Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Less Than Sacred Heart of Dubya Posted by Hello

I was hoping this little bit of Photoshopped silliness wouldn't be of much use by now--I did this over the summer, right around the time Bush's Holy Halo was generating notice...

Alas. But, at least I got a Holiday Card out of it (sarcasm).

Anyway, work gave us early parole today--might have the time to post this evening (but I've got some chores first). However, if I DON'T have time to post (I'll be in New Iberia over the weekend), have a happy solstice season, a good yuletide, a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Saturnalia, or whatever you want to call it...
Maybe They Meant "Showers"--of Lead

Three Marines were killed today in "liberated" Fallujah. By the way--Today in Iraq has more on the assault--note that this was the "largest concentration of heavy armor amassed since the fall of Berlin." Another perspective on the city comes from Michael Ware, Baghdad bureau chief for Time. Now, Fallujah is a special case, but can anyone possibly imagine an election taking place there? The city is completely devastated. Restrictions on returning residents would be comical if they weren't so serious. And--the "victory" there isn't: I believe the idea was to eradicate the insurgents. Not only has that NOT happened, at today's tragic news demonstrates, but the wake of destruction is as close a guarantee you can get that more will take up arms against the occupation. Speaking of which: you've gotta love Rummy's excuse for STILL refusing to send more soldiers (not that it would really do much good at this point anyway)--when asked at his press conference about sending more troops, the Rumster replied, "...Our task is not to get in there with a persistent presence of Americans over a sustained period of time, because that has the counterproductive aspect of it of creating additional targets and creating a sense of occupation..."

Um, excuse me, but what else IS the presence of 150,000 US soldiers in Iraq if it's NOT an occupation? Jesus H. Christ, it's as if Rumsfeld opted for brain removal surgery sometime between January of 2001 and now. Ungoddamnedbelievable. Between sucking up to Ahmad Chalabi and utter blind refusal to comprehend that invading Iraq wasn't going to be a walk in the park--well, Rumsfeld will now truly find himself remembered in history--as one of the downright DUMBEST individuals ever to occupy the office of Secretary of Defense.

I guess that's fitting, considering who his boss is...
Election "Monitoring"

Here's a first--election monitors for the January 30th Iraqi vote will observe--from Jordan:

Representatives of seven nations met in Ottawa this week to recruit international observers for the Iraqi elections and agreed to watch the vote, but from the safety of Amman, Jordan.

They said it was too dangerous to monitor the voting in Iraq, meaning international observers are unlikely for the elections on Jan. 30 - making them the first significant vote of this sort recently with no foreign presence, United Nations officials say.

Now, given that three Iraqi election workers were murdered in broad daylight recently, you can't really blame them.
Your Money or Your Life

Contrack International decided that $325 million dollars wasn't enough to risk life and limb for:

A US company has pulled out of a major contract to rebuild Iraq's transport system after attacks on reconstruction efforts, Pentagon officials have said...

US firms and their workers have been targets of attacks, and security concerns are said to be a major reason for the slow pace of reconstruction in Iraq.

Of the $18.4bn in reconstruction funds approved by Congress, less than $2bn has been spent.

Lt Col Eric Schnaible of the PCO told the Associated Press news agency Contrack's withdrawal from the transportation contract was a "mutually agreed-to separation" and did not indicate a movement by US companies to leave Iraq.

"Some parts of the country are a whole lot more permissive than others," he added.

"Where we can get the work done, good things are happening."

Now, I wonder WHERE work can get done? Hmmm. From Matt at Today in Iraq:

...Bush said those pictures do not reflect that 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces are relatively stable and that small businesses are starting up. "Life is better now than it was under Saddam Hussein."

Relative Stability: A Brief Examination

Dahuk Province, Capital Dahuk: On December 5 the governor of Dohuk province escaped a second assassination attempt, in a bomb attack claimed by the Islamist Ansar al-Sunna group. The same group claimed another attempt on Nishervan Ahmed's life on September 14. Doesn’t sound too stable.

Erbil Province, Capital Erbil: A Kurdish province effectively outside of Iraqi governmental control for the last 15 years, it has been relatively stable throughout the war. We’ll give him this one. However, let’s not forget that over 100 people died in Erbil last February in suicide bombings directed at the offices of two main Kurdish factions. Stability is, after all, relative.

