Saturday, December 29, 2001

The latest groovy clip from the Guerrilla News Network, a reworking of twenty hours of television footage entitled S-11 Redux: (Channel) Surfing the Apocalypse. GNN claims that after watching the video viewers will 'never be able to look at the coverage of S-11 and its post-impact coverage the same way, ever again.' That and about 200 hits of blotter acid to get through to most people, the way I figure it. In any event, S-11 may be worth a look...
Black Hawk Down II: Payback Time

"We are from the US embassy in Nairobi, and the UN are the last people we want to see," said one, sporting the same regulation shades as the rest. "Where are the authorities?" Ten minutes later three battered pick-up trucks loaded with youthful gunmen whisked them away.

The men were not from the Nairobi embassy, but they were American. The authority in Baidoa is the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA), one of the tribal militias still feuding in Somalia a decade after the state fell into civil war.

::James Astill, The Guardian: 'Americans in dark glasses cast an eye on Somalia'


::Ian Black and Matthew Engel, The Guardian: 'Somalia high on US list of terror targets'
Not that I expect anyone to care, but...

On the shores of Rawal Lake, a key conservation area only about 10 minutes drive from the centre of Islamabad, there is a sound that cannot be heard this year - a whole bird population which has suddenly gone missing.

Dr Masoud Anwar, a bio-diversity specialist who monitors wildlife here, usually he sees several thousand ducks and other wildfowl migrating here from Central Asia via Afghanistan.

So far this year, not one has arrived. It is a conservation disaster.

::Jill McGivering, BBC Birds 'missing' after US bombing via randomWalks
If indeed Hollywood films engender a callous attitude towards violence, why should the effects be limited to Columbine-style massacres, or other instances of teenage wasteland run amok? Perhaps we are all desensitized to the violence inflicted on 'those people' we regularly blow up on the silver screen. Director Robert Altman:

"Most of these films, the Schwarzenegger or those kind of action [movies] . . . they kill 90, 190 people, nameless people, and it ends with a joke. And children, the only people who see those films -- they might be 50 years old, but they're still children -- . . . they sit there and they think: 'Ah, this is ordinary.'

"I don't think we should have foreseen [Sept. 11] necessarily, but now that it's happened, we should stop and take a deep breath and say, 'Wait a minute, do I have some responsibility in this sort of thing?' I think the answer is yes."

::Simon Haupt, Globe and Mail: 'He just can't help himself'
Terry Jones has written a couple of amusing commentaries concerning recent events, the latest...

If the objectives of the 'War on Terrorism' were to catch the perpetrators of the 11 September attacks, bring them to justice and make the world a safer place, so far the score - on all three objectives - has been nil. We're all jumping around scared shitless that something similar is going to happen at any moment. No perpetrators have been caught; no perpetrators have been brought to justice.

Mark you, this last is not really surprising. Just think: if the police were setting out to catch a particularly clever and evil murderer, would they go around with loud-hailers announcing where they were going to look for him, pinpoint the areas they intended to search and give him a count of 100 to get away? That's what you do if you're playing hide and seek, not if you want to catch a criminal. I rather imagine the police would have gone to work covertly and tried to find out where he was without his even knowing they were looking for him. But I realise that's not a very American way of going about things.

However, finally the 'War on Terrorism' is achieving its policy objectives. Osama bin Laden is looking haggard. We may not have caught him or brought him to justice but, at the cost of thousands of innocent Afghan lives, billions of dollars of US citizens' money and the civil liberties of the Free World, we have got him looking haggard.

It's a sensational and ground-breaking moment that justifies all the news coverage it's been getting. If Osama bin Laden is looking haggard, that means he's scared - or tired or eaten something that disagrees with him - but at least it means he's not enjoying himself as he was in his previous video.

There. I made it through the entire posting without making a single Monty Python refer-- ...ahh, bloody hell.

::Terry Jones, UK Telegraph, 1 Dec 2001: 'Why grammar is the first casualty of war'
::Terry Jones, UK Observer, 'I remain, sir, Haggard of the Hindu Kush'

Thursday, December 27, 2001

In the aftermath of September 11th, the FBI received tens of thousands of calls on so-called "tip" lines, and folks were broadly rounded up for questioning.

One tip-line caller reported a suspicious-looking billboard near Times Square in New York. Soon after, a Department of Defense agent paid a visit to Chashama, the theater and art gallery that had leased space to Adbusters for its Corporate American Flag billboard. The agent had a lot of questions: Why were they displaying the billboard? Who paid for it? Who created it? (One clue might have been the website listed on the sign.)

You might call this vigilant grassroots anti-terrorism work. Or you might call it low-level intimidation. In the current climate, it seems, some types of social commentary are off-limits. If you've chosen this time to exercise your First Amendment rights in a critical way, you may find yourself under investigation.

In response, the psycho-environmental counter-terrorists at Adbusters have set up a Rat Line bulletin board, which is looking more like a rant line at present...

::Adbusters: New York City Billboard: Who's watching the watchers?' via the bitter shack of resentment.
A few of the revelations collected in a lucid report from the Federation of American Scientists:

* The US rejected a UN resolution offered by France to condemn the anthrax attack, on the grounds that it could have been domestic terrorism.

* The Secretary of Health and Human Services said in October that some of the relevant information is classified, and some is restricted by the FBI.

* John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, spoke on Nov. 19 at the opening of the five-yearly Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention in Geneva. At a press conference following his talk, he said "We don't know, as I say in the statement, at the moment, in a way that we could make public, where the anthrax attacks came from." This statement, as well as other information, indicates that US officials DO know where the anthrax came from.

* The FBI says it is now investigating government and contractor laboratories possessing the Ames strain, and individuals who had access to them. Col. Arthur Friedlander, Sr. Research Scientist at USAMRIID, said no one there knows how to make dry weaponsized anthrax.

* According to the New York Times (2 Dec 01), a law enforcement official close to the federal investigation called the concept of a government insider, or someone in contact with an insider, "the most likely hypothesis…it's definitely reasonable." An American official sympathetic to this thesis was quoted in the same article saying that, in addition to military laboratories, "there are other government and contractor facilities that do classified work with access to dangerous strains, but it's highly likely that the material in the anthrax letters came from a person or persons who really had great expertise. We haven't seen any other artifacts that point us elsewhere."

* Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, recipient of one of the anthrax letters, has been in frequent contact with investigators. He said on Dec 8 that the perpetrator was probably someone with a military background.

::Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Federation of American Scientists: A Compilation of Evidence and Comments on the Source of the Mailed Anthrax via Nezach

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Don DeLillo...

Eleven years ago, during the engagement in the Persian Gulf, people had trouble separating the war from coverage of the war. After the first euphoric days, coverage became limited. The rush of watching all that eerie green night-vision footage, shot from fighter jets in combat, had been so intense that it became hard to honour the fact that the war was still going on, untelevised. A layer of consciousness had been stripped away. People shuffled around, muttering. They were lonely for their war.

::Don DeLillo, The Guardian: 'In the ruins of the future'

Saturday, December 22, 2001

I'd been wondering when we'd hear from Thomas Frank, editor of The Baffler, and get his take on recent events. He's surfaced this week with a piece on Enron for Salon, a long article in the upcoming Harper's on Wall Street and Social Security, and today a New York Times Op-Ed on the current incarnation of the beast that brought us OJ/Monica/Condit et al, a story that feeds an insatiable hunger for the freakish and the grotesque...

