bush says he will withhold judgment until Israel tells him that they needed to do it. “I'll continue to speak out about the need for all parties to respect innocent life in the Middle East.” Yeah, but will you speak for it or against it? More on Bush’s faith-based Middle East policy.

NYT on Bush taking credit for programs after trying to get them cut or eliminated. Molly Ivins will tell you he did the same in Texas.

The Security Council condemned the massacre of civilians in Rafah refugee camp by Israel. I suppose it’s a step forward that the US didn’t veto it, but abstaining is still pretty wimpy.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

When American toilet paper meets Iraqi plumbing

The US Army wants to increase its bullet purchases, ‘cuz it’s running out. It wants 2 billion a year. And that’s just one branch. Either they’re planning to kill an awful lot of people, or they can’t aim.

Molly Ivins: “It's quite difficult to convince people you are killing them for their own good. That's our basic problem in Iraq.”

The Pentagon has decided not to pay Halliburton for meals that were never served. Halliburton is increasingly embarrassing, so the Bushies have decided to funnel money to it out of Iraq’s oil revenues. Same looting, less visibility (so you might take with a grain of salt any suggestion that Chalabi is really having his funding cut off). Bremer has refused to account in any real way for how that money is spent, and no one can make him, since the R’s passed legislation exempting the CPA from investigation by the GAO.

AP says that fewer than 25,000 actual Iraqis are employed in reconstruction projects.

According to The Hill, the R’s decided to make Kerry look responsible for unemployment benefits not being extended. It needed 60 votes and lost 59-40, Kerry being out campaigning. Except it was a set-up: Elizabeth Dole voted yes to make it a 1-vote loss. Had Kerry been there, she’d have voted no. She didn’t want to help the unemployed (she is an R, after all), just to make Kerry look bad. Like he needs any help.

You probably know that Switzerland in the 1930s started labeling Jews as such on Swiss passports, giving in to German pressure. Israel today will allow people to label themselves as Jew or Arab on their id’s, or indeed as Assyrian, Samaritan, etc, but not as Israeli.

Condi Rice says of Israeli plans for mass demolition of homes, “some of their actions don’t create the best atmosphere.” Arabs will remember that devastating put-down the next time they are called upon to condemn the execution of Nick Berg.

The provincial assembly of West Sumatra, Indonesia, has just seen 43 of its 55 members convicted of corruption.

Texas executed the insane guy.

I don’t remember what they said at the time, but in October 2002, Gen. Rick Baccus was removed as commandant of Guantanamo, for being too “soft” on the inmates. When he was left (he’s still waiting for a new job), authority was turned over to military intelligence, and the rest is blood-spattered history.


The Independent
May 19, 2004
THIS HANDOVER IN IRAQ IS NOT A POLICY - IT IS A CYNICAL PUBLIC RELATIONS GIMMICK
PATRICK COCKBURN
Soon after United States occupation officials took over Saddam Hussein's palace complex in central Baghdad as their headquarters last year there was an alarming development. The lavatories in the palaces all became blocked and began to overflow. Mobile toilets were rapidly shipped into the country and installed in the palace gardens.

It turned out that American officials, often bright young things with good connections with the Bush administration in Washington, did not know that lavatories are used in a slightly different way in the Middle East compared to back home. In particular water fulfills the function largely performed by paper in the West. The water pipes in Saddam's palaces were not designed to deal with big quantities of paper and became clogged, with spectacularly unsavoury results.

It was the first of many mistakes made by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which has now ruled Iraq for a year-based on inadequate local knowledge. It has been one of the most spectacularly incompetent regimes in history. If Paul Bremer, the US viceroy in Iraq, decided important issues by flipping a coin he would surely have had better results.

At moments Mr Bremer has the manic activity and self-confidence of Inspector Clouseau as he bounces from crisis to crisis, many of his troubles of his own creation. In April he managed to turn the insurgents in Fallujah, previously regarded by most Iraqis as dangerous hillbillies, into nationalist heroes. At the same time he went after Muqtada Sadr, the Shia cleric, whose popular base was always small, and allowed him to pose as a martyr. The main feature of American policy-making in Iraq is division. Nowhere in the world is it more necessary for military and political strategy to be united than Iraq. But Mr Bremer and the uniformed army hardly seem to communicate. The civilians in the Pentagon and the Neo-Cons have their own policy as do the State Department and the CIA. The White House is mainly concerned that, whatever is really happening on the ground in Iraq, it can be presented in a way which will not lose Mr Bush the presidential election in November.

Out of this melange of rivalries it would be surprising if any sensible policy emerged and there is, indeed, no sign of one doing so. Downing Street and the White House are now both talking up the handover of sovereignty to Iraqis on 30 June and the creation of new Iraqi security forces to, in time, replace the 135,000 US and 7,500 British soldiers.

This is less a policy than a cynical public relations gimmick. The allies have been trying to build up the Iraqi security forces for over a year. But when the uprisings began last month, 40 per cent of the US-trained forces promptly deserted while 10 per cent mutinied and changed sides, according to the US army. The reality, as Dr Mahmoud Othman an independent member of the Iraqi Governing Council says, is that Iraqis will not fight other Iraqis on behalf of a foreign power.

Of course the purpose of the exaggerated significance now being given to the handover of sovereignty to an interim government in six weeks' time is to pretend that now there will be a legitimate authority in Iraq. Over the past year, the CPA has repeatedly said it will delegate power to Iraqis. It has never happened and is unlikely to happen now. The US- appointed Iraqi Governing Council found that it was expected to give an Iraqi flavour to decisions taken by Americans. They were told they would be consulted on important security decisions only to wake up one morning to find US marines besieging Fallujah. They were seen by more and more Iraqis as collaborators with an increasingly detested occupation.