Ninevah Province, Capital Mosul: December 19 - One Iraqi eighth-grader was killed and six others wounded Saturday morning in Mosul when insurgents trying to detonate a roadside bomb in the path of a routine American patrol misfired and hit a school bus full of children, the military said. Also see the article on Mosul cited above. Definitely not stable.

Sulaimaniya Province, Capital Sulaimaniya: Another comparatively peaceful Kurdish province. Relatively stable.

Tamim Province, Capital Kirkuk: See ‘Bring ‘em on’ second entry. There are also numerous reports of recent attacks on oil pipelines in the vicinity of Kirkuk. Four Kurds were shot to death in Hiwiya on Sunday. Not very stable, nope.

Salahuddin Province, Capital Samarra: See the first ‘Bring ‘em on’ entry. On Saturday one Iraqi was killed and eight wounded in an attack on an election center. A woman official was kidnapped from here on December 2 and her bullet riddled body was discovered three days later. Oh, yes, the Turkish truck driver killed in Tikrit yesterday goes here too, right? Can’t call this one too stable.

Al Anbar Province, Capital Ramadi: Ramadi? Fallujah? Say no more. Definitely not stable, not even relatively.

Diyala Province, Capital Baquba: Well, an official was just shot dead in Baquba, see ‘Bring ‘em on’ entry three above. Got some dead ING soldiers and police in Baquba last Friday, some US soldiers killed there this month too…nah. Not stable.

Baghdad Province, Capital Baghdad: We don’t really need to discuss this one either, do we? Not stable.

Karbala Province, Capital Karbala: Even if you overlook the dozens of people who got blown up Sunday in Karbala, it would still be a stretch to call this one stable. And we aren’t going to overlook those people.

Babil Province, Capital Al Hillah: Two Marines died December 13 in explosions in Babil Province. Not a sign of stability.

Wasit Province, Capital Al Kut: On December 16, the British Foreign Office issued an advisory against any travel to Baghdad and its five adjacent provinces, including Wasit. They probably wouldn’t do that if they thought it was stable. We’ll defer to their judgment here and call it not stable.

Najaf Province, Capital Najaf: Hmm. Day before yesterday 49 people were killed and 90 wounded in a car bombing here. Let’s call this one unstable too.

Qadisiyah Province, Capital Diwaniyah: Bulgarian troops based in Diwaniyah reported being under mortar fire on December 14. They probably didn’t feel like things were too stable when that happened. But all in all, this province is less unstable than some of its neighbors. Maybe call this one a wash.

Dhi-Qar Province, Capital Nasiriyah: This one looks to be pretty quiet lately. So have Muthana and Maysan Provinces. The Shi’ite south is not as bad as other parts of Iraq, so we can call all three of these provinces relatively stable.

Basra Province, Capital Basra: Last April five suicide bombings near police stations and a police academy in Basra killed 74 people and wounded 160 others but it’s been quiet since then, I think. How long after a major attack until a province is considered relatively stable? Ah, let’s be generous and give it to George.

So, based on a Google search that took maybe two hours and which I know is nothing like comprehensive for any of these provinces, plus the maps I’m using suck and I’m not even sure what towns are in what provinces, not to mention all the different ways you can spell the names of places in Iraq, I can still conclude that out of eighteen provinces only six can be considered even relatively stable and at least a couple of those suffered major violence less than a year ago. Therefore it is Mr. Bush who is hallucinating, not me. But we already knew that. And as to whether the average Iraqi would agree that life is better now than it was under Hussein…let's leave that for another time.
Special Victims Unit

From Roger Ailes, here's something you don't see every day:

WASHINGTON - Talk about bad economic indicators: A top congressional economist was nabbed trying to steal a fancy plasma TV from a Capitol Hill committee room.

"I guess he was practicing a new theory called trickle-up economics," cracked Dan McGlinchey, a longtime aide to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) who helped collar the alleged thief after a chase through the Rayburn House Office Building.

Tom Loo, chief economist for the Small Business Committee, was arrested after running into a gaggle of Capitol Hill police officers, who promptly tackled him.