We really don't know enough about John Walker to pin his deeds on anyone other than himself. But as long as we're passing out explosive bits of blame, we would do well to turn the spotlight on that other corner of American life where a band of impudent snobs, elected by no one, wax subversive and work to undermine the authority of parents, the sanctity of marriage and even the honor of the flag.

I refer, of course, to corporate America. After all, libertinism hasn't been the exclusive property of leftist hipsters for many years. Born in the 1980's, John Walker grew up in a time when American conformity was the lamentation not of pampered professors but of Madison Avenue and the cutting-edge management gurus.

::Thomas Frank, New York Times: 'Totally Extreme Taliban'

Precision bombing, coordinated ordnance, hearts and minds, proxy forces on the ground, limited collateral damage...

U.S. warplanes bombed a convoy of Afghan tribal elders going to Kabul to attend the swearing in of an interim government, killing 65 people after locals misinformed the Pentagon, provincial leaders said on Friday.

But a top Pentagon official said the convoy, destroyed by U.S. military AC-130 gunships and Navy jet fighters, was believed to be carrying leaders of the Taliban or Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, being hunted by Washington.

Local residents said supporters of the incoming leader, Hamid Karzai, came under attack after they left a tribal meeting en route for Kabul and informers apparently told U.S. contacts they were pro-Taliban.

::Reuters: 'U.S. Bombing on Afghan Convoy Said to Kill 65' via Dack
Christopher Hitchens has been clashing so vigorously with others on the left that the 'author of No One Left To Lie To is, it seems, quite prepared to have no one left to talk to. Now that is the true mark of the contrarian.'

::Andrew Anthony, The Guardian, 'The Hitch is back in town'

... an excerpt from Letters to a Young Contrarian

Friday, December 21, 2001

Let's try to keep this story in mind when pondering the motives behind Plan Columbia -- and in the near future, when it becomes useful for the powers that be to escalate the War on Drugs again...

Those skeptical about Mullah Omar's motives for the [poppy] ban speculated that the Taliban held substantial reserves of processed opium and wished to drive up prices. The same sources predicted that a dumping of Taliban opium into the world market would follow the U.S. attack. This did not happen.

Indeed, the U.N. report noted that the dramatic reduction in Afghan opium production was not offset by increases in other countries. The stage was set for the biggest blow to global heroin trafficking since the Communist crackdown in China after World War II.

However, what would have been the world's largest curtailment of opium production in half a century will now apparently be reversed. As the Taliban was driven or fled from province after province, reports indicated farmers were replanting wheat fields with opium poppies.

Another dark indicator of a coming boom is the recent and unexpected release from a Pakistani jail of Ayub Afridi, once the Khyber Pass kingpin for a network of Pashtun drug warlords in Nangarhar Province. Some have interpreted his release as a boost to his former contacts such as Haji Abdul Qadir, Haji Mohammed Zaman and Hazrat Ali, who, according to the Asia Times Daily in Hong Kong, used to be the biggest heroin and opium mafia in Afghanistan's Pashtun belt.

To anyone looking for an overview of CIA complicity with the drug trade, I recommend Whiteout by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. It lays out a persuasive and extensively documented account of the ties between the drug trade and CIA covert actions around the world, including Afghanistan, and is a rollicking good read (though it desperately needs a round of copy-editing). Alexander Cockburn discusses the book on Radio Nation.

::Troy Skeels, Different Voices, 'Plan Columbia and the Andean Initiative'
::Peter Dale Scott, Pacific News Service, 'Heroin, Drug Warlords Reappear on Afghan Scene' via wood s lot
::Alexander Cockburn, interviewed on RadioNation 09/98, (RealAudio) -- Listen (Interview begins at 42:09)

Thursday, December 20, 2001

...the cruellest trick with drugs was that of the Taliban, who allowed a plentiful supply of the stuff throughout the country, but then banned music. That must have driven anyone on ecstasy mad. They must have spent their weekends at all-night mosques, advertised as "three floors of pumping religious chanting, with Mazar-i-Sharif's top imams".

Maybe these would wave their arms and yell: "This one's going out to the Kandahar posse, keeping it real in the chill-out cave with Osama and the gang from the al-Qai'ida massive. It's a special request for 'Allah the eternally merciful' on a special 12-inch dub mix, pursuing the pillars of Islam large-style."

That would have been the time for the Americans to nip in and do a deal, as everyone would have greeted them with: "Ah, Great Satan, good to see you man, keep it cool."

Maybe this explains the Taliban's recent behaviour. For security reasons, only a few people knew the exact location of their next venue. The rest were told to meet somewhere in the desert, where they'd be picked up and driven to a warehouse, before asking each other if they were sorted for rocket launchers.

::Mark Steel, The Independent: 'The ecstasy of hearing a police siren on the way to a rave'

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

James Norton presents a work of media deconstruction that he admits is 'unfair', 'reductive' and 'a gimmick'. But Newsweek drives him to it, by publishing a piece so misleading that the 'Department of Defense could not have written this article. Only trained journalists could so thoroughly eliminate any evidence of nuance, thoughtfulness or fairness.'

The implied theme he takes issue with, 'a race of noble, technologically magnified supermen doing battle with dirty, barbaric savages running around in the rocks' is a subtext familiar to anyone who's followed accounts of the war in Afghanistan.

::James Norton, Flak Magazine: 'Lies you can read in Newsweek' via Cursor
::John Barry, Newsweek: 'A New Breed of Soldier'

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Here in Canada, our so-called Liberal government has invoked its considerable parliamentary authority to ram through our own version of the Ashcroft laws. It's often said that Canada has no choice, that nothing less than a total crackdown on immigration and dissent will satisfy our neighbours to the south. Bill C-36 (and an iron fistful of other measures) is the price we pay for living next to an aggrieved superpower.

Wow! Police State -- with unshackled security force surveillance! Just what I always wanted, you shouldn't have... Merry Christmas to you too, America. I don't want to give away what our return gift is -- so let's just say we hope you like cold fronts.

There is no evidence that any of the hijackers operated out of Canada, or even entered the US via the Great White North -- contrary to reports published in the wake of September 11th -- yet you wouldn't know it by the conduct of Canadian leaders, who act as if we are somehow responsible for an American intelligence meltdown.

This month, U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft came to Ottawa. Most everyone fell at his feet. In the Commons, they pounded the benches for him. Though he has amended his words a bit since, this is the same man who had the gall, given the sieve-like performance of his FBI, to talk about our borders being "porous." Jean Chrétien and his Foreign Minister, John Manley, deserved the admirable-restraint award of the year for not calling Mr. Ashcroft one of the biggest hypocrites of all time.

As for our own security forces, how must they feel about taking the heat while the more guilty parties ride in the criticism-free zone? A senior RCMP official I encountered didn't seem overly annoyed by it. But he felt there should be accountability from the CIA and FBI and that, indeed, a day of reckoning would probably come. They just haven't gotten around to it, he said.

But it has been three months since that catastrophe. Might the period of grace last forever? Logic sometimes has a funny way of working. One of the biggest defence failures in American history has resulted in one of the biggest bonanzas of favourable publicity in American history.

Credit the American media for much of it. They've been pussycat patriots, Mary Poppins on the beat, since the story broke. Would they dare ask of the guy at the top, "What happened, Mr. President, to our CIA and FBI -- and when are you going to fire those responsible?"

Not likely. The world's strongest country takes out a tribe in the world's weakest, Afghanistan -- which is like the NHL champions defeating a Junior C team without skates -- and the media talks of a glorious military victory. And how's this for magic? Washington is praised for bombing a country to pieces to "prevent" a refugee crisis in Kosovo, and is now praised for bombing a country to pieces to "create" a refugee crisis in Afghanistan. Different circumstances, of course, but cool nonetheless.

