Sunday, November 24, 2002

This site has been suspended indefinitely by the miracle
of cryogenic freezing

You are invited to visit me at Scribbler.

You can get the goods on this amazingly successful military campaign at...

American Samizdat
Lying Media Bastards

...not to mention the other fine links on the sidebar.

[and now, a self-indulgent sign-off]

I didn't intend to start a warlog. I launched this page in hopes of creating a safe outlet for my frustration with an insipid and dangerous post-9/11 media landscape. The subsequent year-plus frenzy of posting has been an enriching experience, but my dwindling output forces me to acknowledge that I have neither the time nor the energy to keep up a decent topical weblog.

I will continue to post on our collective descent into madness, but within the broader context of my other page Scribbler, which I'm gently coaxing out of hibernation...

I want to sincerely thank people who regularly clicked by my little love nest of subversion for a visit, especially those who took the time to send encouragement, forward links or offer opinion. The hate mail was particularly gratifying.

A salute to the many smart and humane webloggers I've gotten to know via this page: I would have put Blowback into cold storage much earlier were it not for the inspiring work of people I came to think of as colleagues and friends.

Peace out.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

That assassination in Yemen is yet another one of those amazingly successful military triumphs -- with a catch:

Even those who applauded the strike said it was sure to inflame militant Muslims, including those belonging to the al-Qaeda network, and expose US diplomats and other overseas officials to possible retaliation. On Tuesday the US said it was closing its embassy in Yemen to the public indefinitely amid fears it might become a target for an attack to retaliate for the killings.

Then there are those icky moral issues raised by the attack...

Sweden's Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, said: "If the USA is behind this with Yemen's consent, it is nevertheless a summary execution that violates human rights. If the USA has conducted the attack without Yemen's permission it is even worse. Then it is a question of unauthorised use of force."

While military experts said the incident could herald a new era of robotic warfare, lawyers debated the implications of the surprising turn in US strategy - killing specific individuals in countries where there is no war.

"To have a drone that engages and kills people - that is quite a threshold to cross," said Clifford Beal, editor of Jane's Defence Weekly. "This is the beginning of robotic warfare. There is underlying tension in the military about using it ... this is really the first success story of this system."

A US State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, refused to discuss the attack and trod carefully around questions on whether US involvement in the strike contradicted Washington's long-standing disapproval of targeted killings.

Asked whether the US had altered its opinion, Mr Boucher replied, "Our policy on targeted killings in the Israeli-Palestinian context has not changed."

::Greg Miller, Sydney Morning Herald: US braces for retaliation after Yemen assassination via Lying Media Bastards

Monday, November 04, 2002

Audio Funhouse

Scott Williams put together a characteristically excellent pinko anti-war set on WFMU not too long ago, selections included:

West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - "Suppose They Give a War & No One Comes"
Aphrodite's Child - "Loud Loud Loud"
John Cale - "Fear is a Man's Best Friend"
Lee Ranaldo - "Isolation"
Cromagnon - "Caledonia"
Bonzo Dog Band - "We Are Normal"
Frank Sinatra & Tommy Dorsey - "War Bond Advertisement"
Beyond the Fringe: "The Aftermyth of War"
The Clash - "I'm So Bored With the USA"

::See the playlist for SW on September 30, 2002: The Air Turned to Poison
::Listen (RealAudio)

Also from WFMU, Stefan started off his Spiral Sun Plan set for October 17th with nearly an hour of Alexander Cockburn's spoken-word album Beating the Devil laid over a soundbed of recordings by Xiu Xiu and Merzbow.

::Playlist for Spiral Sun Plan - October 17, 2002
::Listen (RealAudio)

Hunter Thompson has been descending deeper into incoherence since 1972 or so, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed listening to this interview he did with ABC radio in Australia just before the one year anniversary of 9/11. He's a little foggy at times, but mostly in fine form...

Interviewer: So in that sense, there’s not enough room for dissenting voices?

Hunter S. Thompson: There’s plenty of room there’s not just enough people who are willing to take the risk. It’s sort of a herd mentality, a lemming-like mentality. If you don’t go with the flow you’re anti-American and therefore a suspect. And we’ve seen this before, these patriotic frenzies. It’s very convenient having an undeclared war that you can call a war and impose military tribunals and wartime security and we have these generals telling us that this war’s going to go on for a long, long time. Maybe not so much the generals now, the generals are a little afraid of Iraq, a little worried about it, but it’s the civilians in the White House, the gang of thieving, just lobbyists for the military industrial complex, who are running the White House, and to be against them is to be patriotic, then hell, call me a traitor.