Actually, I think Loo's biggest mistake was ignoring the dictum--I'll use a Bob Dylan lyric as an example--that only the low-level crooks get caught:

Steal a little and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot and they make you king

Tom, there's a guy in the executive branch that you could learn A LOT from...

Just Awful

Timshel, and YRHT link to this unbelievably sad story from New Orleans. The Big Easy can also be the City that Care Forgot--and nothing demonstrates it more clearly than a totally senseless act of violence. My sincerest condolences to the Donaldson family.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rewarding Incompetence

Is the title of this page at It's an open letter from Cindy Sheehan to the editors of Time magazine. Sheehan's son, Casey, was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004:

Dear Time Editors:

My son, Spc. Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq on 04/04/04. This has been an extraordinary couple of weeks of "slaps in the faces" to us families of fallen heroes.

First, the Secretary of Defense—Donald Rumsfeld—admits to the world something that we as military families already know: The United States was not prepared for nor had any plan for the assault on Iraq. Our children were sent to fight an ill-conceived and badly prosecuted war. Our troops were sent with the wrong type of training, bad equipment, inferior protection and thin supply lines. Our children have been killed and we have made the ultimate sacrifice for this fiasco of a war, then we find out this week that Rumsfeld doesn't even have the courtesy or compassion to sign the "death letters"—as they are so callously called. Besides the upcoming holidays and the fact we miss our children desperately, what else can go wrong this holiday season?

Well let's see. Oh yes. George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three more architects of the quagmire that is Iraq. Thousands of people are dead and Bremer, Tenet and Franks are given our country's highest civilian award. What's next?

To top everything off—after it has been proven that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, there were no ties between Saddam and 9/11 and over 1,300 brave young people in this country are dead and Iraq lies in ruins— what does Time Magazine do? Names George W. Bush as its "Man of the Year." The person who betrayed this country into a needless war and whom I hold ultimately responsible for my son's death and who was questionably elected, again, to a second term, is honored this way by your magazine.

I hope we finally find peace in our world and that our troops who remain in Iraq are brought home speedily—after all, there was no reason for our troops to be there in the first place. No reason for my son and over 1,300 others to have been taken from their families. No reason for the infrastructure of Iraq to be demolished and thousands of Iraqis being killed. No reason for the notion of a "happy" holiday to be robbed from my family forever. I hope that our "leaders" don't invade any other countries which pose no serious threat to the United States. I hope there is no draft. I hope that the five people mentioned here (and many others) will finally be held responsible for the horrible mistake they got our country into. I hope that competence is finally rewarded and incompetence is appropriately punished. These are my wishes for 2005.

This isn't the first time your magazine has selected a questionable man for this honor—but it's the first time it affected my family so personally and so sorrowfully.

Cindy Sheehan

By the way--Time in Canada chose a different individual for their "Newsmaker of the Year." Check it out.

Rising Hegemon explains the concept of "Negotiating with Oneself" using visual references.
How Did I Miss This?

Michael Berube found this in the transcript of Bush's "press conference":

QUESTION: I’d like to go back to Secretary Rumsfeld. You talked about the big-picture elements of the secretary’s job, but did you find it offensive that he didn’t take the time to personally sign condolence letters to the families of troops killed in Iraq? And if so, why is that an offense that you’re willing to overlook?

BUSH: Listen, I know how– I know Secretary Rumsfeld’s heart. I know how much he cares for the troops. And I also know this. No one knows what it’s like to be to the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes. No one knows what it’s like to be hated, to be fated to telling only lies. But Secretary Rumsfeld’s dreams– they aren’t as empty as his conscience seems to be. I have heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm’s way. And he’s a good, decent man. He’s a caring fellow.

QUESTION: Exactly how caring can he be, if he’s not even signing condolence letters and he’s never admitted making a single mistake with regard to this fraudulent and obviously worse-than-counterproductive war?

BUSH: Listen– let me finish! and get that wire out of my back, goddammit!– no one knows what it’s like to feel these feelings like Secretary Rumsfeld does. No one bites back as hard on their anger– none of his pain and woe can show through. But, as I said before, the Secretary’s dreams are not as empty as his conscience seems to be. He has hours, only lonely. His love is vengeance that’s never free. And no, I don’t really know what that last sentence means, and as I said before, I’m not going to negotiate with myself about it. Or with you– it wouldn’t be right, it’s not the holiday spirit. Thank you very much.
Righteous Indignation

James Wolcott comes through with a couple of good posts; the first, following up on a DailyKos piece that lays blame for the Iraq debacle where it's due: squarely on Bush.