::No Logo: 'An Anti-Terror Bill Primer'
::Lawrence Martin, Globe and Mail: 'We didn't mess up, they did'

Monday, December 17, 2001

Abdul Taher is a slight 14-year-old farm boy facing a choice that would baffle any grown-up: Should he risk starvation or risk having his leg blown off by a land mine?

What's behind door number three?

::Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times: 'The Hidden Enemies'

Czech police said yesterday they had no evidence that the ringleader of the suicide attacks, Mohammed Atta, met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague earlier this year. Administration hardliners in Washington had cited the alleged meeting in support of their argument that Saddam Hussein's regime had been backing terrorism.

The story emerged as the White House announced that the anthrax attacks that swept America probably originated from a domestic source. It had been suggested that the bacillus had originated in an Iraqi biological weapons lab.

Not that it matters what the facts are...

::Peter Green, The Telegraph: 'Iraq link to Sept 11 attack and anthrax is ruled out'

Sunday, December 16, 2001

If you came here for BLU-82 media, click here to go directly to the money shot...

::SeeThru, osama 'smoking gun' video via riley dog
Time for another episode of Why Do They Hate Us? -- installment #733,829 in a never-ending series...

Two heavy bombs did not explode. One bored into a rice field, and rests there about 120 feet from the village's edge. Another passed through the roof of Muhammad Baz's house. It is in the mud beneath his living room. It could go off at any time.

"This is a big danger for us," Mr. Baz, 46, said today, peering into the hole at the unexploded bomb. "I tell my children to walk quietly in the yard."

. . . The unexploded yellow cluster bombs, each about the size of an aerosol can, still clutter a rice field, an alley and two courtyards. Residents have covered some of them with overturned wash basins to keep the chickens away.

"If a bird even touches one, they might explode," said Abdul Qadir, 52. He said three of the bombs have gone off in recent weeks, apparently from changes in temperature, or maybe for no reason at all.

::C.J. Chivers, New York Times: 'An Afghan Village Where Errant Bombs Fell and Killed, and Still Lurk in Wait' via Dack

A fabulous, most-groovy, 3-D computer-animated short on the WTC and 'the media dream state being shattered'...

The French animator who created it writes: 'I'm not totally satisfied with the ending text "life is joy, don't Blow up everything".' If anyone has an apt alternative phrase to offer, email a suggestion.

::By Lolicht (Quicktime or RealMedia)

"If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terrorism." -- George Bush II


KARACHI - Pakistan and the United States have turned to a tried and trusted "friend" in their efforts to exert control over events in Afghanistan - convicted Pakistani drug baron and former parliamentarian, Ayub Afridi.

. . . Without fanfare, Afridi was freed from prison in Karachi last Thursday after serving just a few weeks of a seven-year sentence for the export of 6.5 tons of hashish, seized at Antwerp, Belgium, in the 1980s. (He had been in custody for over two years). He had also been fined 5 million rupees (US$82,000). No reasons were given for Afridi's release, or under which legislation he was allowed to return to his home town in Khyber Agency in North Western Frontier Province.

Afridi was a key player in the Afghan war of resistance against the Soviet Union's occupying troops in the decade up to 1989. It is a matter of record that top US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials believed in the early 1980s that they would never be able to justify a multibillion-dollar budget from the government to provide support to the mujahideen in the fight against the Red Army. As a result, they decided to generate funds through the poppy-rich Afghan soil and heroin production and smuggling to finance the Afghan war. Afridi was the kingpin of this plan. All of the major Afghan warlords, except for the Northern Alliance's Ahmed Shah Masoud, who had his own opium fiefdom in northern Afghanistan, were a part of Afridi's coalition of drug traders in the CIA-sponsored holy war against the Soviets.

Sources say that Afridi's constituencies in eastern and southern Afghan provinces have been revived following the withdrawal of the Taliban, and with them the drugs trade. Commanders such as Haji Abdul Qadeer, Haji Mohammed Zaman and Hazrat Ali are once again ruling the roost in these areas. These commanders used to be the biggest heroin and opium mafia in Afghanistan's Pashtun belt.

::Associated Press: 'President Signs Anti-Drug Measure' via BookNotes
::Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times: 'US turns to drug baron to rally support' via kill your tv
::Image from The Moscow Times

In a letter sent to the Canadian senators, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders, RSF ) has asked them not to pass several articles contained in anti-terrorist Bill C-36, passed last November 28th by the House of Commons. "This bill includes numerous articles that are dangerous for the protection of sources," stresses Robert Ménard, RSF's secretary-general. "Moreover, the news that can be sanctioned if circulated with life imprisonment is especially poorly defined. Certain kinds of news even reach into the public-interest sector. The legitimacy of the fight against terrorism cannot lead you to jeopardising freedom of the press. It is a genuine pillar of Canadian society."

::Reporters san frontieres, protest letter: The anti-terrorism law threatens press freedom

Friday, December 14, 2001

Bush and Enron. Why it's a story. Video from the BBC's muckraker Greg Palast, recorded last May when Enron was flying high.

::Greg Palast, BBC World Report via SF Indymedia, 18 May, 2001: 'Bush energy plan: Policy or payback?'
::Greg Palast, BBC Video, 'Payback' (RealVideo) 14 min; via Kill Your TV
::Guerrilla News Network: Above the Law: Bush’s Racial Coup D’Etat and Intell Shutdown. Interview with Greg Palast.

Has the Emperor finally exceeded his authority? Republican (and Clinton nemesis) Dan Burton, chair of the House Government Reform Committee, berated a Justice Department official during what was supposed to be a routine prehearing handshake.

'His dad was at a 90 percent approval rating and he lost, and the same thing can happen to him,' Burton added, jabbing his finger and glaring at Carl Thorsen, a deputy assistant attorney general who was attempting to introduce a superior who was testifying.

'We've got a dictatorial president and a Justice Department that does not want Congress involved. ... Your guy's acting like he's king.'

::Glen Johnson, Boston Globe via Commondreams: 'Bush Halts Inquiry of FBI and Stirs Up a Firestorm'
Excerpts from Barbara Ehrenreich's 1998 book Blood Rites:

So these are, in crude summary, the theories of war which modern wars have left us with: That war is a means, however risky, by which men seek to advance their collective interests and improve their lives. Or, alternatively, that war stems from subrational drives not unlike those that lead individuals to commit violent crimes. In our own time, most people seem to hold both views at once, avowing that war is a gainful enterprise, intended to meet the material needs of the groups engaged in it, and, at the same time, that it fulfills deep and "irrational" psychological needs. There is no question about the first part of this proposition--that wars are designed, at least ostensibly, to secure necessaries like land or oil or "geopolitical advantage." The mystery lies in the peculiar psychological grip war exerts on us.