::Program page and partial transcript
::Listen (RealAudio - 37 minutes)

Naomi Klein (No Logo) and Sameena Ahmad, author of an Economist article entitled "Pro Logo: Why Brands Are Good for You", square off in a debate that gets genuinely nasty at times.

::Listen (RealAudio - 1hr, 23 min)

NPR interviews Rami Khouri, former editor of the Jordan Times and Youssef Ibrahim, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relation, who deliver a scathing assessment of reckless war-mongering and its effects.

A sample of their analysis from this article by Ibrahim:

Al Qaeda, according to the CIA and the Pentagon, is reconstituting itself. In fact every Middle East and Muslim affairs expert is saying that Al Qaeda's ranks will be fattened by new recruits right now and will have more of them when the United States attacks Iraq.

Those joining are no longer Muslim religious fanatics. They now include secularist young men and women angry at the impact of U.S. policies on the world's 1.2 billion Muslims.

In other words, a new Al Qaeda, far more dangerous than the existing one, is in the making. Witness the attack on the tourist resort of Bali, on U.S. Marines in Kuwait and on a French oil tanker off Yemen. In Afghanistan the United States' main enemies, Osama bin Laden's cadre of leadership, has disappeared, while his shock troops, the Taliban, are there in their homes and villages sitting on their weapons, patiently waiting for the right moment to go back into action when America gets busy attacking Iraq.

Thus far, all the arguments presented for sending American boys and girls into one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods are half-truths, spurious assumptions and utter nonsense. Washington simply cannot prove the case that Iraq is tied to Al Qaeda.

::Listen (Real Audio - 7 min)
::Bush's Iraq adventure is bound to backfire

Those last links both via Dack.

::Header image stolen from WFMU
It's revealing that Thomas Friedman's first question after arriving in Berlin is "where's the wall?", perhaps not quite comprehending the events of 1989... He's terribly dissappointed that the Germans haven't left it up, inexplicably suggests that its absence is at "the core of the crisis between America and Germany today", and finally asks "Would somebody please bring back the Berlin Wall?"

I haven't the strength of spirit to address each of the fatuous myths that Friedman goes on to render in hyperventilating prose, but pause to note his assertion that "Germany [is] to the left of Saudi Arabia, which at least says it will support an Iraq war if it is approved by the U.N."

We'll set aside that the United States is itself, like most countries, to the left of Saudi Arabia -- after all, Americans have sham elections from time to time, eschew beheading for the more humane electric chair, and even let their women drive cars. More to the point, what exactly is the extent of Saudi "support" for an attack on Iraq? Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal kindly elaborates:

"We will abide by the decision of the United Nations Security Council and we will co-operate with the Security Council," he told CNN.

"But as to entering the conflict or using facilities... that is something else."

He added: "Our policy is that if the United Nations takes a decision... it is obligatory on all signatories to co-operate, but that is not to the extent of using facilities in the country or the military forces of the country."

::Thomas Friedman, New York Times: Let Them Come to Berlin
::BBC News: Saudis snub US over Iraq attack

Friday, November 01, 2002

I know media coverage of the attempted coup in Qatar has reached the saturation point, but allow me to join the mob:

Diplomatic circles in the Middle East are buzzing with rumors of a failed coup against the Qatari regime on the night of Oct. 13. At least two members of the royal family are said to have joined with officers of Yemeni and Pakistani background, along with individuals from Islamic organizations, all opposed to the growing U.S. military presence. American troops stationed at the Al Udeid Air Base supposedly helped thwart the coup attempt, which had been penetrated in advance by Qatar security officials, after which 140 people were arrested. The rumors go on to suggest that Qatar suspects that the Saudis were behind the plot. The United States has been feverishly upgrading the Al Udeid base, in anticipation of a Saudi refusal to allow use of its Prince Sultan Air Base for the upcoming assault on Iraq.

::United Press International: UPI hears ...

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Can you believe it? The CIA must be staffed by Islamofascist sympathizers. A recent report takes up the peacenik line on "root causes" and the motivation for terrorist acts.

