Friday, May 20, 2005

Economic Primer

Krugman provides lesson one:

Stories about the new Treasury report condemning China's currency policy probably had most readers going, "Huh?" Frankly, this is an issue that confuses professional economists, too. But let me try to explain what's going on.

Here's how the U.S.-China economic relationship currently works:

Money is pouring into China, both because of its rapidly rising trade surplus and because of investments by Western and Japanese companies. Normally, this inflow of funds would be self-correcting: both China's trade surplus and the foreign investment pouring in would push up the value of the yuan, China's currency, making China's exports less competitive and shrinking its trade surplus.

But the Chinese government, unwilling to let that happen, has kept the yuan down by shipping the incoming funds right back out again, buying huge quantities of dollar assets - about $200 billion worth in 2004, and possibly as much as $300 billion worth this year. This is economically perverse: China, a poor country where capital is still scarce by Western standards, is lending vast sums at low interest rates to the United States.

Yet the U.S. has become dependent on this perverse behavior. Dollar purchases by China and other foreign governments have temporarily insulated the U.S. economy from the effects of huge budget deficits. This money flowing in from abroad has kept U.S. interest rates low despite the enormous government borrowing required to cover the budget deficit...

So why is the U.S. government complaining? The Treasury report says nothing at all about how China's currency policy affects the United States - all it offers on the domestic side is the usual sycophantic praise for administration policy. Instead, it focuses on the disadvantages of Chinese policy for the Chinese themselves. Since when is that a major U.S. concern?

In reality, of course, the administration doesn't care about the Chinese economy. It's complaining about the yuan because of political pressure from U.S. manufacturers, which are angry about those Chinese trade surpluses. So it's all politics. And that's the problem: when policy decisions are made on purely political grounds, nobody thinks through their real-world consequences.

Here's what I think will happen if and when China changes its currency policy, and those cheap loans are no longer available. U.S. interest rates will rise; the housing bubble will probably burst; construction employment and consumer spending will both fall; falling home prices may lead to a wave of bankruptcies. And we'll suddenly wonder why anyone thought financing the budget deficit was easy.

In other words, we've developed an addiction to Chinese dollar purchases, and will suffer painful withdrawal symptoms when they come to an end.

Ouch. Makes me wonder if I should hold off on trying to buy my first house--and worried about whether I'll have a job if/when I finally manage to gather together the spider's web of financial info/entanglements required.

But as for the macro-level consequences of Bush's present policy, that is to say, the put-it-on-the-credit-card plan, well, I believe Krugman is pointing out that eventually the bill comes due, despite Dick Cheney's assertion that "deficits don't matter." At that point, the US might well see itself subject to an IMF style "austerity plan" that will almost certainly leave large numbers of people howling.
In the Name of Freedom

I can almost picture Scotty (McClellan) terrier, or Dick Myers, or even Ronald Dumsfeld himself proudly noting that, in this instance, no one is accused of desecrating a Koran:

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Oh, and here's the real kicker--no pun intended: it turns out the guy was no more a terrorist than he was a tycoon. But for the soldiers assigned to "interrogation," it seems as if it was yet another case of frat boy pranks/blowing off steam (take yer pick).

For the benefit of those without a Times subscription, I'll provide some extended excerpts:

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"...

When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time...

In sworn statements to Army investigators, soldiers describe one female interrogator with a taste for humiliation stepping on the neck of one prostrate detainee and kicking another in the genitals. They tell of a shackled prisoner being forced to roll back and forth on the floor of a cell, kissing the boots of his two interrogators as he went. Yet another prisoner is made to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum mixed with excrement and water as part of a strategy to soften him up for questioning...

Even though military investigators learned soon after Mr. Dilawar's death that he had been abused by at least two interrogators, the Army's criminal inquiry moved slowly. Meanwhile, many of the Bagram interrogators, led by the same operations officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were redeployed to Iraq and in July 2003 took charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison. According to a high-level Army inquiry last year, Captain Wood applied techniques there that were "remarkably similar" to those used at Bagram...

With most of the legal action pending, the story of abuses at Bagram remains incomplete. But documents and interviews reveal a striking disparity between the findings of Army investigators and what military officials said in the aftermath of the deaths.

