Sunday, November 24, 2002

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

You are invited to visit me at Scribbler.

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

American Samizdat
Lying Media Bastards

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace out.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 04, 2002

Audio Funhouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sample of their analysis from this article by Ibrahim:

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

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

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

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

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

Those last links both via Dack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 01, 2002

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

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

::United Press International: UPI hears ...

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

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

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

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

I thought that terrorists hated us for our freedom.

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

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

Monday, October 28, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

::Julian Borger, Guardian: US weapons secrets exposed

How a 'bulletproof' case is built...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 26, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 24, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

In the Gulf War, just 3 percent of bombs were precision-guided. That figure jumped to 30 percent in the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, and to nearly 70 percent during the Afghan air campaign last year.

Yet in each case, the ratio of civilian casualties to bombs dropped has grown. Technology, say analysts, isn't the key issue. In Afghanistan, tough terrain, inability to discern combatants from civilians, and paucity of fixed military targets led to estimates of 850 to 1,300 civilian deaths. Red Cross food depots depots were hit twice, as well as some mosques, and so was a wedding party of mostly pro-US civilians last July.

By one estimate, the number of civilians killed per bomb dropped may have been four times as high in Afghanistan as in Yugoslavia.

::Scott Peterson, CS Monitor: 'Smarter' bombs still hit civilians via Dack
::Image from This Modern World

Monday, October 21, 2002

Lest I inadvertently invoke the dread spectre of anti-Americanism, let me say right off the top that I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for the facts I relate below:

* It was last September 26th that Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen since 1991, was apprehended by U.S. agents while changing planes at JFK Airport in New York, a stopover on his return trip from Switzerland back home to Montreal.

* Two weeks later he was deported to his native Syria, even though he was travelling on a Canadian passport and has lived in Canada since 1987. (Mr Arar had retained dual Syrian/Canadian citizenship, as is legal under Canadian law.)

* U.S. officials accused him of being a member of Al-Qaeda, but never charged him with any offense, and have not provided Canadian diplomats (who you may be sure asked very nicely) with evidence of such involvement or any other justification for the deportation.

* Syria's record on human rights and torture doesn't inspire hope for Mr. Arar's humane treatment, since he avoided that country's compulsory military service when he left for Canada as a teenager.

There's much more, and it only gets more confusing... I don't know what to think. Maybe Thomas Friedman can write a column explaining how this episode has America shining its singular beacon of democracy and human rights to the Arab world.

::Canadian Press via Globe and Mail: U.S. ships Canadian to Syria
::Globe and Mail editorial: The alarming case of Maher Arar
::Anne McIlroy, Guardian: Missing inaction
::Vijay Prashad, Counterpunch: The NYT's Thomas Friedman: A Columnist of Awesome Vulgarity
George Monbiot on media complicity in a dangerous form of ignorance...

Since the jihadis arrived, Neles Tebay, a Papuan journalist, has been sending urgent messages to newspapers and broadcasters around the world, desperate to attract attention to this protected terrorist network. But even when eight Pakistani mojahedin arrived, his warnings failed to generate any response in the newsrooms of either Europe or North America. The Papuans, ignored and abandoned by the rest of the world, have been reduced to begging the Indonesian authorities to uphold the law and disarm the jihadis before they attack.

The victims of the Bali bombing could be said to have legitimate grounds for complaint not only against the intelligence services (whose efforts have been diverted from unpicking the terrorist networks into supporting two futile wars) but also against the media. Both of them could and should have warned westerners that Indonesia has become a dangerous place for them to visit.

Scarcely a month goes by without a travel feature on the country. One recent programme, about the nightlife in Bali, even featured the Sari club. But, before the bombing, there had been no recent documentary which could have given viewers any understanding of what was happening in the country. On Sunday night, the BBC broadcast a fine Panorama programme, seeking to discover who might have planted the bomb, and why the ample warnings the intelligence services received did not prevent the attack. But one of the features of investigative journalism is surely that it seeks to be wise before the event. There was, as Neles Tebay pointed out, plenty of opportunity for prior wisdom.

Nigerian activist Ken Wiwa goes further, and argues that this inability to see is decidedly not innocent, and carries a callous cruelty that fuels resentment.

One of the things that intrigued me about the descriptions of the Bali bombing was the inevitable Paradise Lost headlines and imagery -- for those reading and writing those headlines, a reference to Milton's 17th-century epic poem.

... But "paradise" is not exactly the word that springs to mind to describe the resort town where the car bomb exploded last week. Although Bali caters to everything from celebrities to hippies and artists who idolize the island's culture, the bombing targeted the hedonists who flock to the sun, sex and night-clubbing.

I suspect that, in this light, paradise was not lost on Oct. 12 but some time in the mid-1970s, when Bali became a popular retreat from the developed world's worries. Jawaharlal Nehru once described Bali as the "dawn of the world." This dawn is now a rush hour from civilization, with 1.5 million visitors annually passing through its international airport; the island is being prostituted to the tastes of this migration. Locals have not always been welcomed at the big tourist nightclubs; they may have been excluded from the ill-fated nightclubs in Kuta.

Any scenario of exclusion and degradation is fertile ground for everyone from cultural nationalists and environmental activists to religious fundamentalists. If the allegations that al-Qaeda or its alleged Indonesian offshoot, Jemaah Islamiyah, was responsible for the bombing, then Bali fits that pattern: rage against the Western machine fuelling the valid claims of disenfranchised and unrepresented people around the world.