. . . Although it is true that aggressive impulses, up to and including murderous rage, can easily take over in the heat of actual battle, even this statement must be qualified to take account of different weaponry and modes of fighting. Hand-to-hand combat may indeed call forth and even require the emotions of rage and aggression, if only to mobilize the body for bursts of muscular activity. In the case of action-at-a-distance weapons, however, like guns and bows and arrows, emotionality of any sort can be a distinct disadvantage. Coolness, and the ability to keep aiming and firing steadfastly in the face of enemy fire, prevails. Hence, according to the distinguished American military historian Robert L. O'Connell, the change in the ideal warrior personality wrought by the advent of guns in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, from "ferocious aggressiveness" to "passive disdain." So there is no personality type--"hot-tempered," "macho," or whatever--consistently and universally associated with warfare. Furthermore, fighting itself is only one component of the enterprise we know as war. Wars are not barroom brawls writ large, or domestic violence that has been somehow extended to strangers. In war, fighting takes place within battles--along with much anxious waiting, of course--but wars do not begin with battles and are often not decided by them either. Most of war consists of preparation for battle--training, the organization of supplies, marching and other forms of transport--activities which are hard to account for by innate promptings of any kind. There is no plausible instinct, for example, that impels a man to leave his home, cut his hair short, and drill for hours in tight formation. As anthropologists Clifton B. Kroeber and Bernard L. Fontana point out, "It is a large step from what may be biologically innate leanings toward individual aggression to ritualized, socially sanctioned, institutionalized group warfare."

...also, her provocative take on the Taliban and the mystery of fundamentalist misogyny:

. . . the anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist Third World movements of 40 or 50 years ago were, for the most part, at least officially committed to women's rights. Women participated in Mao's Long March; they fought in the Algerian revolution and in the guerrilla armies of Mozambique, Angola and El Salvador. The ideologies of these movements--nationalist or socialist--were inclusive of women and open, theoretically anyway, to the idea of equality. Bin Laden is, of course, hardly a suitable heir to the Third World liberation movements of the mid-20th century, but he does purport to speak for the downtrodden and against Western capitalism and militarism. Except that his movement has nothing to offer the most downtrodden sex but the veil and a life lived largely indoors.

::Barbara Ehrenreich: Blood Rites
::Barbara Ehrenreich, LA Times 4 Nov 2001: Veiled Threat

Thursday, December 13, 2001

Fans of the BLU-82 should be excited, as we've all taken a decisive step closer to the day when some really big bombs finally see some action. Let's roll!

Writing in the days following the September 11th attack, Martin Amis stated what seemed like an obvious truth, that '[several] lines of US policy were bankrupted by the events of last Tuesday, among them national missile defence. Someone realised that the skies of America were already teeming with missiles, each of them primed and cocked.'

Back then, nearly everyone agreed that the WTC bombing demonstrated the limitations of an insular American intelligence establishment, and the need for greater international cooperation and coordination. The consensus was that nothing but a global coalition could hope to contain global terrorism.

Observers have been so gratuitously praising the Bush administration for its 'restraint' and its multilateralist posturing (dutifully play-acted by Colin Powell) that they missed the obvious reality of the Emperor's priorities: missile defense 'is the foreign policy equivalent of his large tax cut for the wealthiest Americans - he remains wedded to it even though circumstances have changed and the idea is not in the best interests of the nation.'

And of course, reckless unilateralism masquerading as foreign policy is not limited to nuclear arms control:

Last week, in Geneva, the United States proposed suspending for a year talks to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, after arguing that proposals to ensure that signatories kept to the treaty were counter to American business and defense interests and would not slow the spread of the weapons.

The American position apparently took European allies by surprise. Last week, too, the Senate added an amendment to the military appropriations bill that would keep American soldiers from obeying the jurisdiction of the proposed International Criminal Court in the Hague.

A Guardian Leader sums up the implications:

It will make it almost inevitable that both Russia and China will keep their weapons on high alert, increasing the chances of an accidental launch. The example to lesser nuclear states like India and Pakistan will be a bad one. And the prospects for the kind of continuous cooperation between all states that is needed to prevent proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction will be reduced.

While there may be no immediately dramatic effect on strategic stability, in other words, in the longer term the security of all, including Americans, will be diminished. Even in narrow military terms, the United States is ill served by such a decision. Missile defence will divert resources from other forms of military power and from the worldwide preventive programmes - in intelligence, hearts and minds, and education - that everybody now thinks necessary.

The reaction of the Weenie Party to the decision is instructive, and illustrates their irrelevance:

At a news conference after meeting with Bush at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), said, "I think it's unfortunate that the Russians knew before the [congressional] leaders did." He added, "It's unfortunate that a matter of this import would not have been vetted more carefully, more completely and with greater care for U.S. foreign policy than this was."

One imagines the Weenies curled up in their bedrooms, sniffling into their pillows, 'he didn't even phone us.'

::Martin Amis, The Guardian, 18 Sept 2001: 'Fear and Loathing'
::Andrew Mitrovica, Globe and Mail, 24 Sept 2001: 'The real problem with our spies'
::Editorial, New York Times: 'Tearing Up the ABM Treaty'
::Steven Erlanger, New York Times: 'Bush's Move on ABM Pact Gives Pause to Europeans'
::Guardian Leader, 'Keeping the peace'
::Steven Mufson and Sharon La Franiere, Washington Post: 'ABM Withdrawal A Turning Point In Arms Control'
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Tuesday, December 11, 2001

A month or so back I posted a report that Mexicans were recording songs in the corrido tradition about Osama bin Laden. The Connection has just broadcast a show about narcocorridos, 'valiant songs about guns, drugs, death, and banditos, set to the sound of accordian polka.'

The Connection, 10 Dec 2001, 'Narco Corrido' : Listen (RealAudio) 60 min
After three months of sustained attacks on the left, Christopher Hitchens has gotten through an entire piece without once suggesting that Noam Chomsky is a threat to secular democracy...

"Leave now," they told me. "There's a tactical nuke on the loose, and it's headed for DC." One of these callers was in a position to know, and the other was in a position where he was actually paid to know. Calls were being placed to an immediate circle of friends to which, in theory, I was flattered to belong. Those who were calling were also leaving - while not informing the rest of the citizens.

. . . Officially, nobody now remembers this night of the weak knees. It rated a brief and embarrassed mention in Hugh Sidey's Time column, and that was it. But I shall not forget how some of those in supposed authority decided that the end had come, and made it a point to keep it to themselves and their immediate friends, perhaps to stop the crowding of the roads. That's how it will be on the day of Armageddon, and that's why the citizen should always plan to outlive the state, rather than the other way round.

The whole cult of "national security" depends upon the cultivation of national insecurity. Our new "tsar" (and what a telling word that is) Tom Ridge gave another perfect example of this idiocy on Monday last. High alert . . . something "generic" ... nothing specific. This was the third occasion on which he had told the American people to be on anxious lookout for - nothing in particular.

::Christopher Hitchens, The Guardian: 'The night of the weak knees'


::Christopher Hitchens, WBEZ radio, 3 Dec 2001, 'Is Bush's War Our War?' Listen (RealAudio) 28 min.


Doonesbury, via 13 Labs via (and image from) riley dog

Britain's most senior armed forces officer said bluntly last night that a decision by the US to widen its military campaign against al-Qaida terrorists could further radicalise Arab opinion.

The US was pursuing a "single-minded aim" of destroying Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network, but the object should not be simply to get Bin Laden in a "hi-tech, wild west " operation, said Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of the defence staff.

It was important to rebuild Afghanistan and attack the causes of al-Qaida terrorism by mounting a "hearts and minds "campaign across the Arab world,he said in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Al-Qaida cells could mount another attack on the scale of the September 11 strikes on New York and Washington, Sir Michael said. If the response was purely military or if it was disproportionate,the result could be to "radicalise Arab opinion further" and to provoke "wobbles" in any anti-terrorist coalition.

::Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian: 'Wild west' hawks get a telling off

Remember the war's stated purpose: to bring to justice those who had helped to mastermind the atrocities of September 11, and eliminate the bases where the terrorists had learned their skills. All the information available (and it was known before the first missile was launched against Afghanistan) suggests that the 19 hijackers trained for their mission in Europe and the United States, and entered the US with legal visas. Evidence that they personally had any connection with Afghanistanhas been minimal, verging on nil. No suggestion has ever been made that any of the al-Qaida network were Afghans.

::Jonathan Steele, The Guardian: 'Fighting the wrong war'

Monday, December 10, 2001

If I read my referrer-log statistics correctly, a lot of the people who come to this page are looking for video footage of the BLU-82 'Daisy Cutter' bomb. Some of these visitors are hosted from .mil domains, which puzzles me. I thought that when you join the military you get to blow up stuff on the job for real -- why go to some wimp-ass pinko site hoping to see streaming video?

Big fans of Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove

I don't consider myself a consumer, much less a purveyor, of war-porn. But I also want to be an accommodating host to all my virtual guests, without favour nor discrimination. If some of you like to get off -- whether it be in the privacy of your homes, your offices or your army bases -- looking at pictures of big metal tubes shooting their loads all over the landscape, who am I to judge?

I don't know of any hardcore video links for the Daisy Cutter, but do have some hot multimedia action shots, a modest token of my good will toward all bomb fetishists everywhere.

::Air Support in Vietnam Photos from National Archive footage of Daisy Cutter mission (16 mm film to video to still photo).
::Spanky's Photo Page 'An instant landing zone'
::BLU-82 'Daisy Cutter' Bombs Guardian Interactive (Flash required)
::Federation of American Scientists: Dumb Bombs
Time for some shameless rumour-mongering. First, what is Osama planning?

Osama bin Laden plans a TV suicide that will trigger attacks on landmarks in London, Paris and the US.

His estranged wife Sabiha said last night he would order his elder sons to shoot him rather than be captured.

Sabiha, 45, added: "That will be the signal for a new wave of terror. The targets this time would be the Capitol building in Washington, Big Ben in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris."

It doesn't inspire confidence when a journalist writes under a pseudonym. But why let ethical considerations determine weblog content?

Uzbek sources at Khanabad suggest that the real figures of US casualties are far higher than the Pentagon's official totals. This IWPR reporter, who smuggled himself onto the facility on December 2, witnessed soldiers scrambling to meet an incoming US helicopter. They lifted out five wounded men on stretchers and loaded them into waiting vehicles.

Uzbek army personnel working at the air base said scores of US casualties have been arriving there. From November 25 to Decemeber 2, an Uzbek orderly working with American medical staff said he had witnessed the arrival of four to five US helicopters - carrying between them 10-15 American casualties - each day.

. . . Uzbek army personnel say the atmosphere on the base has changed distinctly in the last week or so.

They say that in October when the Americans began deploying at the airport, they were gung-ho, telling their Uzbek counterparts that it would take no more than a month and a half to defeat the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

While the Taleban appear to be on their last legs, al-Qaeda fighters continue to resist in mountain redoubts, with some US servicemen at Khanabad now resigned to a long haul.

Uzbek military staff say frustration at this is noticeable. They say they have witnessed growing tensions among American troops, often overhearing arguments and shouting matches.

::Jeremy Armstrong, 'Bin Laden's Sons Will Kill Him on TV' via Cursor
::Andrei Sukhozhilov (pseudonym), Institute for War and Peace Reporting: 'Afghanistan: US Casualties Spiral'

Sunday, December 09, 2001

Meanwhile, in the liberated territories, our allies re-establish civilisation...

More than seven million people out of an estimated population of 22 million are classified by aid organisations as being at "very high risk". Most eke out a living in areas captured by the Northern Alliance in the first days of its offensive. By contrast, although Kandahar province has been cut off by intense fighting since the fall of Kabul, the region is in no immediate danger of famine.

The areas that should be easiest to reach are often the ones out of bounds, such as Mazar-i-Sharif, the first Taliban domino to tumble as the West's allies swept south. Nigel Fisher, Unicef's special envoy to Afghanistan, returned from Afghanistan on Monday to report joyful scenes in Kabul but also worrying developments in the north. "Three weeks ago we had international staff in Mazar," Mr Fisher said. "But they are not there any more because of the security situation."

Mazar is in the hands of Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek warlord who has rejected the peace deal signed in Germany last week. Aid convoys enter the swath of land stretching from Mazar to Kunduz at their peril.

::Imre Karacs, The Independent: 'Anarchy' leaves 1m without food
While the US ponders who to flatten next, Gary Younge explores alternative applications of the Bush Doctrine:

As a leader who constantly rails against the nefarious effects of colonialism, imperialism, racism and international capital on developing countries - often correctly but always cynically - [Zimbabwe's President] Mugabe would not appear to be a natural cheerleader for US military campaigns. But when it comes to combating terror the US president could have no finer friend. "We agree with President Bush that anyone who in any way finances, harbours or defends terrorists is himself a terrorist," says Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe's mouthpiece. "We, too, will not make any difference between terrorists and their friends and supporters."

. . . In Zimbabwe, "terrorists" means journalists who question the legitimacy of Mugabe's government. Other "terrorists" include the political opposition challenging Mugabe's desperate rein on power, foreigners opposed to his autocracy and white farmers.

True, Bush cannot be held completely accountable for how others misinterpret his doctrine. But he cannot, at the same time, parade as the leader of the free world, and then accept no responsibility for those who follow him. The problem is not that they are distorting Bush's words but that they are taking them too literally. Nowhere is this more clear than in the Middle East, a gruesome metaphor for what the future holds for the west under the doctrine.

. . . Military victory informed by political failure and economic imbalance, as the powerful crush and fear the powerless, building higher walls to hide behind the chaos they helped create. The result is less security, less democracy, more bloodshed, more instability for all. When Sharon says that he makes the same war on terror as Bush he speaks more truth than he can ever possibly realise.

::Matthew Engel, The Guardian: 'Terror hit list drawn up by US'
::Gary Younge, The Guardian: 'Lots of wars on terror'
Robert Fisk's work, recent and otherwise, speaks for itself. He very nearly died a tragically ironic death, the significance not lost on a legendary war correspondent in the grip of primal terror...
Bandaged and bleeding Robert Fisk

I brought my hands to my eyes and they were full of blood and with my fingers I tried to scrape the gooey stuff out. It made a kind of sucking sound but I began to see again and realised that I was crying and weeping and that the tears were cleaning my eyes of blood. What had I done, I kept asking myself? I had been punching and attacking Afghan refugees, the very people I had been writing about for so long, the very dispossessed, mutilated people whom my own country –among others – was killing along, with the Taliban, just across the border. God spare me, I thought. I think I actually said it. The men whose families our bombers were killing were now my enemies too.

Give Fisk credit for walking the walk. From the beginning of the bombing campaign he has been unrelenting in his advocacy for the rights of civilian Afghans. Yet even after a mob nearly pummels him to death, he refuses to indulge his natural anger (though he momentarily exploits it to save his life), recognizing that 'if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.'

::Robert Fisk, The Independent: 'My beating by refugees is a symbol of the hatred and fury of this filthy war'
::Image from BBC
Even inside the twisted confines of the football junkie, bad craziness intrudes...

What happened next is open to interpretation -- but, to make a long story short, they wound up taking Princess Omin away and telling me that I was under formal Quarantine, for Health Reasons. "And don't argue," the big one barked. "This is perfectly legal. We have a lot of New Laws, these days. You have No Rights." He handed me a small blue card with a list of numbers on it, along with some dense small print about Terrorism and National Security Emergencies and Military Tribunal Judgments.