Military spokesmen maintained that both men had died of natural causes, even after military coroners had ruled the deaths homicides. Two months after those autopsies, the American commander in Afghanistan, then-Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, said he had no indication that abuse by soldiers had contributed to the two deaths. The methods used at Bagram, he said, were "in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques."

These "techniques," justified in part due to the line of reasoning/brain-lock now all-too-common in the GWOT that detainees are not POWs and therefore not subject to Geneva Convention rules, include:

Sleep deprivation for up to 36 hours.
Chaining or shackling to cell ceilings and/or perimeter fences.
Pressure-point control tactics--I actually was told about a couple of these by someone I knew years ago who was a part-time cop. One pressure point is just behind your ear, where the jaw meets the skull. There are also pressure points between your knuckles. Press down hard at either spot, and you'll cause intense pain.
"Peroneal strikes"--these are blows delivered to the side of the leg, just above the knee. One can cause permanent damage. Reports suggest Dilawar received over one hundred such strikes, causing his legs to become, in the words of a coroner who examined the body, "pulpified."

And who was on the administering end? Meet your interrogators:

Specialist Damien M. Corsetti, a tall, bearded interrogator sometimes called "Monster" -he had the nickname tattooed in Italian across his stomach, other soldiers said - was often chosen to intimidate new detainees. Specialist Corsetti, they said, would glower and yell at the arrivals as they stood chained to an overhead pole or lay face down on the floor of a holding room. (A military police K-9 unit often brought growling dogs to walk among the new prisoners for similar effect, documents show.)

"The other interrogators would use his reputation," said one interrogator, Specialist Eric H. Barclais. "They would tell the detainee, 'If you don't cooperate, we'll have to get Monster, and he won't be as nice.' " Another soldier told investigators that Sergeant Loring lightheartedly referred to Specialist Corsetti, then 23, as "the King of Torture."

A Saudi detainee who was interviewed by Army investigators last June at Guantánamo said Specialist Corsetti had pulled out his penis during an interrogation at Bagram, held it against the prisoner's face and threatened to rape him, excerpts from the man's statement show.

Last fall, the investigators cited probable cause to charge Specialist Corsetti with assault, maltreatment of a prisoner and indecent acts in the incident; he has not been charged. At Abu Ghraib, he was also one of three members of the 519th who were fined and demoted for forcing an Iraqi woman to strip during questioning, another interrogator said. A spokesman at Fort Bragg said Specialist Corsetti would not comment.

Be all you can be...

I wonder when this country will wake up to the damage being done. I mean, this isn't payback--it's sadism, pure and simple. And even IF Dilawar had been guilty of something--although, and let's repeat it, evidently he WASN'T--the tactics used against him and the other prisoners has no place in civilized society (though, sadly, punishment only slightly less vicious is routinely practiced in US penitentiaries).

Geez--we've really gone over to the dark side.

Laff...came across this at America Blog today:

When is McClellan going to say that he is 100% sure, without a doubt that this never happened? Let him go on record so when the reports say otherwise he can do the honorable thing and resign.

Was I really ahead of the curve a couple of days ago?

it seems that a very simple question could make heads or tails of the matter:

Can the pResident categorically state that United States civilian or military personnel NEVER engaged in activities that could reasonably be construed as 'desecration of the Koran?'
Recollections Hazy

So, Newsweek's story is roundly condemned by Team Bush's Scotty (McClellan) terrier...but, as we've seen, it turns out to be more a matter of technicalities.

The ACLU discovered additional cases where the military decided to play its own version of Punk'd! with detainees. Sworn testimony not only reveals various incidents where copies of the Koran were desecrated, but at least one case of a mock execution, where an Army captain "took an Iraqi welder into the desert, told him to dig his own grave, verbally threatened to kill him and had other soldiers stage a shooting of the man."

This one, though, puzzles me--I can't decide if it's a)another fraternity prank, or b)just letting off some steam:

In a separate incident uncovered in the Rifles Base investigation, the driver and passenger of an Iraqi fire truck were detained for failing to turn off the truck's headlights. Multiple soldiers reported that a captain kicked the detainees, threatened to kill them, and held a pistol to the head of one of the detainees, even though the detainees did not offer resistance of any kind. The detainees were released later that evening.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wingnut Alert

Turn on the sirens--haters of America now include...the United States Military:

American military commanders in Baghdad and Washington gave a sobering new assessment on Wednesday of the war in Iraq, adding to the mood of anxiety that prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to come to Baghdad last weekend to consult with the new government.