The council is now to be replaced by a government of technocrats supposedly more acceptable to Iraqis than their predecessors. It will be chosen in part by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy, and is to pave the way for elections in Iraq next January.

Again the most striking aspect of this plan is gimmickry. There was a moment straight after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein when the UN might have played a role in Iraq. But at that point, as one Iraqi leader put it, the US was drunk with victory and determined to keep the UN out. Since then the UN headquarters in Baghdad has been reduced to heap of ruins and many of its staff killed.

It is unlikely that many countries belonging to the UN would at this stage want to risk any of its officials or soldiers in Iraq. Mr Brahimi, supposedly a key player in creating a new Iraqi administration, hardly dared set foot outside the heavily defended green zone, where the Coalition has its headquarters, during his recent visit. The UN also has a shrewd suspicion that all it is being asked to do is to take a share in responsibility for a crisis over which it will have no influence.

After 30 June the US army will retain control over the Iraqi security forces in Iraq. It is unclear if Iraq will even be able to spend its own oil revenues. Nobody knows who will be in the new government. It does not even have a building from which it will function because the Coalition shows no sign of leaving Saddam's palaces. The degree to which important decisions about the handover of sovereignty have been left to the last minute underlines that, at the end of next month, real power will not change hands.

British officials who admit this say that the really important date will come in seven months' time when there is an election in Iraq. Here they are on slightly firmer ground. The occupiers should have organised an election as soon as possible after the invasion. They would then have been able to deal with elected Iraqi leaders with some claim to legitimacy.

But there were no elections before because the Americans feared Shia parties beyond American control would win. So US officials cancelled local elections. Mr Bremer certainly did not want the elections over the summer because he feared they would be won by Islamic parties, even though British and American military commanders confirmed privately that a poll could be organised.

In Najaf, the Shia shrine city, the occupying forces even managed to appoint a Sunni governor, which was a bit like giving Rev Ian Paisley a position of responsibility overseeing the Vatican. Fortunately the governor did not last long in that role. He was arrested for kidnapping and is now in jail.

The important point about the Iraqi elections is the timing. They will not take place before the US presidential elections in November. This allows Mr Bush to say that Iraq is on track towards democracy.

There will be a price to pay for allowing Iraq policy to be determined by Mr Bush's electoral needs. It is a price which will be paid in blood. I have met no Iraqis who think anything is going to change at the end of next month. More and more they believe that the only way to end the occupation is by armed resistance. If the British Government believes that 3,000 extra soldiers will really do anything to restore order then they have once again underestimated the gravity of the crisis.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture

Mark Kimmitt, M.M., uses the U-word, describing what the Shiites are doing as a “minor uprising.” I think this is a first. A search for “uprising” at the defenselink.mil site, my usual one-stop shopping center for the collective horseshittery of Messrs. Rumsfeld, Myers, Kimmitt, Wolfowitz, etc., brings up a lot of denials that certain things going on constitiute uprisings--by Shiites, in Fallujah, in Iraq generally. They admit to the U-word in Iraq as readily as they admit to the T-word (torture). See for yourself.

It’s been 8 days since the Sunday Times of London reported that one of the intended 9/11 hijackers had spilled the beans to the FBI. Nothing anywhere else (well, The Sun, the Press Trust of India, a Taiwanese site, Bloomberg), no follow-up, even in the Sunday Times today. I don’t get it.

But Holy Joe Lieberman, on CNN today, evidently endorsed torture, using as an example if one of the 9/11 hijackers had been captured before the attack. No word about what you do with one of them if they turn themselves in after losing all their Al Qaida mad money at craps (score one for the Great Satan, by the way!).

Speaking of torture, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales wrote Bush a memo some time after 9/11: “As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions”. Quaint. QUAINT.

Early this month, the House voted 376-3 to authorize war with Iran over its nuclear program. Although this may not be the month for this country to accuse any other of “continuing deceptions and falsehoods,” the resolution did just that, and said the US or other countries should “use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Almost the exact words that permitted Bush to invade Iraq. Kucinich, one of the three (Libertarian loon Ron Paul and John Conyers were the others; 14 D’s voted wimp, I mean “present”), notes that the resolution endorses Bush’s doctrine of preventive wars. You’d think the Congress would have learned better of giving Bush blank checks. (Note: this happened 12 days ago. Did you notice it? I didn’t)

Powell calls, I guess, for a coup against Arafat, telling Palestinians to “wrest control of the security forces from Chairman Arafat”. I think that’s in the same interview where his press aide grabbed the camera and moved it off Powell when Tim Russert, back in Washington, started to ask about his lies to the UN about Iraqi WMDs.

Powell also hectored the Arabs for not having expressed more insincere outrage over the Nick Berg murder. In fact, he has a mathematical formula: “When you are outraged at what happened at the prison, you should be equally, doubly outraged at what happened to Mr. Berg.” Well, which is it, equally or doubly? His own reaction to Israel’s plan to destroy hundreds of Palestinian homes in Gaza, and displace up to 40,000 residents of the Rafah refugee camp, was to call it “unhelpful,” which I believe is represented numerically as a milli-outrage.

Kuwait may let women vote. Don’t hold your breath though.

