Friday, November 30, 2001

'Conspiracy? No. They all think alike.'

::Gore Vidal, The Nation: 'Times Cries Eke! Buries Al Gore'

Martin Woollacott of the Guardian stresses a couple criticals about the mindset of the Bush administration: fundamental contempt for the international community, and the need to be anti-Clinton, for good or for ill.

The Clinton administration had said it was "multilateral when we can, unilateral when we must". The Bush administration seemed to be ready to reverse that proposition.'

. . . Bush's administration cannot bring itself to refer to another UN resolution, ordering all states to surrender Bin Laden, because it dates from the Clinton era. Indeed its refusal generally to touch on any of the achievements of the Clinton period, especially if they involve multilateral efforts or "nation building", is marked. "They can't bring themselves to make a big thing out of what the US and Nato did in Bosnia and Kosovo," a Washington journalist said, "which would be an important asset in persuading Muslims of America's good intentions, because they refuse to acknowledge anything that the previous administration did.

::Martin Woollacott, The Guardian, 'It is still America against the world, war or no war'
For those of us patriots who constantly ask ourselves WWJD? -- a Tribute to America.

Thanks for all the hope, guys.
John Ashcroft...

Words fail me. See BookNotes.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Oh, those warlords, they're so unsavoury:

'The bodies of the dead lay everywhere. Some were laid out in roads to be taken away, others were still lying on the ground where they died, slowly beginning to decay in the morning sun.

'An Afghan soldier leant over a body, his hands working intently in the dead man's mouth, clutching a long thin instrument. He was trying to wrench the fillings out of the corpse's teeth even as the flesh began to rot around them.'

It's not too big a deal over here, but the 400 Taliban prisoners killed during a revolt at a fortress-prison outside Mazar-i-Sharif may not be forgotten readily by the international community. The dead don't make for sympathetic victims in this case, but the sheer scale of the carnage has led to war crimes being alleged, Amnesty International is calling for a full investigation, and the UN human rights commisioner Mary Robinson is planning to question the US warplanes' bombing to quell the uprising.

Meanwhile, the plight of refugees is growing more desperate, worsened by the intensified bombing of Kandahar. And glib public speculation by American leaders about which nation will be the next target makes the rest of the world uneasy, which is partly why they're doing it.

Just to keep us off-balance, they are also sending Colin Powell on one of his whirlwind tours to reassure foreign leaders that the administration is not as scary as it looks, and to perpetuate the pleasant illusion of a 'global coalition' supporting US objectives.

One area of strain centres on the overall objectives of the "war on terrorism". Tony Blair and other European leaders, while supporting the military campaign against al-Qaida and the Taliban, put equal if not greater emphasis on diplomatic issues such as good governance, nation-building, reconstruction and humanitarian relief.

In Washington, lip service is paid to these priorities.

Other than the 'overall objectives', the global coalition stands together.

::Justin Huggler, The Independent:'How our Afghan allies applied the Geneva Convention'
::Nicholas Watt, Richard Norton-Taylor, and Luke Harding, The Guardian: 'Allies justify mass killing'
::Robert Fisk:
'We are the war criminals now'
::Tyler Marshall, LA Times: 'Desperate, Defenseless Refugees Find Only a New Kind of Misery in Camp' via Dack
::Jonathan Steele'Kandahar bombing sparks exodus'
::Paul Koring, Globe and Mail: 'Allies have no stomach for war on Iraq'
::Simon Tisdall, The Guardian:'Powell priority to cement coalition'

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Three heavyweights on The Connection radio program lately:

::Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's, suggests that rather than an 'American jihad against terrorism, its time for an American jihad for democracy.' Listen (RealAudio)

::Robert Kaplan, 'one of the most highly regarded analysts of places where, in the words of Tom Waits, "everything's broken and no one speaks English".' Also, Kathy Gannon, AP Bureau Chief in Islamabad, presently in Kabul; Charlie Sennott, foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe; and Lucian Kim, reporting for the Christian Science Monitor in Bonn, Germany. Listen (RealAudio)

::Seymour Hersh on Iran, militant Shi'ites, and nuclear bombs. Listen (RealAudio)

::Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker: 'The Iran Game'

There are voices in the Republican Party today who preach pragmatism, who champion conciliation, who counsel compromise. I stand here today to reject those deceptions. If ever there was a time to unfurl the banner of unabashed conservatism, it is now.

::Oppose Ashcroft via Dumbmonkey

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Consumerist guru Paco Underhill writes in a NY Times Op-Ed that not only does shopping prop up the economy, the act itself serves as a form of community-building. It's all part of the healing...

In the days immediately after Sept. 11 the malls were deserted. I went to the movies at a mallplex one afternoon in Texas and was the only person in the theater. By the end of October, however, I noticed that many mall parking lots were full. Some malls and stores are reporting traffic is up from last year.

People want to shop; it's in our genes. We are a social species. From our days as hunters and gatherers, we have needed to be around others. Thus the market is not just a place to exchange goods and money. It is also a place to see and be seen. Going to the mall or our kids' soccer game is a community activity, and most of us want to spend some part of every week in a community setting.

(Check out the partial client list of community-minded merchants that contract with Underhill via his firm, Envirosell.)

Far from gloomy, Underhill is bullish about the prospects for a prosperous Christmas, if merchants play it right, and if Americans have their priorities in order...

The events of the last several months have reminded Americans of the value of friends and family. This is the season when we acknowledge who matters to us. And though economists tell us we are on the edge of a recession, there is the residual effect of enormous wealth created in the last decade.

As if Buy Nothing Day hadn't taken enough of a kicking this year, the Times publishes this guy the very next day...

Since we're on the topic, a couple related sites:

::'They Rule aims to make some of the relationships of the elite of the US ruling class visible.' An inspired visual representation of information. (Flash 5 required) via randomWalks, brilliantly funny impersonators (online and in-person) of the WTO.

Monday, November 26, 2001

The Brits must be getting nervous...

Though a division over policy is not yet visible among the allies, the gulf of perception seems likely to become significant. The temper of the times will remain sternly hot in the US while, barring more terrorism, it eventually cools in Europe. Far from this campaign yielding a new concert of civilised nations, it will emphasise the deafening control of the trumpeter and conductor. The British piccolo, in particular, will find it harder to be heard. The band continues to play in rough harmony, but only on condition that it follows the unilateral beat of the big bass drum.

. . . Washington remains in unimpeded charge. Behind coalitionist talk, that's how they want it. They speak, moreover, for a different aftermath. Again the verbiage tries to soften this. But when Mr Blair talks about rebuilding Afghanistan and not forgetting it in the peace, it's plain he is sincere whereas Bush's people mouth the words and do not really mean them.

The Times of London reports that the next target for American action will not be Iraq, but instead 'Somalia, Sudan and Yemen will be at the top of the hit list, according to senior sources in London and Washington.'

::Hugo Young, The Guardian: 'Americans want a war on Iraq and we can't stop them'
::James Clark, et al, Sunday Times: US targets three more countries

Gore Vidal, fulminating in his villa...

"I've listed in this little book about four hundred strikes that the government has made on other countries. War, undeclared. Generally with the excuse that they were harboring communists. You keep attacking people for such a long time, one of them is going to get you back,'' Vidal said.

The U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan were not the right response, he added.

"What Osama did is not a war. It can't be a war because Osama is not a nation. He is a gang. It is like being hit by the Mafia. You don't declare war on Sicily because the Mafia happen to live in Sicily. You don't bomb Palermo. You get the international police and you track him down.

"And if you are a really great nation you buy him. That's the way every empire from Julius Caesar on has done it,'' he said, adding that he believed President Bush, had ulterior motives for promising a long war.