In interviews and briefings this week, some of the generals pulled back from recent suggestions, some by the same officers, that positive trends in Iraq could allow a major drawdown in the 138,000 American troops late this year or early in 2006. One officer suggested Wednesday that American military involvement could last "many years."

Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American officer in the Middle East, said in a briefing in Washington that one problem was the disappointing progress in developing Iraqi police units cohesive enough to mount an effective challenge to insurgents and allow American forces to begin stepping back from the fighting. General Abizaid, who speaks with President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld regularly, was in Washington this week for a meeting of regional commanders.

In Baghdad, a senior officer said Wednesday in a background briefing that the 21 car bombings in Baghdad so far this month almost matched the total of 25 in all of last year.

Against this, he said, there has been a lull in insurgents' activity in Baghdad in recent days after months of some of the bloodiest attacks, a trend that suggested that American pressure, including the capture of important bomb makers, had left the insurgents incapable of mounting protracted offensives. But the officer said that despite Americans' recent successes in disrupting insurgent cells, which have resulted in the arrest of 1,100 suspects in Baghdad alone in the past 80 days, the success of American goals in Iraq was not assured.

That's the third time, I think, that assertions about "capturing important bomb makers" or words to that effect have been used...

How much skill DOES it take to detonate a car bomb, particularly if you're not all that concerned about the effects on yourself (i.e., you're a suicide bomber)?

But I digress...I can't wait for the war mongers to start blasting the Army for being "unAmerican." Maybe they'd get off their lardasses and actually go to Iraq themselves...nah. Wouldn't happen...
Soon to be Posted on a Telephone Pole Near You?

Lost: 56 Planes, 32 Tanks, 36 Javelin Missiles...and $1 Trillion Dollars
If you come across ANY of this, please contact Don @
Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

The Department of Defense, already infamous for spending $640 for a toilet seat, once again finds itself under intense scrutiny, only this time because it couldn't account for more than a trillion dollars in financial transactions, not to mention dozens of tanks, missiles and planes...

And before the Iraq war, when military leaders were scrambling to find enough chemical and biological warfare suits to protect U.S. troops, the department was caught selling these suits as surplus on the Internet "for pennies on the dollar," a GAO official said.

Hmmm...doesn't sound like they thought Saddam's arsenal of WMD's was much of a threat.

"The Congress has increased defense spending from $300 billion to $400 billion over three years at the same time that the Pentagon has failed to address financial problems that dwarf those of Enron," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, one of the letter's signatories...

In congressional testimony Rumsfeld himself has said "the financial reporting systems of the Pentagon are in disarray . . . they're not capable of providing the kinds of financial management information that any large organization would have."

So, why HAS the Pentagon been so laggard with its wallet? Any guesses?

Danielle Brian, director of the Project on Governmental Oversight, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., said waste has become ingrained in the Defense budget because opposition to defense spending is portrayed as unpatriotic, and legislators are often more concerned about winning Pentagon pork than controlling defense waste.

There's nothing more pathetic--or frightening--than a welfare queen disguised as an avenging angel...especially when, despite their inability to count, they can still threaten to blast you to kingdom come.
Ignorance Knows No Bounds

Hullabaloo notes something that was lost in the, um, hullabaloo over Newsweek:

ISLAMABAD: A cartoon in The Washington Times lampooning Pakistan's role in the US war on terror has turned into a rallying point for nationalist passions and hidden anti-American sentiments here.

The "offensive" cartoon (published May 6) shows a US soldier patting a dog (Pakistan) that holds Abu Faraj Al Libbi (a terrorist linked with Al Qaeda) and saying, "Good boy ... now let's go find bin Laden."...

For Muhammad Ali, a student of Quaid-e-Azam University, the cartoon belittles Pakistan' anti-terror efforts and exposes how much the US values Pakistan's role in the war in terror.