The WaPo on the response to Seymour Hersh’s latest article: “In a statement released yesterday, Pentagon officials harshly criticized the report, calling it 'outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture.' The Pentagon would not, however, say flatly whether or not the program exists.”
Billmon.org takes the non-denial denial apart line by line.

A recent Kurt Vonnegut piece, not his best but he is 81, as he repeatedly tells us. Quote: “There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.” Another quote: “Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power.”

Oh just cut and run already

Gay marriage began today, officially, in Mass., so I’m not sure why I’m even writing this, because the world must surely have come to an end. I’m assuming the only reason I seem to be alive still has something to do with the time difference. Either that or I am dead, and in Suburbs Hell, which is probably better than Fire Hell or Upside Down Hell.

Abdel-Zahraa Othman Mohammed, we hardly knew ye.

Really, who the hell were you? Actually, according to the Guardian obit, he was part of an Iran-backed Islamic group. Which in Iraqi terms makes him a moderate, evidently.

Sarin AND the assassination of the nominal head of the puppet government, oh yeah this is going so well (assuming the sarin thing isn’t yet another false alarm, of course). Blair says there will be “no cutting and running” three times in the same speech. Do you think he knows the provenance of that term? The assassination was a triple fuck you, in that not only did they kill him, but they did it at coalition hq just to show they could, and they killed a member of a body that won’t even exist in 7 weeks.

Slate on the obnoxiousness of a favorite Bush phrase.

I know you all want to see what John Kerry’s daughter’s breasts look like (her face is startlingly like her father’s), so thank god for the British tabs.

You never hear the name Fallujah anymore, and why is that? Does the phrase “cut and run” mean anything to you?

Berlusconi wants to build a bridge between Sicily and the mainland. Actually, Berlusconi already provides in his own person a bridge between the Mafia and government. Key sentence, several years from now: “Nice bridge you got here. Hate for anything to happen to it....”

YOU HAVE TO BREAK A FEW...OH FORGET IT: Le Parker Meridien hotel in New York, evidently even more pretentious than the “Le” implies, now offers a $1,000 omelette, with lobster (a whole lobster) and caviar. No one’s ordered it yet.

As they release some of the Ab Ghraib prisoners, US soldiers hand them some cash and a note that says “You have not been mistreated.”

Zell Miller agrees, saying “No one ever died from humiliation” and comparing it to the first time he had to take a shower in gym class, and everybody laughed at his tiny, tiny penis. (I’m inferring the last part, but feel free to pass it along to everyone you know).

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Extreme

“Camp Redemption”? You have to be fucking kidding me.

Latest congressmorons to defend torture: Zell Miller (natch) and Steve King (R-IA).

And Bush uses the Berg beheading (to the question, what the hell was Berg doing in an orange jumpsuit, I have to add this one: when they found his body, where was the head?) to retroactively justify the war, “proving” the Iraq-Al Qaida connection: “The person responsible for the Berg death, Zarqawi, was in and out of Baghdad prior to our arrival, for example.” You claimed that before. You also said he had one leg amputated in Iraq. Evidently it’s grown back.

And Bush on Iraqis: “They're glad to be rid of Saddam. And they obviously want to run their own country. If I were them I'd want to run my own country, too.” He makes it sound like a model train set. Which to him, it probably is.

Reuters headline: “Bush Vows No More Iraq Abuses, Hits Low in Poll.” One can only hope that’s not cause and effect.

Wondering about the conflicting reports over whether Saddam will be handed over to an Iraqi “government”? It’s a ploy to soften Saddam up, according to the Telegraph. Good cop, puppet bad cop. And after the last two weeks of revelations, you’ll be surprised to hear that we’re the good cop.

Why actors should never be allowed to breed: Gwyneth Paltrow’s new daughter...Apple.

Speaking of badly named, the punishment/torture group at Guantanamo is called the Extreme Reaction Force. Isn’t “extreme” like so two years ago? About the time they opened Extreme Pizza in downtown Berkeley (never eaten there, never will). Anyway, the ERF filmed everything they did....

And see the latest Sy Hersh piece, which makes clearer than ever Rumsfeld’s responsibility for little torture centers being franchised all over the world like Taco Bells.

Israel has bulldozed over 100 homes in Gaza, 1) just because they can, 2) because they are looking for the remains of 5 dead Israeli soldiers. Israel gets very strange about the bits of dead soldiers.

The pundits keep saying that this year’s election will be decided in Ohio. I don’t think I want this country’s future decided by people who didn’t know enough to leave Ohio.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Commoners

Corp. Charles Graner, an MP at Abu Ghraib, will be charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty for woefully failing to protect detainees from abuse, maltreatment of detainees, assaulting detainees, committing indecent acts, adultery and obstruction of justice. Adultery. Trust the military to put things in their proper perspective.

Bush supports edukashion: “See, if you can't read, these jobs of the 21st century are going to go begging.” Fortunately for Bush, his job was created in the 18th century.

On the CIA’s central role in the International Union of Torturers, and the American archipelago, read this (link will work until approximately next Friday):
http://www.newstatesman.co.uk/nscoverstory.htm

The Independent notes that the crown princes of Spain and Denmark have just both married commoners, which is what happens when you let them marry whomever they want. I wouldn’t mention this except as a hook for saying that the Danish prince married an Australian, and you can’t get any commoner than that. They met in a bar, but you knew that when I said she was an Aussie, didn’t you?