It is fascinating how these Miltonian tendencies -- many paradises, multiple losses -- exercise such a powerful hold on our collective imagination. But they serve as a useful fable of the failings of the secular world. The notion of a "paradise lost" speaks to our deep need for nostalgia; it preys on guilt and our fears about the loss of a spiritual dimension. These are powerful, universal emotions that straddle boundaries of faith, nations and politics.

::George Monbiot, Guardian: Threat of unreality TV
::Ken Wiwa, Globe and Mail: The Bali bombing: many paradises, many losses

Demonstrators burn an effigy of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during a rally outside the Malacanang palace in Manila on Monday. Thousands of people marched through Manila, warning that proposed government anti-terror measures could threaten human rights and democracy and create restiveness that terrorists could exploit. Photo: AP

::From the Globe and Mail's photo gallery...
The long term benefits of that amazingly effective Afghan campaign...

George Tenet, the CIA director, cited the Bali bombing and the recent killing of a US marine in Kuwait as evidence that the terrorist network had recovered from its routing in Afghanistan. He also conceded that the CIA and the FBI could not prevent every attack.

At a hearing before the congressional intelligence committees to examine the events leading up to September 11 he said: "The threat environment we find ourselves in today is as bad as it was last summer, the summer before 9/11. It is serious, they've reconstituted, they are coming after us, they want to execute attacks."

But we had fun, didn't we?

:: David Teather, The Guardian: Al-Qaida 'has regrouped'

Friday, October 18, 2002

President Bush has shown, across the board, an unwillingness for his country or himself to be bound by the rules.

A dramatic example of this resistance to rules is the administration's obsessive effort to destroy the new International Criminal Court, created under the leadership of our closest European allies to prosecute those suspected of genocide and crimes against humanity. Another is the avoidance of the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war; rather than comply with the rules that have bound us and the world for decades, the administration unilaterally described the Afghanistan captives it is holding at Guant?namo Bay, Cuba, as "unlawful combatants." The conventions say that questions about the status of prisoners should be referred to a "competent tribunal." The administration has declined to do that. It might have argued that al-Qaeda fighters were so obviously unlawful that international law would not requite the useless gesture of reference to a tribunal. But the Bush administration did not even bother to make the argument; it was not interested in the law. (In any event, it is hard to see how the Geneva process could be avoided in the case of Taliban prisoners; they were soldiers in the army of a government that controlled nearly all of Afghanistan.)

That same rejection of the rules?of the law?can be found at home. One example is the President's order of November 2001 that noncitizens charged with terrorism or with "harboring" terrorists be tried by military tribunals. That order appeared to violate the holding of the Supreme Court in the great post?Civil War case of Ex parte Milligan that there can be no criminal trials by military tribunal in this country while the civil courts remain open. An even more astonishing assertion of presidential power is President Bush's claim of a right to hold any American citizen whom he designates as an "enemy combatant" in military prison indefinitely, without trial and without the right to speak with a lawyer. Two men are now being held in military prisons, in Virginia and South Carolina, under that theory, forbidden to speak to a lawyer. Government lawyers argue that no court can examine the lawfulness of their detention.

Respect for the rule of law has been an essential element from the beginning in the survival and success of this vast, disputatious country?and a reason for other people's admiration of American society. But George W. Bush, whatever else his qualities, seems to have no feeling for the law. That was evident when he was governor of Texas, in the cruel casualness of his handling of death penalty cases.

::Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books: Bush and Iraq

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Adventures in psychological projection...

President Bush warned European and Arab nations that are resisting a confrontation with President Saddam Hussein that "those who choose to live in denial may eventually be forced to live in fear."

Could there be two better phrases to describe the collective mindscape right now than "living in denial" and "living in fear"?

::Julia Preston, New York Times: Bush Garners Little Support at U.N. for an Attack on Iraq

If the sniper turns out to be al-Qaeda, there will be tremendous hysteria and a flurry of activity. But if the gunman turns out to be a standard racist loner, everyone will relax. Why?

::Zizka's via Slacktivist

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

A look at the War Party's plan for occupying post-War Iraq, reeking of empire.

According to this plan, as reported, the United States would set up a military viceroy in the capital of an Arab state, having occupied its territory, and then proceed to build a new nation. We presumably would do this with some help from perhaps the British, if they have the stomach for that -- despite their experience of trying to hold on to empire beyond its time. We apparently would not conduct this operation under U.N. auspices, and therefore it would be a direct and unilateral extension of American military power. We would betray the Iraqi National Congress, which the Republicans championed in Congress, by making it clear that it would not be the next government of Iraq. We would take responsibility for suppressing Kurdish national ambitions, so as to keep Turkey calm. We would take control over decision-making for Iraq's oil resources, which would raise problems for Vladimir Putin, who would be seen to have lost Russia's stake in Iraq to the United States. We would have U.S. troops in all sorts of interesting places, including on the border with Iran. We would have assumed responsibility for the costs of reconstruction in Iraq. We would presumably be trying, convicting and punishing persons we deemed guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity in courts of U.S. jurisdiction, most likely military, not before international tribunals.

. . . Granted, many have appealed to the administration to present its thoughts about follow-on after a war. And so in a way, this plan may be considered a step in the right direction. But it could well be a step toward a debacle, and a giant step at that.

::Intoxicated With Power

Bush does not support the push for firearms "fingerprinting" that has grown from the unsolved Washington-area sniper shootings.

Such a system would require gun makers to file into a law-enforcement database the distinct markings that each gun leaves on a test-fired bullet casing. Police could then possibly use the recorded etchings to trace crime-scene slugs to the gun that fired them.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Bush is unsure of the accuracy of the system.

Besides, he added , when it comes to new gun controls generally, "how many laws can we really have to stop crime, if people are determined in their heart to violate them no matter how many there are or what they say?"