"Bush is enjoying 90 percent popularity, his 15 minutes of fame,'' he said, condemning the president's reaction to the attacks on New York and Washington as "suicidal.''

"It is not only wrong but it has repercussions that he hasn't thought about. He likes to stand tall. The taller you stand the more likely you are to get hit by a kamikaze pilot,'' Vidal said.

Stephanie Holmes, Reuters: Vidal Slams U.S. for Waging 'Perpetual War' via Cursor
I get dizzy trying to make some sense of what is happening around Kunduz and Mazar-I-Sharif...

On Saturday, 800 Taliban soldiers surrendered to the forces of Gen. Rashid Dostum, a leading commander of the Northern Alliance. But on Sunday, the prisoners decided to rebel, grabbing weapons from an armory at the local fort and attacking the Northern Alliance. At least two Americans were trapped in the fort when it happened and at least one is dead. American and British forces have now joined in trying to quell the attack. Time's Alex Perry is on the scene and provided these details via satellite phone to newsdesk editor John Flowers as the fighting raged.

::Alex Perry, Time: American rescued from Taliban-held fort via Cursor
Understanding Jargon, an essay and bibliography about 'propaganda, public relations, ideology, and related topics' from UCLA professor Philip E. Agre. via PR Watch

Saturday, November 24, 2001

Phillip Knightley writes that during wartime, government views media as a menace, raising issues of effective management:

In democracies like Britain and Australia, with a powerful press and a tradition of dissent, or like the United States, where freedom of expression is constitutionally guaranteed, the media cannot be coerced into supporting the war. They have to be seduced or intimidated into self-censorship.

The American military can't be too worried about dissent, media have steadfastly toed the hawkish line. From the safety of their perches, the pundits are spoiling for fights:

By calling for Bush to step up the war effort, curtail civil liberties, consider torture, and imagine the deaths of tens of millions of Muslims, these writers and TV personalities have dominated the intellectual debate. By grossly distorting the positions of critics, they have helped to give Bush a free ride and undermine healthy discourse. This pundit group has upped the ante for the Bush administration, either pushing it further to the right, or providing it with cover to keep pushing the envelope -- no matter how far the Bush administration goes in expanding security power and remaking the international landscape, the war boys will still be calling for more.

Cuddly curmudgeon Dalton Camp surveys the Canadian desktop warrior class...

...who return from lunch to write exhortations calling for the need for Canadian soldiers to kill and to be killed so as to prove their mettle and manliness and Canada's subservience to the cause. It is, they write, a cause to die for.

In my view, nothing could be less ennobling than the noisesome cries of old men calling for the blood sacrifice of the young.

Another excerpt from Camp's column:

My morning paper's national edition informs that U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney allowed himself an evening's gloat over the seizure of the Afghanistan capital of Kabul by troops currently doing our fighting over there.

Cheney was speaking to some of his most intimate friends who are members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. When Cheney told them how wrong the media and the Democrats have been about America's war, his friends were mighty happy to learn of it.

. . . But one is entitled to gloat on occasion. I should confess I did a little gloating myself when the Canadian Parliament had - without dissent - declared Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen of our nation. I was then reminded of Cheney who, as a congressman, voted against a motion asking the South African apartheid government to free Mandela from prison. In explaining his vote, Cheney had pointed out that Mandela was a terrorist.

::Phillip Knightley, The Public i 'Tell Them Nothing Till It’s Over, And Then Tell Them Who Won'
::Don Hazen, AlterNet: 'The Belligerent Bunch: Rabid Journalists and Pundits Push Bush to Extremes'
::Dalton Camp, Toronto Star:
'Cheney and friends look for new targets'
Following up Wednesday's reference to the London Times report that the CIA and FBI were recruiting psychics to predict future attacks and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden...

Cowlix links to one of the 'remote viewers' referred to in the article, TransDimensional Systems (who say they predicted the New York attack four years ago using a system of remote viewing 'based on the military method declassified in 1995') and to the FAS Star Gate project page.

Last year Silke Tudor wrote an account of the intelligence community's involvement with psychics, profiling TransDimensional. Back then, TD director Prudence Calabrese wrote Tudor a reassuring email dated June 13, reporting that 'the professional data indicates a high probability that Bush is going to carry the election with no bombs or ecological monstrosities in the background'


::TransDimensional Systems
::Federation of American Scientists, STAR GATE [Controlled Remote Viewing] Resource Page.
::Silke Tudor, SF Weekly, Dec 6, 2000: 'The View from Here' via Cursor

Shortly after becoming Attorney General, John Ashcroft was headed abroad.  An advance team showed up at the American embassy in the Hague to check out the digs, saw cats in residence, and got nervous.  They were worried there might be a calico cat.  No, they were told, no calicos.  Visible relief.  Their boss, they explained, believes calico cats are signs of the devil.  (The advance team also spied a statue of a naked woman in the courtyard and discussed the possibility of its being covered for the visit, though that request was not ultimately made.)

::Andrew Tobias: 'Turns Out It's Not the Black Cats You Have to Watch Our For' via wood s lot, and The Sideshow

Friday, November 23, 2001

"Bang, you're dead!" we said. "I got you!" we said. When we played, it was always war. A bunch of us together, one-on-one, or in solitary fantasies -- always war, always death.

"Don't play like that," our parents said, "you could grow up that way." Some threat -- there was no way we would rather be. We didn't need war toys. Any old stick became a weapon in our hands, and pinecones were bombs. I cannot recall taking a single piss during my childhood, whether outside or at home in the outhouse, when I didn't choose a target and bomb it. At five years of age I was already a seasoned bombardier.

"If everyone plays war," said my mother, "there will be war." And she was quite right -- there was.

So begins Sven Lindqvist's labyrinthine History of Bombing. His unconventional account defines bombing campaigns as historically racist acts, a means of controlling 'rebels, savages and infidels'.

He's interviewed along with Con Crane, professor of Military Strategy at the Army War College, on The Connection.

::Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing.
::The Connection, A History of Bombing. -- Listen (RealAudio)

Thursday, November 22, 2001

While the warlords seem more than willing to negotiate a settlement to the stand-off in Kunduz, even allowing the safe passage of foreign militants out of the city, Donald Rumsfeld is adamantly opposed. "My thoughts are very simple about negotiations anywhere in the country, and that is that the people either surrender or they ought to be fought," he said.

Easy for him to say. U.S. Army Rangers won't be storming Kunduz. It'll be Afghans and Arabs doing the fighting, and the bloodbathing.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Afghan refugees are already facing a backlash over the doomed Taliban foreign legionnaires:

People in the border town of Dir, around 240 km north of Peshawar, in Malakand, North West Frontier Province, NWFP, were horrified to hear about the ill-treatment and disappearance of their kin in Afghanistan.

Wounded Pakistani volunteers gave graphic details on their return home of their ordeal in Afghanistan, claiming fleeing Taleban left them to the mercy of the Northern Alliance.

The stories have turned many local people against Afghan refugees, in particular non-Pashtuns, sheltering in the region. There have been a number of attacks on groups of the latter. Yesterday, Monday, dozens of them were detained for their own safety.

::Dexter Filkens and Carlotta Gall, New York Times: 'Foreign Militants Seek Safe Passage From Afghan City'
::Muhammad Rasheed, IWPR: 'Pashtun Backlash'


::Luke Harding, Nicholas Watt and Brian Whitaker, The Guardian: 'Northern stronghold ready to capitulate'
::Justin Huggler, The Independent: 'Leaders in Kunduz linked to massacres'

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

The U.S. has vowed to stop at nothing until evil is eradicated. A superpower must demonstrate resolve, and not be deterred by mere frontiers of human consciousness.