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Probably coerced / I'm a survivor / snot from the nose of the Great Buddha

“OH YES, HERE IS JOHNNY, GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME.”: Just what India needs: an Italian widow as prime minister. Still, better a corrupt dynasty than the Hindu-supremist BJP party, which ran on the slogan “India’s Shining,” presumably intended to refer to India’s recent economic success rather than to invoke the image of a Bollywood remake of the Stanley Kubrick film of the Stephen King novel, only this time with a lot more signing and dancing.

One of the congresscritters who saw the prison photos, Rep Trent Franks (R-Ark), who doesn’t know much about art but knows what he likes, disapproved of a photo of a prisoner sodomizing himself with a banana. “My conclusion,” Rep Franks concluded, “is that that was probably coerced somehow.” Ya think?

The London Times has a headline that encapsulates an irony I might have missed: “Rumsfeld Visits Prison at Centre of Storm to Tell Troops 'I'm a Survivor.'” Of course he never had to survive--for instance--being coerced, somehow, to sodomize himself with a banana. I think.

The Indy article on this just drips sarcasm. One detail I hadn’t heard: when the US reopened Abu Ghraib, they hung a sign “America is a friend of all the Iraqi people.” I guess it’s better than Arbeit macht frei.

I imagine we’ll find out that those troops survived an ideological screening process. Certainly there questions to him were at the trivial or Larry King level.
Link, but don’t bother.

Rummy also says that if it were up to him, he’d certainly release all the pictures, but those darned lawyers won’t let him.

Lynndie England is claiming that she was ordered to pose for those photos. She’s not a callous sadistic bitch, she just plays one on television.

The European Commission’s envoy to Slovakia, a Dutchman, suggested that Roma children be removed from their parents and placed in boarding schools so that they learn “normal social values.” Like racism. The Dutch tv interviewer asked about the morality of this; and Eric Van der Linden said that the parents could be given a few bucks to overcome their resistance. He has been reprimanded, but not fired.

From the Telegraph: “Priests at one of Japan's most famous temples have taken steps to block the sale of a sweet marketed as the "Snot from the nose of the Great Buddha".

Tuesday Texas is due to execute a paranoid schizophrenic, whose yelling during his trial caused him to be excluded from most of it, and who will not speak to his lawyer because he does not understand “hell law” (is there any other kind?) and thinks he has received a pardon from Satan, not understanding that Satan is no longer governor.

A voice of reason who’s killed, like, 20 dudes

Who is John Kerry?

Bush: “we're not backing down” from No Child Left Behind. It’s always a test of manhood with him, isn’t it?

Cheney defending stonewalling the inevitable release of more prison torture pics: “It's not just a matter of sort of whetting people's appetites to see sensational stuff here.” Congresscritters who saw them today said they’re icky, but no one mentioned pictures of guards doing “inappropriate things” with, to, near, on, under, over or next to a dead body.

We now know that the inquisitors were allowed to use sensory deprivation, “stress positions,” “dietary manipulation” (is that like eating with your fingers?), threatening with dogs, etc. Rummy says these techniques are ok because they’ve been checked by Pentagon lawyers. Yes, if you want to find out if something is wrong, you ask the most moral people you know. Lawyers. Who work in the Pentagon. Other legal opinions allow outright torture if the prisoner can be said to be in the custody of another country (does that include Guantanamo?).

One thing about all this focus on torture, is that we’ve completely forgotten all those soldiers getting killed.

Science at its finest.

General Wiranto, under indictment for crimes against humanity in East Timor, is, as you know, a candidate for president in Indonesia. Today he chose as his running mate the deputy chief of the Indonesian human rights commission. Very Oscar and Felix.

I wish some blogger would transcribe the Daily Show every day, but here’s a bit from Tuesday:
Jon Stewart: Stephen, what do you think about this idea that we are hearing from Rumsfeld, and now Sen. Inhofe, that the press was somehow irresponsible for releasing these photos of abuse?

Stephen Colbert: Jon, I agree entirely with Secy Rumsfeld that the release of these photos was deplorable, but these actions of a few rogue journalists do not represent the vast majority of the American media.

Stewart: The journalists did something wrong?

Colbert: I'm just saying those journalists don't represent the journalists I know. The journalists I know love America, but now all anybody wants to talk about is the bad journalists--the journalists that hurt America.

But what they don't talk about is all the amazingly damaging things we haven't reported on. Who didn't uncover the flaws in our pre-war intelligence? Who gave a free pass on the Saddam-al Queda connection? Who dropped Afghanistan from the headlines at the first whiff of this Iraqi snipehunt? The United States press corps, that's who. Heck, we didn't even put this story on the front page. We tried to bury it on "60 Minutes II." Who's on that--Charlie Rose and Angela Lansbury?

Stewart: Stephen, what do you think is at play here?

Colbert: Politics, Jon, that's what. Pure and simple. I think it's pretty suspicious that these tortures took place during a Presidential campaign. This is a clear cut case of partisan sadism. You know, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure those Iraqi prisoners want Bush out of office too. You know I wouldn't be a bit surprised if a pile of hooded, naked Iraqis has a job waiting for them in the Kerry Administration.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Camp Slappy??? / Outraged by the outrage


One of the private companies that DOD contracted with to provide inquisitors for Abu Ghraib, CACI International, also sells the Bush admin ethics training tapes.