Interesting bit of work on the philosophy of justice there, Ari. If people are going to break laws anyway, why have them?

Given the recurring attacks in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Yemen and Indonesia -- not to mention the homegrown variety currently on display in the suburbs of D.C. -- the disciplined deep-thinkers in the Bush foreign policy brigade will undoubtedly come to a similar conclusion. As Ari might put it, how many wars can we really have to stop terrorism, if people are determined in their heart to commit such acts, no matter how many wars there are or how we fight them?

Or, how many laws can we really have to stop drug use, if people are determined in their heart to take them...

I've never been so optimistic. Peace is at hand.

::AP via Toronto Star: FBI analyst latest sniper victim

Monday, October 14, 2002

Afghanistan is the skunk at the Bush administration's Iraq party.

In a speech last week, President George W. Bush stressed that the lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if Saddam Hussein were no longer in power,
"just as the lives of Afghanistan's citizens improved after the Taliban."

The near-unanimity of international and domestic support for U.S. operations to overthrow the Taliban was matched only by the comprehensiveness of U.S. victory. When it came to rebuilding Afghanistan, however, Washington turned once again to the UN for legitimacy and to its European allies for capacity.

While U.S. troops were mopping up rear-guard actions by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Washington resisted any attempt to expand the (essentially European) international peacekeeping force in Kabul to major provincial centres, as the Afghan government and UN officials had recommended. Now that U.S. attention is moving elsewhere, Washington argues that those contributing to the force should indeed extend the range of their activities throughout Afghanistan -- though the United States itself has no intention of joining them.

Much attention has been focused on American unwillingness to engage in "nation-building," but there is also some evidence that the United States is not well-suited to such activities. Perhaps due to the importance of domestic politics in the exercise of U.S. power, Washington has a short attention span with respect to most international crises -- far shorter than is needed to complete the long, complicated task of rebuilding a country that has endured more than two decades of war, sanctions, and oppression under brutal leaders. This describes both Afghanistan and Iraq.

More importantly, when the United States has engaged in aspects of nation-building in Afghanistan, this has been justified at home by linking it to the war on terror. U.S. forces at times provided military and economic support for local governors, not on the basis of their relations with the embryonic regime of the admirable national leader Hamid Karzai, but in exchange for their assistance in rooting out the remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It is for this reason that the United States is described -- correctly -- as having a military strategy in Afghanistan but not a political one.

::David Malone and Simon Chesterman, Globe and Mail: How quickly we forget
Remember a year or so back, when we were all aghast at the indignity of women in burqas, and our papers were full of columnists opining that we had a duty to liberate them from the Taliban?

Schools for girls have reopened, re-education classes for adult women have sprung up, many women have returned to work, and some have been seen in public without the burqa -- the traditional cloak that covers a woman from head to toe.

But most women remain pale-blue silhouettes locked away in the dusty mud- brick compounds of their husbands and fathers, housewives who live in fear under strict rules in a country that still calls itself an Islamic state.

Outside the capital, Kabul, and large, once-cosmopolitan cities like Mazar- e-Sharif, parents continue to sell their daughters to future husbands, women are not allowed to run shops, and when they go to a restaurant, they must eat separately from men. Even in Kabul, where women travel by car more than by donkey, they are more likely to squat in the trunk than to sit comfortably inside the car like men.

"This is the life we are used to," said Nargiz, 30, an Imam Sahib native who has been living in the town of Dasht-e-Qaleh, in northern Takhar province, since 1999.

. . . In many cases, the new government is no better. Soldiers loyal to the powerful northern warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum are alleged to have repeatedly raped women and girls in northern Afghanistan. "Afghan women . . . have been compelled to restrict their participation in public life to avoid being targets of violence by armed factions and by those seeking to enforce repressive Taliban-era edicts," Human Rights Watch wrote in its recent report. "Afghan women, especially outside Kabul, continue to face serious threats to their physical safety."

::Anna Badkhen, SFGate via Afghan women still shrouded in oppression

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

"Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or C.B.W. against the United States," [CIA director] Tenet's letter read, referring to chemical and biological weapons. "Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions."

... the White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, insisted that Mr. Tenet's letter did not undercut the White House's position.

Yeah, that's pretty much what the administration's been saying all along.

::Michael R. Gordon, New York Times: American Aides Split on Assessment of Iraq's Plans

Take a look at the Atlantic charter that both Nato and the UN describe as being the foundation of their organisations. This document was issued by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt and inspired the young Nelson Mandela. It was published in August 1941 at the lowest ebb of modern civilisation. The Soviet Union was on the verge of defeat by the Nazi armies, after which Hitler would have devoted his undivided attention to destroying Britain. But even at such a time, Churchill laid out the vision of a post-war world not just of free enterprise, but of the control of arms and that "all the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force by all nations".

Today, President Bush is seeking to adopt Churchill's aura, while overturning these principles and re-introducing anarchy into international relations. The attacks of September 11 were terrible, but materially they do not compare with the devastation of two world wars. We learned from those lessons that we had to evolve to a system of security for all through the UN. Until now Nato has operated, not always easily, within the UN context.

::Dan Plesch, Guardian: Why Nato should call Bush's bluff

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Who needs fact when The Truth is on your side?

In making his case on Monday, Mr Bush made a startling claim that the Iraqi regime was developing drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which "could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas".

"We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States," he warned.

US military experts confirmed that Iraq had been converting eastern European trainer jets, known as L-29s, into drones, but said that with a maximum range of a few hundred miles they were no threat to targets in the US.

"It doesn't make any sense to me if he meant United States territory," said Stephen Baker, a retired US navy rear admiral who assesses Iraqi military capabilities at the Washington-based Centre for Defence Information.