Many students of this university are so sore with the US "assault on national pride" that they will settle for nothing less than an apology from US President George Bush.

Two things--first, like Digby, I don't recall any outrage, nor do I remember Scott McClellan sternly telling the brass at the Washington Times to don their collective hairshirts and adopt a penitent's gait.

At the same time, I'm aware that Pakistan's "support" for the GWOT is, well, nuanced. This is due to myriad reasons, including the unpleasant fact that lunatic Islamic fundamentalism has more than a toehold in the country (IIRC, we exploited this in ancient times, i.e., the 1980's...wingnuts seem to have a fuzzy understanding of the era, being blinded by the Reagan light). However, despite Pakistan's less than enthusiastic support, they--along with other stellar exemplars of human rights like Uzbekistan, have been chosen by Cap'n Crunch Bush to be on the team...I think, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, you take the allies you have...

Still, once chosen, proffering insults isn't exactly the equivalent of a pep talk. And likening an entire country to a dog, particularly a Muslim country, literally REEKS of ignorance.

But, as they say, IOKIYAR.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The VERY Simple Question That Goes Unasked

Amid all the hrummphing going on re: Newsweek, the Koran, toilets, and/or flushing, it seems that a very simple question could make heads or tails of the matter:

Can the pResident categorically state that United States civilian or military personnel NEVER engaged in activities that could reasonably be construed as 'desecration of the Koran?'

You won't find that question here, though it's getting apparent that the McClellan gangsta strut is hiding a not-so-secret secret: Koran desecration seems to have been--and may well still be--a typical "softening" tactic in Operation-Let's-Play-Right-Into-bin-Laden's-Hands:

"Contrary to White House spin, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo such as those described by Newsweek on 9 May 2005 are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States. Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Koran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it."


Newsweek magazine's now-retracted story that a military guard at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet has sparked angry denunciations by the White House and the Pentagon, which have linked the article to Muslim riots and deaths abroad.

But American and international media have widely reported similar allegations from detainees and others of desecration of the Muslim holy book for more than two years.

James Yee, a former Muslim chaplain at the prison who was investigated and cleared of charges of mishandling classified material, has asserted that guards' mishandling and mistreatment of detainees' Korans led the prisoners to launch a hunger strike in March 2002. Detainee lawyers, attributing their information to an interrogator, have said the strike ended only when military leaders issued an apology to the detainees over the camp loudspeaker. But they said mishandling of the Koran persisted.


Dogs, nudity, sexual harassment, even fake menstrual blood:

There is no question that these were tactics designed to offend, no question that they were put in place after 2001 and no question that many considered them justified.

Riverbend has a few things to say about this--and provides a local perspective on the recent rash of bombings that are making Baghdad life even more hellish than usual. As always, her latest post is worth checking out.

And it'd be damn nice if SOMEONE at the gaggle would actually ask McClellan the question noted above.
Co-Equal Branches of Liars

I guess at least it's good to know that Bill Frist is just as capable of talking out of his ass as Cowboy George:

This morning on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Chuck Schumer asked Majority Leader Bill Frist a simple question:

SEN. SCHUMER: Isn’t it correct that on March 8, 2000, my colleague [Sen. Frist] voted to uphold the filibuster of Judge Richard Paez?

Here was Frist’s response:

The president, the um, in response, uh, the Paez nomination - we’ll come back and discuss this further. … Actually I’d like to, and it really brings to what I believe - a point - and it really brings to, oddly, a point, what is the issue. The issue is we have leadership-led partisan filibusters that have, um, obstructed, not one nominee, but two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, in a routine way.

The issue is not cloture votes per se, it’s the partisan, leadership-led use of cloture votes to kill - to defeat - to assassinate these nominees. That’s the difference. Cloture has been used in the past on this floor to postpone, to get more info, to ask further questions.

More here.

Maybe the formaldehyde he sniffed back in the 70s--when he butchered cats for fun and profit--affected his brain function.

Make no mistake--judges Owen and Brown are both total nutcases. The former, among other things, can take credit for needlessly stalling a tort case involving Ford Motor Company, legislating from the bench along the way, and preventing compensation from reaching the victim, who died as a result. Nice going, Judge Owen.