Nick Berg’s death will be used as an excuse not to release the rest of the photos of Iraqis being tortured. One possible obstacle to this tactic: his parents, who are blaming not the guys who cut his head off but the US government, which arrested him for no particular reason (more to come on this, I’m sure) until they filed suit, at which time they released him and he disappeared. The story is odd in many details, as is his appearance in an orange prison-type jumpsuit in the film, and a 12-hour gap in the tape. And they’re lying about who beheaded him. The beheading-on-video thing, by the way, while new to Iraq, is common in Chechnya. Video-CDs of Russian soldiers being killed in that manner are common on the streets of Baghdad. For whatever that’s worth.

No one is giving the URL for the site with the video of the beheading. I wouldn’t have watched, but I want the option.

At the risk of joining a partisan version of the dump-Rummy movement, I “signed” the Kerry petition anyway.

Sen. Inhofe is outraged by the outrage. Well, I’m outraged by his outrage at the outrage. I don’t see what he could possibly say in response to that...

There is an undersecretary of defense for intelligence, did you know that? It’s a new position under the Bush admin. He’s Stephen Cambone, and he said today that military intelligence was given command of the facility of Abu Ghraib, but not the guards, so don’t blame him. Cambone was the one who sent the commandant of Stalag Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib to instruct them in how to soften up prisoners. Both should be fired, but won’t be, any more than Rummy, who as Bush said yesterday is a very good secretary of state, yes you are, who’s a good secretary of state, you’re a good secretary of state, would you like a Milk Bone?

Speaking of stalags....Camp Slappy? (Kandahar)

Joe Conason asks an interesting question: “When George W. Bush grudgingly apologized for the crimes committed in our name, who believed that he was sorry?” Think about this seriously for a second--do any of you believe he was actually sorry? Answers on a postcard please.

I do enjoy a good parliamentary sketch. Monday the minister of defense went before Parliament. The Guardian’s sketchwriter, Simon Hoggart, said this: “Short of pulling a hood over his head and jeering at the size of his genitals, the Commons could not have been much more humiliating to Geoff Hoon.” “He became the latest minister to offer an apology - for this administration "sorry" seems to be the easiest word, whether for the Irish potato famine, slavery or the Dome.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The sound of freedom

The world’s tallest building will be built in Dubai. One of the contractors bidding on it is Osama bin Laden’s father. In the business world, they call that vertical integration.

Putin appoints as deputy leader of the Chechnya the 27-year old son of the guy who was just blowed up. Ramzan Kadyrov is already in charge of the secret police and so is quite the shit in his own right. His appointment is thus a double fuck-you to Chechnya.

Another quote I missed, in February, Mark Kimmitt, M.M., asked by an Arab reporter about low-flying US helicopters frightening Iraqi children [for best effect, play Ride of the Valkyries while reading the following]:
“What we would tell the children of Iraq is that the noise they hear is the sound of freedom. ... We would recommend that you tell the same thing to the children of Iraq, that that helicopter noise you hear above you ensures that they don't have to worry for the future.”
That could be taken two ways.

Tony Blair met with the Chinese premier today. Guess who got all the questions about human rights abuses?

Sometimes you err to one extreme: According to US News & World Report, last April (which could mean 2004 or 2003), the FBI accidentally put on the daily “threat matrix” one Don Emilio Fulci, a millionaire who formed a terrorist group. He turned out to be a character in a video game.

And sometimes you err to the other extreme: This was front-page news in the Sunday Times, but oddly no one else seems to have picked it up, not even British papers. You’d think it would have raised the shitstorm to end all shitstorms. I give it unedited.

Sunday Times (London)
May 9, 2004

Briton trained as 9/11 hijacker
Christina Lamb

A FORMER waiter in a Manchester curry house was recruited by Al-Qaeda and trained as a hijacker in preparation for the September 11 attacks.

The British Muslim was enlisted at a mosque in Oldham and attended terrorist training school in Pakistan. But he had second thoughts about his suicide mission as he flew to America and surrendered to the police after gambling away thousands of pounds given to him by Al-Qaeda.

The FBI’s counter-terrorism taskforce questioned the 29-year-old man for three weeks at Newark, New Jersey, in the spring of 2000. There, agents refused to believe his claim that terrorists were planning to fly passenger jets into buildings, even though he passed lie detector tests.

Other hijackers were entering the United States at about the same time and enrolling at flight schools to learn the skills that they would need, only 18 months later, to carry out the world's most audacious acts of terrorism.

The failure to investigate the Briton's claims was one of a startling series of missed opportunities that have emerged in inquiries by a US commission examining the September 11 attacks. His case has now been reopened amid wrangling between the FBI and British authorities.

The man, whose name is being withheld by The Sunday Times because his life is under threat from militants, was brought back to Britain in 2000 by two FBI agents and handed to British security officials at Heathrow airport.

He was then questioned by Special Branch and released. The FBI believes that the British authorities failed to follow up the case or to pass on any relevant intelligence. An urgent request to find the man after September 11 was ignored, although Special Branch officers have said they went back to him and took "appropriate action". The FBI has now asked for him to become a witness in its investigation.

Born in Britain, he grew up in his family's home village in Pakistan before returning to Oldham when he was 16. After sixth-form college he worked at a restaurant but became addicted to gambling, running up debts of £15,000.

He was approached at his local mosque by a recruiter who offered him money in return for carrying out "a job". He accepted, even when he realised what was involved.

"If your life has no colour and a mullah says you can be a hero by dying, why not?" he said in an interview. "I think there are a lot of frustrated Muslim youths in Britain who feel the same way."

He travelled to Lahore, where he was taught how to carry out a hijacking and was familiarised with the inside of a Boeing cockpit. "I knew they wanted me to do some kind of operation in which I would die, but my life was such a mess that in my mind I was already dead," he said.