Mr Cannistraro said the flow of intelligence to the top levels of the administration had been deliberately skewed by hawks at the Pentagon.

"CIA assessments are being put aside by the defence department in favour of intelligence they are getting from various Iraqi exiles," he said. "Machiavelli warned princes against listening to exiles. Well, that is what is happening now."

::Julian Borger, Guardian: White House 'exaggerating Iraqi threat'

Sunday, October 06, 2002

'Me too!' militarism is just political common sense

Never trust a Weenie.

It's no surprise that the Weenie Party has caved on Iraq. As ever, what's disappointing is how cheaply it has sold out.

It's tempting to dismiss the Weenies as useless. But of course they do serve a function -- to simulate political discourse, to co-opt dissent in order to dissipate it, and ultimately to legitimize the triumphant right under a fig leaf of phony debate. It may not be the intention but it is undeniably the effect. When things get contentious, you can count on a Weenie to surrender ostensible principle and then to justify doing so in the name of a high-minded national interest.

Anatole Lieven, in the course of a broader investigation, refers to how flag-sucking nationalism beats hand-wringing 'realism' every time...

On Iraq and the war against terrorism, [The Weenie Party's] approach seems to be to avoid at all costs seeming 'unpatriotic'. If they can avoid being hammered by the Republicans on the charge of 'weakness' and lack of patriotism, then they can still hope to win the 2004 elections on the basis of economic discontent. The consequence, however, is that the Party has become largely invisible in the debate about Iraq; the Democrats are merely increasing their reputation for passionless feebleness; whereas the Republican nationalists are full of passionate intensity - the passion which in November 2000 helped them pressure the courts over the Florida vote and in effect steal the election.

::David Corn, The Nation: Now, It's Gephardt's War, Too
::Anatol Lieven, London Review of Books: The Push for War
Barbara Ehrenreich embeds the past year in a Hollywood plot, not 'Band of Brothers' but instead...

... innumerable horror films, in which the thoughtless teenagers party hard in some ramshackle, out of the way site until one of the group shows up dead and hideously mutilated. That is the point at which it dawns on them that they are not alone, that there is someone out there--some incomprehensible Other who wants them dead. But with the beer flowing and the hormones surging, they have no way of organizing against the threat.

::Barbara Ehrenreich, The Progressive: Not the War We Needed

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Dispatches from the front lines of chic dissent...

Sure, we were guilty of the crime of standing four feet outside of a gallery's door with open bags of coke, along with a small group of other people. So what if we were blaring very loud electroclash music into the night, punctuating our consumption with glorious chants of "WHOOOP! WHOOOP! WHOOOP! WHOOOP!"? It was early evening in a warehouse district, and all the working people had gone home to their sad partyless lives. But these three cops apparently didn't care. They patted us down. They took our driver's licenses. One of them went in the car and got on the radio. They filled out a bunch of forms.

Finally, one of them took me aside.

"You'd better not touch me," I said. "Through my work as a radical journalist, I know many human-rights lawyers."

"Buddy, I don't want to touch you," said the cop. "I want to give you this."

It was a flier, advertising an October 6 National Day Of Action against war in Iraq. "Most of the NYPD secretly believes that President Bush has gone too far," said the cop. "We do not want our government to commit acts of senseless violence in our name."

::This bit from Neil Pollack's The Maelstrom is just one of the many groovy links proferred by Noosphere Blues.
Meanwhile, the Afghan mission descends into farce...

Every soldier I spoke to was the same, proud, committed, raring to go. But a few minutes later I was wandering towards a long line of plastic portable toilets.

I was hailed by two young soldiers lounging in one of those huge American Humvee jeeps.

Clearly these two were not part of the guided tour.

"Excuse me sir," they asked. "But do we really have to say this baloney?"

The actual word they used was a little more colourful.

"What baloney?" I asked. They handed me a small laminated card.

On it were instructions on how to deal with journalists. Every soldier had been given one.

These were not just general ground rules. It actually listed suggested answers:

"How do you feel about what you're doing in Afghanistan"?

Answer: "We're united in our purpose and committed to achieving our goals."

"How long do you think that will take?" Answer: "We will stay here as long as it takes to get the job done - sir!"

... No answers

But what of the actual military operations? The hunt for al-Qaeda?

I went to meet a colonel in the 82nd Airborne.

"It's all going extremely well," he told me. But when it came to specifics he was rather more equivocal.

"We have recently detained a number of important suspects."

"Who?" I asked. He couldn't say.

Where did he think the main body of Al Qaeda fighters now were? Again he couldn't say.

Then I asked him about the reports of growing resentment at the large US military presence in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Of the road blocks and house-to-house searches, and the growing list of accidental killings.

"Absolutely not," he insisted. "We are only here because the Afghan people want us to be here."

::Rupert Wingfield Hayes, BBC: Doubts set in on Afghan mission via Cursor
Letters from Iraq... Voices in the Wilderness indeed.

... while walking through one of the narrow streets in Daniel Market (named after the OT Daniel whol is buried outside of Baghdad) one of the markets in this city (like the french quarter only much older and much more crowded) i came to a smaller place in the sidewalk where only one person could pass. i stepped back to let a tall man in long robes go first. he said in a low voice "you are visitor, you go first." I said thank you. he then asked "where are you from?" i hesitated for a second, and then said "united states.' he looked at me and said "you are welcome here" and then passed on.

