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 vanitysite.net 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 Afgha.com: 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?