"At that time, if they had told me to strap a bomb to my body and blow myself up I would have done it as easily as taking a glass of water to drink."

On his return to Britain he was given a further £5,000 and then sent to New York, where he was told that he would be met at the airport.

But he had got married and during the flight thoughts of his wife and baby helped to change his mind. He gave his contact the slip and instead of going through with his mission, he took a bus to Atlantic City, where he lost his money in casinos and then gave himself up.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Debt of gratitude

I commented a couple of days ago about Rumsfeld tarring the critics of torture with his own pragmatic amorality. I didn’t really expect the same from the Rev. Dubya, but: “Those responsible for these abuses have caused harm that goes well beyond the walls of a prison. It has given some an excuse to question our cause and to cast doubt on our motives.” An “excuse?”

Bush has clearly decided to keep Rumsfeld, praising him before journos. “Our nation owes you a debt of gratitude,” he said. Uh, yeah, the check is in the mail. Another example of Bush inflexibility creating a no-win situation. In office, Rumsfeld is damaged and damaging. But throw him out, and look weak and faltering. Either decision calls into doubt Bush’s judgment, which it wouldn’t if he were capable of even hinting that his judgment is less than god-like. Billmon notes that the decision to do, basically, nothing concrete to deal with the scandal means that the Bushies have to keep repeating how shocked, shocked, they are to find that gambling is going on, keeping the story going (and giving journalists the official permission they now seem to need to follow such stories) rather than downplaying it.

A letter in the WaPo suggests that the Pentagon’s request that CBS delay broadcasting the pictures was done because of the Supreme Court cases on indefinite detention of “enemy combatants,” depriving oral argument in those cases of some much-needed relationship to reality. The justices did ask what would prevent torture, and were told, “where the government is on a war footing, you have to trust the executive.”

Katherine Harris forgot to sign her absentee ballot in March’s local elections. Harris said she’s never had trouble before. “I know how important voting is.”

thepoorman.net clears up some of those nagging questions about responsibility (edited): “Here are some interesting facts about the President of the United States... 1) He is the President of the United States. 2) His job is to do the job that the President of the United States would do. ... He's not the National Brush-Clearer, he's not the Official Mascot of Sturdy American Manhood, and he's not a little kid you need to protect from mean partisan bullies. He's a grown man with all of the responsibilities of the President of the United States. ... A lot of people like Lindsey Graham are now complaining "oh, you just want to damage the President." That's not true, because it's impossible. Before I make up my mind about damaging a President, I want there to be a President. I want someone who is actually responsible for national policies and their successful execution. I have been led to understand that George W. Bush is handling this job these days, and often - when an aircraft carrier flight deck needs prancing on, for example, or when gay marriage threatens to rend the fabric of space time asunder - it appears that he may, indeed, be the President I am looking for. Sometimes, the signals are mixed, such as when he appeared in front of the 9/11 commission on the day the President of the United States was scheduled to testify, but had to be accompanied by Dick Cheney, who, as Vice-President of the United States, has been granted by the Constitution official responsibilities rivaling my own. And other times - times when things aren't going so well, usually - questions about what George Bush has done or is doing about things a President would be responsible for are met with scandalized protestations that we should not be politicizing the process. If George Bush is not, in fact, the President, he needs to stop squatting in the President's house.”

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Isolated pockets of international hyperventilation

Cheney: “Don Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defence the United States has ever had. People ought to get off his case and let him do his job.” As for the 1st sentence, there have been 20 and it certainly isn’t the most savory group of characters ever.

For the second, have you ever heard such disdain for the notion of accountability, such contempt for Congressional oversight?

Karl Rove was the commencement speaker for the lucky graduating class of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Rove, the “boy genius” who never graduated from any of the 3 colleges he went to, received an honorary doctorate in the humanities. Rove has a true outsider’s perspective on the humanities. His advice to the...holy shit, 2,041 graduates, is when you go on job interviews, "don't act like you're smarter than the person you're interviewing with. Even if you are." No comment.

Sy Hersh has another piece on Abu Ghraib, with another photo. Drip drip drip. Can’t wait to see what the inappropriate thing was that someone did with or to a dead Iraqi. Hersh has a quote from Rummy from early 2002, describing complaints about US treatment of prisoners as “isolated pockets of international hyperventilation.” I’m sorry to say I missed it in ‘02.

A bomb snaps the puppet strings of the Chechen “president.”

Kamen at the Post has an amusing story about a DOD memo telling staffers that the prison abuse report is still considered classified, so they shouldn’t download it from the internet. It’s unclear when the Pentagon plans to declassify it.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

The true nature and heart of America

AP: “Danes sent emergency relief to their Nordic neighbours in Norway yesterday to help eliminate a toilet paper shortage.” I dunno, seems to me the Vikings have become a little...dainty.

Perspective.

Specialist Sabrina Harman, responsible for the guy-standing-on-a-box-with-wires-attached-to-his-genitals thing, says the problem is they never showed her a copy of the Geneva Convention to read. Before going into the military, Harman was assistant manager of a pizza parlor. You don’t want to know what she did to employees who put too many pepperoni on the pizzas.

A French writer has produced a novel without verbs. 233 pages.