Hunter Thompson, ESPN, 'The shame of Indianapolis' via Bat's Brain

I later found out that the village housed lots of Afghan refugees, whose relatives had been killed just last week in the American bombing of Kandahar. It doesn't excuse them for beating me up, but there was a real reason why they should hate Westerners.

::Raymond Whittaker, The Independent: 'Robert Fisk beaten by mob'
::AP: 'Afghans beat British reporter'

Friday, December 07, 2001

100 Nobel Laureates can't be wrong... unless they disagree with Dick Cheney.

The most profound danger to world peace in the coming years will stem not from the irrational acts of states or individuals but from the legitimate demands of the world's dispossessed. Of these poor and disenfranchised, the majority live a marginal existence in equatorial climates. Global warming, not of their making but originating with the wealthy few, will affect their fragile ecologies most. Their situation will be desperate and manifestly unjust.

It cannot be expected, therefore, that in all cases they will be content to await the beneficence of the rich. If then we permit the devastating power of modern weaponry to spread through this combustible human landscape, we invite a conflagration that can engulf both rich and poor. The only hope for the future lies in co-operative international action, legitimized by democracy.

It is time to turn our backs on the unilateral search for security, in which we seek to shelter behind walls. Instead, we must persist in the quest for united action to counter both global warming and a weaponized world.

::Statement by 100 Nobel Laureates, Globe and Mail: 'Our best point the way'
::Ambrose Beers,, 1 September 2000: 'Chickenhawk Down'
Political considerations...

If Bush doesn't want to repeat his father's mistakes — which does seem a guiding principle of his administration — he'll be leery of a too-early termination of the current conflict. Not just for policy reasons, but also, if he thinks about them, for sound political reasons. As long as the war against terrorism is going as well as it seems to be going, then the longer it goes on, the better the chances that Bush will be a two-term commander.

. . . Prediction! Kausfiles will be roundly condemned as unpatriotic for this item. But within two months the essential point — that it's in Bush's political interest to keep the war going—will be such a staple of punditry that you will switch channels when you hear it.

Fortunately, the administration has clearly demonstrated it is above exploiting war for mere political gain...

::Mickey Kaus, Slate 'Is it in Bush's political interest to prolong the war?'
While American operations in Afghanistan appear to be winding down - though things are hardly settled there - it's reassuring to know that US planners are doing all they can to ensure a repeat visit in ten years or so...

The only foreigners not sweeping into Kabul so far are those from the American government. Diplomats from other key countries are in town to set up embassies, but American diplomats are conspicuously absent.

The tardiness of the American diplomats is one of several signs that Washington risks repeating its mistake of a decade ago, when it won the war against the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan and then betrayed the Afghans by walking away from them. We point fingers at other countries for allowing Afghanistan to become a terrorist haven, but we were the ones who abandoned the Afghans to the feuding factions whom we had armed and whose fundamentalist Islamic passions we had ignited in the campaign against the Soviet Union. This terrorist "swamp," as we like to call it, was partly made in America.

::Luke Harding and Nicholas Watt. The Guardian: 'Warlord's boycott exposes cracks in regime'
::Nicholas Kristof, New York Times: 'Welcome to Kabul'

Thursday, December 06, 2001

The latest flare-up of post-Vietnam press disorder...

In other conflicts, such as the Gulf War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and World War II, reporters have been permitted to "embed" with military units and cover their daily operations. But not this time. For example, more than 1,000 regular infantry troops from the Army's 10th Mountain Division have been in Uzbekistan for nearly two months, and in Afghanistan for at least two weeks, but no reporters have been allowed to cover them.

Almost all information has been released from the Pentagon, far away from the conflict, and much of it has been dated and vague. The extremely restrictive policy toward the release of information was set by Rumsfeld, who has argued that the new constraints are made necessary by the nature of the war against terrorism. Rumsfeld has pointedly noted in several statements that defense officials who leak information may be in violation of federal criminal law.

. . . Walt Rodgers, a senior international correspondent for CNN and one of 12 pool reporters at the base, said he had not worked under such tight restrictions when covering Israeli forces in Lebanon or even the Soviet army.

"We had greater freedom of coverage of Soviet military operations in Afghanistan than we had at Camp Rhino, which we could never say," said Rodgers, who was prohibited by U.S. military rules from saying he was reporting from Camp Rhino even when anchors used that location in introducing him for live reports.

::Carol Morelo, Washington Post:'Tight Control Marks Coverage Of Afghan War' via Dack
Albert Camus' novel The Plague resonates strongly right now, for reasons that have little to do with biological epidemics...

Today, The Plague takes on fresh significance. Camus's insistence on placing individual moral responsibility at the heart of all public choices cuts sharply across the comfortable habits of our own age. His definition of heroism - ordinary people doing extraordinary things out of simple decency - rings truer than we might once have acknowledged.

. . . For Camus, as for Rieux, resistance was not about heroism at all - or, if it was, then it was the heroism of goodness. "It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is decency." Joining the health teams was not in itself an act of great significance - rather, "not doing it would have been incredible at the time". This point is made over and over again in the novel, as though Camus were worried lest it be missed: "When you see the suffering it brings," Rieux remarks at one point, "you have to be mad, blind or a coward to resign yourself to the plague."

. . . Camus was a moralist who unhesitatingly distinguished good from evil but abstained from condemning human frailty. He was a student of the "absurd" who refused to give in to necessity. He was a public man of action who insisted that all truly important questions came down to individual acts of kindness and goodness. And, like Tarrou, he was a believer in absolute truths who accepted the limits of the possible: "Other men will make history... All I can say is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims - and as far as possible one must refuse to be on the side of the pestilence."

. . . Fifty years after its first appearance, the closing sentence of Camus's great novel rings truer than ever, a firebell in the night of complacency and forgetting: "The plague bacillus never dies or vanishes entirely... it can remain dormant for dozens of years in furniture or clothing... it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers, and... perhaps the day will come when, for the instruction or misfortune of mankind, the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city.

::Tony Judt, The Guardian: 'A hero for our times' via Liberal Arts Mafia
'You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists' -- the latest expression of this charming vision of democracy from John Ashcroft:

Ashcroft - closed-minded, bigoted, and constitutionally dangerous

To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.

He coordinates his power grabs with vague 'credible' warnings of impending attacks and accuses critics of fear-mongering. The Attorney General might be a nut, but he's got admirable chutzpah.

At least we know there's one personal freedom that he's prepared to defend...

The Justice Department has refused to let the F.B.I. check its records to determine whether any of the 1,200 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks had bought guns, F.B.I. and Justice Department officials say.

Hendrik Herzberg concludes his 'Talk of the Town' column sensibly when he argues that the 'President frequently says that the war on terrorism will require sacrifice. John Ashcroft is one sacrifice that should be asked of him.' 'Ashcroft: Critics of new terror measures undermine effort'
::Image from abuddhas memes
::Fox Butterfield, New York Times: 'Justice Dept. Bars Use of Gun Checks in Terror Inquiry'
::Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker: 'The Wrong Man' (Thanks Bruce)


::The Connection Radio: Strange Bedfellows. Examines the emerging opposition to Ashcroft's measures from both the left and the right. Listen (RealAudio)
::Ronald Watson, Times of London: 'Bush law chief tried to drop habeas corpus'

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

The US continues to deny that it dropped bombs on Kamo Ado. Richard Lloyd Parry on entering a surrealist nadaworld. . .

. . . all this is very strange because, on Saturday morning – when American B-52s unloaded dozen of bombs that killed 115 men, women and children – nothing happened.