Evidently impressed by all those late-night commercials, US intelligence officials are reportedly looking to recruit psychics to to bolster their investigation into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Referred to in official channels as "remote viewers," the psychics were first recruited by the CIA and FBI to lend their powers to the fight against Communism. Now, they're being approached again, the [UK] Times reports. This time, intelligence officials are reportedly asking the psychics to predict future attacks and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. No word yet on whether they'll charge by the minute for phone consultations.

And it's not too late to appoint Uri Geller to head up the missile defense system, an initiative every bit as effective and scientifically sound as this one..., Web Exclusives 'Investigators make a psychic connection' (This is a condensed version of an article that has been cycled off of the Sunday Times UK webpage. I'm unaware of this story appearing elsewhere.)
Bin Laden's recruitment video, thirty seconds of terrorist MTV:

The screen darkens. We are in a room, playing a virtual reality game: assassinate the American leader of your choice. Light pulses from a movie screen, hanging eerily in space, as a song pounds over the speakers: "We defy with our Koran/ with blood, we wipe out our dishonour and shame."

Zoom in from a figure watching the screen to the still image of a Taliban fighter straddling a corpse. The music rises. Then, the image changes, as if the hands of a clock are erasing it. We are still in the dark room, but our anonymous alter-ego is now in Taliban dress. Bush Snr and Colin Powell appear on the screen. With cowboy timing, our watching figure reaches into his robe to grab a gun. He crouches and fires at the screen, in time to the martial rhythm. Smoke obliterates the face of Colin Powell.

Cut to Warren Christopher and President Clinton. Boom! Cut to a close-up of Clinton, wearing his habitual self-satisfied smirk. The gunman's shadow blocks out Clinton's face. Kerpow! Now, in a parody of the American flag, a puzzle of horizontal stripes emerges from each side of the screen, finally connecting to reveal two fighters facing down Warren Christopher. Bang, bang! Whoosh - the images disappear and the screen spins to reveal Osama bin Laden.

::Julia Magnet, The Telegraph: 'His grasp of spin is chilling . . .' via Cursor
What's wrong with this grouchy Brit? Doesn't he watch CNN? Doesn't he know we're kicking ass?

British and American politicians have gone out of their way to praise the restraint of their new friends, now absurdly renamed the United Front, even when its soldiers have been filmed maiming and executing prisoners. But then by supporting the alliance so decisively, they are indirectly complicit in what are unquestionably war crimes. That complicity moved a stage further on Monday, when US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced he was determined to prevent thousands of Arab, Pakistani and Chechen fighters in Kunduz from escaping as part of any surrender agreement. He hoped, he said, they would be "killed or taken prisoner", but added that US forces were "not in a position" to take prisoners. Since Northern Alliance commanders have repeatedly made clear that they will not take foreign volunteers prisoner - and are reported already to have killed hundreds they have captured - the implication of Rumsfeld's remarks was pretty unmistakable.

Perhaps we should not be surprised. The US government appears to be increasingly impatient with any kind of restraint on its use of naked force. In the past week or so, it has repeatedly bombed areas known to be free of Taliban or al-Qaida forces - such as the town of Gardez, where at least seven civilians were killed in one raid; rocketed the offices of al-Jazeera, the freest television station in the Middle East; threatened to sink any ship in the Arabian sea that resists being boarded; and ordered the setting up of domestic military tribunals, with powers to try secretly and execute suspected foreign terrorists.

::Seumas Milne, The Guardian: 'A hollow victory'

Q: Do you think Mohamed Atta was the mastermind of the attacks, or do you think he was taking orders?

Robert Fisk: You know, the whole issue of orders is something I've been debating. We live in a society in the West, where, when men do violent things, they do them under orders. They are soldiers carrying out orders or mafia men carrying out killings for bosses. But the way things happen in the Middle East is not the same as in the West. Look, international capital has been globalized, so bin Laden is globalized. It's not surprising to find followers of bin Laden in all these countries. There are followers of Dunkin' Donuts and Colonel What's His Name, if you see what I mean. Individuals in various countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia listen to the tapes of bin Laden. They gather in groups of four or five. They feel they want to do something to express their support for what they've heard. The idea that they were taking orders is a particularly Western idea.

::Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive: 'Robert Fisk Interview'

Just as the war on drugs criminalized poverty at home (two million, mostly non-violent offenders, languish in jails, and millions more face drug-related charges), the undefinable, fluid, ever-shifting war on "terrorism" will take the war on dissent to a global scale. Since Seattle 1999, the implementation of the corporate globalization agenda has become increasingly problematic. The IMF and the World Bank were facing massive protests against their scheduled September meetings in Washington, D.C. It is easy to see how an expansive definition of terrorism can be manipulated to put down all domestic dissent against globalization, so-called "free trade," and the neoliberal consensus in general. A school child throwing a rock at a window would fall under the definition of terrorism.

Again, this generalized, state-generated fear has been accomplished without a shot being fired, without even an acknowledgement of the decimation of civil liberties that has occurred. The silence and complicity of elite's is akin to what must have occurred during the Nazi consolidation of power, and during the anti-Semitic repression, when millions of right-thinking Germans simply failed to raise a finger against the enormity of injustice that was being institutionalized.

::Anis Shivani, Dawn: 'America's hyperreal war on terrorism' via Random Walks
Men are shaving their beards, women showing their faces, movie houses opening, satellite dishes popping up. Life is slowly returning to normal in Afghanistan...

It was always a meagre existence, but then the Taliban reduced him to complete destitution. "They would not let us plant and in this land it is the only way to make money,'' said Mr Khatib. "We have nothing here. Last night I did not even have oil for my family to cook.''

But now there is hope, for the Taliban have gone and Mr Khatib and the farmers of Surkhrud are free to grow the crop that provides them with the closest thing to a reasonable existence – the opium poppy.

::Richard Lloyd Parry, The Independent: 'Opium farmers rejoice at defeat of the Taliban'
The rapid gains of the rebel warlords introduces a new, murkier phase of the Afghan war, one that we're told will involve 'less U.S. bombing'. Based on reports from the 'liberated' village of Gluco, we can only hope so...

Villagers described in detail how bombers circled overhead for several minutes before every heavy air strike.

. . . The headman said: "How can this be a mistake? Even the Russians couldn't bomb us because we had time to run from them. We have had no way to defend ourselves this time."

Maulavi Mohamad Mohamad, a religious leader, said: "Please tell the Americans that they are bombing their allies.

"We are poor people and we have never supported the Arabs. This is the third time in two days that our village has been bombed."

::Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post: 'In the South, U.S. Faces a Guerrilla War'
::Philip Smucker, The Telegraph: 'Village of death casts doubts over US intelligence'
The tyrannical, misogynist, radical Islamicist, terrorist-harbouring regime that we like is looking a little shaky...

While tabloid cheerleaders and spin doctors have been celebrating the fall of Kabul and the retreat of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, the mood in other parts of Whitehall is much more sombre. For senior ministerial advisers know that the real cancer in the Middle East is not Afghanistan, but Saudi Arabia.

Fears are growing that the important but anachronistic country which spawned Osama bin Laden and many of the September 11 hijackers faces the real prospect of a coup. "The Saudi royals have been paying off the terrorists with danegeld for a long while," says one well-placed source. "There is a danger that well-educated returnees from US colleges who cannot get work will make common cause with the people of the souks and overthrow them."

Stung by criticisms of corruption and their coddling of violent fundamentalism, fearing the end is near, Saudi Arabia's rulers have adopted the Michael Jackson strategy -- mounting a tacky, big-bucks media blitz:

The information ministry in the capital, Riyadh, has shelled out up to £5m on lengthy advertisements in newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic hailing King Fahd as a man of peace. The advertisements, dismissed by one senior retired British diplomat as "fawning and Kim Il-Sungish", were met with derision when they were published last week in the Independent, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

::David Leigh and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian: 'House of Saud looks close to collapse'
::Nicholas Watt and Julian Borger, The Guardian: 'Saudi Arabia's mission to win over the west comes unstuck'

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Western commentators frequently invoke the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, admiring their stealthy opposition to the Taliban, and suggesting that the action in Afghanistan is in part on their behalf. When the women of RAWA express their interests themselves, however, they can't escape the realities that our triumphant pundits prefer to ignore.

