On April 19, after a day of teaching classes at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, I went out to my car and grabbed a box of old poetry manuscripts from the front seat of my little white Beetle, carried it across the street and put it next to the trashcan outside Wright Hall. The poems were from poetry contests I had been judging and the box was heavy. I had previously left my recycling boxes there and they were always picked up and taken away by the trash department.[more]
A young man from ROTC was watching me as I got into my car and drove away. I thought he was looking at my car, which has black flower decals and sometimes inspires strange looks. I later discovered that I, in my dark skin, am sometimes not even a person to the people who look at me. Instead, in spite of my peacefulness, my committed opposition to all aggression and war, I am a threat by my very existence, a threat just living in the world as a Muslim body.
Upon my departure, he called the local police department and told them a man of Middle Eastern descent driving a heavily decaled white Beetle with out of state plates and no campus parking sticker had just placed a box next to the trash can. My car has NY plates, but he got the rest of it wrong. I have two stickers on my car. One is my highly visible faculty parking sticker and the other, which I just don't have the heart to take off these days, says, "Kerry/Edwards: For a Stronger America."
Because of my recycling, the bomb squad came, then the state police. Because of my recycling, buildings were evacuated, classes were canceled, the campus was closed. No. Not because of my recycling. Because of my dark body. No. Not even that. Because of his fear. Because of the way he saw me. Because of the culture of fear, mistrust, hatred and suspicion that is carefully cultivated in the media, by the government, by people who claim to want to keep us "safe."
Saturday, April 28, 2007
This photo of a Virginia Tech victim was "photoshopped" by a couple of photo editors because they believed that it showed the victim's "genitals".
Well, unfortunately, this stupidity can only be responded to with crudity.
First of all, at this size, it's relatively hard to see.
Second... well, if the photo does show the victim's genitals [sic], the guy is, to say the least (so to speak) unusually well-endowed. Specially in a detumescent state.
Third, the specimen, as it were, isn't quite where it should.
Multiply these defective judgment calls by dozens or hundreds a day....
You can't help to see what's wrong with the press:
Gross incompetence in every aspect of their jobs.
Here, a lovely assessment of Yeltsin:
As though a wave of historical amnesia had swept over the media, few commentators seemed to remember that it was Mikhail Gorbachev, upon becoming Soviet leader in 1985, who launched the democratic reforms of "perestroika" and "glasnost"--ending censorship, permitting, even encouraging, opposition rallies and demonstrations, beginning market reforms and holding the first free, multi-candidate elections. (Indeed, Yeltsin was the chief beneficiary of those reforms.)Link.
Those reforms provided Yeltsin with an opportunity unique in Russian history. In June 1991--when he was elected President of Soviet Russia in what remains perhaps the freest and fairest Presidential election the country has ever had--and again in August 1991 when he stood, iconically, on a tank to face down an attempted coup by Communist hardliners, Yeltsin could have seized the chance to become the co-founder of Russian democracy.
But if Yeltsin was any kind of reformer, it was in the undemocratic tradition of Peter the Great, with whom he often compared himself, and he quickly squandered--even betrayed--that chance. After August 1991, Yeltsin's anti-democratic policies polarized, embittered and impoverished his country laying the ground for what is now unfolding in Russia--though it is being blamed solely on today's Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
What follows is a quick tour of nearly ten years of Yeltsin's shock politics and policies:
** In December 1991, Yeltsin and a small band of associates suddenly, without any legal or practical preparation, or consultation with the Parliaments or peoples involved, abolished the Soviet Union. Even if the Soviet Union needed to be disbanded, Yeltsin did it--as even his supporters later acknowledged--in a way that was "neither legitimate nor democratic." As Stephen Cohen wrote last year in The Nation, the breakup was " a profound departure from Gorbachev's commitment to social consensus and constitutionalism," and represented a return to the country's Tsarist and Bolshevik tradition of imposed change from above. It also bred mass resentments that jeopardized the democratic reforms achieved during the previous six years of perestroika.
** Beginning in early 1992, Yeltsin launched the disastrous "shock therapy" policies which sent the country reeling with pain. Urged upon Russia by a group of US (primarily Harvard) economists, and supported by the Clinton Administration and energetically implemented by Yeltsin's young "reformers," these policies--almost universally touted as "reforms" in the Western media-- involved the swift elimination of most price controls and a privatization program that resulted in hyperinflation wiping out, in installments, the savings of average Russians. Roughly half of Russia's people thus found themselves living below the poverty level.
** In October 1993, Yeltsin used tank cannons to destroy not only the Parliament that had brought him to power and defended him during the attempted coup of 1991 but the entire political, constitutional order of Russia's post-Communist republic. The US government and media, with few exceptions, acted as Yeltsin's cheerleaders as the Russian President's tanks pounded Russia's first ever popularly elected and fully independent legislature. A senior US official told the New York Times that "if Yeltsin suspends an anti-democratic parliament, it is not necessarily an antidemocratic act"; and an unnamed US official was quoted by Newsweek as saying the Clinton Administration "would have supported Yeltsin even if his response had been more violent than it was." (187 people died and almost 500 were wounded in the attack.) The Nation, almost alone among US media outlets, deplored Yeltsin's act, which led to Russia's super-presidency and obedient Parliament today.
** In December 1994, Yeltsin launched by decree a war against the tiny breakaway republic of Chechnya. By the time it ended in a temporary truce in 1996, the war had killed tens of thousands of civilians, many of them ethnic Russians ; eviscerated and alienated the army; made a mockery of constitutional federalism; and, barely noted, earned the horrifying distinction of being the first civil war to take place in a nuclearized country. While Russian planes, tanks and artillery rained death on the Chechen capital of Grozny, President Clinton saw fit to compare Yeltsin to Abraham Lincoln.
** In 1996, Yeltsin's reelection campaign---financed by a handful of oligarchs including now-exiled Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky and aided by pro-Kremlin media bias and censorship--was marked by spectacular legal violations. No less enduring in its consequences was the most aggressive giveaway on Yeltsin's watch --the notorious "loans-for-shares" agreement--which allowed a small group of men, in exchange for financing Yeltsin's campaign, to take control of and Russia's most valuable economic assets.(It was a colossal piece of criminality glossed over at the time by almost all US media outlets as "market reform".) Thus was birthed the rapacious oligarchy--leading one Russian journalist to remark the other day that Yeltsin was not "the father of democracy" but "the father of the oligarchy."
**In August 1998, following a number of financial dealings that victimized or failed to benefit most Russians, the government after pledging not to do so,suddenly devalued the ruble, defaulted on its debts and froze bank accounts. In effect, people's savings were once again expropriated, this time decimating the post-1991 middle class.