"While we are striking major blows against al-Qaeda -- the pre-eminent global terrorist threat, the underlying causes that drive terrorists will persist," [the report] said.

"Several troublesome global trends -- especially the growing demographic youth bulge in developing nations whose economic systems and political ideologies are under enormous stress -- will fuel the rise of more disaffected groups willing to use violence to address their perceived grievances," added the agency.

I thought that terrorists hated us for our freedom.

Note that this "grim assessment was made available to members US Congress in the form of written answers to their questions last April and released to the general public on Monday." Yet insufficiently newsworthy to attract the attention of major American media.

::Times of India: War on terror missing root causes: CIA via Dack

Monday, October 28, 2002

The Bush administration justifies a war by citing the illegal development of biological weapons. It's unsurprising to learn that the U.S. is itself not in compliance with international law. Some of the questionable initiatives:

* CIA efforts to copy a Soviet cluster bomb designed to disperse biological weapons

* A project by the Pentagon to build a bio-weapon plant from commercially available materials to prove that terrorists could do the same thing

* Research by the Defence Intelligence Agency into the possibility of genetically engineering a new strain of antibiotic-resistant anthrax .

* A programme to produce dried and weaponised anthrax spores, officially for testing US bio-defences, but far more spores were allegedly produced than necessary for such purposes and it is unclear whether they have been destroyed or simply stored.

. . . a clause in the biological weapons treaty forbids signatories from producing or developing "weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict".

Furthermore, signatories agreed to make annual declarations about their biodefence programmes, but the US never mentioned any of those programmes in its reports. Instead, they emerged from leaks and press reporting.

The focus on Washington's biological and chemical weapons programme comes at an awkward time for the Bush administration, which is locked in negotiations at the UN for a tough resolution on arms inspections of Iraq. ...British and US research into hallucinogenic weapons such as the gas BZ encouraged Iraq to look into similar agents. "We showed them the way," he said.

Mr Dando added that the US was currently working on "non-lethal" weapons similar to the gas Russian forces used to break the Moscow theatre siege.

Yes, the Russians are undoubtedly on to something there...

::Julian Borger, Guardian: US weapons secrets exposed

How a 'bulletproof' case is built...

You've got to hand it to Donald Rumsfeld and his E-Ring crew at the Pentagon. They know all the stratagems of bureaucratic politics, and they play the game well. In their latest maneuver, reported on the front page of last Thursday's New York Times, the secretary of defense has formed his own "four- to five-man intelligence team" to sift through raw data coming out of Iraq in search of evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida terrorists.

Rumsfeld has publicly continued to push this link as a prime - or at least the most easily sellable - rationale for going to war with Iraq, even after the CIA and the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency have dismissed the connection as tenuous at best. But Rumsfeld contends that the spy bureaucracies may have missed something. As his top team member, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, put it to the Times, there is "a phenomenon in intelligence work that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won't, and not see other facts that others will." Since Wolfowitz is one of Washington's most forceful advocates of a second Gulf War, we can safely predict that he will find the facts he needs to make his case.

It is an old story that bears the same lesson each time a new chapter unfolds: Intelligence analysis should be kept out of the hands of those who have a vested interest in the results.

::Fred Kaplan, Slate: The Rumsfeld Intelligence Agency - How the hawks plan to find a Saddam/al-Qaida connection
::Image stolen from WFMU
Congratulations to those plucky Afghans. They're back on top again:

Opium production in Afghanistan soared to near-record levels in 2002, making the war-ravaged country again the world's leading producer of the drug, according to a United Nations estimate released on Saturday.

United Nations officials blamed "the total collapse of law and order" in the country during the American military campaign to oust the Taliban in the fall of 2001 for the increase, not the country's new government.

::David Rhode, New York Times: Afghans Lead World Again in Poppy Crop

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Arab nations are so backward and paranoid that they can't take on faith that American occupation can only make them happier and more free...

United States officials at one point said the Bush Administration was considering a plan for Iraq modeled after the occupation of Japan after World War II. An American military commander would assume control of the country for a year or more while the United States and allied forces would search for weapons of mass destruction and keep up oil production. But administration officials have also taken pains to say Iraqis would be treated as a liberated, not a conquered, people. President Bush has said the United States would not try to impose its culture or form of government on another nation.

You see? They needn't be concerned, because Bush has said they don't have to worry. But for some reason that's not good enough for them...