In addition, Owen has a not-so-surprising record of siding with those who CTC--cut the checks for the re-election fund. I dunno, though, maybe she's tired of having to beg, and Federal judgeships are lifetime tenure...

Brown's record is briefly reviewed here, while Crooked Timber has in archives an analysis of a speech where she conflated the New Deal with godless, athiestic...well, socialism, but socialism that's just as evil as the -ism that begins with a (Das) Capital "C". In other words, NO SOCIAL SECURITY CHECK FOR YOU, GRANNY!

I'm reminded of something an Eisenhower appointee to the Supreme Court once said about obscenity--I know it when I see it.

I should've expected that C-Span would chicken out on rerunning the showdown between George Galloway, Norm "Schoolboy" Coleman, and Carl Levin...however, the BBC has streaming video, which I caught last night after reading a transcript over at DailyKos (Counterpunch has Galloway's opening remarks).

One thing's certain--the MP got the best of Christopher Snitchens:

Before the hearing began, the independent MP for Bethnal Green and Bow had some scorn to bestow generously upon the pro-war writer Christopher Hitchens. "You're a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay," Mr Galloway informed him. "Your hands are shaking. You badly need another drink," he added later, ignoring Mr Hitchens's questions and staring intently ahead. "And you're a drink-soaked ..." Eventually Mr Hitchens gave up. "You're a real thug, aren't you?" he hissed, stalking away.

Popinjay...them Brits got a way with words.

Coleman engaged in a rather crude attempt at establishing guilt-by-association via the person Fawaz Zureikat, the company Aredio Petroleum, and former Iraqi official Dahar Yassein Ramadan (now in US custody and facing the death penalty). Zureikat is most definitely an associate of Galloway's, but if we follow Coleman's logic, then perhaps George W. Bush should be called to testify, given that HE'S an associate of Dick Cheney, who's company likewise did business with Iraq during the years in question. It might also be enlightening to research any connection between the GOP and Bay Oil/David Chalmers, the Houston company/individual now in the thick of what was supposed to be Operation-Smack-Down-Kofi (and, since we can, his kid) Before-He-Gets-Too- Uppity.

Oh...and as for Carl Levin--geez, I guess he felt a filial need to defend the august institution and/or his hapless colleague, but he came across as utterly inconsequential. Watching the sad little sparring session made me think that, if Levin was DA, he'd ignore gangland murders on the (Middle) East Side because he was shocked, shocked, by someone guilty of a rolling stop across town.

Galloway probably won't open the eyes of anyone who isn't already aware of how badly Operation-How-Can-We-Hide-the-Bodies-WE'RE-Responsible-For? is going, but it's nonetheless good to have on the record someone who points out the salient fact that EVERYTHING Team Bush claims has turned out to be, in his words "the mother of all smokescreens." In addition, he noted the degree to which this country has failed in maintaining BASIC principles of free society, e.g., the right to confront one's accusers seems to have been thrown out the window. Finally, he pretty convincingly demonstrated that Norm Coleman is, well, a chump, and a bit of a sore loser, reduced to lashing out with empty threats of perjury charges.

That's something you just don't see everyday in this country.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Galloway: Put THAT in Your Pipeline, Mr. Coleman

George Galloway hopped across the pond today and personally delivered his riposte to an idiot masquerading as a United States Senator, Norm Coleman:

"I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."

Mr Galloway said he had met Saddam Hussein on two occasions - the same number of times as US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and maps - the better to target those guns. I met him to try to bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war," he said.

The biggest sanctions busters were American companies "with the connivance" of the US Government, he argued.

The Guardian and the BBC both published articles dealing with this rather unpleasant fact--a fact brought forward by a Democratic committee investigating the matter:

The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate committee against UN staff and European politicians like the British MP, George Galloway, and the former French minister, Charles Pasqua.

In fact, the Senate report found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.
"The United States was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions," the report said. "On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales.

And, wouldn't you know, the one of the biggest suppliers of Iraqi oil turned out to be...from Houston, Texas.
Three From Bad Attitudes

This Howard Zinn article entitled The Scourge of Nationalism is simply a must read. Here's a tiny appetizer:

One of the effects of nationalist thinking is a loss of a sense of proportion. The killing of 2,300 people at Pearl Harbor becomes the justification for killing 240,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing of 3,000 people on September 11 becomes the justification for killing tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What makes our nation immune from the normal standards of human decency?