I had Fox News on earlier today; two Senators, one Democrat and one Repub, were discussing the Mosul massacre as the camera showed the wounded being deplaned in Germany. The Democrat Senator, whose name I didn't catch, was discussing the lack of post-invasion planning and the resultant miseries, but he felt compelled to inject, "I'm not mad at President Bush, but--"

"I'm not mad at President Bush."

Why the f not?

I recognize that most elected Democrats, stunned by the election results and feeling the need to sound responsible on such a tragic occasion, feel compelled to adopt this more-in-sorrow-than-anger tone that was one of Tom Daschle's less attractive traits. But look what good it did Daschle shaking his head with weary regret over the latest Republican outrage--he was still vilified as some sort of rabid obstructionist.

Republicans belch fire all the time without suffering repercussions, yet Democrats behave like some meek choir.

Couldn't we have at least one irresponsible, intemperate off the reservation loose cannon willing to say he is "mad" at Bush, indeed is furious with the whole lying lot of them (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz...the list goes on and on)? Because this engulfing fiasco is their fault, and the fault of those unwilling to stand up to them in the first place.

Wolcott's other post cites the latest from William S. Lind--short version: like Stalingrad, Fallujah will be remembered as a tactical victory but strategic defeat for the invaders--Lind goes on to note Patrick Cockburn saw the potential for problems in Mosul right away. Fallujah, in this case, was like the wasp in the car that you swat at, only to find yourself spinning out of control before driving headlong into the alligator pond...

Wolcott concludes by noting (via Steve Gilliard) the same Times article I referenced below:

That was also the message of a front-page piece in the NY Times today, which Steve Gilliard takes apart with his skilled-mechanic hands. One of the advantages of living through enough history is that you hear the same rationalizations and excuses return like a bad melody. During Vietnam a point was reached in which the press and the public, which had supported the war for years during the escalation, recognized it wasn't working, we weren't going to win, and that the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train. And yet--we couldn't "bug out," "cut and run," choose your own vernacular phrase. Why? Because America would lose face and stature in the world. Because our enemies (then, the Communists) would be emboldened. And, this was the clincher moral argument, because it would mean that those who died in Vietnam had died in vain.

We're hearing some of that now, and we'll hear more of it ahead. But face it, those troops in Vietnam did die in vain, as did the Marines who died in the barracks in Beirut, as do most of the men and women who die in war. Most wars are unnecessary, waged on the basis of lies, power, and fear; to justify the unnecessary deaths, the funeral services float the soft consolation that the body lying in the flag-draped coffin died for Peace, or Democracy, or the Good of the Country. When often they died because too many fools wouldn't admit they had made a ghastly mistake and kept perpetuating that mistake even after they and all the world recognized the mission was futile. How many more soldiers and civilians are going to die in vain in Iraq to prove that those who died before them didn't die in vain?

Furthering its reputation as Pravda on the Hudson, The Times manages to come up with this tripe masquerading as a "slice of life" perspective on the war in Iraq. Despite noting the unease with which the whole sorry mess in Iraq is viewed by the public, the article focuses on the headbanger crowd, who insist upon "staying the course," even as shoals, reefs, eddies, and whirlpools lie dead ahead.

To underscore this, the paper supplied this graphic--note when Bush declared an end to major combat operations...

The Parable of The Cajun Bingo Game

Your Right Hand Thief provides the details, then links to Powerline blog. Hindrocket (I assume the writer of Powerline) takes the sucker's bait--and, for good measure, engages in a little gratuitous sliming:

As we've said before, the Democrats don't fear that we will fail in Iraq; they fear that we will succeed...Nevertheless, the left fears that the President's policy ultimately will succeed. Elections will be held next month; terrorists are steadily being eliminated; Iraqi soldiers and policemen are being trained.

Um, no, Pennyrocket. You're wrong--and so off base that a little leaguer could pick you off.