TORTURE, WHAT TORTURE? WaPo: “Mark Jacobson, a former Defense Department official who worked on detainee issues while at the Pentagon, said that at Guantanamo and the Bagram facility in Afghanistan, military interrogators have never used torture or extreme stress techniques. "It's the fear of being tortured that might get someone to talk, not the torture," Jacobson said. "We were so strict."” Strict may not have been the best word to use. But here’s my point: if you threaten torture, you are using torture, just like if you point a gun at someone and threaten to shoot them unless they do what you want, you are using a gun. The story is on Pentagon’s approval of a specific program of abuse.

Someone dragged out this Bush quote, 3/23/03, addressed to Iraqis: “I expect them to be treated, the POWs, I expect to be treated humanely, just like we're treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.”

A Bush quote I missed: “I told His Majesty I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners. I told him I was as equally sorry that people seeing those people didn't understand the true nature and heart of America.”

Eric Idle comment on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ: “I gather Mel doesn't handle the comedy too well, and he seems to totally ignore the singing opportunities of the crucifixion.”

Friday, May 07, 2004

The problem at that point was one-dimensional

The Daily Show’s take on Bush’s “not the America I know” semi-apology non-apology, is that maybe we should have invaded Iraq with that America, because the America we did use is something of a prick. Bush said that Iraqis “must understand” that this doesn’t represent America; they have 48 hours to understand this, or we’ll light them up again like a Christmas tree. The US shouldn’t be judged on the actions of a...well, we shouldn’t be judged on actions. It’s our principles that matter, our inspiring abstract notions. Just because torturing prisoners is something we did, doesn’t mean it’s something we would do.

Which is all pretty much what I wrote Wednesday, but funny.

Watched some of Rumsfeld’s testimony. Goes much faster if you don’t watch the questions, although I gather I missed an especially egregious performance by Holy Joe Lieberman. The Rumster wasn’t all that forthcoming, despite having been “softened up” by being dragged around on a leash, naked, with a hood over his head, by a young woman, but of course that’s just a typical Thursday for Rummy (it’s the optimal way to watch “Friends”).

I think he was the first Bushie to apologize to the tortured detainees themselves. Their response: “We can’t hear you. There are hoods over our heads.”

He says he won’t resign as long as he can remain “effective,” which is a completely amoral standard for what constitutes a resigning offence, the same sort of standard, in fact, that led to the use of torture to extract information. He said, “I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.” Don’t know if anyone asked him who he was accusing of this, but they should have. I’d appreciate if he didn’t ascribe his own pragmatic amorality to his opponents’ reactions to the torture that occurred under his watch.

Actually, at times he seemed much more miffed about the fact that the pictures were released and the (illegally) classified report leaked, than about their contents. And he didn’t bother informing Bush because “The problem at that point was one-dimensional. It wasn't three-dimensional. It wasn't photographs and video.” The images mattered; the reality by itself wasn’t even worth mentioning (or maybe Shrub just doesn’t pay attention unless there are pictures; we know he can’t read). Rummy has admitted in as many words that had there been no pictures, nothing would have happened. Although so far the only thing that has been changed is that they put signs up all over Abu Ghraib: no cameras.

Rummy also said worse pictures were to come, without making it clear that they would come over his dead body--the Pentagon intends to sit on the pictures, but with CDs floating around, figures it won’t work. But the policy is still to stonewall.

The FDA, overruling its advisory panels for political reasons, decides not to allow the morning-after pill to be sold over the counter, claiming that under-age girls couldn’t be trusted to follow the instructions. The media (at least the NYT) failed to do the obvious and tell us what those instructions are, so I just had Long’s print me out a copy. Take a pill. Take another pill 12 hours later. If you can’t be trusted to follow those instructions, good luck raising a baby.

Divorce is legalized in Chile (in 6 months, anyway).

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Maybe he's reading as fast as he can

More Abu Ghraib photos. There are over 1,000, but not here.

Today is National Prayer Day (and International Tuba Day)(no, sorry, that’s tomorrow), honorary chairman Oliver North. His theme is “freedom,” by which he means prayer in schools, the 10 commandments in public buildings, etc. North owes his freedom less to God than to an ill-considered grant of qualified use immunity by the Congress.

Pull-quote for Maureen Dowd’s column: “Fire Rummy, or make him read faster.”

The NYT reports that one of the Abu Ghraib guards who appears in the photos was recruited from a Pennsylvania prison renounced for beating....and humiliating...its prisoners. Whether this guy participated in that is kept secret by privacy laws, would you believe, although the fact that he beat and stalked his wife, threatened her with guns, etc, not so much. He had 3 restraining orders issued against him, but that raised no red flags for the US military, or indeed the state pen, which continued to employ him. Abu Ghraib isn’t the only American-run prison system with serious problems.

So Bush finally apologizes for all the, ya know, torture and sodomizing prisoners and such. He apologizes to the king of Jordan, in private, and then tells everyone he did so, because he just can’t bear to apologize in public. Why apologize to the king of Jordan? I’m not actually sure if it’s because Abdullah is a Muslim, and one Muslim is the same as any other Muslim to Shrub, or because Abdullah is an Arab, and ditto. “Hey, you’re from Muslimia, you must know Akbar...”

So if Rummy does have to go--heh, heh--who replaces him? You could ask the same question about Powell, and realize how badly this war has tarred the reputation of everyone associated with it. Condi can no longer be secretary of state--can you imagine the confirmation hearings? Wolfowitz of Arabia can’t be secretary of war. And so on. You can see this over in Britain, where Blair just appointed the guy who compiled the “dodgy dossier” on Iraq as the next head of MI6, to universal condemnation, for which, if you care, click.