Such events help explains why for millions of Russians, Yeltsin's rule was an age of blight not democracy. This magazine never lost sight of the social and economic disaster he presided over. But almost no one in the US media wanted to tell that story. Preferring Panglossian narratives, few cared to report that since 1991 Russia's reality included the worst peacetime industrial depression of the 20th century. In 1999, when the UN Development program reported that " a human crisis of monumental proportions is emerging in the former Soviet Union," the report was virtually ignored. And while, as Professor Peter Reddaway and Dmitri Glinski wrote, "for the first time in recent world history one of the major industrial nations with a highly educated society has dismantled the results of several decades of economic development," American press coverage preferred to run glowing stories about Yeltsin's crusading "young reformers" --sometimes called "democratic giants" -- showing a cold indifference to the terrible human consequences of the crusade. (A Reuters journalist later made the observation: "The pain is edited out." ) As Stephen Cohen wrote, "sustaining such a Manichaean narrative in the face of so many conflicting realities turned American journalists into boosters for US policy and cheerleaders for Yeltsin's Kremlin."
Neither these cold realities nor the political and economic consequences today have chastened the the booster-journalists. Indeed, while many of the obituaries in newspapers that were Yeltsin's most uncritical supporters at the time now give a more balanced account than they did at the time --there is no acknowledgement that they helped promote the acts they now criticize or regret.
Embedded in those obituaries is another argument, perhaps stated most clearly by Strobe Talbott, a Russia expert and Clinton's primary adviser on Yeltsin's Russia, that while there are valid criticisms of Yeltsin there was no alternative route to what he imposed. Yet the majority of Russian pro-market economists warned against "shock therapy" --abetted by US-sponsored policies--foreseeing its tragic outcome. The alternative road they offered was more evolutionary, a gradualist approach, a "third way" that would have averted catastrophic impoverishment, plundering and lawlessness. Time has proved them right.
Certainly, the anti-democratic consequences of Yeltsinism are clear. (Last year, a respected Russian survey revealed that nearly 70 percent of Russians polled believe the country needs an authoritarian ruler.) Yeltsin's legacy to his anointed successor, Putin, was an impoverished, polarized and dangerously unstable nation. And his succession had much to do with Yeltsin's fear of being held responsible for Russia's collapse and looting. (Indeed, one of Putin's first acts was to issue a decree protecting Yeltsin from future prosecution for corruption.) As a result, as The Nation argued at the time, Putin's rise to power and his semi-authoritarian rule today are best understood as the outgrowth of Yeltsin and Yeltsinism --which Washington so assiduously championed during the 1990s.
The piece is by Peter B. Gillis:
But we're at war!
All right, I know I shouldn't do it, but Bill Kristol said on Fox News Sunday that Harry Reid saying the war is lost is disgraceful and worse than Trent Lott saying we'd be better off as a segregated nation .
Now George Bush and his Cylons have in fact lost their war, Bill Kristol is both an unethocal debater and perpetually wrong in matters of fact. And most Americans don't believe him, nor are they vulnerable to any of his blandishments.
So I shouldn't get as angry as I got.
I've already talked about the structural reasons why someone as stupid and dishonest as Kristol should get facetime on the teevee--and I don't think I have to (or want to) state why this war is wrong.
However my argumentative mind kicked in its afterburner and I started coming up why criticism of this war is not wrong. It goes over some territory I've talked about before, but, well, we're still not out and the Uruk-AEI are still attacking us for saying bad thing 'when we're at WAAAAR!"
1) One of the reasons we are supposed to be unified when the country goes to war is that we're not supposed to falter in our resolution when things take a bad turn. Tom Paine in The Crisis wrote of 'sunshine patriots." All well and good.
But in this case, we resolved nothing. Millions of people marched in the streets saying 'don't go in," and the President called them a 'focus group.' And more impportantly there was no vote in Congress to invade and occupy Iraq.
We as a nation did not agree to go to war. Not officially, not by consensus, and not by reasoned debate.
When america goes to war, we should stand by that decision. When the President, supported by his political party, embarks on a military adventure, no such compunction exists.
2) Criticism does not impede military effort. The oppponents of the war did not shut down factories providing for the military. They did not reduce the manpower by refusing the draft--there's not only no draft, at no point has the President called for enlistment to fight in the war. They have not refused to pay war taxes or levies or violate rationing--because none of those exist.
The President has not required anything of the American people in this war. Not money, not resources, not even bodies.
What kind of a war is it, when nothing substantive or physical is required--but we should give up our right to dissent, our right to privacy, and our right to habeas corpus? No actual troops are needed, but the troops we have are so psychologically fragile that domestic dissent impedes their ability to fight?
Domestic support for the troops may be important if our troops are in a desperate situation--when they face a superior foe, are vastly outnumbered, or are in a terrible tactical position--as they have been in World Wars 1, II and Korea.
Frankly, with no armies to meet in the field, no enemy positions to take, no tanks, planes, ships or ICBMs to destroy, what the troops need is not courage, but wisdom.
That is what we have been trying to supply.
3) If we lose the war, what will we lose? Surrender? Wee're not surrendering our troops. We're not surrendering our armaments. And we never intended that the territory of Iraq was something we were taking for ourselves. Historically, surrender means giving up some of these things. If we leave, we give nothing of that sort up.
If we leave, will the Bad Guys win? Which Bad Guys? Al Qaeda? Al Qaeda will not control Iraq, or any part of it, if we leave. Moqtada Al-Sadr? But he was part of the government we supported. Iran? Syria? How can we say we were trying to prevent Syrian or Iranian encroachment when we did not even attempt to secure or fortify the borders?
And if we leave, what will happen to America?
The terrorists will 'follow us home?' The world will cease to respect us?
The terrorists know where we live. The world has already ceased to respect us.
There is no moral reason, no ethical reason, and no practical reason why we should not continue to criticize this war, and call for its end.
There. Now back to work.
So you can imagine my excitement when I read that Josh Marshall explains it all here.
Suffice to say, I was disappointed....
How Socialized Medicine Sucks Especially in Cimparison to the World's Finest Healthcare (and Healthcare System) Here in the USA
It doesn't; it's just more Big Media lies.
The 2008 election, explained by Yogi BerraLink.
Everything you need to know about the presidential race has already been predicted by baseball's greatest sage.
By Rick Ridder and Walter Shapiro
Apr. 23, 2007 | Ever since 16th century pollsters and media consultants discovered Machiavelli, political handlers have been searching for the right strategic thinker to guide them in wooing voters. Sun Tzu on "The Art of War" has often been in vogue, especially among hawkish Republican operatives.