Democrats are NOT hoping the pResident's policies will fail--we are WITNESSING THE FAILURE OF THE POLICY. There is a difference, although it might be hard for someone like you to understand. Daily bombings, beheadings, attacks like the one in Mosul, the ongoing violence in and around Fallujah, etc., are "successes" in the same way that the Titanic's first voyage was a success.

A battalion of soldiers and a few dozen policemen isn't "turning the corner," it's a pathetic attempt to spin a disaster. And now isn't the time to start whining about Democrats. Now is the time to figure out a goddamned policy towards the country and the region that doesn't stink to high heaven--like the present policy does.

At the same time, you know what? It's YOUR war--yours and the other morons who couldn't wait to "prove the libruls wrong." You went so far as to pull a true Banana Republic stunt out of your tired bag of tricks--George the Flightsuited Wonder--and had your hero strut around like a damned peacock while carefully making sure the camera angles didn't give the game away. "Mission Accomplished!" you all exclaimed.

Well, the mission ISN'T accomplished. In fact, thanks to your idiocy, the "mission," whatever the fuck it's supposed to be, is in danger of failing pretty dramatically. But, like all genuine losers, your reaction is to bark louder, hoping no one sees that you're pissing on your own leg.

But hey, you're only a point or two away from a hundred...

There's just no way to spin this story in a positive way, although it's a lesson in self-censorship when looking at the difference between US and world headlines.

For instance, stories out of Australia and England point out that there is, at the very least, an implication that abuse of prisoners was condoned--even ordered--at the highest levels. The New York Times, on the other hand, practices high level diplomacy, as does the Washington Post.

To be honest, I don't think Bush himself would be SO dumb that he'd sign some sort of paper, although it's certainly possible--nothing surprises me when it comes to the sheer level of venal corruption in Team Bush. However, SOMEONE at a high enough level is likely to have ordered the lunatic tactics used on detainees. The degree to which basic human rights were/are being violated is not something that results from decisions made at low or mid levels. So...who DID sign off?

My guesses are Rummy, Wolfie, and perhaps someone like Feith. My gut instinct tells me that Dubya was likely informed and nodded his assent--Cheney probably told him--but an actual paper trail will be difficult to come by. The fact that the ACLU even HAS a credible email indicating some sort of executive order exists is extraordinary...but I'll bet if there was a written order of some kind, it met the same fate as the Bush cocaine arrest record, etc. etc.

Still, paper trail or not--how DUMB can you be? Abuse of prisoners accomplishes NOTHING that could be considered positive. Nothing. Even if you reduce this to the absolute lowest common denominator--that the abusers get a jolly good kick of revenge/adrenaline out of it--well, then I think it's time to get these folks out of the interrogation/incarceration business. Because that's simply sick.

And anyone who honestly believes that tactical or strategic benefit, i.e, useful intelligence, will come out of abuse and torture of detainees simply doesn't know what they're talking about.

This is bad. And, in light of the latest news coming out of "liberated" Iraq...well, when you hand your car keys to a drunk, don't be surprised if he wrecks it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

If You Just Can't Take it Anymore

Then Barbara Ehrenreich graciously offers to line you up with the appropriate country:

The good news is that there are a lot more countries out there than the US media are generally aware of. France, for example, with its ample coastline and curiously creamy cuisine. China, with its fascinating blend of runaway capitalism and communist repression. Or if you're looking for something REALLY different: Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Venezuela now all have democratically elected leftwing leaders. How exotic is that?

Note: Some of the alternative nations previously offered on this site are no longer available. A year and a half ago, shortly after Colin Powell announced that there would be free health care and education in Iraq, heavily promoted that beautiful, ancient, multicultural site, and thousands of Americans applied for relocation to it. Since then, however, Iraq has experienced a steadily worsening shortage of viable physical structures-apartment buildings, hospitals, schools-and we have been forced to withdraw it from the list.

Also, we have taken the preemptive move of removing Norway from the list of alternative nations, despite the lovely fiords, smoked fish, and free higher education. As a small, oil-rich country, Norway runs too high a risk of being the neocons' next invasion site.