The world should understand that the Northern Alliance is composed of some bands who did show their real criminal and inhuman nature when they were ruling Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996.

The retreat of the terrorist Taliban from Kabul is a positive development, but entering of the rapist and looter NA in the city is nothing but a dreadful and shocking news for about 2 million residents of Kabul whose wounds of the years 1992-96 have not healed yet.

Thousands of people who fled Kabul during the past two months were saying that they feared coming to power of the NA in Kabul much more than being scared by the US bombing.

The Taliban and Al-Qaeda will be eliminated, but the existence of the NA as a military force would shatter the joyful dream of the majority for an Afghanistan free from the odious chains of barbaric Taliban. The NA will horribly intensify the ethnic and religious conflicts and will never refrain to fan the fire of another brutal and endless civil war in order to retain in power. The terrible news of looting and inhuman massacre of the captured Taliban or their foreign accomplices in Mazar-e-Sharif in past few days speaks for itself.

::Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA): 'The people of Afghanistan do not accept domination of the Northern Alliance!'
::A primer on Canada's anti-terrorism bill C-36, from Naomi Klein's NoLogo site. Via wood s lot
Multimedia Hitchens:

::On Charlie Rose. (RealAudio)

::On CSPAN. (RealVideo)
Some characteristically respectful, modest and nuanced arguments from the NY Times resident globo-gasbag, Thomas 'give war a chance' Friedman:

So, class, time for a news quiz: Name the second-largest Muslim community in the world. Iran? Wrong. Pakistan? Wrong. Saudi Arabia? Wrong. Time's up — you lose.

Answer: India.

. . . Followed Bangladesh lately? It has almost as many Muslims as Pakistan. Over the last 10 years, though, without the world noticing, Bangladesh has had three democratic transfers of power, in two of which — are you ready? — Muslim women were elected prime ministers.

. . . Hello? Hello? There's a message here: It's democracy, stupid!

Hello? Hello? I've got a message here on your writing, Tom. Are you ready? ARE YOU READY? It's your hyperbole, stupid! Even when you present a vaguely reasonable position, your rhetoric bom-blasts all traces of sentience, leaving only trite corporatist platitudes scattered amongst the wreckage of your prose.

Give Tom credit, though. He hasn't been cowed by a witty jape that Harper's published last month, a paragraph that Tamar Adler assembled from his recent Times editorials:

And now for a wild prediction. Real men drill wells. Don't know if they're right, but you gotta root for them. Deep down they all know it and they admit it to each other in private. You have to admire it. Because they are anything but crazy. Normally I wouldn't mind. But perfect isn't on the menu anymore. Think about it. This is dangerous. No really. It's pathetic when you think about it but also sad. Yes, yes, yes. No, no, no. Woo, woo, woo. That's embarrassing. Gotta tell you, it's the darndest thing I've ever seen. But you have to love this figure. It's kind of a two-for-one deal. A plus B equals C, but what will C be? Or does he know that I know that he knows? Say what? You guessed it. Not a bad deal. But guess what? There is a wall. Several actually. And that's the drama. But hopeless? Stay tuned. This is going to get interesting.

::Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times: 'Today's News Quiz'
::Thomas L. Friedman (compiled by Tamar Adler), Harpers, November 2001: 'Losing the War on Cliche'
We're in good, strong hands -- giving it out just the way freedom-loving people want it...

Bush has restored the "Imperial Presidency," a term Arthur Schlesinger Jr. used to describe Richard M. Nixon's administration in 1973.

"The power President Bush is wielding today is truly breathtaking," said Tim Lynch, director of the Project on Criminal Justice at the libertarian Cato Institute. "A single individual is going to decide whether the war is expanded to Iraq. A single individual is going to decide how much privacy American citizens are going to retain."

. . . The public -- and Congress -- seem content for Bush to assume as much power as he desires. He had 90 percent approval ratings in polls even before last week's dramatic progress in the Afghanistan campaign, and congressional leaders have mustered little resistance to the administration's bid to increase power in the interests of national security.

. . . This pattern of consolidating presidential authority has extended to other areas of governance. Bush issued an executive order allowing a sitting president to block release of a predecessor's records, undermining a law Congress passed about such papers. When an open-meeting law prevented Bush's Social Security commission from meeting privately, the group split into two so the law would not apply. In foreign affairs, the administration has shown a distaste for international treaties that require congressional ratification, recently rejecting amendments to the Biological Weapons Convention in favor of actions that wouldn't require legislative approval.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

::Dana Milbank, Washington Post via Common Dreams: 'In War, It's Power to the President'
Now that they have demonstrated their omnipotent power via, ahem, roguish proxy warriors in Afghanistan, a world watches and wonders in breathless anticipation: where oh where will the Americans go to eradicate evil next?

The Guardian quotes smilin' Dick Cheney speculating just how many countries could benefit from a little tough love in the months ahead.

Mr Cheney, in a rare public foray, said in an interview for the BBC's Pashtu service yesterday morning: "There are a great many places round the world where there are cells of the al-Qaida organisation. Maybe as many as 40 or 50.

"We're working with the services of other countries and other governments to try to wrap those organisations up."

This threat of military action serves a useful purpose for Washington, making governments more amenable to action against terrorism, either inside or outside their own boundaries.

That's a whole lotta potential enemies to account for. Thankfully Dack has provided a nifty visual aid to forecast likely targets for western military action.

::Jane Perlez, New York Times: 'The Corrupt and Brutal Reclaim Afghan Thrones, Evoking Chaos of Somalia'
::Nusrat Javeed, The News International, Pakistan: 'US confused where to go next'
::Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian: 'Other countries could face US military action'
::PBS Frontline: Gunning for Saddam
::Dack Ragus, The Dumb War: Predicting America's Next Attack on Terrorism

Monday, November 19, 2001

Yet another Kesey posting, a final word by Douglas Brinkley:

90% of the American people--including me--thought President George W. Bush delivered a superb address to the joint session of Congress on Sept. 20, Kesey, watching from his living room in Pleasant Hill, Ore., shook his head in weary-eyed disgust. "Bush has just finished his big talk to Congress and the men in suits are telling us what the men in uniforms are going to do to the men in turbans if they don't turn over the men in hiding," he lamented. "The talk was planned to prepare us for war. It's going to get messy, everybody ruefully concedes. Nothing will ever be the same, everybody eventually declares. Then why does it all sound so familiar? So cozy and comfortable? Was it the row after row of dark blue suits, broken only by grim clusters of high-ranking uniforms all drizzling ribbons and medals? If everything has changed (as we all knew that it had on that first day) why does it all wear the same old outfits and say the same old words?"

. . . For Kesey--the iconoclastic artist--lived by a simple motto he clung to with the tenacity of a pit bull. The job of the writer, he said, is to kiss up to no one, "no matter how big and holy and white and tempting and powerful."

::Douglas Brinkley, LA Times: 'A Final Word From the Last Merry Prankster' via wood s lot
Gee, everything has changed...

Environmentalists are angered that in some cases the administration, in the name of national security, is taking steps that they say promote the interests of timber, mining, oil, gas and pipeline companies, at the expense of the environment.

"They've used the smoke screen of the last two months to make key decisions out of public view," said Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. "The most difficult situation we face is that the attention of the media is almost exclusively on Afghanistan and anthrax."

::Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times: 'Bush Team Is Reversing Environmental Policies'
An assessment of our newly minted freedom fighters by Al-Ahram Weekly:

In a statement earlier this month, the New York- based Human Rights Watch (HRW) singled out numerous groups and high-profile commanders in the Northern Alliance as party to gross human rights infractions, not only against Taliban fighters but against civilians and suspected Taliban sympathisers. Warning the US and its allies that a record of human rights abuses should not be rewarded with blind support, HRW noted that atrocities committed by some United Front factions were well documented. It added that some of the most harrowing incidents occurred in places controlled by the United Front as recently as a few years ago.

. . . The more the US confers with NA leaders, the more legitimacy the alliance garners, and, consequently, the harder it becomes for Americans and other allied nations not to put their desperate faith in this collection of hardened fighters. Those unfamiliar with the history of Afghanistan and the tribal warfare that has ravaged the country hear terms like anti- Taliban and "Northern Alliance" and think of a tightly organised, finely honed fighting machine, just waiting for its chance to do what is right. Even the use of the sweeping, generic term "Northern Alliance fighters", now so common in news reports, is misleading, as the groups that make up the NA are disparate and far-flung, both in Afghanistan and beyond.

::Nyier Abdou, Al Ahram Weekly: 'My enemy's enemy'

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Spent one week away from the internet, subject to the mercy of television and the domestic press. Come back jet-lagged and otherwise brutalized by the airline, and log on to check out the Brits. It doesn't seem they are enjoying the same triumphant war that's the consensus reality on this side of the pond.

The Northern Alliance watched the American bombers clear the road to Kabul. They were grateful. Then they drove into Kabul and now they are asking the British to leave. Poor old Jack Straw had trouble contacting the Afghan foreign minister to sort things out. The Afghan satellite phone was not switched on. You bet it wasn't.

The mystery is why we ever expected these people to obey us. Afghan rules don't work that way. Ethnic groups and tribes and villagers don't take orders from foreigners. They do deals. The West wanted to use the Northern Alliance as its foot-soldiers in Afghanistan. The Alliance wanted to use the American bombers to help it occupy the capital.

Not only are they suffering all the angst, apparently they're the brains behind the whole operation. The Guardian publishes a breathless, Anglo-valorizing account suggesting their own military strategists were really behind behind the advances of the Northern Alliance campaign:

London had become aware that America was actually operating in a vacuum. It had little intelligence on the Taliban or the Northern Alliance, the two warring factions in Afghanistan. 'To tell you the truth, for the first two weeks we were not sure what the best way forward was,' one British official said. 'They [the Americans] were asking us for answers. We had to go away and find them.'

::Robert Fisk, The Independent: 'Our friends in the North are just as treacherous and murderous'

::The Guardian, 'The rout of the Taliban':Part One, Part Two

Saturday, November 10, 2001

I'm going to be occupied most of this week. If you don't know of these resources already, check them out for consistently intelligent and fresh perspective:

Cursor: An awe-inspiring daily digest.

Booknotes: A literate take on events, with groovy music added to the mix.

wood s lot: Erudite and eclectic. A devastaing anti-war weblog that eschews 'op-ed pieces or articles from those damn commie pinko rags like The Progressive, ZNet, or Commondreams', believing that 'the folly of this war can be demonstrated by wire feeds and mainstream news organizations, including FOX.'

There are many other weblogs doing excellent work lately, their omission here is my own laziness...


Ken Kesey. A very big man, and an inspiration. I'd feel braver knowing he could be with us through whatever is coming. I linked to his piece posted a few days back, but it's worth doing again:

...we are talking not just about war, this time, but about the war above the war: the Real War. This war has already been been waged, and it's not between the US and the Taliban, or between the Moslems and the Isralies or any of the familiar forces, but between the ancient gutwrenching bonebreaking fleshslashing way things have always been and the timerous and fragile way things might begin to be. Could begin to be. Must begin to be, if our lives and our children's lives are ever, someday, in the upheaving future, to know honest peace.

True, the warriors on our side of this Real War seem few and flimsey, but we have a secret advantage: we don't fight our battle out of Hate. Anger, yes, if we have to, but anger is enough. Hate is the flag the other side battles beneath. It is the ancient flag of fire and blood and agony, and it waves over the graves of millions and millions.

Our side's flag is a thin, airlight blue, drifting almost unseen against the sky. Our military march is a meadowlark's song among the dandolions. And our Real War rally isn't given any space at the United States Congress. Where can you hear it? Lots of places, if you listen. Across Dairy Queen counters. In the careful post office talk. The e-mail is where I've been hearing it, for days now, and the entries are getting clearer and more numerous. At first only ten or fifteen. Then fifty or sixty. And this morning more than three hundred!

When I originally read this, I meant to send Kesey a short email to add to the flow -- but hesitated, not wanting to be a pest. I suspect I'll regret my reticence for a long while... He urged us to be bold.

Friday, November 09, 2001

Drug-financed terrorists are called Narco-terrorists for a reason. As criminals engaged in drug trade, arms-trafficking and money-laundering, this network of criminals are partners with terrorists. Together they murder men, women, and children, and undermine our freedoms as directly as the fanatics who turn hijacked airliners into flying bombs.

::D.A.R.E. 'Terrorism Must Also Be Fought on the Battlefield of Drug Abuse' via Unknown News

a) In July 2000 the Taliban prohibited the cultivation of opium poppy. An assessment mission in May 2000 reported that opium poppy cultivation had been effectively eliminated in those Taliban controlled areas where it had traditionally been grown. Production of opium in Northern Alliance areas of Afghanistan continues.

b) Last year, the only place where opium production increased, according to the United Nations, was an area held by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Badakhshan province.

:: a) U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 'Tackling the Major Drug Threats'
:: b) Washington Post, (October 23, 2001): 'Drug Trade Resurgent in Afghanistan' via Media Awareness Project

A shepherd stumbled across some 50 unexploded US cluster bombs in a mountainous region of Pakistan, local police officials said on Thursday.

. . . The site is 100 km south of the Afghan border and is in the vicinity of two Pakistani airbases that have been made available to the United States for their assault on Afghanistan -- Dalbandin and Shamsi.

A rural police official said the shepherd, identified as Eshar, found the bombs on Tuesday as he herded his sheep. He hit one and it exploded, injuring him in the legs, hands and torso.

::The Times of India: '50 US cluster bombs found in Pak' via Cursor
The Infinite Jest rides to the rescue with a set of educational trading cards.
via Booknotes, kill your tv.
Shoulder to shoulder:

Mr Bush said on Wednesday that the bombing of Afghanistan was just the start of the war on terrorism.

One British minister said that bombing Iraq would be catastrophic because women and children would be killed and the consequences for the US and Britain in the Arab world would be unimaginably dangerous.

He warned that US and British embassies in the Arab world would have to close and British civilians would have to be advised to leave the area. He feared that moderate Arab regimes would be swept away.

The sense of frustration also applies to defence and military circles. British defence officials recognise that Washington is calling the shots. But there is growing impatience about US delays in deploying and giving tasks to ground troops, including some 100 SAS troops believed to be in Afghanistan or nearby.

One senior minister even spoke disparagingly about General Tommy Franks, the US commander of Operation Enduring Freedom, describing him as an "artillery man" reluctant to commit infantry.

British military planners made it clear they are extremely concerned about the failed raid by US rangers on targets near Kandahar on October 20 and the decision to release a video of it for propaganda reasons.

::Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian: 'Splits open in UK-US alliance'
::Ewen MacAskill, Richard Norton-Taylor, Julian Borger and Ian Black [et al?], The Guardian: 'Clouds hang over special relationship'
Proxy war: precise, supple, sexy...