We know this because the US Department of Defence told us so. That evening, a Pentagon spokesman, questioned about reports of civilian casualties in eastern Afghanistan, explained that they were not true, because the US is meticulous in selecting only military targets associated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network. Subsequent Pentagon utterances on the subject have wobbled somewhat, but there has been no retraction of that initial decisive statement: "It just didn't happen."

So God knows what kind of a magic looking-glass I stepped through yesterday, as I travelled out of the city of Jalalabad along the desert road to Kama Ado. From the moment I woke up, I was confronted with the wreckage and innocent victims of high-altitude, hi-tech, thousand-pound nothings.

::Ricard Lloyd Parry, The Independent: 'A village is destroyed. And America says nothing happened'

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

From the Times of London:

When Ariel Sharon sat down with President Bush in the Oval Office for a hastily arranged meeting on Sunday, he had one devastating fact up his sleeve.

The killing of more than 25 Israelis this week, when taken in proportion to the US population, was similar to some 2,000 Americans losing their lives, said his travelling entourage.

Mr Bush hardly needed to have the implication spelt out. Mr Sharon was placing the weekend’s suicide bombings on the same scale as the September 11 attacks and would respond accordingly. There was nothing that Mr Bush could do to prevent him.

Respectfully, if the President had paid attention during Philosophy 101 at Yale, he'd have known that Sharon presented a false analogy. By the Israeli leader's logic a pipe bomb in Dellview, NC could result in as grand a horror as Nagasaki.

But that wasn't Sharon's point, of course. The real message was, 'when you were attacked, you immediately responded with a large-scale military action that is killing scores of innocent people, and the U.S. is in no position to tell Israel to act any differently'.

::Roland Watson, Times of London: 'Bush hands tied as Sharon joins war on terror'
::Robert Fisk, The Independent: 'This terrible conflict is the last colonial war'
Liberal weenies cling to the belief that war has transformed George Bush into a moderate centrist, now governing in the interests of all Americans. Although the manifest lunacies of a Wolfowitz or an Ashcroft are mildly -- and ineffectively -- challenged by timorous progressives, Bush himself remains immune to criticism.

Bush, meanwhile, is exploiting his free hand to full effect. He appears ready to nominate J. Robert Brame III to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board, despite Brame's long-standing leadership of groups on the nuttiest extremes of the Religious Right. Among them is American Vision, an Atlanta-based group seeking to do away with America's secular democracy, putting in place a 'Christian regime' based on Old Testament 'Biblical law'.

AV's policies make no mention of burqas, but I can't discern any other differences between these people and the Taliban.

On theocracy: In the June 1999 issue of American Vision's Biblical Worldview magazine, an AV representative wrote, "We've been told that Christians cannot impose their religious beliefs on others. Since heaven is at stake, we have no choice. There is no hope outside of Jesus Christ."

On democracy: The June 1999 issue of AV's Biblical Worldview magazine described democracy as "the first step toward fascism."

On women's role in families:The September 1999 issue of Biblical Worldview places "God above all, man joyfully under God, woman lovingly under man, and the animals at bottom."

On non-Christian dissenters: "Non-Christians would not be forced to become Christians, but they would have to obey laws that came from the Bible," according to one AV text. "This would mean that homosexuality and abortion, for example, could not be claimed as 'civil rights.' They would be crimes."

On American history: The Constitution was designed to afford protection to Christianity only and not other faiths. "The First Amendment had the specific purpose of excluding all rivalry among Christian denominations," the group says. "Other competing religions were not protected by the First Amendment."

Then again, perhaps my criticism is a case of secular bigotry against Christians. Just because the guy is actively working towards the creation of a fundamentalist theocracy doesn't mean he can't be a fair-minded and effective labor relations official. And if George Bush wants to appoint him, he must be OK.

Since we're picking on mainstream liberals, some thoughts from the masters of leftist invective, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair:

The editor of the Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, (whose periodical has promoted the notion of a "just war" in Afghanistan) has now coauthored a column with Joel Rogers of the University of Wisconsin, published in the Los Angeles Times on November 25, proposing the following:

"If anything, the war on terrorism creates an opening for progressives, not closure -- indeed, it presents the opportunity of a lifetime.

"In brief, Sept. 11 has made the idea of a public sector, and the society that it serves, attractive again. It enlarged the public's view that unilateral military action is a bad recipe for international peace. This doesn't describe a political space from which the left is forever excluded, but one in which it is virtually invited to reenter mainstream politics."

So here's the supposed silver lining, comrades: the return to favor of Big Government. You want to be reminded of what Big Government has been up to in the past few weeks? The Antiterrorism Act passed by Congress at the President's request in late October guts the Constitution's guarantees of habeas corpus, presumption of innocence, and due process.

It allows the the federal government in the form of the Justice Department, CIA, FBI, and INS to detain non-citizens on nonexistent or secret evidence, conduct wiretaps and surveillance without evidence of wrong-doing, conduct searches and seizures without warrant, eavesdrop on private conversations between defendants and their lawyers in violation of attorney-client privilege, and investigate private citizens without 'probable cause'. The bill also allows the government to wield the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as a weapon to harass dissident organizations under the guise of fighting terrorism, subjecting them to unconstitutional search and seizure. Add to this trashing of the Bill of Rights the president's order for military tribunals. All this, and the liberal Democrats see this as a time of opportunity to invoke the benefits of big government! On this form, these people would hail concentration camps as encouraging pointers towards a "new sense of collectivity". This is crackpot realism on an epic scale, and we have by no means exhausted the malign idiocy of the vanden Heuvel/Rogers manifesto. For example: "Americans also got a crash course in the unsavory aspects of US foreign policy." Does this mean that because the amiable national discussion of the benefits of torture elicited we should hail September 11 as the instigator of a useful history lesson?

::Michael Wolff, New York Magazine: 'Saint George' via Cursor
::AU Press Release: Bush Prepared to Nominate 'Biblical Law' Activist via BookNotes
::Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Counterpunch: The Left's "Silver Lining": Big Government As Big Police
From Roger Hodge's Harper's Weekly Review:

President Bush again warned the terrorists of the world to watch out and made a foray into lexicography: "If anybody harbors a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they fund a terrorist, they're a terrorist. If they house terrorists, they're terrorists. I mean, I can't make it any more clearly to other nations around the world." Saudi Arabia was still refusing to freeze terrorists' bank accounts. American officials declared that they were "on a roll" and that the next targets in the crusade against terrorism were Saddam Hussein, Hamas, and the Hezbollah network in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, the Philippines, Indonesia, and North Korea were also being mentioned as future targets. Saudi Arabia was not yet on the list.

Hodge refers to a couple other stories I missed...

::The scientific journal Human Immunology published a paper suggesting that Jews and Palestinians have no significant genetic differences, received a flood of complaints, and then pulled the article and urged those who had copies to rip out the offending pages and throw them away.

::Eight former high-ranking FBI officials go on the record to argue that Ashcroft's new measures not only represent an attack on civil liberties, but are also likely to backfire.

"It is amazing to me that Ashcroft is essentially trying to dismantle the bureau," said Oliver "Buck" Revell, a former FBI executive assistant director who was the primary architect of the FBI anti-terrorism strategy during the 1980s. "They don't know their history," he said, "and they are not listening to people who do."

Former FBI director William H. Webster said Ashcroft's policy of preemptive arrests and detentions "carries a lot of risk with it. You may interrupt something, but you may not be able to bring it down. You may not be able to stop what is going on."