To help us match you to a country, please answer the following questions: The most surprising thing I learned during the recent Presidential election season was:

1. that most Ohioans and Floridians who voted for Bush were so ashamed of their choice that they lied in the exit polls

2. that John Kerry counterfeited his Vietnam war medals out of Teresa's melted-down jewelry

3. that so few of my red-state neighbors routinely sacrifice sheep and goats as required by the Old Testament

My primary reason for re-nationalizing is:

1. eagerness to marry someone of a similar sex

2. desire to escape all references to Sponge Bob

3. need to fill a prescription

4. concern that my children will watch a pornographic film on TV, like Saving Private Ryan

Language capabilities (check all that apply):

1. I can say "where are the restrooms?" and "I didn't vote for Bush" in two or more languages

2. I believe most people can understand English if you speak loudly enough

3. Pouilly fuissé is best served (a) on toast, (b) cold, (c) boiled with mustard

4. Prefer to abstain from communication until I have something nice to say

Tastes and values:

1. I was disgusted by the sight of Nicollette Sheridan's naked back in the NFL promotional video

2. I was sorry not to see Nicollette Sheridan's naked front in the recent NFL promotional video

3. I feel that this scandal, along with Janet Jackson's nipple, has received insufficient media coverage and that, if Scott had known about abortion, Laci would still be alive

4. The food at the Olive Garden is spicy enough for me, thank you

Governmental preferences: I enjoy (check all that apply):

1. leadership from within the reality-based community

2. voting on machines manufactured by a major contributor to the Republican Party (Diebold, for example) after waiting 4 hours in the rain

3. scientific medical care as a supplement to prayer

4. rule of law, any law

GREAT! You're halfway there! We'll e-mail you your country match tomorrow.

Of course, some of your friends and family may choose to remain behind. There are people who take a somewhat inflexible view of "patriotism," just as there are people who never give up on their first, childish, seventh-grade object of infatuation. Perversely, these diehards think it's their RESPONSIBILITY to remain in their country of origin just as it becomes an international source of terror and a mockery of democratic governance. Whether out of masochism or misdirected altruism, they feel OBLIGED to stay and straighten things out.

To them we say: Can't you take a hint? Would you loiter at a party where gross drunken acts are being performed and, on top of that, people are dissing you everywhere you turn?

We also say to them: Bravo and hasta la vista! We'll be back when you've got America, as we knew it, up and running again.
Not for the Squeamish

Caring for the Wounded in Iraq -- A Photo Essay, is the title. The New England Journal of Medicine is the source. Warning: Graphic Content.
The Fightin' Jesus DIDN'T Get Nailed

Nick Coleman, writing for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, learned in no uncertain terms that REAL Christians don't let silly things like The New Testament get in their way. Nah, the Bible is for wussies. Today's Jesus apparently drives an armor-plated Hummer, and makes sure to soundly splash anyone dumb enough to get close to the curb when He's tear-assing through.

I guess that's what Bill O'Reilly must've had in mind when he was busy "saving" Christmas from the secularists.
A Picture Tells a Thousand Words...

Rising Hegemon: Hmmm.
From the Front

Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter Jeremy Redmon was at the Mosul mess hall attacked earlier today:

Hundreds of U.S. soldiers had just sat down for lunch about noon when rockets launched by insurgents hit the giant dining tent.

The force of the explosions knocked soldiers off their feet and out of their seats. A fireball enveloped the top of the tent, and pellet-sized shrapnel sprayed into the men.

Amid the screaming and thick smoke that followed, quick-thinking soldiers turned their lunch tables upside down, placed the wounded on them and gently carried them into the parking lot.

"Medic! Medic!" soldiers shouted. Medics rushed into the tent and hustled the rest of the wounded out on stretchers.

There's also a slideshow showing the aftermath of the attack. War is an ugly thing.
Well, I Guess Falling Off a Cliff Could be Considered "Progress"

While Bush was making an ass of himself at yesterday's press "conference" (see The Rude Pundit for a poetic interpretation), reality intervened in its usual way: The ACLU, as many of y'all probably know already, released a chilling statement about the "interrogation techniques" employed by the United States at various overseas facilites--not just Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Seems that Bush might not be as out of the loop as he'd like to claim:

NEW YORK -- A document released for the first time today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggests that President Bush issued an Executive Order authorizing the use of inhumane interrogation methods against detainees in Iraq.

As of now, the Executive Order itself, if it exists, is still under wraps, although a two page email references it and states that "the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and 'sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc.'"