An American occupation of Iraq would feed into a sense of humiliation felt by many Arabs, said Rami Khouri, a political analyst and syndicated newspaper columnist who is Palestinian Jordanian.

"People are worried about the continued sense of degradation and humiliation that they are subjected to," he said in an interview from Amman, "just sitting around watching Americans and Israelis do whatever they want in the region."

Such sentiments give rise to talk that the United States and Israel are seeking to redraw the map of the Middle East, perhaps dividing up Saudi Arabia, or sending the Palestinians from the occupied territories to Jordan. "It's a hallucinatory perspective," Mr. Khouri said.

Where does the inward-looking Arab world get these notions? Clearly the deep thinkers in the administration are prepared to look beyond the narrow interests of the oil lobby in their quest to deliver the Iraqi people unto freedom. Only a pro-Islamofascist idiotarian could think otherwise.

[Ahmed Chalabi's, the London-based leader of the Iraqi National Congress] would hand over Iraq's oil to U.S. multinationals, and his allies in conservative think tanks are already drawing up the blueprints. "What they have in mind is denationalization, and then parceling Iraqi oil out to American oil companies," says James E. Akins, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Even more broadly, once an occupying U.S. army seizes Baghdad, Chalabi's INC and its American backers are spinning scenarios about dismantling Saudi Arabia, seizing its oil and collapsing the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). It's a breathtaking agenda, one that goes far beyond "regime change" and on to the start of a New New World Order.

What's also startling about these plans is that Chalabi is scorned by most of America's national-security establishment, including much of the Department of State, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is shunned by all Western powers save the United Kingdom, ostracized in the Arab world and disdained even by many of his erstwhile comrades in the Iraqi opposition. Among his few friends, however, are the men running the Bush administration's willy-nilly war on Iraq. And with their backing, it's not inconceivable that this hapless, exiled Iraqi aristocrat and London-Washington playboy might end up atop the smoking heap of what's left of Iraq next year.

...Team Chalabi is led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, the neoconservative strategist who heads the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. Chalabi's partisans run the gamut from far right to extremely far right, with key supporters in most of the Pentagon's Middle-East policy offices -- such as Peter Rodman, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Michael Rubin. Also included are key staffers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, not to mention Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.

Well, at least those guys don't have much pull with the President.

::Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times: Anger Builds and Seethes as Arabs Await American Invader
::Robert Dreyfus, American Prospect: Tinker, Banker, NeoCon, Spy

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Doesn't the New York Times style guide say anything about double negatives?

Some officials say the creation of [an intelligence unit that will say what the warmongers want] reflects frustration on the part of Mr. Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz and other senior officials that they are not receiving undiluted information on the capacities of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and his suspected ties to terrorist organizations.

Hmm, dissension among the crew on the Good Ship Lollipop?

Tension between the defense secretary and the C.I.A., which has resented moves by Mr. Rumsfeld to beef up the Pentagon's role in intelligence gathering, has been intensifying, according to one defense official.

"There is a complete breakdown in the relationship between the Defense Department and the intelligence community, to include its own Defense Intelligence Agency," the official said. "Wolfowitz and company disbelieve any analysis that doesn't support their own preconceived conclusions. The C.I.A. is enemy territory, as far are they're concerned."

::Eric Schmitt and Thom Shankar, New York Times: Pentagon Sets Up Intelligence Unit

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Think about the parade of failure this report catalogues next time you hear some gasbag say western democracies will rebuild post-war Iraq as Denmark in the desert...

It is time for the international community to recognize that the deterioration of the security situation can, in part, be attributed to the failure of major donor states to fulfill the commitments they made to Afghanistan.

Four aspects of international involvement in Afghanistan illustrate the ineffectiveness, and at times irresponsibility, of aid donors: the slow pace of internationally directed security-sector reform, the flawed nature of the U.S. military strategy to eradicate Al Qaeda and Taliban forces, the slow and irrational disbursement of aid, and the seemingly innate reluctance to consider the expansion of peacekeeping operations outside Kabul.

The fear of many Afghans, that the international community will gradually lose interest in the country to the detriment of ongoing reconstruction efforts, appears to be justified. With a possible U.S. strike against Iraq looming, such a shift of global attention would have disastrous consequences for Afghan security and stability.

::Foreign Policy In Focus: Afghanistan: Donor Inaction and Ineffectiveness

Link via Dack, who is sporting a new/old look...