Surely, we must renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Speaking of appetizing--or not so--James Doolittle found this germane tidbit (no pun intended) in National Geographic:

Among the occupational hazards of being king, tsar, or maharaja, few are so permanently incapacitating as a pinch of arsenic slipped into the soup. For that the royals have long had a remedy: the food taster …

These days, employment opportunities for tasters are in decline. In England, Buckingham Palace reports there is no formal procedure for food tasting. “The in-house help are fully vetted,” a palace spokesman says. The Japanese emperor hasn’t used a food taster in years, though President George W. Bush has used Navy mess specialists to handle the job.

Doolittle notes that "Navy mess specialist" means "Filipino steward." And in this instance, "President" means "imperial bozo."

Finally, Doolittle also points to a New York Times technology article about Google Maps. There's an element of "gee whiz" to the story--along with this fun trivia item:

NOW, a promised final word about Google's aerial views. Last month, I mentioned that one small part of the American land mass was obscured in an unusual way. It's not the headquarters of the C.I.A., which is there in such detail you that can tell the color of cars in the parking lots. Nor is the mystery zone a dam or a power plant. Some are clearer than others, but the differences result from varying quality of satellite photographs from place to place.

True, the roofs of the White House and two neighboring buildings have been Photoshopped, to conceal whatever protective systems may be up there. And the view of the United States Capitol grounds is blurry, though the contours of the main buildings are distinct. But to see what real camouflage looks like, zoom in on the satellite view of 1 Observatory Circle in Washington. That's where Dick Cheney lives.

Secure, and somewhat undisclosed...what more could a prince of darkness veep want?
Forecast for Hell: Hard Freeze, Flurries Expected

That is, if Tom Burka's latest was really true:

Bush To Retract War
Cites Protests, Poor Sourcing, Newsweek Debacle as Impetus

George W. Bush retracted the Iraq war today, saying that it had been based on information from an unreliable source and that the original premises for the war were wrong.

"We had one source for the war -- two, if you count Judith Miller -- and it now appears that that source didn't know what he was talking about," George W. Bush told reporters. (Ahmed Chalabi had no comment, but told reporters that he would consider "telling them everything they wanted to hear" for 10 million dollars.)

While the Administration initially reported that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that it was linked to the 9/11 attacks on America, it appeared as recently as last Thursday that that was not true. "We couldn't be sorrier that our misreporting of the facts surrounding Iraq has caused the loss of human life," said Scott McClellan today.

McCelllan explained that the President thought that the recent Newsweek debacle required the Administration to reexamine its own poorly sourced actions. "We couldn't really ask Newsweek for an apology and not admit our own mistake," said McClellan. "We're not hypocrites."

Posted by Tom at 10:20 AM in News

Actually, the Chalabi item probably IS true, come to think of it...
Krugman: Gut Check Time

Similar to Patrick Cockburn's piece noted below, Paul Krugman's latest is a sobering reminder of what Team Bush wrought when they began their incessant temper tantrum for war:

There has been notably little U.S. coverage of the "Downing Street memo" - actually the minutes of a British prime minister's meeting on July 23, 2002, during which officials reported on talks with the Bush administration about Iraq. But the memo, which was leaked to The Times of London during the British election campaign, confirms what apologists for the war have always denied: the Bush administration cooked up a case for a war it wanted...

Krugman provides a handy link where you can read the memo in question.

Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.

But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?...

The people who sold us this war continue to insist that success is just around the corner, and that things would be fine if the media would just stop reporting bad news. But the administration has declared victory in Iraq at least four times. January's election, it seems, was yet another turning point that wasn't...

In effect, America has been taken hostage. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the terrible scenes that will surely unfold if we leave (even though terrible scenes are unfolding while we're there). Nobody wants to tell the grieving parents of American soldiers that their children died in vain. And nobody wants to be accused, by an administration always ready to impugn other people's patriotism, of stabbing the troops in the back.