The press has noted the allegations of abuse, but hasn't focused on the charge that Bush may have signed off on this. If he did, though, it could make future travel plans a bit difficult, as Augusto Pinochet found out a few years back.

Speaking of travel plans: Tony Blair may have been able to skulk around parts of Baghdad and Basra on a surprise visit, but I doubt he'll check out Mosul, where either a mortar or rocket attack at a US mess hall killed over twenty people. A few days ago, Patrick Cockburn noted the instability in this major northern town--a fact lost in the glare of the "great victory" in Fallujah that didn't turn out to be so great after all...

Bush, by the way, finally admitted yesterday that bombs don't equal kisses and flowers, and even went on to note that some of the "Iraqi troops" are, um, about as useful as salt in a fresh wound. Of course, the lapdog press didn't bother to follow up on that, and instead nodded dutifully, in their best impersonation of East Bloc journalism, when the pResident made the bizarre announcement that he "wouldn't negotiate with himself in public" about Social Security. Huh?

Well, at least the public is finally beginning to awaken from whatever sort of narcotic they were on prior to November 4th--support for the war and for the war's chief strategist--Rummy--is fading faster than a cheap tie-dye. Hmmm. What did these folks think? That a vote would scare off the insurgents? Geez. I mean, hell, it's nice to see them shake off the cobwebs, but it'd have been a hell of a lot nice if they'd done so before they handed the keys away for another four years.

And if you liked how much he screwed up Iraq--you'll LOVE what he wants to do to Social Security...

Monday, December 20, 2004

From the Archives

No, not my own, but from the New York Times and Noam Chomsky, respectively. It was on this day back in 1989 that George H.W. Bush decided to "put the Vietnam syndrome behind us" and launched the invasion of Panama. In terms of the fighting, let's just say a mouse has a better chance in a boa's cage than the Panamanians.

After about a week or so, IIRC, the object of our desire--Manuel Noriega--surrendered from the Papal Nuncio, where he'd taken refuge, and was eventually booked into a Florida prison, where he resides to this day. However, the families of the several thousand Panamanians who were killed in the equivalent of an international pro-wrestling match didn't even receive so much as on official apology, much less any compensation. I think they were supposed to take comfort in the fact that it significantly reduced the wimp label affecting Bush, Sr. Such a small price to pay...
Second Line

Congrats to Jazz Funeral for Democracy, who's site was linked to by Cursor.

GreenBoy at Needlenose has this to say about Rupert Murdoch yanking $44 million dollars out of his wallet to pay for a triplex in Manhattan, along Fifth Avenue, across from the Central Park Zoo:

Well at least evil now has an address.
Round Up the Usual Suspects

Freedom on the march:

So, 50 or more have been arrested in connection with the bombings in Najaf, although apparently none of the thirty or so individuals who participated in the event pictured above have been detained.

Consider what that means: in Baghdad, you can literally get away with murder--murder committed in the middle of the day, with witnesses snapping pictures.

Oh, in case you're wondering who is responsible for maintaining civil order: under the Geneva Conventions, the occupying authority is--in this case, the occupying authority is the United States.
Iraqi Wishlist

Riverbend makes her requests:

Ok- what is the typical Iraqi Christmas wishlist (I won't list 'peace', 'security' and 'freedom' - Christmas miracles are exclusive to Charles Dickens), let's see:

1. 20 liters of gasoline
2. A cylinder of gas for cooking
3. Kerosene for the heaters
4. Those expensive blast-proof windows
5. Landmine detectors
6. Running water
7. Thuraya satellite phones (the mobile phone services are really, really bad of late)
8. Portable diesel generators (for the whole family to enjoy!)
9. Coleman rechargeable flashlight with extra batteries (you can never go wrong with a fancy flashlight)
10. Scented candles (it shows you care- but you're also practical)

When Santa delivers please make sure he is wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet. He should also politely ring the doorbell or knock, as a more subtle entry might bring him face to face with an AK-47. With the current fuel shortage, reindeer and a sleigh are highly practical- but Rudolph should be left behind as the flashing red nose might create a bomb scare (we're all a little jumpy lately).