Frustration was compounded by uncertainty about another tribal leader, Hamid Karzai, who entered southern Afghanistan three weeks ago on a similar mission to rally Pashtun opposition.

Yesterday he told the BBC via satellite phone that he was still in Uruzgan province and "doing absolutely good" and enlisting support after escaping Taliban pursuers.

In a bizarre twist, he denied a claim by the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, that he had been extracted from the country by an American helicopter last weekend, suggesting one of them will have a credibility problem when the truth is known.

... and a steady hand on the wheel at home.

Bush spoke at an elementary school, where he urged students to make pen pals with their counterparts in Arab countries. (Remarkably, Bush's one new initiative in the midst of the anthrax mailings will assure that the country is flooded with letters from the Middle East addressed in children's handwriting.)

::Rory Carroll, The Guardian: 'Opposition leaders ready to quit battle against Taliban'
::Ryan Lizza, The New Republic: 'Missing Person' via Cursor

Thursday, November 08, 2001

A Northern Alliance soldier sat and stared moodily at the hills. "Once, some of us in this army fought against the Russians, and some fought with them," he said. "Now we are together against the Taliban. And I think that soon we will be together with them," he gestured towards the Taliban positions, "fighting against..." he hesitated "...some one". Did he mean the Americans? "The Americans are imperialists," he said.

Justin Huggler, The Independent: 'Taliban are shaken but defiant as bombing fails to instill terror'
President Bush gave an important speech yesterday, outlining the grave threat represented by nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

"They're seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons," he said. "Given the means, our enemies would be a threat to every nation; and, eventually, to civilisation itself. So, we're determined to fight this evil and fight until we are rid of it. We will not wait for more innocent deaths."

The dangers of nuclear proliferation are undeniable, which is why the policies articulated by this administration have been somewhat confusing. It's widely acknowledged that the most likely scenario for nuclear materials and expertise being acquired by terrorists is the continuing meltdown of Russia's scientific and military organizations. Indeed, there's already a thriving black market in the former Soviet Union for pilfered nuclear materials.

So it would presumably be in our interests to ensure that Russia safeguards and disposes of its weapons and waste. Yet last May the Bush administration announced it would scale back Clinton-era 'programmes in Russia aimed at securing nuclear stockpiles against theft, decommissioning weapons-grade uranium and plutonium or converting it for civilian use, and retraining and paying Russian nuclear scientists in order to discourage them from taking their expertise elsewhere.' In place of these initiatives, the Bushies proposed paying the Kremlin to take America's waste off its hands, presumably reasoning that 'since Russia is already a nuclear toilet, who would notice a little more hot crud?'

But we keep hearing that 'everything has changed' since September 11th. Surely the new world order forged in the wake of the attacks has forced the administration to reconsider its arrogant, short-sighted, and unilateralist policies.

There has been speculation that the attacks on New York and Washington will revive US interest in security regimes and multilateralism. They have shown that there is no safety in isolationism and that terrorism can only be fought cooperatively.

So far, there is little evidence to support this speculation. Besides waging war, the priorities in US security policy are becoming evident and none suggests an increasing appetite in Washington for arms control. One is to build home defence, but that includes missile defence and a probable withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. Another is to sharpen deterrent threats, but that implies freedom from political and technological restraint. Another is to enhance detection, but mainly by giving more resources and powers to intelligence agencies.

Instead, the signals coming from the Bush administration are that the approach to arms control will henceforth be strictly a la carte. The US government will support measures such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which restrain others and directly serve US national security interests. But it will reject measures that restrict America's freedom of action or that do not bring immediate benefits.

Naive idealists find it difficult to grasp how the best defense against suitcase bombs and the nuclear black market is a missile defense system and cluster-bombing, but that's why we leave foreign policy to the experts. We're clearly in capable hands.

::Matthew Engel, The Guardian: 'Nuclear threat is real - Bush'
::Amelia Gentleman and Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian (July 25, 2001): 'Weapons-grade uranium seized'
::Ian Traynor, The Guardian (May 7, 2001): 'Bush threatens to slash spending on nuclear safety aid to Russia'
::Gregory Palast, The Guardian (July 29, 2001): 'To Russia with love and $15bn'
::William Walker, The Guardian: 'Weapons of mass destruction'

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

U.S. military strategists had hoped the air attacks and the resulting destruction would generate public anger at the Taliban, forcing them to surrender bin Laden and members of his al Qaeda network. But Afghan refugees said just the opposite has occurred.

It might not have worked out exactly as planned, but the reasoning was sound. Consider the American public anger at the Bush administration generated by the 9/11 attacks, forcing it to embrace a more humane foreign policy. Victims instinctively empathise with their bombers, it's kind of like the Stockholm syndrome...

:: Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post: 'Support Deepens For the Taliban, Refugees Report'
Military target:

"In case the dam and/or the three tunnels (with regulators) leading the water out of the dam also has been damaged it may result in a disaster of tremendous proportions," says an internal report prepared by the regional co-ordinator in the Pakistani city of Quetta and made available to The Independent. "If the dam collapses the whole Helmand valley would be flooded, risking the life of tens of thousands of people in addition to destroying the lands benefiting around 500,000 people (and feeding around 1,000,000 people) ... It is crucial to have the situation at the Kajaki dam/power plant assessed."

::Richard Lloyd Parry, The Independent: 'UN fears 'disaster' over strikes near huge dam'
Reading Seymour Hersh's article about the botched Delta Force raid of October 20th raises questions about what exactly happened in Somalia all those years ago...

PBS Frontline hosts an outstanding multimedia site documenting the bloody 1993 special forces battle in Mogadishu that left 18 dead and 84 wounded, in a debacle that continues to haunt US planners as they map their strategy in Afghanistan.

::PBS Frontline: 'Ambush in Mogadishu' (Thanks James)

Question: Why does a great, freedom loving country like America pay people to conceive of and then develop things like cluster bombs?

That's a good one. Read some pertinent responses from the Federation of American Scientists and the Mennonite Central Committee.

(A grateful and proud Mennonite salute to Booknotes for the links.)

Count on the Guardian to be disgustingly competent:

::Guardian Interactive: BLU-82 'daisy cutter' (interactive)

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

I've gotten a bit of mail asking me why I slam the American bombing, and do nothing to counter specious Taliban claims. Frankly, why bother?

The Taliban displayed the remains of what it claimed was a crashed American helicopter yesterday, as police in Pakistan investigated reports that another had been shot down by the Taliban in the remote south-west of the country.

"Their attack here will soon share the fate of this aircraft," a Taliban soldier declaimed through a megaphone, as a truck drove through the streets of Kabul, bearing pieces of metal and a two tyres. "Don't worry: we will defeat the Americans and their Allies."

Residents came into the street to see the metal parts and two tyres, mounted on the back of a vehicle.

We should expect that the best and brightest of western democracy can assemble more compelling propaganda than this, if only as a matter of pride...

:: Richard Lloyd Parry, The Independent: 'Regime shows 'crash remains' '

The Guardian leads with its own story on the botched Special Forces mission of October 20th, confirming Seymour Hersh's account, emphasizing the discordance between Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, and adding its own gruesome touches:

According to an authoritative and independent source in constant touch with Kandahar, Delta Force commandos, the most secretive and elite in the US army, searched Mullah Omar's compound but found it had been stripped of anything that might provide useful intelligence. As they emerged they came under intense fire, forcing them to retreat. The Taliban later retrieved "an American foot" from the scene, still in its boot.

"There was a lot of blood," the source said. "The Taliban had expected an attack and had taken everything of value out of the compound. They were ready and waiting. They were only too delighted when the Americans arrived. It was not as if Mullah Omar was going to leave a note inside saying: 'Osama is hiding here'."

During the raid one of the Chinook helicopters was badly damaged. The Taliban later showed off a section of its landing gear and said they had shot the helicopter down.