But for pure political insight -- now more than ever with the wide-open presidential races in both parties -- there is no one to match Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees and reigning philosopher of baseball. Here is how selected Yogi-isms can explain contemporary politics:
"I wish I had an answer to that, because I'm tired of answering that question."
Instead of claiming amnesia, Alberto Gonzales would have been shrewder to emulate this kind of candor during his hapless appearance last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The virtue of the Yogi quote book is that its wisdom is bipartisan. Hillary Clinton could also resort to this honest approach every time she is tempted to give a convoluted answer about her vote authorizing the Iraq war.
"Slump? I ain't in a slump ... I just ain't hitting."
This might as well be the slogan of the fast-deflating John McCain campaign. With disappointing fundraising numbers and drooping polls, the defrocked GOP front-runner is on his way to being benched by Republican voters.
"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
Perhaps because of his baseball background, George W. Bush (aka "the Decider") is a master at this. Regardless of the consequences make a decision, any decision. This is about leadership.
"Third base ain't so bad if nothing is hit to you."
With the Republicans swooning over a possible campaign by former senator and current actor Fred Thompson, it is easy to forget that presidential politics is a brutal testing ground for ill-prepared dream candidates. Recall what happened to neophyte Wesley Clark when he made a late entry into the 2004 Democratic race.
"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
Yogi's succinct restaurant review underscores the risks for Barack Obama if the novelty of his charismatic candidacy begins to fade. At the crest of a wave in the fall of 2003, Howard Dean was collecting major endorsements (Al Gore, unions like the SEIU) on a daily basis. The result? Many prominent Democrats decided there was no room for them in the Dean movement and migrated elsewhere.
"We don't throw at .200 hitters."
As they rehearse for the kickoff Democratic debate in South Carolina this Thursday, the second-tier candidates (Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden) are undoubtedly fantasizing about their breakthrough TV moment as they mix it up with Clinton or Obama. It isn't likely, since the .200 hitters of politics are generally politely patronized and ignominiously ignored at debates.
"He's a big clog in their machine."
That may be the inadvertent role of Bernie Kerik in the Giuliani campaign. Kerik -- a Rudy protégé and the former New York police commissioner -- has been warned by federal prosecutors that he is likely to be indicted on felony charges, according to the Washington Post. If Giuliani's campaign is premised on his unerring judgment and his national-security leadership, what was Rudy doing boosting Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security?
"I really didn't say everything I said."
The ultimate defense of a presidential candidate (or shock-radio host) in trouble. Biden certainly had need for this line when he flubbed the kickoff of his presidential campaign by describing Obama as "clean" and "articulate."
"You can't think and hit at the same time."
This is Yogi's admonition that you should be guided by instinct. In the mouth of a presidential candidate, this sentiment becomes, "I don't read the polls."
"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."
Presidential politics is caught up in a frenzy of inflation reminiscent of the Weimar Republic or, at least, the Carter administration. Six candidates corralled more than $10 million each in the first quarter of 2007, a fundraising feat that only Dean pulled off anytime in 2003. But as Dean learned to his regret, there is only a finite amount of money that can be spent in places like Iowa before you start antagonizing the voters you want to woo.
"It gets late early out there."
The nine months until the Iowa caucuses is a long enough gestation period to give birth to almost any political scenario. But unless the long-shot candidates begin to raise the necessary money to compete in the early states, they may find themselves prematurely bathed in shadow.
"We're lost. But we are making good time."
This is precisely the situation that the Democratic nominee may face if he or she goes into the 2008 campaign without having defined a message beyond being anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war. No matter how beguiling the polls are for the Democrats at the moment, a candidate doesn't get to the White House without having mastered that "vision thing."
Or to quote once more from the Gospel According to Yogi: "You've got to be careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there."
Mitt Romney directly engaged two of his better-known rivals for the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday, telling an interviewer that Senator John McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani had both changed their positions on important issues over the years, just as he had.But what experience could he have had, these years out of office as a governor other than his desire to be president?
Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has been criticized by some conservatives for changing his position on abortion and gay rights in recent years as he prepared to run for president. On Thursday, he gave an interview in New Hampshire in which he sought to deflect criticism on that front, telling The Associated Press that “everybody in this race that I know has changed their mind on certain positions, and they’ve done so as they gained more experience.”
When Rudolph Giuliani delivered his stark warning Tuesday of another 9/11 should the Republicans lose the White House in 2008, Democratic presidential candidates responded with a predictable chorus of outrage. Even the amiable Barack Obama protested that he had sunk to a "new low in the politics of fear."Link.
But in truth, Democrats ought to be happy whenever the Republican front-runner opens his mouth. For every time the former New York mayor speaks, and especially when he reaches for demagogy, he confirms again that electing him would mean prolonging the disaster of the Bush administration, or precisely the opposite of what most Americans say they want now.
Ever since his prime-time speech during the Republican Convention of 2004, if not earlier, Giuliani has been locked into the "wartime presidency" script written by Karl Rove to win the midterm elections and reelect George W. Bush. That divisive script purposely ignored the patriotic solidarity that had unified the nation in the aftermath of 9/11. Rove insisted that only Republicans could be trusted to protect America in the "long war" against the terrorists, implying that for the duration of the war only Republicans should exercise power. The logic of Giuliani's speech was impeccably Rovian.
"I listen a little to the Democrats and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense," he told the rapt fat cats at the Lincoln Day dinner Tuesday in Rockingham, N.H. "We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation, and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense.
"If any Republican is elected president -- and I think obviously I would be the best at this -- we will remain on offense and will anticipate what [the terrorists] will do and try to stop them before they do it," he said.
Yet despite Giuliani's customary swaggering and braying and the bellowing cheers he elicited from the audience, that speech marks a rhetorical dead end for him and his party. He should be challenged to explain and expand his remarks. Does he truly favor an open-ended commitment of American troops in Iraq? Does he support unlimited surveillance of Americans by their government? Would he countenance torture as a form of interrogation? Even his fellow war enthusiast John McCain drew the line there. The Iraq escalation isn't working, the war remains deeply unpopular, and the majority of the public long ago stopped believing the lies used to justify Bush administration policy. Blustering about white flags will stir up Republican primary voters, but those partisan insults also slur the majority of Americans who want to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.
Giuliani's endorsement of the strategic disasters in Iraq and Guantánamo raises serious questions about his judgment. His broader assertions about the war on terrorism, such as the infallibility of his leadership and the overall supremacy of Republicans, simply won't withstand scrutiny. Having entwined himself so inextricably with Bush, he will have to answer for the president's failures as well as his own, both before and after 9/11 -- the tragedy that provides the only conceivable rationale for his candidacy.
