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September 06, 2003
If you're using my links page as your de facto bookmarks, which I know some of you do, you might want to go ahead and actually bookmark the pages you like. I have now decided it's too long, and it's time to clear out some of the sites I visit less frequently, because, hey, it's my damn links page and if I want to clear it out, hell if I want to have nothing up there at all but a link to Jack Chick Publications, then by god, that's what I'll do.
September 05, 2003
A small suggestion
Showtime’s 9/11 docudrama, starring Timothy Bottoms as President Bush, premieres this Sunday.
Bottoms also played the President in the short-lived Comedy Central series "That’s My Bush".
Somebody with access to editing equipment and too much time on their hands really needs to (1) record the 9/11 movie, (2) get ahold of some tapes of "That’s My Bush" (I’m guessing these folks could help) and (3) have some big time fun with this.
September 04, 2003
Probably not much tomorrow either, but the Snopes entry down below has been updated extensively.
Friday update--Shorter Snopes, for those of you who don’t feel like scrolling through the unwieldy mess below: here’s the original version of their page on the bin Laden-family-flight thing; here’s the current version. Contrast and compare. Note the changes in the very description of the "rumor" itself, as well as the eradication of any reference to Michael Moore.
UPDATE: Google cache has mysteriously disappeared. Fortunately I archived the page. Some relevant excerpts from the original version:
Claim: Two days after September 11 -- while all other planes were grounded -- a secret flight arranged by George W. Bush flew Osama bin Laden's relatives out of the USA.
Most of the roughly 50 supporters of Mr. Hill were white men, some kneeling and praying, others singing "How Great Thou Art." Abortion rights advocates had said they planned to attend the execution and press their cause, but there was not a single person representing that movement. Three protesters said they were there to condemn Mr. Hill's violent act. About 20 others came to oppose the death penalty.
One quick one
Gosh, I thought this was just some lunatic conspiracy theory. I thought it had been thoroughly debunked by self-styled internet experts and that was the end of the story.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 — Top White House officials personally approved the evacuation of dozens of influential Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, from the United States in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when most flights were still grounded, a former White House adviser said today.
Update: Snopes stands by their initial debunking, because--if I'm getting this right--while bin Laden family members were quickly scooped up by the FBI, and flown around in the U.S. during the air lockdown, they didn't actually leave the country until the restrictions were lifted.
Okay, I've got a meeting and I really have to run, but I'll try to put this as simply as possible: the point is not that those lucky bin Ladens got to fly in airplanes when the rest of us were grounded. The point is that the FBI apparently went out of its way to get them rounded up, contained, and--yes--out of the country as soon as possible, and people want to know why.
Second update: while I was off trying to expand the Tom Tomorrow empire today, Snopes updated again--the story, which was listed as unambiguously "false" this morning is now, if you'll forgive a paraphrase, "kinda false, kinda true." Which is a step in the right direction. One thought, though: I vaguely remember reading this page back when it first went up, and if memory serves, the authors were rather derisive of Michael Moore at the time. I can't verify this, because it's no longer on the page, and there's no "edited to avoid a libel suit and/or personal embarassment" disclaimer. There's no law that says you have to make a note of it every time you update a page, but a site whose purpose is to set the record straight sets a very high bar for itself on matters of honesty and openess.
Third update: Google caches make it hard to rewrite history. In fairness to Snopes, Michael's claim that the FBI was not allowed to interrogate the Saudis is not quite accurate, though if you read the Times article linked above, the interrogations are described as perfunctory at best. In any case, Snopes' original closing paragraph seems really over the top in retrospect:
Some folks play fast and loose with the facts when they've an axe to grind, however, and in Moore's case his axe is "the dastardly Republicans and how they're responsible for every ill ever visited upon the USA." In this case, inventing a bin Laden jet that secretly flew out of the country while the rest of us were barred from the skies, and peopling it with folks who were spirited out of the FBI's grasp by a U.S. president intent upon paying back some unnamed (but darkly hinted at) favor, is a handy way of reinforcing the stereotype of Republicans as callous and greedy politicians whose paramount values involve money, not people.
We now know the Saudis were spirited into protective custody, if not out of the country, within a few days of 9/11, and that this was done with White House approval. I'd say neither Michael nor Snopes got the story 100% right, but Michael was a hell of a lot closer in his cynicism than Snopes was in their faux-objectivity.
One more thought: Michael's larger point, of course, is that there's clearly some connection between the Saudis and 9/11, and that the Bush family has heavy ties to the Saudis. Even most warbloggers acknowledge the first half of that, and the second half is simply a matter of public record. You can draw different conclusions from these two facts, but it's increasingly difficult to dispute either.
Okay, one further update: I can't help but contrast the final paragraph of the original version of the page (above) with the current version:
This page should be read for what it is: an analysis of some of the commonly-circulated claims about a complex issue (many of which are factually correct or misleading), not a denial of the larger arc of the story. Clearly bin Laden family members were indeed allowed to leave the U.S., with government approval and assistance, shortly after the September 11 attacks (an event which was reported in major newspapers within days of its occurrence), but issues such as whether the decision to let them leave was appropriate are subjective political issues outside the scope of this page.