But the American military isn't just bogged down in Iraq; it's deteriorating under the strain. We may already be in real danger: what threats, exactly, can we make against the North Koreans? That John Bolton will yell at them? And every year that the war goes on, our military gets weaker...

In other words, the people who got us into Iraq have done exactly what they falsely accused Bill Clinton of doing: they have stripped America of its capacity to respond to real threats.

The left has been accused of "blaming America first," which has always been a strawman argument--but it's even more so these days, because it's not "America" that's dragging this country down, but a bunch of whacked out, quasi-religious yahoos who no more represent the United States than Saddam Hussein represented Iraq. Given the utter lack of attention they paid to anyone advocating anything other than WAR NOW, the blame for the Iraqi tragedy can be placed squarely upon them. They--and the people who supported them--should pay the price politically. What they did was incredibly dumb--as dumb as Hitler's insistance on laying siege to Stalingrad.

We'll be paying for their mistakes for a long time...
Royal Straight Islamic Flush

So, Slate comes out with de rigeur tut-tutting over the Newsweek story/retraction, citing any number of wingnuts, but mostly proving they're more than ready to pile on if it will curry favor...

But there's still plenty of acrid smoke fouling the air, even if Instadimwit suggests they should get out of the news business. To wit, Farmer, writing at Corrente, has researched and chronicled at least half a dozen separate reports of Koran desecration--and, in comments, you can find this article detailing additional instances.

Sadly, I can't say that I'm all that surprised. We KNOW detainees are being tortured (even if we DON'T know the supposedly useful information obtained as a result). Flushing a Koran, to be honest, seems to be about what you'd expect from these "soldiers."
Trending Towards Bloody Awful

This Patrick Cockburn article, titled The Deflation of a Superpower, offers a nice summary of what's gone wrong to date in Operation-Why Worry-About-the-Ammo-Dumps?-It's-not-like-They',-Nevermind:

The ferocious resistance encountered last week by the 1,000-strong US marine task force trying to fight its way into villages around the towns of Qaim and Obeidi in western Iraq shows that the war is far from over...

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the leader of one of the Kurdish parties, confidently told a meeting in Brasilia last week that there is war in only three or four out of 18 Iraqi provinces. Back in Baghdad Mr Talabani, an experienced guerrilla leader, has deployed no fewer than 3,000 Kurdish soldiers or peshmerga around his residence in case of attack. One visitor was amused to hear the newly elected President interrupt his own relentlessly upbeat account of government achievements to snap orders to his aides on the correct positioning of troops and heavy weapons around his house.

There is no doubt that the US has failed to win the war. Much of Iraq is a bloody no man's land. The army has not been able to secure the short highway to the airport, though it is the most important road in the country, linking the US civil headquarters in the Green Zone with its military HQ at Camp Victory.

Cockburn goes on to identify any number of screw ups. On the political level, we've, to use a Bushian phrase, have spent ALL our capital--and we've not even gotten so much as a handful of magic beans. Our ignorance of Iraqi society was and continues to be a major reason for failure.

Groups of local thugs who are otherwise despised for their viciousness are hated less than US forces, thanks to a unique mix of overkill and understaffing. This might work fine for blitzkreig, but it turns into a sour mix when the mundane aspects of occupation become the prime task. Sort of like how Dubya loved wearing a flightsuit--but I doubt you'll ever see him don a janitor's smock.

Neither will you see discipline meted out to folks like Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz, who ignored sound advice prior to combat--and who now simply deny the existence of problems that are shaking the military to the very core.

Finally, Cockburn notes that the latest "New Iraqi Army" is in reality comprised of various ethnic or sectarian militias--just wait until they REALLY have weapons.

Iraq, in his words, is now entirely a no man's land.

Monday, May 16, 2005


OK, it's Monday and it's been busy--and the Newsweek retraction isn't really a retraction, but yeah, I didn't point out the following, as noted by Kos:

"It's puzzling that while Newsweek now acknowledges that they got the facts wrong, they refused to retract the story," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "I think there's a certain journalistic standard that should be met and in this instance it was not."

"The report has had serious consequences," McClellan said. "People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."