It is not true, as Giuliani claimed in New Hampshire, that nobody understood the threat posed by al-Qaida before September 2001. The Clinton administration mobilized against the millennium plot in the months before December 1999, thwarted more than one al-Qaida conspiracy and spent billions of dollars on counterterrorist planning and programs. When Bill Clinton departed, he and his staff tried to warn President Bush and the incoming national security team to take the jihadists seriously, and were contemptuously ignored.
The new Republican administration disregarded many warnings, in fact, and neglected the threat until it was too late. That is a matter of public record.
As for Giuliani himself, there is no evidence that he had any special understanding of terror, even after the first bombing of the World Trade Center occurred during the same year he won New York's mayoral election. There is considerable evidence, however, that his subsequent decisions as mayor made the terrible situation on 9/11 even worse. Sooner or later, both Giuliani and his supporters will have to face that evidence, compiled by reporters Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins in "Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11," their recent book that dismantled the mythology of "America's Mayor."
In vivid detail, Barrett and Collins examine how Giuliani brushed aside the advice of real experts and stubbornly built the city's new emergency command center in a World Trade Center building, although terrorists had struck there already and were believed likely to strike again. When that multimillion-dollar boondoggle fell with the rest of ground zero, the mayor and his aides were left to run the fire and police response from the streets, with mixed success at best. The location of the command center was only one of several ultimately lethal errors that originated in Giuliani's City Hall.
More recently he made another horrific mistake by promoting the appointment of Bernard Kerik as secretary of homeland security. Fortunately, that nomination was promptly killed after New York newspapers began to investigate Kerik's background. It was bad enough that Giuliani had elevated the thuggish police bodyguard, first to corrections commissioner and then to police commissioner, over far more qualified candidates strictly because he was a sycophantic loyalist. He was dead wrong about Kerik -- whose bad character and poor judgment included accepting favors from a Mob-connected contractor -- and almost placed the man in one of the government's most sensitive and important positions.
Of course, the Kerik nomination exemplifies the Bush model of crony government. (If only he had been around the White House for a few weeks longer, the crooked cop might even have earned a nickname, like Brownie or Fredo or Turd Blossom.) Giuliani's fervent recommendation of Kerik demonstrated that, like Bush, he values cronyism far more than merit and the public interest.
No doubt the former mayor believes that he is "obviously" the best choice for president. And no doubt he is -- but only for the diminishing minority of voters who still want more of the same.
Hence, for but a recent example, George Tenet cannot state the truth about the run-up to war and the use (or misuse or failure to use) intel until he's paid a couple of million of dollars to do so...
-- as opposed to maybe when it might have done some good.
See here for more.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett, this morning on CNN's "American Morning": "And I think whatever misgivings the American people have about where we are in the war in Iraq, I don't think they want 535 politicians in Washington to replace the judgment of our top commanders and diplomats on the ground."Link.
Reality check: According to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, 57 percent of Americans say Congress should have the "final say" about U.S. troop levels in Iraq; only 35 percent say the president should have the "final say." As for the "commanders on the ground"? Let's not forget that George W. Bush replaced them earlier this year when he decided to replace their judgment with his.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett on the candidates in Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate: "All they are trying to do is placate a very radical element of their own party who says, 'Get out now. Damn the consequences. It doesn't matter, just get out.' And that is not a serious foreign policy."Link.
Reality check: In the latest polling on Iraq, 64 percent of Americans say the United States should set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Read the piece, see if you can find a hint of a plan:
April 27, 2007So the guy's primary qualification really was his willingness to lie for Our Leaders.
Petraeus: Iraq Needs Enormous Commitment
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 2:53 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. military commander in Iraq says the war effort may well get harder before it gets easier and American casualties are likely to continue to climb.
Speaking as the Senate was passing legislation to start bringing home U.S. forces in October, Gen. David Petraeus said the war will require ''an enormous commitment'' by the United States.
And he said that while some sectarian killings have dropped by two-thirds in recent months, the overall level of violence in Iraq has remained largely the same.
Petraeus also gave new details on what he called ''exceedingly unhelpful activities'' by Iran, including links to a terrorist cell that planned and carried out the abduction and murder of five U.S. soldiers in Karbala in January.
He said U.S. troops found a 22-page document on a computer during a raid last month that outlined details of that Jan. 20 sneak attack on the provincial headquarters in Karbala. Brothers Qais al-Khazaali and Laith al-Khazaali were detained in connection with the attack.
Petraeus said the Khazaali network ''is directly connected to the Iranian Quds Force, received money, training, arms, ammunition and at some points in time even advice and assistance and direction.''
However, he said there is no direct evidence yet that Iranians were involved specifically in the Karbala incident.
In an hourlong, wide-ranging discussion of conditions in Iraq, Petraeus called the war ''the most complex and challenging I have ever seen.''
And he painted a somber picture of the coming months, even as members of Congress decried the war as a failed mission and promised to continue a push to set benchmarks for progress and a timetable to begin pulling U.S. troops out.
''I think there is the very real possibility that there's going to be more combat action and that, therefore, there could be more casualties,'' Petraeus said. ''When you're expanding your forces' presence, when you are going into areas that have been very lightly populated with coalition forces in the past, that there is going to be more action.''
The four-star general, picked by President Bush to oversee the recent buildup of American forces, also cited some progress in the two months since the troop increase began. He said sectarian killings have declined -- aided by construction of walls around some neighborhoods -- while a number of markets are reviving, amusement parks are busy and some Iraqis are returning to their homes.
''I am well aware that the sense of gradual progress and achievement we feel on the ground in many areas in Iraq is often eclipsed by the sensational attacks that overshadow our daily accomplishments,'' Petraeus said, conceding there is ''vastly more work to be done across the board.''
While he would not predict troops levels into the fall or comment directly on the legislation Congress passed Thursday, his comments made clear that his war plan did not include a significant reduction of U.S. forces anytime soon.
''This effort may get harder before it gets easier,'' said Petraeus, calling the situation ''exceedingly complex and very tough.''
Asked how many troops he thought would have to remain in Iraq -- and for how long -- to finish the job, Petraeus said, ''I wouldn't try to truly anticipate what level might be some years down the road.'' However, he noted historical precedents to long U.S. peacekeeping missions.
''It is an endeavor that clearly is going to require enormous commitment and commitment over time,'' he said, adding that he didn't want to predict how many troops might be involved or when.
Acknowledging the divide between Congress and the administration, Petraeus said the Washington clock on the war is moving rapidly, reflecting public frustration and impatience. But the Baghdad clock is moving slower -- prompting Pentagon and administration officials to press the Iraqi government to pick up speed on political reconciliation and other improvements.