See, when Michael says it, he's a crazy truth-distorting axe-grinder. But when much of what he said turns out to be true, suddenly it's "subjective political issues outside of the scope of this page."
September 03, 2003
Not sure how much blogging will be committed on the premises for the rest of the week--real life is making rude demands on my keyboard time. So it goes.
From the Christian Science Monitor, March, 2003:
WASHINGTON – In his prime-time press conference last week, which focused almost solely on Iraq, President Bush mentioned Sept. 11 eight times. He referred to Saddam Hussein many more times than that, often in the same breath with Sept. 11.
Now, of course, we have yet to find any linkage between al Qaeda and Iraq--apart from whatever may be happening there today as a result of our invasion--and the idea that Saddam and Osama conspired together on the 9/11 attacks is dismissed by pretty much everybody. So certainly the administration has quietly dropped this blatantly dishonest propaganda point, yes?
Well, no. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by Paul Wolfowitz, which concluded:
Not long ago, a woman named Christy Ferer traveled to Iraq along with the USO. She'd lost her husband Neil Levin at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, and she wanted to say thank you to the troops in Baghdad. She wrote a wonderful piece about her trip, and in it, she wondered why our soldiers would want to see her, when they could see the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, movie stars and a model. When the soldiers heard that a trio of Sept. 11 family members were there, she found out why.
The alert reader will note the triumph of emotionalism over substance: the grieving 9/11 widow thanking the brave soldiers who themselves are carrying mementos mori from that terrible day, the strong general standing before his troops, unashamed of his tears.
What more evidence do you need?
On a related note, from the NY Times this morning, the story of a woman who has embraced a Sisyphean burden:
HUDSON, Fla., Aug. 29 — Not long after President Bush declared an end to the major fighting in Iraq, Jessica Porter hatched an ambitious plan: She would make a quilt for every family of an American soldier who had died in the war. There were about 150 back then, and Jessica, a resolute 19-year-old, had no doubt that she and a few friends could get the job done.
Meanwhile--and you'll have to excuse the length of this post but all of these items seem intertwined to me--there's this little bombshell from the current Time magazine describing what happened during the interrogation of terrorist Abu Zubaydah:
Posner elaborates in startling detail how U.S. interrogators used drugs—an unnamed "quick-on, quick-off" painkiller and Sodium Pentothal, the old movie truth serum—in a chemical version of reward and punishment to make Zubaydah talk. When questioning stalled, according to Posner, cia men flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex fitted out as a fake Saudi jail chamber, where "two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces," pretending to be Saudi inquisitors, used drugs and threats to scare him into more confessions.
I've made the comparison before, but the war in Iraq is looking more and more like the old joke about the drunk who loses his keys in the dark alley but chooses to look for them under the streetlamp because, well, "the light's better here, officer."
A thought for the day from a reader in Atlanta:
I don't know what's on the news ticker where you live, but in Atlanta, WXIA-TV is including this line in its morning scroll under the early news: "Anti-Abortion Activist Paul Hill to be executed today..."
Update: according to the NY Times, the "activist" expects to receive his reward in heaven.
"The sooner I am executed ... the sooner I am going to heaven,'' Hill said in a jailhouse interview. "I expect a great reward in heaven. I am looking forward to glory. I don't feel remorse.''
August 31, 2003
You can feel it, like a thunderstorm just off the edge of the horizon, when the leaves on the trees curl inward and the air feels charged and the hair stands up on your arm.
Or maybe it's a drumbeat that you hear in the distance, growing louder so slowly that you don't even really notice until suddenly you realize some moron is banging on a snare drum next to your ear: we’ve got to re-elect George W. Bush because of, um, you know. The war on terror! And stuff.
I know: any rational person would look at Bush’s record in the war on terror so far and run screaming to any other candidate. But we’re not talking about rationality here. We’re talking about appeals to the base emotions of fear and anger.
And you can bet Karl Rove's been planning to roll this one out for about one year and eleven months now.
It’s already starting to rear its ugly head on the right wing blogs, which have kind of become the farm team of stupid right wing talking points (or maybe more accurately the farm team’s farm team). And it peers out in this excruciatingly wrong-headed (is there any other kind?) Wall Street Journal editorial about the need to install Ahmed Chalabi as our chosen puppet-leader in Iraq:
Open debate is obviously meaningless to those whose only experience of government is ruthless autocracy. What they think they see is division and fear--and these encourage a return to their earlier perception of American degeneracy. Such a return could have dangerous consequences, including a renewal and extension of terrorist attacks in America. By terrorist attacks, they believe, they will encourage those whose response is to say, "Let's get out of here"--perhaps even procure the election of a new administration dedicated to this policy. (Emphasis added.)
Get it? The terrorists want you to vote Democratic.
There’ll be plenty more of this in the weeks and months ahead. Watch for it.
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