The account provided to the Guardian was consistent with [Hersh's] article published yesterday in the New Yorker magazine.

::Luke Harding, Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian: 'Revealed: how bungled US raid came close to disaster'

Monday, November 05, 2001

These's been a lot of buzz about Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article reporting the tough fight US Special Forces encountered during missions on October 20th. What was supposed to be a turkey shoot, with one of the two raids apparently staged for sexy television footage, instead turned into a "total goat fuck"—military slang meaning that everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

The Delta team stormed [Mullah Omar's] complex, and found little of value: no Mullah and no significant documents.

"As they came out of the house, the shit hit the fan," one senior officer recounted. "It was like an ambush. The Taliban were firing light arms and either R.P.G.s"—rocket-propelled grenades—"or mortars." The chaos was terrifying. A high-ranking officer who has had access to debriefing reports told me that the Taliban forces were firing grenades, and that they seemed to have an unlimited supply. Delta Force, he added, found itself in "a tactical firefight, and the Taliban had the advantage." The team immediately began taking casualties, and evacuated. The soldiers broke into separate units—one or more groups of four to six men each and a main force that retreated to the waiting helicopters.

Although accounts of the botched raid appeared in the British press the following week, the story has not been reported by any of the major American media outlets until now. Hersh reports that the Pentagon could not tell the American people the details of what really happened at Kandahar, in the angry words of one senior military officer, "because it doesn't want to appear that it doesn't know what it's doing."

Not surprisingly, the Department of Defense is denying the story.

::Seymour Hersh, New Yorker: 'Escape and Evasion'
::General Richard B. Myers , DoD News: 'Gen. Myers Interview with Meet the Press, NBC TV via Cursor
::Charles Cutshaw, Jane’s World Armies: 'Special forces and the reality of military operations in Afghanistan'
As a bombing campaign it's something like another Rolling Stones stadium tour. Big, loud, lots of smoke and explosions, it triggers flashbacks to the late-sixties/early seventies, is exorbitantly expensive, and receives adulatory, wildly inaccurate saturation media coverage.

But, the new Rolling Thunder Revue knows how to kick out the jams on the evil-doers, right?

The Taliban leaders, and the thousands of foreign volunteers, also know that there is nowhere to run. If they lose this war, they will either be killed by the Alliance warlords, or else sent home to face probable execution.

And the Taliban remain a formidable military force. Unnoticed under the weight of bombs last week, there was just one tiny adjustment to the front lines down on this plain - and it went in the Taliban's favour.

Several hundred metres were taken from the fighters of the Northern Alliance. Not bad for a force that is being hammered day and night by the United States Air Force.

Gulbahar bazaar, a stone's throw from the airstrip, reveals something else about conditions on the Taliban side of the line: this market is packed with food, rice, cooking oil, Iranian Pepsi and boxes of biscuits. And all of it comes over, via donkey, from Taliban territory.

The Taliban, far from being short of food, have so much of it that they allow it to be exported to their enemies - charging each smuggler, known locally as Donkey Men, $10 a time. It is this trade that keeps much of the Northern Alliance, now cut off from road links with aid depots to the north, from starvation.

Traders here report that conditions are indeed desperate for the poor on the other side of the line - but they also say the Taliban themselves are fit, well fed and ready for war.

Just like the Stones when they're on tour, there are reports of backstage ego-clashes amongst the leaders:

It is the commander of US forces in the Middle East, General Tommy Franks, who is deciding the targets to hit each day, and which ones not to hit. Lawrence Kaplan, a well-connected international commentator for New Republic magazine, says Franks has shown a "marked aversion to risk", which has led to arguments with Rumsfeld about the vigour of the campaign.

Rumsfeld is bouncing off the walls, says Kaplan, caught between General Franks and a White House insistent on leaving the war to the military.

"Cheney's laying low, Condi [Rice, the National Security Adviser] is in over her head, [Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen] Hadley is cautious, [Rumsfeld] isn't close to the President, and the President trusts the military," an Administration official told Kaplan. "That's just the way it is."

Yet like reunion tours, blundering bombing campaigns don't look to be going away any time soon. Peter Preston lays the blame (for the bombing, at least) on the intelligence community:

He was already America's (and thus Britain's) most wanted man, vainly searched for over the years. He had warned floridly of a big coup coming. Yet nobody was ready, nobody had a clue. Intelligence sat stunned at the back of the class.

And since the twin towers imploded, things have grown worse, not better. Outside America, in the hills of southern Afghanistan, Bin Laden sits unscathed with his video camera. Why don't the "crack" special forces teams go in and root him out? Because they have no idea where he is. Because information on the ground (about almost anything useful) is chronically deficient. Because the rising of the Pashtun tribes against the Taliban that CIA analysts predicted simply hasn't happened. Because the Taliban are tougher nuts than those fabled experts in their cosy offices supposed.

The carpet bombing that is turning off the Arab world was never, of course, a part of the plan. The weeks of collateral damage and friendly fire were never strategic imperatives. They are there, continuing, because nobody has a brighter idea or better information. Thud and blunder replacing intelligence.

Lest I be tarred with the dread brush of defeatism, allow me to pass on cartoonist Tom Tomorrow's reasons for patriotic optimism.

::Chris Stephen and Tim Judah, The Guardian: 'Hawks push unfamiliar allies into a belligerent embrace '
::Gay Alcorn, Sydney Morning Herald: 'Embattled on all fronts, the US badly needs a victory somewhere, anywhere'
::Peter Preston, The Guardian: 'Sack the intelligence chiefs who have failed us so badly'
::Tom Tomorrow, This Modern World, Salon: Patriotic Optimism!
This is war! We've all got to suck it in, acquiesce to regrettable but necessary force in Afghanistan, unprecedented but needed rollbacks of certain civil luxuries -- er, liberties, and tough it out through the churn of media panic and official malfunction. Oh yeah, lots of us will lose our jobs, too. But thankfully, we can count on the beneficence of corporations, those rapid-responsive, 24-7, transcendentally transnational, and inherently ultra-efficient organizations that have rendered the nation-state obsolete. Let's hear it for the selfless leadership of the corporate elite!

Richard Sylla, professor of business history at New York University's Stern School of Business, said corporate lobbying for tax breaks during a crisis is a relatively new behavior. "Taxes went up in World War II and nobody seemed to object," he said. "There was more of a spirit of cooperation. It was more `What's in the national interest?' than `Can you do something for us?' "

One egregious me-first move now gaining traction is repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax, created in 1986 to keep profitable companies from using loopholes to eliminate taxes. Even worse, the House plan would return all the A.M.T. ever paid by these corporations. That would send billions in rebates to I.B.M. and Ford Motor and hundreds of millions to General Motors, General Electric, Texas Utilities and DaimlerChrysler.

If corporate America were groaning under the weight of onerous tax rates, repealing the alternative minimum tax might be acceptable. But while the presumed corporate tax rate is 35 percent, loopholes bring the effective average tax rate for big companies way down. Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal advocacy group in Washington, calculated the effective corporate tax rate at 20.1 percent in 1998, on average, down from 26.5 percent in 1988.

Bill Moyers presents a similar argument, widening the scope of the indictment:

It's time for Churchillian courage, we're told. So how would this crowd assure that future generations will look back and say "This was their finest hour"? That's easy. Give those coal producers freedom to pollute. And shovel generous tax breaks to those giant energy companies. And open the Alaska wilderness to drilling--that's something to remember the 11th of September for. And while the red, white and blue waves at half-mast over the land of the free and the home of the brave--why, give the President the power to discard democratic debate and the rule of law concerning controversial trade agreements, and set up secret tribunals to run roughshod over local communities trying to protect their environment and their health. If I sound a little bitter about this, I am; the President rightly appeals every day for sacrifice. But to these mercenaries sacrifice is for suckers. So I am bitter, yes, and sad. Our business and political class owes us better than this. After all, it was they who declared class war twenty years ago, and it was they who won. They're on top. If ever they were going to put patriotism over profits, if ever they were going to practice the magnanimity of winners, this was the moment. To hide now behind the flag while ripping off a country in crisis fatally separates them from the common course of American life.