Hmmmm..."got the facts wrong, people have lost their lives, and the image of the Unites States abroad has been damaged." Sounds kinda familiar.
Pin the Crime on the Criminal

Indeed. Whiskey Bar has the pic and potential lede:

Defendants in the dock at the Ango-American War Crimes Trial of 2010, held at The Hague under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Of the 20 defendants shown here -- the so-called "Republican Guard" -- only one (Alan Greenspan, second row, second from right) was found not guilty, on the grounds that the destruction of the American economy and the global financial crash of 2008, while regrettable, did not constitute war crimes as defined by the Geneva Convention...

In a more controversial decision, former Secretary of State Colin Powell was spared any prison time at all, after the judges ruled that being seated between former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers for the entire eight-month trial constituted "punishment enough."...

The remaining defendants were sentenced to life terms at the Guantanamo War Crimes Penitentiary -- the same facility used to imprison the remaining leaders of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization, whose own war crimes trial began shortly after this picture was taken.
Toilet "Humor"

Over the weekend, some serious backtracking went on re: did the military flush a Koran or didn't they? Juan Cole sifts through the shit (no pun intended), and notes that Newsweek's "retraction" wasn't quite the 180 degree turn now claimed:

Isikoff's source, in other words, stands by his report of the incident, but is merely tracing it to other paperwork. What difference does that make? Although Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita angrily denounced the source as no longer credible, in the real world you can't just get rid of a witness because the person made a minor mistake with regard to a text citation. It is like saying that we can't be sure someone has really read the Gospels because he said he read about Caiaphas in the Gospel of Mark rather than in the Gospel of John.

Cole goes on to note that the REAL reason the Pentagon is so miffed is that they've been using Guantanamo as their little psychological shop of horrors...well, that and the fact that, once again, we've demonstrated a startling degree of stupidity--stupidity that comes at a deadly cost.

Oh, and speaking of stupid--Condoleezza Rice swooped into Iraq--unannounced, of course--to proclaim "This war came to us, no the other way around," once again conflating Iraq with 9/11...ah, lies and the lying liars...

The very fact that officials like Rice have to smuggle themselves into the country should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about Operation Over Except for the Fact that Team Bush, to Save Face, is Willing to Let the Body Count Continue to Rise--excepting Themselves, Of Course.

And, sorry to burst the bubbles of the war/wing nuts, but Operation Matador, the latest "smashing success" (or was that "catastrophic success?"), turns out to be just another mirage in the desert:

After one battle May 8 that killed at least two Marines, a roadside bomb that claimed another six on Wednesday and days of fruitless hunting for the enemy, the Marines were ready for a fight. The remote village of Arabi, just two miles from the Syrian border, looked to be the place. If the Americans found Arabi in the hands of foreign fighters, said Marine Maj. Steve Lawson, commander of Lima Company in the 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, "we'll make it rubble."...

Minutes passed. Poised for the sounds of AK-47 assault rifle fire, bullets clinking on the metal of the armored vehicles and explosions, the Marines heard nothing. They saw no one on deserted streets...

Since May 8, when Operation Matador's scheduled start was accelerated by an unexpected but fierce clash at the riverside town of Ubaydi, the Marines had found no one to fight. But the insurgents left proxies to do the killing for them: meticulously rigged roadside bombs and mines, planted on dirt roads where wheels or tank treads would pass, or along bridges.

Primed for battle, the Marines found only booby traps. Sometimes they found them too late.

On Wednesday, two artillery rounds buried in the road detonated under an Amtrac, blowing a two-foot-wide hole in its armor plating. The explosion set off ammunition inside the vehicle, creating an inferno.

As the Amtrac burned, a 24-year-old Marine in a nearby vehicle grabbed his helmet in both fists and wrenched it. "I hate this country!" he screamed...

The mortar shell hit, and the young mother's face collapsed in fear. She clutched her child, giving up her efforts to reassure the girl by smiling bravely at the house full of armed foreign intruders.

With no Arabic speakers among the Marines, no English spoken among the villagers of Arabi, and Lima Company's already sparse crew of Iraqi interpreters reduced when one quit in mid-battle at Ubaydi, there was no way to tell her the mortar round was meant for others, the nuisance gunmen across the Euphrates...

Check out the entire article--and, for those who have a sense of history, make comparisons to another instance of this country engaging in imperial war.