In the past, Webster said, when the FBI identified a person or group suspected of terrorism, agents neutralized the immediate threat of violence. Then they began a long-term investigation using informants, surveillance or undercover operations, "so when you roll up the cell, you know you've got the whole group."

. . . "It's the Perry Mason School of Law Enforcement, where you get them in there and they confess," Walton said of the plan to interview 5,000 Middle Eastern men. "Well, it just doesn't work that way. It is ridiculous. You say, 'Tell me everything you know,' and they give you the recipe to Mom's chicken soup."

While Revell and others said the 5,000 interviews may have a short-term deterrent effect, they said the tactic is problematic. "One, it is not effective," Revell said. "And two, it really guts the values of our society, which you cannot allow the terrorists to do."

::Roger Hodge, Harper's, 4 Dec 2001: Weekly Review
::Robin McKie, The Observer: 'Journal axes gene research on Jews and Palestinians'
::Jim McGee, Washington Post, 28 Nov 2001: 'Ex-FBI Officials Criticize Tactics On Terrorism'

Monday, December 03, 2001

We've been hearing lately that the only way to deal with fanaticism and tyranny is to fight it without hesitation, without compromise. The horrors of the 20th century proved that appeasing a tyrant is futile -- he will be rewarded for wrongful acts, will only view conciliation as a sign of weakness, and therefore be certain to commit ever more aggressive offences.

Couldn't agree more...

[Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick J.] Leahy ultimately agreed to a [security] bill that granted the administration much of what it wanted, to the dismay of civil libertarians.

Then, in a matter of days, the administration and Mr. Ashcroft began a series of unilateral actions to expand their powers even more, which provoked Mr. Leahy to protest, strenuously.

In a letter to Mr. Ashcroft on Nov. 9, Mr. Leahy declared, "I have felt a growing concern that the trust and cooperation Congress provided is proving to be a one-way street." In a signal-sending appearance on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," Mr. Leahy was asked if he was upset with Mr. Ashcroft and bluntly replied, "Yes, very much so."

What was particularly grating, several senators on the Judiciary Committee said, was learning of the administration's actions only through the news media. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and member of the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview, "The point is, the Judiciary Committee — Leahy — did give the administration what it wanted." He added, "So it's not exactly an uncooperative or halting Congress."

::Robin Toner, New York Times: 'Ashcroft and Leahy Battle Over Expanding Police Powers'
Author and actor Wallace Shawn puts America on the couch:

I don't know what to do. I want to be safe. I want safety. But I have a terrible problem: It all began several weeks ago when I lost several thousand loved ones to a horrible terrorist crime. I feel an overwhelming need to apprehend and punish those who committed this unbearably cruel act, but they designed their crime in such a diabolical fashion that I cannot do so, because they arranged to be killed themselves while committing the crime, and they are now all dead. I feel in my heart that none of these men, however, could possibly have planned this crime themselves and that another man, who is living in a cave in Afghanistan, must surely have done so.

::Wallace Shawn, The Nation: 'The Foreign Policy Therapist'
Naval scientists are developing a computer sim of Jihad, one that requires a new framework flexible enough to represent asymetrical virtual war:

[Project leader Michael] Zyda and his fellow researchers suspect the same simple yet unpredictable interactions that make "The Sims" so lifelike have the potential to illuminate the unpredictable methods of terrorists.

In essence, they are creating their own "Sim Osama."

"Some of the very best games have very, very simple rules," said Will Wright, creator of "The Sims." "But amazingly elaborate strategies emerge that you can't predict."

And hopefully it will be ready to roll off the lines for a 2002 Christmas launch... can you imagine a game with higher market upside?

::Karen Kaplan, LA Times: 'The Sims Take on Al Qaeda' via net.narrative environments
::Nuke the Middle East: Attack Sim
Naomi Klein, on Canadian antiterrorism Bill C-36's evil twin:

Bill C-35 has been quietly making its way through Parliament, downplayed as a “housekeeping” measure. On the surface, all the bill does is expand the definition of an “internationally protected person,” those foreign dignitaries who are granted diplomatic immunity when they come to town.

Some opposition Members of Parliament have objected to this largesse, saying Canada should not be a safe haven for foreign criminals, even if they are politicians.

These concerns about “protected persons” only tell part of the story. The rest is revealed when C-35 is cross-referenced with several clauses in Bill C-36 that classify many actions taken against those “protected persons” as terrorist activities. As the research of Dr. Michael Clinchy at the University of Western Ontario has shown, taken on their own, both sections look benign. Together, they form a one-two punch that will knock out the right to protest outside of international meetings.

Call the legal combo the Kananaskis clause, because it is clearly designed to kick in for the next G8 summit in June, to be held in Kananaskis, Alberta.

::Naomi Klein, Rabble: 'Hate Bill C-36? Wait Until You Meet its Brother'
Hey... I thought I read in the New York Times that precision bombing had won the war in Afghanistan two weeks ago. So what's up with this, then?

The American hunt for Osama bin Laden appeared to have gone tragically wrong for the second time in two days yesterday, when US bombers were said to have killed scores of civilians in eastern Afghanistan as well as mujahedin fighters supporting the battle against al-Qa'ida.

Then I read that ...

Mujahedin commanders were already reeling from the attacks on Friday night and early Saturday, when US planes hit three villages, killing at least 70 - and perhaps as many as 300 - civilians in territory controlled by allies of the anti-terrorism coalition. Some 600 "Arabs" - foreign al-Qa'ida fighters - are known to be at large in the Tora Bora area of the White Mountains, and there are unconfirmed reports that Osama bin Laden may also be there.

But the weekend attacks suggest that the US is relying on faulty intelligence, or it is deliberately sacrificing civilians in order to kill al-Qa'ida members living among them.

Won't some authority figure reassure me that everything is going fine?

Major Brad Lowell, a Marine Corps spokesman, said although American bombs did hit a target in the area, it was not civilian. He said the witnesses' account "doesn't jibe with our imagery", adding: "It just did not happen."

Sounds good to me, Major Lowell. Just so long as our imagery is thoroughly jibed.

::Richard Lloyd Parry. The Independent: 'US bombs hit wrong target for second time in two days'
::Richard Lloyd Parry, The Independent: 'US Afghan allies were bombed as they slept'
::Richard Lloyd Parry and Justin Huggler, The Independent: 'US bomb error 'kills 70''

Sunday, December 02, 2001

Legendary chess champion, international fugitive and nutbar Bobby Fischer was last heard from just before the September attacks. That was when British Grandmaster Nigel Short claimed he was '99 per cent sure' that he had been playing speed-chess with Fischer over the internet.

On September 11th, Fischer, reportedly hiding out in Japan, gave an interview to Radio Bombo in the Phillippines, apparently untroubled by the day's events.

This is all wonderful news. It is time to finish off the US once and for all.

I was happy and could not believe what was happening. All the crimes the US has committed in the world. This just shows, what goes around comes around, even to the US.

I applaud the act. The US and Israel have been slaughtering the Palestinians for years. Now it is coming back at the US. Bobby Fischer Bio
::Andrew Allerson, London Telegraph, 9 Sept 2001: 'Bobby Fischer takes on all comers - in cyberspace'
::David Bamber and Chris Hastings, London Telegraph: 'Bobby Fischer speaks out to applaud Trade Centre attacks' via randomWalks


::Bobby Fischer, 1982: 'I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!'
::William Lombardy, Sports Illustrated, 21 January 1974: 'A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma'
::Ivan Solotaroff, Esquire, December 1992: 'Bobby Fischer's Endgame'