... we went to a boys high school today, 1200 students, where we brought letters of friendship and peace from students in usa and peace ribbons signed by hundreds of others. they were in a square room seated in twos at wooden desks. they were all dressed in western clothes. (one in the front was in a dark blue aamco shirt with a name tag stitched on that said Darwin!) Many of the boys thanked us for them and we asked them for questions. Though they were reluctant at first, finally one very tall boy (who plays basketball) said, in english, "I only have one question. Is your country going to make war against us?"

... we met in the evening with the family of Uma Heider, who lost one 7 year old boy to a bombing error by a "smart" bomb, on january 25, 1999. one of their other children, mustafa, who must be about 7 now, still carries shrapnel in his back and foot. (voices people say the pentagon response to a question about the bombing was " a missle wetn astray and we have corrected that problem") kathy kelly and others from voices in the wilderness stayed with this family for several weeks and they are very warm to peace visitors. the family lives in a very poor neighborhood called al-jumerriya. because of the bombing everyone knows their street as missle street. the mothher of this extended family of 25, who all live in one small house, welcomed us and gave us little cups of hot sweet tea. their many children played with us and were excited because we brought a polaroid camera and took their pictures and gave them copies. when we left the family gave me a chalk drawing that i will share with you when i get back.

... finally, while we were waiting in the lobby to leave, a man about 25 or 30 came up to us and introduced himself to us. he said his name was Adil Hameed Raheem, an English teacher and translator. He said that when he learned we were there he came to offer condolences on behalf of the iraqi people to the american people for the tragedy of september 11. he said, "we know suffering and we feel the suffering of the people in the united states. please on my behalf and on behalf of the iraqi people put a white flower on the site in new york city." he had tears in his eyes. then he reached into his satchel, and pulled out a small color picture of a little blue eyed girl with dark hair and a ribbon around her head. this was his daughter, he said, and he wanted us to have the picture and the words on the back. on the back, her father had printed: "Dear US administration mems. I am Sala Adil. I am 8 months. I am iraqi. I would be very grateful if you let me live peacefully away of bombing and sanctions like all the children of the world. Sala."

This episode illustrates the danger of open societies allowing citizens to travel to enemy states. Man, was that guy ever duped. He actually believes that Iraqis are feeling human beings! Can you believe the gall of Saddam's regime, orchestrating such blatant appeals to pity, hiding behind the lives of children? It's all as absurd as that conceit of the 8 month old child that can write -- obviously, any sane human being would prefer being ripped apart by high explosives to the indignity of living under dictatorship.

Bill Quigley, LA Indymedia: Reflections from Iraq via Lying Media Bastards

U.N. Weapons Inspectors Seek Open Access in Iraq

Chief inspector Hans Blix said that the talks would operate under the assumption that nothing in Iraq would be off-limits to inspectors.

"Haven't you ever felt the urge to burn some distribution factory -- i.e. supermarket, giant store or warehouse -- to the ground?" Blix asked.

"The real pollution is the pollution by universal commodity intruding into every area of life. Every commodity on the supermarket shelf is a cynical hymn to the wage-slave oppression of the lie which places it on sale, and of the barter system of the boss and the cop whose function it is to protect that lie.

::NY Times via Arras: U.N. Weapons Inspectors Seek Open Access in Iraq (found via the master of cut-and-paste lyricism -- Riley Dog)

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Your hapless correspondent surveys mid-day London foot traffic

One highlight of my just-completed trip to England was last Saturday's walking tour of London, seeing the sights with somewhere between 150,000 and 400,000 friends.

Getting started at Embankment

The mighty Thames glistens as you stroll along, gazing upon London's historic landmarks and skyscrapers, exultant in their spectacle and finery. Be sure to stop in at Blackfriars pub for a pint of bitter...

Big Ben

The Luftwaffe did their best to level Big Ben in 1941, but the 320 foot tower stands tall, symbol of the heart and soul of England.

10 Downing Street

Through Whitehall you enter official London. Turn down unpretentious Downing Street to the modest little town house at no. 10, flanked by those charming low-key bobbies.

The Cenotaph may soon have more glorious dead to honour

Trafalgar Square

One of the landmarks of London, Trafalgar Square honours one of England's great military heroes, the seasick admiral Horatio, Viscount Nelson.

Piccadilly Circus

Hyde Park

Our tour concludes in Hyde Park. Covering 636 acres, it was once a hunting ground for Henry VIII. The velvety lawns interspersed with ponds, flower beds and trees offer a lovely backdrop to rest and check out some of those famous British eccentrics...

UPDATE: Brendan O'Neill offers his own characteristically iconoclastic take on the event here. My British sojourn was bookended by massive marches... it began with a 'countryside' protest against the impending ban on fox-hunting. The evidence of discontent across the political spectrum in England brought home to me the curious dichotomy that is the British PM: Tony Blair -- anti-hunting warmonger. [FAIR notes how the Stateside press gave markedly different treatment to these comparable events.]

::Euan Ferguson, Guardian: A big day out in Leftistan
::Sarah Left, Guardian: Body Count
::Brendan O'Neill, Spiked-Online: Anti-war - but what for?

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

The loud little handful -- as usual -- will shout for the war.

The pulpit will -- warily and cautiously -- object -- at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, ¡®It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.'

Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will out shout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity.

Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers -- as earlier -- but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation -- pulpit and all -- will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open.

Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

--Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger," 1910

I've always admired that story. Thanks to Harry Spetnagel for the timely reminder.

Friday, September 20, 2002

I'll be away until the end of the month. I recommended some other weblogs in this posting.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

From Commonplace Book

In a scheme so wacky, it could only be COINTELPRO, the FBI sent something called The Black Panther Coloring Book to families across the United States, in an effort to subvert white support for black civil rights. The drawings are fabulously blaxploitation-meets-the-revolution. Oh, for a reader response survey of the original recipients!