Here’s a lovely Indy story: “Sexual slavery involving girls as young as 11 has grown into a massive industry in the Balkans, because of demand for their services from the 40,000 international peacekeepers from Nato and the United Nations in Kosovo.”

The UN voted 140-6 (4 Pacific Island states, Israel, and yes of course the US) that Palestinians have a right to sovereignty.

A guy is on trial in Australia for killing a guy, and eating his leg and penis. (Near Darwin, by the way) The trial answers the age old question: penis tastes like...chicken. If any of you already knew that, I don’t wish to know.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The America that I know


Bush goes on Arab tv, says the torture thing does not represent “the America that I know.” Like Bush knows anything about American from inside “The Bubble.” As we understand from a million stories, including this week’s, which you must have seen, about the World War II veteran turned away from a Bush rally after being questioned about who he’d voted for in 2000, the America that Bush knows has been very carefully screened (Kerry’s crowds are also screened, according to www.campaigndesk.org).

Of course the America that most of us are allowed to see is increasingly being carefully screened. Disney has blocked the release of Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 911 (of course that name derives from a Ray Bradbury book about a future in which all books are burned to screen the people from subversive ideas) because Jeb Bush might retaliate against the tax breaks Disney World (speaking of carefully screened realities) gets. Really, that’s too much irony packed into a story for even my tastes. What isn’t clear to me is whether Disney can also block it being released by any other distributor.

Some of the rhetoric used by Bushies, focusing on “rules,” must be especially annoying to Iraqis. An example: Powell: "What they did was illegal, against all regulations, against all standards.” Considering that it was done to people who were herded into Abu Ghraib (which is Arabic for Manzanar) according to no particular standards or regulations, this talk is downright insulting (even the internal US Army report says that 60% of the prisoners are innocent). It also focuses on how things work on paper, rather than in the real world. Iraqis know about nice words on paper meaning nothing; Saddam’s constitution (1990, I think) is quite a nice little document. Actually, all this language shows an un-Bushlike trust in rules and regulations. Of course that’s all he had to give the Iraqis, an investigative process, since he wasn’t willing to fire Rumsfeld or anyone else. In fact, he had nothing. He went to them, on Arabic-language satellite services, and didn’t bring so much as a bundt cake, much less someone’s head on a platter.

Sometimes a piece of rhetoric nags at me, and I’m not quite sure why, then 3 days later I’ll write 250 words on a six-word sentence uttered by Chimp Boy (see my 2002 essay on “No wonder I think they’re evil,” which anticipated that LA Times piece a few days ago on Bush’s management style by 2 years). Today, it’s the line from Bush and others that the Abu Ghraib pictures “do not reflect,” “do not represent” the American people (or as Bush characteristically put it, the “hearts” of Americans). All I can think is that it has something to do with the Bushies’ obsession, much stronger than Clinton’s, with image, or more accurately images, like the flight deck landing, the statue toppling and all the other carefully stage-managed moments, as if they’re constantly auditioning for a postage stamp. It was often said of Reagan that once he had made a good speech on a subject, he thought he was done; Bush, who is less fixated on words, for obvious reasons, thinks that once he has the right visual, he’s fixed in place the meaning of an event. Ironically, it was the two words Mission Accomplished that really turned Flight Suit Boy’s million-dollar photo op into a sick joke, and it was the photos of the prisoners that made torture into a live issue.

Bush also referred to torture and sexual humiliation as “mistakes,” as in “It is also important for the people of Iraq to know that in a democracy everything is not perfect; mistakes are made.” You know how it is when you accidentally put a bag over a prisoner’s head and force him to masturbate. I suppose we should just be thankful that Bush finally found a mistake, although not one he made, of course, nor yet one he felt obligated to apologize for, or refer to in the active voice (I know it was Reagan who said “mistakes were made”--can anyone remember the context?).

There’s a good analysis of the Bush interviews at Slate. It notes that he spoke consistently from a position of arrogant superiority. “It is not Bush's place, especially when speaking humbly on Iraqi television, to claim that American soldiers are doing "great work on behalf of the Iraqi people." That's for Iraqis to decide.” “Too often, the president began a sentence with the words, "People in Iraq must understand ..." or "The Iraqi people must understand …" or "People in the Middle East must understand … ."” The piece also notes that the report on Abu Ghraib (which is Arabic for the Black Hole of Calcutta)(I’m now officially retiring that one) was classified, although it is illegal to classify an official investigation into illegal conduct.

From the Guardian: “The US-led coalition in Afghanistan has distributed leaflets calling on people to provide information on al-Qaida and the Taliban or face losing humanitarian aid. The move has outraged aid organisations who said their work is independent of the military and it was despicable to pretend otherwise. Medécins Sans Frontières, the international medical charity which passed the leaflets to the Guardian, said the threat endangered aid workers. Fourteen aid workers were killed in Afghanistan last year and 11 so far this year.”

Guess what, there’s more film. I haven’t seen it, but here’s Robert Fisk’s description: “As a wounded Iraqi crawls from beneath a burning truck, an American helicopter pilot tells his commander that one of three men has survived his night air attack. "Someone wounded," the pilot cries. Then he received the reply: "Hit him, hit the truck and him." As the helicopter's gun camera captures the scene on video, the pilot fires a 30mm gun at the wounded man, vaporising him in a second.” Evidently the footage has been shopped around for 2 weeks, and only ABC, the CBC and Canal Plus in France have run it. Shooting a wounded man is a war crime under the Geneva conventions. The incident occurred last December. There is no evidence in the film that the 3 dead men were doing anything remotely suspicious.