As for Christmas in Iraq, well...
Another Modest Proposal

After reading Timshel's post, then the link to Somerby, as well as the general wingnut bloviating about how put upon they are because they can't cram a creche down the throat of every American at this time of year, I thought to myself: hey, wait a second. If the Christian right is so goddamned adament about pushing Jesus, then maybe they should be a little less, um, how say?--"paganistic?"--yes, that's the term, for when they celebrate the birth of their godhead:

The exact date is even more problematic. Some say that the birth could not have happened in deep winter, because the Bible says that shepherds spent the night outdoors with their flocks on the night that Jesus was born (Luke 2:8). But others say that this is speculation. Nonetheless, it is most likely that Jesus was born between October and March.

Originally, Christmas' date was set to correspond with the Roman festival of the birth of the Sun God Mithras, which coincided with the "return of the sun" after the shortest day of the year. As early as A.D. 354, Jesus' birth was celebrated on December 25 in Rome. Other cities had other traditional dates. The history of Christmas is closely associated with that of the Epiphany. If the currently prevailing opinion about the compilation of the gospels is accepted, the earliest body of gospel tradition, represented by Mark no less than by the primitive non-Marcan document (Q document) embodied in the first and third gospels, begins, not with the birth and childhood of Jesus, but with His baptism; and this order of accretion of gospel matter is faithfully reflected in the time order of the invention-of feasts. The church in general adopted Christmas much later than Epiphany, and before the 5th century there was no consensus as to when it should come in the calendar, whether on January 6, or March 25, or December 25.

So, my proposal is simple: reconcile the contradictions, wingers, between your theological texts, the pagan traditions that were usurped, and/or the evidence you've got, and deal with the fact that your "holiday" is celebrated on December 25th as a matter of convenience. In fact, some genuinely religious people recognize this, and don't get worked all into a huff, which is very Christian of them.

And that's the extent to which I'll post about this non-issue.

The New York Times reports on multiple tours to Iraq for some soldiers:

Earlier this year, as Sgt. Alexander Garcia's plane took off for home after his tense year of duty in Iraq, he remembered watching the receding desert sand and thinking, I will never see this place again.

Never lasted about 10 months for Sergeant Garcia, a cavalry scout with the First Armored Division who finished his first stint in Iraq in March and is now preparing to return...

No one is feeling normal anymore at Fort Riley and other bases across the country, where military life is undergoing a radical change. They are stoic here, and many point out, as Sergeant Garcia does, that they signed up for this.

Still, in decades past, troops had gotten used to a predictable rhythm to their deployments. Even during Desert Storm and Vietnam, most soldiers could expect to take just one trip into harm's way.

But with the military stretched thin in Iraq and in Afghanistan, some soldiers and marines are being sent to war zones repeatedly, for longer stretches in some cases, and with far less time at home between deployments than they say they have ever experienced before...

This frenzied pace is swiftly becoming the norm. Nearly a third of the 950,000 people from all branches of the armed forces who have been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan since those conflicts began have already been sent a second time. Part-time soldiers - Army national guardsmen and reservists - who often have handled support roles, not frontline combat roles, are slightly more likely to have served more than one deployment to the conflict zones than regular Army members.

And, of the nearly 1,300 troops who have died in Iraq since the war began, more than 100 of them were on second tours...

Among some of the soldiers themselves, the thought of returning to Iraq carries one puzzling quality: Unlike so many parts of life, in which the second try at anything feels easier than the first, these soldiers say that heading to Iraq is actually more overwhelming the second time around.

"The first time, I didn't know anything," Sergeant Garcia said. "But this time I know what I'm getting into, so it's harder. You know what you're going to do. You know how bad you're going to be feeling."

And while these soldiers will experience the closest thing to hell on earth for a second time, Donald Rumsfeld can't be bothered to sign his name to letters of condolence that are sent to the families of soldiers slain in combat. But that's ok--there are some indications that the dauphin himself has let the signature machine take care of that trifling detail.

However, this IS allowing some to suggest a bit more forcefully that Rummy should be pink slipped--as if the whole sorry, piss poor, woefully unplanned exercise in Iraq isn't reason enough to give the whole Bush team their walking papers. As for me, at this point why not let Rummy stick around. I want to watch him squirm when the shit REALLY hits the fan, given how he and his boss did everything in their power to ensure it would.