This coloring book, which was purported to be from the Black Panthers, had actually been rejected by them when it was brought to them by a man later revealed to have intelligence connections. Not to be troubled by the fact that the Panthers found the coloring book revolting, the FBI added even more offensive illustrations, and mass mailed it across America... [The truth was revealed] in the Congressional inquiry into COINTELPRO.

See the pictures

Social Design Notes:

Uncle Sam Wants You

::The National Security Agency Kids' Page
::CIA's Homepage for Kids
::Whitehouse Kids
::NORAD Tracks Santa
::Department of Justice for Kids & Youth
::FBI for K-5th,and 6-12th grades
::Air Force Link Jr.
::Overseas Private Investment Corporation for Kids
::U.S. Department of the Treasury for Kids
::IRS's Tax Interactive
::Social Security Administration Youth Link
::Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Kid's Page
::The Army's free video game America's Army: Operations. (Article here.)

Found via American Samizdat

Friday, September 13, 2002

Farewell to a fashion statement

U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan have been ordered to shave and wear regular uniforms to look more like U.S. soldiers rather than locals, according to an official at the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida.

"Ted Nugent would fuckin' love it here!"

The order to shave facial hair and to "re-adapt uniform and grooming standards" came after a special operations commander, Maj. Gen. Geoff Lambert, saw numerous photographs of troops operating on the ground in Afghanistan with full beards and partial uniforms, the official said.

A heavy heart of darkness trip

The decision came after the perception that the grooming standard of the troops was out of hand and that the time had passed for the need of the soldiers to blend in.

The official said that the leadership put the highest priority on the security of its forces and would not give an order for grooming if it would put the troops at harm.

Rest assured that the Generals won't issue any reckless haircut orders.

Today's Special Forces: not afraid to be stylish

Oh yes, and there's also this:

Four rockets were launched early Thursday near U.S. special operations forces outside Gardez in the southeastern Paktia province, said Col. Roger King at Bagram Air Base, the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan.

One of the rockets landed about 400 meters (440 yards) north of the U.S. position. The other three landed in a nearby village, but there were no reported casualties, King said.

On Wednesday, three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at a convoy of U.S. special operations forces moving through the northeastern Kunar province, King said, without specifying the convoy's exact location.

And while we're at it, this too:

United States intelligence officials say Qaeda operatives who found refuge in Pakistan are starting to regroup and move back into Afghanistan, less than a year after a successful American military campaign forced them to flee their onetime sanctuary by the thousands.

...While American military might smashed Al Qaeda's training camps and terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan after last September's attacks on New York and Washington, officials throughout the American government say that Al Qaeda has quickly adapted. It is in the process of transforming itself into a more mobile, flexible and elusive force than ever before.

"Management books talk about learning organizations," said one American intelligence official. Osama bin Laden, the official said, "built something that is a learning organization. It is changing and adapting to the loss of its infrastructure."

Osama bin Laden: management guru.

::Mike Mount, CNN: Close shave for special ops forces in Afghanistan
::Associated Press: U.S. forces in Afghanistan come under fire in two separate incidents
::James Risen and Dexter Filkins: Though Scattered, Qaeda Fighters Said to Return to Afghanistan
That much-anticipated document the White House released yesterday, sporting the catchy title "A Decade of Deception and Defiance", was a real smash-hit...

The Critics Rave:

"Given the high priority for knowing what is going on in Iraq, I'm stunned by the lack of evidence of fresh intelligence," said Gary Milhollin, executive editor of Iraq Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit institution that tracks developments in Iraq's weapons program. "You'd expect that, for the many billions we are spending on intelligence, they would be able to make factual assertions that would not have to be footnoted to an open source."

... "This is a glorified press release that doesn't come close to the information the U.S. government made available on Soviet military power when we were trying to explain the Cold War," said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert who has participated in many major studies of Iraq's capabilities. "It's clumsy and shallow when what we need is sophisticated and in-depth . . . as an overall grade, I'd give it a D-minus."

This document is based on "reports by U.N. weapons inspectors who scoured Iraq for outlawed weapons programs from 1991 to 1998" -- you know, those same inspectors that Smilin' Dick Cheney keeps trashing as worse than useless, mere pawns to be manipulated by Saddam's gamesmanship ...

Then again, they have little choice but to rely on this data, given that the last thorough intelligence review of Iraq's weaponry was compiled two years ago.

::Dana Priest and Joby Warrick, Washington Post: Observers: Evidence For War Lacking
::Eric Schmitt and Alison Mitchell, New York Times: U.S. Lacks Up-to-Date Review of Iraqi Arms

Thursday, September 12, 2002

One benefit of economic downturns is finding frank analysis on the business pages of major newspapers. When financial well-being is at stake, self-satisfied delusion is a luxurious liability ...

From the paper read by Canada's ruling elite:

Sept. 11 directly spawned the war in Afghanistan, which was mercifully brief and largely successful -- if you don't count the fact it may have failed to eliminate Osama bin Laden and certainly hasn't dismantled his al-Qaeda terror network or that the country remains as unstable and dangerous as ever.

Other than that, it's been a big success.

Then there's the prospect of war in Iraq, and the potential economic effects...

The Bush team appears convinced it can fight a war relatively quickly and cheaply, much as it did in Afghanistan, using air might and elite Special Forces units. But most experts disagree. They warn that the United States will have to commit to a large and costly military presence on the ground, including armoured divisions, for a lengthy period, even if they are able to wipe out the Iraqi command structure in a single powerful strike.

"The danger is that the U.S. will wind up with military and security spending draining the economy, holding down private investment and consumer spending, and forcing Draconian choices that will destabilize domestic political peace," BusinessWeek notes in its latest edition.