He said he gave a memo to Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Wednesday, outlining how the U.S. should measure progress in Iraq in the coming months. Commanders have said they will give Defense Secretary Robert Gates an assessment on the military buildup in early September.
Petraeus said the draft proposes evaluating four areas: security, economics, politics and governance, and the rule of law. The specifics, he said, include progress by the Iraqi security forces, how well the Iraqi government is spending its budget on capital improvements and construction, whether banks are reopening, progress on key legislation, and development of the justice system and detention facilities.
Despite the disappointing pace, Petraeus said he believes Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other leaders ''are committed to achieving more in this area in the months ahead.'' He said the fledgling government faces difficult hurdles as it struggles to pull together Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders into a national unity effort.
On a positive note, he cited improving conditions in the turbulent Anbar province in western Iraq, noting it had been ''assessed as lost six months ago.''
And here's a link to links. You might be able to find a plan hidden there.
So excuse me for asking an impolite question Mr Mayor. Didn't 9/11 happen on YOUR WATCH?Link.
Didn't 9/11 happen on YOUR PARTY's watch?
Didn't 9/11 happen on the watch of the so-called President and so-called Vice-President, whose seizure of power nine months earlier YOU endorsed?
Here's the inescapable conclusion Mr Mayor. YOU and YOUR PARTY - which happened to be in power at the time - were responsible for the safety of our beloved city. You were on the ramparts. And you FAILED TO STOP THE ENEMY..
A twisted shard of deadly logic from that terrible morning has been carefully nurtured into historical fact: those who let 9/11 happen are the best people around to stop it happening again.
Here's the actual historical fact: you had at your disposal all the resources of the nation, all the intelligence, weaponry, manpower of the government of YOUR PARTY. And as we now know the leaders of YOUR PARTY - which certainly should have included the Mayor of New York City -and the government run by YOUR PARTY, knew full well that an attack was coming, an imminent attack on some American target, almost certainly in a major city, an attack it was your duty to have all possible knowledge of and take every possible step to prevent.
But you and your fellow leaders did NOTHING. The attacks were allowed to happen. In OUR city. The city you took an oath to PROTECT. I don't give a damn how fine and resolute you were on camera, once the carnage was under way. What were you doing in the days and weeks and months before that? Especially given that in the arena of foreign affairs, we now had a violently confrontational administration? Especially given that the WTC had already been attacked by terrorists and they'd vowed to try again. Even taking the most understanding approach that you were distracted by other matters or no-one could be sure which city would be attacked, your failure was still incalculably CATASTROPHIC.
So the question remains:
How in GOD'S NAME are you, of all people, qualified to protect us against further attacks?
How in GOD'S NAME is ANYONE who stands with the cowering blowhards in the White House qualified to protect us from further attacks?
Why in GOD'S NAME would we trust ANY MEMBER of the party whose leaders allowed this to happen, to prevent it happening again?
You let it happen once. Why wouldn't you let it happen twice?
Just consider that, as Moyers notes, there has been no examination by any television news network of the role played by the American media in enabling the Bush administration and its warmonger propagandists to disseminate pure falsehoods to the American public. People like Eric Boehlert have written books about it, and Moyers has now produced a comprehensive PBS program documenting it. But the national media outlets themselves have virtually ignored this entire story -- arguably the most significant political story of the last decade -- because they do not think there is any story here at all.[More]
The fraud that was manufactured by our government officials and endorsed by our media establishment is one of the great political crimes of the last many decades. Yet those who are responsible for it have not been held accountable in the slightest. Quite the contrary, their media prominence -- as Moyers demonstrates -- has only increased, as culpable propagandists and warmongers such as Charles Krauthammer (now of Time and The Washington Post), Bill Kristol (now of Time), Jonah Goldberg (now of The Los Angeles Times, Peter Beinert (now of Time and The Washington Post), and Tom Friedman (revered by media stars everywhere) have all seen their profiles enhanced greatly in our national media.
And while Judy Miller became the scapegoat for the media's failures, most of the media stars responsible for the worst journalistic abuses -- from Michael Gordon to Tim Russert to Fred Hiatt to most of The Washington Post, to say nothing of the Fox stars and cogs of the right-wing noise machine -- continue merrily along as before, with virtually no recognition of fault and no reduction in their platforms.
Moyers did a superb job of questioning both Tim Russert and Peter Beinart, and both were -- appropriately and enjoyably -- extremely defensive about their behavior. Beinart, along with his good friend and mirror image Jonah Goldberg, participated in one of the most vile -- though not all that unusual -- smear campaigns against a war opponent, Scott Ritter. The smear campaign was necessary precisely because Ritter was one of the very few individuals in this country who (completely unlike Goldberg, Beinart and all of the other faux warrior-experts parading across television screens loyally reciting the Bush line) actually knew what he was talking about when it came to the Iraqi weapons program and its "relationship" to Al Qaeda, and continuously warned (to little effect) about all of the warmongers' false claims about those topics.
That disgraceful, dishonorable roster of Great Warriors hiding under their beds from Bill Moyers includes Fox's Krauthammer, Fox's Kristol, Fox's Roger Ailes, Bill Safire and Judith Miller. As The Washington Post's own Tom Shales put it:
Among those who declined -- and thus became a part of the story more than they already were -- are Judith Miller of the New York Times, a reporter who became a relentless drumbeater for war; Times pundit William Safire, who'd predicted that Iraqis would welcome Americans as liberators when they marched into Baghdad; columnist Charles Krauthammer, another hawkish columnist who's usually anything but camera-shy; and Fox boss Roger Ailes.
William Kristol, a conservative columnist who, Moyers says, "led the march to Baghdad behind a battery of Washington microphones . . . has not responded to any of our requests for an interview, but he still shows up on TV as an expert, most often on Fox News."
People like Bill Kristol and Krauthammer will only go and sit with the likes of Brit Hume and speak only to Fox audiences, so they are never reminded of the literally countless falsehoods they churned out not only to justify the invasion but to profoundly mislead Americans for years about the ongoing occupation. And they both continue to issue one-way decrees from the pages of Time and The Washington Post, where they are never held to account for what they have done.
Moyers' documentary is a superb piece of journalism and makes inescapably clear how profoundly corrupt our dominant political and media institutions were prior to the invasion. But most national "journalists" will simply ignore the whole program (as Digby notes, The New York Times, one of the principal culprits, did not even review it).
They will almost certainly dismiss Moyers as a liberal partisan, not a real journalist, and continue to insist that they are doing a superb and even-handed job. They will continue to revere the most guilty parties responsible for the deceit and destruction of the last six years.
