Wednesday, January 29, 2003

"Exoatmospheric kill vehicle" would make a terrible name for a rock band

I mentioned a man suing the police for sending him a Valentine’s Day Card. Here is what it said: "Will you be my Valentine? I'm hoping we can meet. We have a cosy cell, prepared here in St John Street."

Bush said that if Saddam ain’t evil, evil has no meaning. John Pilger, in a somewhat over-the-top article, suggests that dropping 800 cruise missiles on Baghdad, the majority of whose population is under 14, might constitute that. Well, as Bush didn’t say to the Iraqi people, Your real enemy isn’t surrounding you, it’s over-head and coming straight for you. This is the administration that has claimed that Iraqi will be dancing in the streets when we “liberate” them. I don’t think there’ll be that much dancing in the rubble.

OK, that was me being over-the-top, not Pilger. Pilger does call Bush a fascist, but if you read past the hyperbole, you can see that it comes from someone who know what he’s talking about regarding American bombing (he is an Australian journalist who helped break the story of the secret bombing of Cambodia, and wrote about East Timor for 25 years).

The real problem is that nothing is unthinkable for the Bushies. I don’t think they’ll actually use nuclear weapons against Iraq, but they’ll sure plan for it and threaten it. I was about to say that they might even use smallpox or something, but it’s not like the US hasn’t used biological warfare against Iraq before: targeting water purification and sewer treatment plants, then denying Iraq access to replacement parts and medicines (did they get away with the attempt last month to stop Iraq importing antibiotics?), etc.

Incidentally, if I were Iran, I’d be worried about the several minutes Bush spent talking about them. And Iraq. And N Korea. He didn’t repeat the phrase Axis of Evil, but it’s obviously still in his oddly chimp-like head.

Also in the speech, the return of the Laffer Curve, which I don’t think anybody has pointed out yet. Drug benefits on Medicare only for those who subject themselves to HMO controls.

And very vague assertions of connections between Iraq and Al Qaida. On Prime Minister’s Questions today, Tony Blair had a rather hard time dealing with the fact that British intelligence has cleared Iraq of that allegation. The new emphasis on terrorism suggests that the whole WMD thing isn’t going over well. His father also changed the rationale for attacking Iraq several times in the run-up to the fighting, and Reagan with Grenada. There is also a focus, in relation to inspections, on down-grading the inspections themselves and saying that Iraq fails if it doesn’t do all the work itself. This is of course partly because the inspectors have hit several hundred sites and found zippo, but also because it shifts focus from the lack of cooperation with the inspectors by the United States, which has failed to provide them with real intelligence, if any. The growing talk about an “Adlai Stevenson moment” is clearly worrying them.

By the way, if terrorists had blown everyone up, the president would now be John Ashcroft. The horror. The horror.

Michael Kinsley on the speech:
“It would be a fine reason to topple other governments around the world that torture their own citizens and do other despicable things. Is the Bush administration prepared to enforce the no-torturing-children rule by force everywhere? And what happens if Saddam decides to meet all our demands regarding weapons and inspections? Is he then free to torture children and pour acid on innocent citizens without fear of the United States?

“If Saddam's human-rights practices morally require the United States to act, why are we waiting for Hans Blix? Or if the danger that Saddam will develop and use weapons of mass destruction against the United States justifies removing him in our own long-term self-defense, what does torturing children have to do with it? Bush was careful not to say explicitly that Iraq's internal human-rights situation alone justifies going to war-though he was just as careful to imply that it does. But Bush has said clearly and often that Saddam's external threat does justify a war all by itself. So, human-rights abuses are neither necessary nor sufficient as a reason for war, in Bush's view, to the extent it can be parsed. Logically, they don't matter. That makes the talk about the torture of children merely decorative, not serious.”
Sorry I only found this afterwards, but here’s the State of the Union drinking game, along with scores—this is actually well worth looking at, it’s quite revealing.

For my fellow censorship buffs, a landmark: the BBC has allowed the first broadcast of “cunt,” in a docudrama about witch-hunts. They say it wasn’t an offensive term in the 16th century.

The Post says the “new evidence” about the Iraqi WMD programs is confined to dual-use materials--like those aluminum tubes. They really do have nothing.

Evidently, the key Star Wars contract was won by default by Raytheon in 1998 after Boeing got caught spying on it and dropped out. So no actual analysis was done as to whether Raytheon’s “exoatmospheric kill vehicle” would actually work. Which it doesn’t. No one ever prosecuted Boeing (for example, for fucking up an $800m. bidding process), because then people might have wondered why it was still left in charge of the Star Wars project (that’s not me, it actually says that).

The White House cancels a poetry symposium because some of the poets might oppose the war.

Many government documents on the resignation of King Edward in 1937 have been released, if anyone is interested. Evidently they threatened to take his money away if he came back to Britain without permission. The Guardian has the best coverage.

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