It's been endlessly repeated and accepted that September 11th knocked out the anti-corporate movement as a political force. Without a doubt, tremendous organizational energy has flowed away from economic activism into anti-war activism, and the present climate makes it hard to imagine Genoa-type street battles being pitched anywhere in the foreseeable future. But the explosions have rocked the corporate world as well, and the utter nothingness at the core of global turbocapitalism is increasingly obvious:

The CIA warned pre September 11, "that the global economy will create many winners but... behind will face deepening economic stagnation, political instability and cultural alienation" that "will foster political, ethnic, ideological and religious extremism along with the violence which often accompanies it". Even Henry Kissinger warns of how "ideological radicalism" breeds in "a two-tiered system of globalised elites living behind security gates... while the populations at large are tempted by nationalism, ethnicity and a variety of movements to free themselves".

This is the silver lining for the anti-corporate movement. The tragic events of September 11 have underlined the urgency of its critique of globalisation. It shattered the traditional notion that security depended on the individual state's superior military technology. Now, security requires unprecedented transnational cooperation on a huge agenda ranging from intelligence to poverty eradication. Old obstacles are tumbling like ninepins; most strikingly, if financial controls can be put in place to cut off terrorist financing, why can't mechanisms be developed to exact the Tobin tax, which - a New Economics Foundation report out today shows -would pay for all the 2015 development targets?

::Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times: 'Hands Out, Even in a Time of Crisis' (Thanks Mia)
::Bill Moyers, The Nation: 'Which America Will We Be Now?'
::Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian: 'No retreat in Doha'

Sunday, November 04, 2001

An intertransdimensional missive --'raw, no spelling corrections' -- from intrepid tripster Ken Kesey:

Because we are talking not just about war, this time, but about the war above the war: the Real War. This war has already been been waged, and it's not between the US and the Taliban, or between the Moslems and the Isralies or any of the familiar forces, but between the ancient gutwrenching bonebreaking fleshslashing way things have always been and the timerous and fragile way things might begin to be. Could begin to be. Must begin to be, if our lives and our children's lives are ever, someday, in the upheaving future, to know honest peace.

True, the warriors on our side of this Real War seem few and flimsey, but we have a secret advantage: we don't fight our battle out of Hate. Anger, yes, if we have to, but anger is enough. Hate is the flag the other side battles beneath. It is the ancient flag of fire and blood and agony, and it waves over the graves of millions and millions.

Our side's flag is a thin, airlight blue, drifting almost unseen against the sky. Our military march is a meadowlark's song among the dandolions. And our Real War rally isn't given any space at the United States Congress. Where can you hear it? Lots of places, if you listen. Across Dairy Queen counters. In the careful post office talk. The e-mail is where I've been hearing it, for days now, and the entries are getting clearer and more numerous. At first only ten or fifteen. Then fifty or sixty. And this morning more than three hundred!

::Ken Kesey, 'The Real War' via abuddhas memes
More defeatism from the New York Times...

In the Egyptian newspaper Al Gomhuria, Samir Ragab, who is said to be close to President Hosni Mubarak, asked: "Where are the Americans now? We all thought they were superhuman, equipped with invincible power, wealth and the ability to manipulate." Because Americans bomb while being unable to catch Mr. bin Laden, he said, "innocent civilians in Afghanistan who complain that they have not tasted beef for three years are suffering most of the casualties."

. . . The American notion that anger at America is simply resentment of its culture, that foreigners are unhappy because McBurgers outsell escargots or Stallone outsells Truffaut, is seen overseas as just more American smugness.

When foreign writers complain about America now, their complaints are quite specific, and foreign-policy oriented: America should not silently let the Israelis commit assassinations, bulldoze houses and colonize Palestinian land; America should pay attention to Muslim fury that American troops occupy the land of the Prophet Muhammad; America should not bomb dirt-poor Afghan cities with no antiaircraft defenses.

When old sores are scratched, they are usually about American foreign policies: Alfredo Pita, a Peruvian writer, recalled that the 1973 coup encouraged by Richard Nixon that killed Chile's elected president, Salvador Allende, also began on Sept. 11.

Eduardo Galeano, a Mexican journalist, asked why 5,000 New York deaths were televised, but not the deaths of 200,000 Guatemalans "sacrificed not by Muslim fanatics but by terrorist militias supported by the successive American governments."

::Donald G. McNeil, 'More and More, War Is Viewed as America's' via Cursor
A selection of American radio broadcasts in Afghanistan, posted by the monkeyfist collective:

Taliban leaders! By harboring Al Quaeda and their leader Usama bin Laden you have declared war on the United States, and by doing this you have just guaranteed your own demise. Hand over these criminals and you will save yourselves from destruction. By not turning over Usama bin Laden and Al Quaeda to stand trial you are showing the world you are weak, and that you need a criminal organization and its leader to protect you.

However, they cannot protect you from what will happen if you do not comply. Like all criminals they will try to hide from their impending punishment. They will leave you to fight the United States and our overwhelming military by yourselves. Our military is bigger, faster and stronger; with more modernized weapons and better-trained troops. You will be attacked by land, sea, and air. There will be no warning as to when and where we will attack. Destruction is imminent if our will is not met.

Ohhh, it's so forceful...

::Kendall Clark, the monkeyfist collective: 'US Broadcasts Propaganda into Afghanistan' via wood s lot
Seymour Hersh looks set to do it again:

Taliban troops wounded 12 US Delta Force commandos, injuring three men seriously, in a gun battle two weeks ago, it emerged last night.

The firefight between the élite special forces unit and the Taliban took place on the same night as a separate raid by US Rangers parachutists on an airfield near Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. This assault was broadcast to the world as a morale-boosting success for the coalition.

No US soldiers were injured in that raid but according to a report released last night by the respected US journalist Seymour Hersh, the Delta Force unit was engaged in a much bloodier confrontation, in the same area.

::Severin Carrell and Andrew Gumbel, The Independent: 'US special forces injured in night raid on Kandahar'

A glossary of hip phrases from the Guardian:

Hawks and doves

Not the division between warmongers and peaceniks that you may expect. As the Bush administration prepared for war, the media divided its main players into "hawks" such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz (who talked of "ending states" that sponsor terrorism) and "doves" like Colin Powell. Though the terms are relative, Mr Powell once spoke of his wish to "cut the head off ... and kill" the Iraqi army, and - it appears - his mission before this war was to build multilateral backing for a US military action.

However, it is possible a "dove" such as Mr Powell supports a more limited war than Mr Wolfowitz. Anti-war sentiment is "dissent".

Moderate Arab opinion

Pro-western Arab opinion.

Non-specific threat

Now standard FBI jargon that allows it to issue a warning without compromising intelligence sources, or admitting how much / little it knows. Intended to sound terrifying / reassuring. May lose its impact.

Proportionate response

Means whatever you want it to, or alternatively nothing at all. A "proportionate response" to September 11 could have included the deliberate killing of 5,000 civilians (taking a life for a life) or a covert intelligence operation against al-Qaida (taking the necessary action to minimise the terrorist threat). The bombing of Afghanistan falls somewhere in between the two, but being a form of retaliation, is also a "proportionate response". Uniquely among the phrases on this list it holds an appeal to both hawks and doves (see above) as it covers both bases.

Simon Jeffery, The Guardian: War of Words