And, worst of all, the sicknesses documented so potently by Moyers will continue to pervade our dominant media and political institutions. Comparing 2002 and now, however, there is a significant difference: as Moyers' documentary illustrates, as does the emergence of political blogs, more and more people are increasingly recognizing how pervasive those deficiencies are, and consequently, are developing multiple alternatives to the rancid governing Beltway system.
CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller watched Moyers' documentary and he is absolutely befuddled that anyone could possibly suggest that our White House Press Corps was insufficiently skeptical of the White House's pre-war claims or that they were too deferential to the Leader:
To hear Bill Moyers tell it last evening on his PBS program "Buying The War," the White House press corps was a willing participant in its own deception about the President's case for war in Iraq.
He portrays us as easily-manipulated stooges on bended-knee to the President and his top aides.
Now, I'm the first to concede there are plenty of good reasons to criticize the White House Press. We're an irascible and unlikable bunch. I'm one of us and I don't like us very much. But the point made by Bill Moyers at the start of his program last night is just off base. . . . Now, I can understand if Moyers didn't like the President's answers. Fair enough. But to portray reporters as mindless conduits of White House policies is unfounded.
Really, what can one even say about this? Like most of his colleagues, he is drowning in total self-delusion. Note how he pretends to criticize White House journalists for being "irrascible and unlikable" -- the implication being that they are a really tough, ornery and contentious bunch of hard-core reporters who may not be likable or agreeable, but boy, they sure are feisty.
After describing (though understandably not quoting) several of the oh-so-super-tough questions he claims were asked at the pre-war Press Conference -- the one where reporters pretended to raise their hands in the hopes of being called upon, even though they knew Bush had a pre-scripted list of which reporters would be allowed to ask questions and they were only doing that to create a false perception of a free-wheeling press conference -- Knoller ends with these paragraphs:
Did we report what the President said about his case for war? Of course we did. That's our job. Did we also report that his views were challenged or disputed by others? Absolutely. Were questions raised about the veracity of the president's arguments? Certainly.
Did reporters stop the U.S. from going to war in Iraq? No. Could reporters have done a better job? Always.
But to charge that the White House press was "compliant" and cheered the President's arguments for war plainly misrepresents the facts.
I wonder if Knoller is aware that seven out of 10 Americans believed even six months after the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein personally planned the 9/11 attacks. But Knoller just cannot believe that anyone would suggest that the national press corps was too compliant.
This is the point I have realized only recently which I cannot stress enough. They really do not think they did anything wrong. They think that their pre-war "journalism" (which, they will admit with great humility, could "of course" -- like everything in the world -- have been better) was perfectly excellent journalism, and anyone who suggests otherwise simply does not understand the elevated role of journalists, and is probably just a lowly partisan hysteric.
That's how they think. Just go read Knoller's response to the Moyers' documentary. Our government deceived the entire country into a war based on a whole set of blatantly false claims -- all of which were shoveled into the public's minds by our nation's media outlets -- and they continue to say what a great job they did.
And a bunch of choice quotes from the water-carriers are here.
Remember that high-level meeting at the General Services Administration back in January, the one in which a deputy to Karl Rove provided administrators with a PowerPoint presentation on GOP political prospects and GSA chief Lurita Doan asked how GSA projects could be used to help "our candidates"?Link.
It wasn't the only one.
As the Washington Post reports today, Rove deputies have given at least 20 of these "private briefings" to officials in at least 15 different government agencies covered by rules that are supposed to prohibit partisan political activity.
The Post says the briefings could be doubly illegal: They may have violated prohibitions against the use of government facilities for partisan political activities, and -- to the extent that government employees at the receiving end of the briefings felt coerced into helping Republican congressional candidates -- they could have violated the Hatch Act.
The Post's R. Jeffrey Smith set out to compile something like a compete list of the meetings over the past few years. He got pretty far -- he has dates and attendance numbers for a lot of the meetings -- but it appears that the White House caught on to his project. "By the end of yesterday afternoon," Smith writes, "all of those describing the briefings on the record had adopted a uniform phrase in response to a reporter's inquiries: They were, each official said, 'informational briefings about the political landscape.'"
And the underlying WaPo story is here.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.Link.
They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.
As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.
Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.
It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.
Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.
I do wonder whether there's an 11th "incident", the rule or role of Big Business....
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
No, I don' know what it means but it means something. Link.
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemyLink.
After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."
Creating a terrifying threat - hydra-like, secretive, evil - is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the "global conspiracy of world Jewry", on myth.
It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain - which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks - than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.
2. Create a gulag
Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.
At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders - opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists - are arrested and sent there as well.
This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.
With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA "black site" prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.
Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.
But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.
By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.
3. Develop a thug caste
When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.
The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution
Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode - but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.
Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.
In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.
In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.
5. Harass citizens' groups
The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.
Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.
In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.
Professor Walter F Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".
"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.
"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."
"That'll do it," the man said.
Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.
James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.
Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.
It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.
7. Target key individuals
Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.
Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels' term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically "coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.
Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.
Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.
Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.
8. Control the press
Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.
Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.
Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC's Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN's Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.
Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.
You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.
9. Dissent equals treason
Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.
Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and "beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death", according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.
In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".
And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.
Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)
We US citizens will get a trial eventually - for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence - it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model - you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.
Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.
10. Suspend the rule of law
The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.
Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."
Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act - which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.
They received help in making their case from witnesses who have mostly shied away from the spotlight, Ms. Lynch and Corporal Tillman’s mother, Mary, and brother, Kevin, who enlisted in the Army along with him after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.[More]
“I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were, in fact, legendary,” said Ms. Lynch, dressed in a brown pantsuit and speaking softly but firmly into the microphone as more than 12 photographers clicked away in front of her.
Accounts from officials of Ms. Lynch’s bravery held the nation in thrall in the early stages of the Iraq invasion in 2003 after her maintenance convoy went astray near Nasiriya and she was taken prisoner. After her rescue, which was made into a television movie, she disputed those who said she fought off Iraqi soldiers until she was captured. She never fired a shot, she reiterated today.
The “story of the little girl Rambo from the hills who went down fighting” was untrue, she said.
And more here.
And then there's this:
It is difficult to watch these clips from yesterday's House hearings investigating the absolute, deliberate lies regarding Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch fed to the American public by the U.S. military -- with an eager and accommodating assist from our excellent and intrepid media -- and feel anything other than disgust (and this is just beyond comment). But as anger-inducing as it all is, there is really nothing remarkable about any of it.Link.