Some economists fear all this will plunge the United States and the rest of the world into a major recession while only increasing the risks of further terrorist attacks.

Other than that, it's a great idea.

::Brian Milner, Globe and Mail: Iraq war could prove an economic minefield
Nobody was in command of the situation. The president scuttled about the country from one obscure location to another, and those self-assured experts admitted they hadn't any better idea of what was happening than anybody else did. The sense of inevitability that lends purveyors of spectacle their authority was ripped away. As Thomas Homer-Dixon writes, the event was an assault on the very fabric of consensus reality. One year later ...

... we've busily stitched over the tear in reality's fabric. Alas, the stitches aren't strong. Events are multiplying that our conventional categories and theories can't easily explain. Moreover, our leaders' pronouncements and our experts' prattle seems less and less reassuring, because it's dawning on us that, much of the time, these people don't really know what's going on at all. Most importantly, they rarely have clear or useful solutions to the truly tough problems.

The Middle East is aflame and no one really has a clue any more how to bring durable peace to the region. India and Pakistan remain on the brink of a war that could escalate into a nuclear exchange; again, there's a dearth of credible solutions to the underlying crisis in Kashmir. The United States is planning to attack Iraq, but its plans are widely opposed, even by staunch allies, largely because no one can really predict the downside risk. (Will oil prices go through the roof? Will Saddam Hussein release smallpox when U.S. forces are at the gates of Baghdad?)

On the economic front, the world is a mess, and critical economic policymakers -- such as the heads of national central banks, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank -- seem flummoxed. Many of the richest economies are stagnating, while in poor countries nearly three billion people still live on less than $2 a day. The U.S. economy -- critical to world growth -- is sliding sideways. European growth is also almost non-existent, and Germany's unemployment rate is nearing double digits. The Japanese Nikkei Index has dropped to levels unseen in two decades, with renewed doubts about the stability of the country's banking system. Latin America is in financial crisis; a decade of market liberalization on the continent has produced growth rates half those of the 1960s and a rise in the number of poor people. Africa and its 700 million inhabitants aren't even on the economic map.

But it's on environmental issues that our leaders and experts have proved most inadequate. In the last century, humankind's total impact on the planet's environment (measured, principally, by the flow of materials through our economies and our output of wastes) has multiplied about 16-fold. We're now disrupting fundamental flows of energy and materials within the biosphere -- that layer of life on Earth's surface as thick, proportionately, as an apple's skin -- and we're producing profound changes in cycles of key elements, like nitrogen, sulfur and carbon.

These changes will have immense consequences for life, industry and agriculture across the planet. Yet, just when we need, more than ever, aggressive policies to deal with our common environmental challenges, the recent summit in Johannesburg produced a pathetic spectacle of cacophony and global gridlock.

This combination of intractable political, economic, and environmental challenges is not a recipe for a humane and peaceful world society. Looking at them together, one gets the dismaying sense that deep and inexorable forces are building within the global system. At some point, these forces could combine in unforeseeable ways to cause a sharp breakdown of world order.

::Thomas Homer-Dixon, Globe and Mail: There's no going back
The decision whether or not to invade Iraq will be made on an assessment of the best intelligence that is not available.

The White House still has not requested that the CIA and other intelligence agencies produce a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, a formal document that would compile all the intelligence data into a single analysis. An intelligence official says that's because the White House doesn't want to detail the uncertainties that persist about Iraq's arsenal and Saddam's intentions. A senior administration official says such an assessment simply wasn't seen as helpful.

::USA Today, Iraq course set from tight White House circle

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

-- e. e. cummings

An agitated Vice President Cheney, in a tête-à-tête with NBC's Tim Russert on Sunday, said it was "reprehensible" that people would think the administration had "saved" its ammunition on Iraq to bring it out now, 60 days before an election. "So the suggestion that somehow, you know, we husbanded this and we waited is just not true," Cheney said.

Now where would people get such a cockamamie idea? Well, maybe from White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and Bush political adviser Karl Rove, who made the case to the New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller last week that they pretty much did what Cheney said they didn't do -- waited patiently and deliberately to launch a long-planned rollout. "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," Card said. Added Rove: "The thought was that in August the president is sort of on vacation."

::Dana Milbank, Washington Post: No Crawfishing From a Unique Vernacular

Monday, September 09, 2002

The Asia Times updates us on the HIA, a radical Muslim group that appears to gearing up for a Jihad against the foreign occupiers, led by former Afghan leader and notorious mujahideen warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar:

Sources in the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan maintain that it has restructured its command and control systems across Afghanistan, with key commanders in Ghazni, Hekmatyar's home town, Gardez, Logar, Kunar and Kandahar being given specific tasks for action against foreign troops. Further, the local administration in eastern Afghanistan, including the police and the Afghan army, is completely at the mercy of these HIA commanders. Even the powerful commander of Jalalabad, Malik Hazrat Ali, who is a confidant of Afghan Defense Minister General Qasim Fahim, has given assurances to local HIA commanders that he will remain neutral in the next offensive, which is likely to be launched in Jalalabad and the southern Kabul region. The HIA is also in the process of making contact with commanders in northern Afghanistan, where new "activities" can be expected to start soon.

The new fight being led by the HIA will be named a freedom struggle against the occupation of foreign troops and tyranny against Pashtuns, and it is expected to gather widespread support among different Afghan factions, irrespective of their political affiliations. An important strategy will be to fan the flames of Pashtun dissatisfaction with the Tajik ascendancy in the Kabul government.

::Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times: The new Afghan jihad is born

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Anyone who claims the US media didn't censor itself is kidding you.
It wasn't a matter of government pressure but a reluctance to criticize anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people.

And this isn't just a CNN issue--every journalist who was in any way involved in 9/11 is partly responsible."

-- Rena Golden, executive vice-president and general manager of CNN International

And they're about to do it again in Iraq.

::The Memory Hole: Senior CNN Executive Admits News Media Distorted Afghanistan War

Paul William Roberts wrote a useful and very funny book about the Gulf War, The Demonic Comedy, and is likely the only person to interview Saddam Hussein while tripping on Ecstasy. Though thanks to the tell-all books, we now know Koppel was completely coked up when he hosted the Iraqi dictator on Nightline in 1991, though in fairness to Ted, at the time blow-fuelled broadcast journalism was the norm... back then Buzz Rather used to snort long white rails off his desk during commercial breaks. CBS staffers (who boasted of possessing the 'hardest working noses for news') took to calling a gram of coke '60 Minutes' , because typically that's how long it would take for one to disappear up through Morley Safer's nostrils.

But I digress. I had set out to introduce Mr. Roberts' reflection on the September 11th attacks and the subsequent war on terror:

To adapt Oscar Wilde, no one wishes to shake hands with Liberty when her hands are daubed in blood. "Wild liberty," Emerson wrote, "develops iron conscience. Want of liberty, by strengthening law and decorum, stupefies conscience." America has ultimately shown no grace under pressure.

How can we reconcile the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity with the necessities of security? Why did this happen? How can we address the causes in such a way that it will not happen again? To what extent are we to blame? These were the appropriate responses for which one waited largely in vain, while Liberty was put back in her crate and shipped off home. Aside from Harper's magazine editor and essayist Lewis Lapham, the media voices of reason and objectivity were nearly all either bullied into silence or else drafted into that vast choir chanting day and night for God and America the Beautiful, as consent -- for an endless revenge -- was manufactured. It was frightening to behold.

But it was also understandable. What the whole situation was not was "unexpected" -- a term frequently used to characterize the suicide-hijackings. Given America's greedy, 40-year romp through the world -- the wars and sponsored coups d'etat of self-interest, the tide of cultural trash -- it is only surprising that it didn't happen sooner.

:: Paul William Roberts, Globe and Mail Books: Islamists and their enemies
::Image from Samuel Rose, Parallel Journal: "Welcome to the cradle of civilization..."

President Bush has said from the outset that the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks hated America because "they hate our freedoms." But the available evidence does not support this explanation. Bin Laden's own statements and the personal histories of participants in the Sept. 11 plot suggest there are more specific reasons for the terrorists' hatred. They include American support for regimes that they detest in the Arab world; American bases on Arab territory, especially in Saudi Arabia; and American support for Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory and for Israel's military campaign against the Palestinians. Psychological alienation from modern Western culture and a radical interpretation of Islam add spice to this deadly stew.

By ignoring the items on this list and denouncing an enemy that hates us for what we are, not for what we say and do -- or what they think we do -- President Bush has created an all-purpose bad guy whose existence allows him to sidestep any examination of American policy. But al Qaeda is led by Arabs from the Middle East and is deeply rooted in Middle Eastern politics and intrigue. Its grievances, however irrational, come from there.

::Robert Kaiser, Washington Post: The Long and Short of It

Saturday, September 07, 2002

We're assured decisions will be made based on the 'best' intelligence:

Shortly before US strikes began in the Gulf War, for example, the St. Petersburg Times asked two experts to examine the satellite images of the Kuwait and Saudi Arabia border area taken in mid-September 1990, a month and a half after the Iraqi invasion. The experts, including a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who specialized in desert warfare, pointed out the US build-up - jet fighters standing wing-tip to wing-tip at Saudi bases - but were surprised to see almost no sign of the Iraqis.

"That [Iraqi buildup] was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in there, and it just didn't exist," Ms. Heller says. Three times Heller contacted the office of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney (now vice president) for evidence refuting the Times photos or analysis - offering to hold the story if proven wrong.

The official response: "Trust us."

. . . John MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine and author of "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War," says that considering the number of senior officials shared by both Bush administrations, the American public should bear in mind the lessons of Gulf War propaganda.

"These are all the same people who were running it more than 10 years ago," Mr. MacArthur says. "They'll make up just about anything ... to get their way."

On Iraq, analysts note that little evidence so far of an imminent threat from Mr. Hussein's weapons of mass destruction has been made public.

. . . in the fall of 1990, members of Congress and the American public were swayed by the tearful testimony of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only as Nayirah.

In the girl's testimony before a congressional caucus, well-documented in MacArthur's book "Second Front" and elsewhere, she described how, as a volunteer in a Kuwait maternity ward, she had seen Iraqi troops storm her hospital, steal the incubators, and leave 312 babies "on the cold floor to die."

Seven US Senators later referred to the story during debate; the motion for war passed by just five votes. In the weeks after Nayirah spoke, President Bush senior invoked the incident five times, saying that such "ghastly atrocities" were like "Hitler revisited."

But just weeks before the US bombing campaign began in January, a few press reports began to raise questions about the validity of the incubator tale.

Later, it was learned that Nayirah was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington and had no connection to the Kuwait hospital.

She had been coached – along with the handful of others who would "corroborate" the story – by senior executives of Hill and Knowlton in Washington, the biggest global PR firm at the time, which had a contract worth more than $10 million with the Kuwaitis to make the case for war.

Thankfully we don't have to worry about that sort of manipulation this time round, what with honour and integrity restored in the Oval Office and all...

::Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor: In war, some facts less factual: Some US assertions from the last war on Iraq still appear dubious