What these episodes actually do is illustrate how virtually every rotted and broken branch of our political and media culture operate:
First, it has been well-known for several years that the U.S. military outright invented lies regarding literally every aspect of the Jessica Lynch story. And the Tillman family for years has been vocally complaining about the lies they were told by the Pentagon regarding the circumstances surrounding Pat Tillman's death, the pressure on other soldiers to conceal the truth, and the crass and disgusting exploitation of those lies to serve the administration's political interests. None of this is new. So why is Congress holding hearings to investigate these matters only now?
The answer, of course, is because the Republicans who controlled Congress for the last four years absolutely suppressed any attempt whatsoever to exert oversight on the administration. They not only investigated nothing, they aggressively blocked every real investigation into allegations of wrongdoing and corruption on the part of the administration. Our government literally ceased to function the way it is designed to, because Congressional Republicans deliberately abdicated their duty of checks on the executive and actively helped to conceal every improper and deceitful act.
The only reason any of this is being aired now is because the American people removed the President's party from control of Congress and they are no longer able to keep concealed the Bush administration's misconduct.
Second, I defy anyone to go back and read the April and May, 2003 tongue-wagging, mindless American press accounts of Jessica Lynch's epic firefight against the Enemy; the severe gun shot and stabbing wounds she suffered; the torture to which she was subjected while in the Iraqi hospital; and the daring, gun-blazing rescue of her by our Special Forces, and then try to claim that we have a functioning, healthy political press in this country that serves as a check on government deceit and corruption. It is impossible for any minimally honest person to make that claim in light of those stories.
The seminal article "reporting" the Lynch Fraud was published on April 3, 2003, from The Washington Post's Sue Schmidt and Vernon Loeb, which mindlessly and uncritically passed on one false claim after the next, beginning with this paragraph: "Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday." If one's metric is accuracy, it goes downhill from there.
That is the article that spawned virtually every other newspaper and network news program to repeat those lies. As but one of literally countless examples, ABC News' Robin Roberts said this to Diane Sawyer on the April 3 broadcast of Good Morning America:
And we keep finding out, Diane, how remarkable it was. Military officials are calling Lynch's rescue from Iraqi captivity, the first successful rescue of an American POW in almost 60 years. . . .
This morning, we are learning dramatic new details of her rescue and her capture a week ago by Iraqi forces. According to "The Washington Post," Lynch fought fiercely after her unit was ambushed near Nasiriyah, shooting several Iraqis during the attack. Emptying her weapon before being stabbed and finally taken prisoner. The young soldier was shot at least once in the leg.
Lynch was kept in this run-down hospital that had been converted into an Iraqi military headquarters. Her whereabouts unknown until a local doctor handed a note to US Marines in the area saying there was a wounded soldier inside. The daring nighttime rescue was right out of a Hollywood thriller as seen in this footage released by the Pentagon just this morning.
The excuse from Schmidt and Loeb, of course, is the same one which such journalists always give when they uncritically print total lies fed to them by their friends in the government and military: hey, what do you want from us, this is what our sources told us? The Post's then-Ombudsman, Michael Getler, responded to reader concerns about the accuracy of the original report, by saying this:
Schmidt and Loeb are experienced reporters, and there is no reason to doubt they were told what they reported, and by a source in whom they had confidence. They say it is certain that the descriptions they used are included in sensitive internal intelligence reporting about the rescue. The official silence about Lynch, they suggest, may be due to intelligence classification, possible war crime investigations or other issues.
So, "experienced reporters" Schmidt and Loeb were lied to by their sources, causing them to publish a humiliatingly (though flamboyantly promoted) false "news" story that had a huge impact on how the American press discussed this war. Yet they continue to defend not only their own actions, but those of their lying sources.
This is what turned out to be the real story here -- that "experienced reporters" Schmidt and Loeb were completely manipulated by lying, scheming high-level officials in the military and government, and they fell for it by turning the front page of The Washington Post into a venue for false, highly manipulative government propaganda.
So what have Schmidt and Loeb done about that story -- the real story here? Absolutely nothing. In fact, here is what the completely unrepentant Vernon Loeb and his editor said months later, even once it was clear that they were totally duped:
Vernon Loeb, who wrote the story with another reporter, Susan Schmidt, calls their sourcing solid. He concedes, however, that the tale could have benefited from stronger and more prominent caveats about the sketchiness of intelligence reports. "My lesson learned is I should have been more cautious in the way I wrote this story," he says. "But, having said that, I would have written the story anyway." . . . .
But he and Post Managing Editor Steve Coll say they have no reason to doubt that their April 3 story accurately reflected the information contained in those reports--even if the reports had inaccuracies. "We had multiple sources because multiple people were reading the same intelligence report," Coll says.
So The Washington Post thinks it did nothing seriously wrong here and, astonishingly, defends the behavior of "its sources" as admirable and honorable (just a little inaccurate due to that notorious "fog of war" that put imaginary bullet and stab wounds in Jessica Lynch as a result of a heroic and inspiring firefight that never happened).
And most of all, Schmidt and Loeb continue to protect the identity of their sources, and will until the day they die. The fact that their sources fed them lies in order to manipulate American public opinion about the war is irrelevant to them. Over and over and over, our most influential American media outlets publish false stories based on government "sources" who purposely lie to them, and they never report on the real story -- who are the government sources lying to the American public while hiding behind shields of anonymity granted to them, and maintained by, our nation's "journalists"?
Most of our nation's journalists do not report on government conduct. They participate in it actively and consciously as government spokesmen. Judy Miller is the symbol of our political press, not its aberration.
Third, the only real reason that we learned of the pervasive deceit in the Jessica Lynch case is because the foreign press -- principally the BBC and The Guardian -- aggressively investigated the U.S. government's claims. And they did so because officials in the British Government were appalled at how deceitful were the claims being made by the Pentagon, and how passive and uncritical our press was in passing it along.
This lengthy May 15, 2003 story from The Guardian -- based on a BBC documentary -- documented why the Jessica Lynch rescue tale told by the U.S. government was "one of the most stunning pieces of news management yet conceived." This is what it reported about the stories concerning her "rescue":
This Sunday, the BBC's Correspondent programme reveals the inside story of the rescue that may not have been as heroic as portrayed, and of divisions at the heart of the allies' media operation.
"In reality we had two different styles of news media management," says Group Captain Al Lockwood, the British army spokesman at central command. "I feel fortunate to have been part of the UK one." . . .
That American approach -- to skim over the details -- focusing instead on the broad message, led to tension behind the scenes with the British. Downing Street's man in Doha, Simon Wren, was furious that on the first few days of the war the Americans refused to give any information at Centcom. The British were put in the difficult position of having to fill in the gaps, off the record. . .
Towards the end of the conflict, Wren wrote a confidential five-page letter to Alastair Campbell complaining that the American briefers weren't up to the job. He described the Lynch presentation as embarrassing.
Wren yesterday described the Lynch incident as "hugely overblown" and symptomatic of a bigger problem. "The Americans never got out there and explained what was going on in the war," he said. "All they needed to be was open and honest. They were too vague, too scared of engaging with the media." He said US journalists "did not put them under pressure" . . . "The American media didn't put them under pressure so they were allowed to get away with it," Wren said. "They didn't feel they needed to change."
In the wake of the BBC report, Time Magazine -- which did absolutely nothing to investigate the Jessica Lynch deceit nor attempt to discover who was responsible for it -- helpfully jumped in to defend the Bush administration by proclaiming that "the British network may be guilty of exaggeration itself, with its claim that the Pentagon manipulated information to produce 'one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived.'"
Identically, the American media did virtually nothing to investigate the Bush administration's absolute falsehoods about how Pat Tillman died. We know about it solely by virtue of the heroic relentlessness of the Tillman family -- led by his mother and brother, Kevin -- in doing the job which our press and Congress so profoundly failed to do.
And finally, we have the hordes of cowardly warmongers -- beginning with the President and Vice President -- who constantly hide behind the troops and crassly exploit them as props in service of their political agenda, even though their "concern" for the troops could not be any more exploitative and insincere.
Just look at this repulsive post by Powerline's John Hinderaker yesterday as he tries (needless to say) to defend the Government's conduct in the Tillman case by telling his readers they need not listen to Kevin Tillman's accusations because he is "an antiwar activist who has posted on far-left web sites."
What does Hinderaker omit from that description? That Kevin Tillman was in Afghanistan along with his brother, having volunteered to risk his life to fight for the U.S. Army in the wake of 9/11. But because he came to conclude that the invasion of Iraq was wrong -- and because he has persistently demanded that the truth about the Bush administration's conduct in his brother's case be exposed -- he is subjected to discrediting smears from smarmy little chest-beating play-acting warriors like John Hinderaker.
The "troops" are nothing but cheap and empty props to them. Before it was revealed that Pat Tillman was both an atheist and against the war in Iraq, he was paraded around after his death as though he, standing alone, was the Symbol and Justification for the warmongering Bush movement. Ann Coulter said that "Tillman was an American original: virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be." Sean Hannity constantly invoked his name with antiwar guests.
Yet once it was revealed what Tillman's actual political views were, they both simply declared that they "do not believe" it. What mattered to them was not who he really was -- they could not care less about that -- but his use to them in service of their twisted political propaganda.
* * * * * * *
This is the sad and wretched process which has propelled our political system during the entire Bush presidency. The Bush administration creates falsehoods to manipulate public opinion and then feeds them to influential and prestigious media outlets.
Eager to be used, our most prominent journalists then repeat those falsehoods mindlessly and uncritically. Worse, when it is revealed that what they were fed was false, they say nothing and continue to protect the identity of those responsible, in the hope that their "sources" will continue to use them.
Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans blocked any efforts to investigate any of these matters, while right-wing uber-patriot cowards and smear artists discredited those who sought to disrupt or expose any of this. Most significant political events in our country over the last six years have been the by-product of this rancid machine. The Tillman and Lynch cases are merely vivid illustrations of how that process has worked.
UPDATE: This passage from 1984 really is extraordinary in light of yesterday's hearing. It describes Winston Smith's drafting of a government propaganda speech (h/t Alan Lloyd):
He might turn the speech into the usual denunciation of traitors and thought-criminals, but that was a little too obvious, while to invent a victory at the front, or some triumph of over-production in the Ninth Three-Year Plan, might complicate the records too much.
What was needed was a piece of pure fantasy. Suddenly there sprang into his mind, ready-made as it were, the image of a certain Comrade Ogilvy, who had recently died in battle, in heroic circumstances. There were occasions when Big Brother devoted his Order for the Day to commemorating some humble, rank-and-file Party member whose life and death he held up as an example worthy to be followed.
Today he should commemorate Comrade Ogilvy. It was true that there was no such person as Comrade Ogilvy, but a few lines of print and a couple of faked photographs would soon bring him into existence.
That is what the press passed along -- the same press about which Newsweek's Senior White House Correspondent Richard Wolffe said, chatting with Tony Snow: "the press here does a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general." Fantastic.
UPDATE II: Actual Journalist Bill Moyers has a 90-minute PBS documentary tonight, entitled "Buying the War," which airs at 9:00 pm Eastern. Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher -- in an informative preview -- calls it "the most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq." Moyers is a superb journalist and documentarian and I have no doubt that it will be a well-spent (if not depressing and infuriating) 90 mintues. In addition to PBS stations, the program can be viewed here.
Here's Our Leaders' love for democracy and free elections as home:
The State of Ohio's real-time, streaming election results are first diverted through Chattanooga, TN, to a GOP-only web firm and the servers currently hosting georgewbush.com, as well as other key Republican web sites.(The short version is here.)
SOS Blackwell also neglected to inform that he outsourced Election Night hosting services to the provider of Internet operations for the Republican National Committee, SMARTech Corp. It's clear that most of the IP address space allocated to Smartechcorp, if it has a domain name, is operated by the RNC or its functionaries and allies.
Is there significance to the fact that election.sos.state.oh.us, on Tuesday night, will correspond to the IP address that lies between Karl Rove's Votervault.com and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)? Just one arrangement of odd bedfellows in that example click the link to IP Block 64.203.98.xxx for other familiar examples such as Becki Donatelli-client, VetsForFreedom.com, or Ken Mehlman's 72hour.org.. They're all hot items right now with each aimed capture the reader's vote.
Attempting to surf to http://election.sos.state.oh.us will redirect the visitor to http://www.sos.state.oh.us. Following Election Results links leads to http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/ElectionsVoter/results2006.aspx (not the Election Night Dashboard at time of writing). On Tuesday, Nov. 7, databases of name servers should be refreshed to enable websurfers to clicking 'election.sos.state.oh.us' to arrive at http://126.96.36.199//Results/Dashboard.aspx.
[UPDATE - They might have *fixed* the website, but don't worry guys, Google has a copy - http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3A188.8.131.52... Ken, it's harder to make stuff disappear on the internets, not as easy as disappearing $10,000 Diebold lobbyist checks...]
Ken Blackwell outsourced the design of the Election Night Project to Mike Connell who is a GOP operative and the principal of New Media Communications and GovTech Solutions. Their association may go back as far as the George H. W. Bush era. Connell's long-established association in the online political, campaign and fundraising arenas, in addition to his technological expertise, made him a shoe-in for government and non-government services where pay-to-play is the standard.