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June 10, 2004

Moral clarity

Meant to post this yesterday:

Dr. Allawi's group, the Iraqi National Accord, used car bombs and other explosive devices smuggled into Baghdad from northern Iraq, the officials said. Evaluations of the effectiveness of the bombing campaign varied, although the former officials interviewed agreed that it never threatened Saddam Hussein's rule.

No public records of the bombing campaign exist, and the former officials said their recollections were in many cases sketchy, and in some cases contradictory. They could not even recall exactly when it occurred, though the interviews made it clear it was between 1992 and 1995.

The Iraqi government at the time claimed that the bombs, including one it said exploded in a movie theater, resulted in many civilian casualties. But whether the bombings actually killed any civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former C.I.A. official said, the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then.

It just gets better and better, doesn't it?

Libya

According to conservatives, one of the alleged victories of Bush's Middle East strategy, such as it is, was the renunciation of terror by Qaddafi. The logic was, Qaddafi saw that the U.S. was willing to invade countries perceived as sponsoring terror, and he realized that he'd better straighten up and fly right, so there you namby-pamby doubting thomas liberals!

Well...

While the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was renouncing terrorism and negotiating the lifting of sanctions last year, his intelligence chiefs ordered a covert operation to assassinate the ruler of Saudi Arabia and destabilize the oil-rich kingdom, according to statements by two participants in the conspiracy.

Advertisers

If you haven't already done so, please be sure to click on the ad links. After the bandwidth crisis last year, during which it appeared that I would be fined many thousands of dollars for the transgression of excessive popularity, I moved to a new server and opted to pay for much higher bandwidth. Point is, this little hobby of mine costs me a chunk of change each month, and having a few ads helps cover those costs. So go say hello to Great Lakes, which has a new and way cool Flight Suit Bush ventriloquist's dummy, and my friends John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, whose books are always worth your time, and I'd say that even if they didn't use my work on their covers.

...further thoughts: Blogads didn't work out for me. The code on this site has been cobbled together over many years, by various kind hearted souls, and I'm now in the position of a caretaker who somehow keeps a vast machine functioning without really understanding its inner workings. Anyway, Blogads code threw my margins off, and we couldn't seem to resolve the problem, and I finally gave up. I know, they seem to work fine for every other blogger online. What can I say? I'm a tech moron. Maybe someday I'll give it another try.

In the meantime, I go it alone. I've put up a page with more info here. I don't accept ads from individual candidates (which cuts out about 90% of my possible revenue right out of the starting gate), but other than that, if you know anybody interested in advertising on blogs, please point them my way.

--------------------

June 09, 2004

Interesting

First, everyone insisted that the post-9/11 flights whisking Saudis out of the country only happened after regular air travel had resumed. The usually-reliable Snopes page was vehement on the subject. Then the story changed--it turned out to be verifiable that Saudis had flown during the air-travel ban, but only within the borders of the U.S. Snopes updated its page to reflect this information (and issued a deserved apology to Michael Moore), with a little prodding from this site and others.

Well, looks like Snopes is due for another update:

TAMPA - Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation's air traffic still grounded, a small jet landed at Tampa International Airport, picked up three young Saudi men and left.

The men, one of them thought to be a member of the Saudi royal family, were accompanied by a former FBI agent and a former Tampa police officer on the flight to Lexington, Ky.

The Saudis then took another flight out of the country. The two ex-officers returned to TIA a few hours later on the same plane.

For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose.

But now, at the request of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, TIA officials have confirmed that the flight did take place and have supplied details.

...a reader reminds me that Spinsanity has harped on this a time or two as well.

Hot off the press

New design in the store.

A peek behind the rhetoric curtain

We don't really know what's going on at Guantanamo, but educated people can make a reasonable guess, and it's not pretty. This story provides a large clue:

The Army confirmed Tuesday that a former military police officer was injured while posing as a prisoner during a training session at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last year.

But Maj. Laurie Arellano, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, said Spc. Sean Baker's medical discharge last month was not related to the head injury he received during training at the detention center, where the U.S. government is holding suspected terrorists. She declined to elaborate, citing medical privacy laws.

Arellano's comments came a day after Baker said he posed as an uncooperative prisoner and was beaten so badly by four U.S. soldiers that he suffered a traumatic brain injury, requiring a medical discharge.

Baker, of Georgetown, said the soldiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be American.

You know, this isn't about "supporting the troops" or "hating America" or any of the usual right-wing canards. You put a man in uniform and give him a gun, but underneath, he's still the same man he was before. There are conscientious servicepeople who would never take part in something like this, and there are sadistic sons of bitches who gleefully join in. It's foolish to deny the existence of either. What's supposed to keep the latter from running amuck is discipline and leadership. Right now, leadership is being provided by people who consult with lawyers to see how far they can bend the law before they're prosecuted for war crimes. The fish rots from the head down.

"For y'all this is just a show, but we live in this movie"

Gunnerpalace.com is the site of a filmmaker who apparently embedded himself with a unit based in Uday's palace in Baghdad. Do not miss the clip of the young soldier freestyle rapping about life under fire.

A few bad apples

Their names are Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld:

After American Taliban recruit John Walker Lindh was captured in Afghanistan, the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld instructed military intelligence officers to "take the gloves off" in interrogating him.

The instructions from Rumsfeld's legal counsel in late 2001, contained in previously undisclosed government documents, are the earliest known evidence that the Bush administration was willing to test the limits of how far it could go legally to extract information from suspected terrorists.

What happened to Lindh, who was stripped and humiliated by his captors, foreshadowed the type of abuse documented in photographs of American soldiers tormenting Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

At the time, just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. was desperate to find terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. After Lindh asked for a lawyer rather than talk to interrogators, he was not granted one nor was he advised of his Miranda rights against self-incrimination. Instead, the Pentagon ordered intelligence officers to get tough with him.

The documents, read to The Times by two sources critical of how the government handled the Lindh case, show that after an Army intelligence officer began to question Lindh, a Navy admiral told the intelligence officer that "the secretary of Defense's counsel has authorized him to 'take the gloves off' and ask whatever he wanted."

Lindh was being questioned while he was propped up naked and tied to a stretcher in interrogation sessions that went on for days, according to court papers.

Via Atrios.

My pal Ted

Rall's at it again. This time it was a less-than-worshipful blog entry about Reagan. Actually I believe he suggests that Reagan is crispy fried in hell even as we speak. Maybe not exactly the way I would have worded it, but that's beside the point. Here's the thing: Rall posts this on his blog, which at a guess has maybe 5,000 to 10,000 people reading it. Drudge links to it--suddenly it's been spread to millions. Hannity and Colmes have him on the show--a few hundred thousand more viewers are suddenly offended.

So if all these right wingers are so terribly offended by Rall's words, then don't Drudge and Hannity share responsibility for that? I mean, it was a clearly a dashed-off blog entry for a few thousand readers--and suddenly thanks to Hannity & Drudge, millions of people are offended.

To say that "Warhol got it wrong," in reference to his famous line about everyone in the future being famous for fifteen minutes, has become something of a banality--but, in fact, Warhol got it wrong. In the blog age, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes, over and over again, and we'll all take turns pointing our fingers at each other and thrusting each other into the limelight while braying "sinner! sinner!"

Sartre was the one who got it right: hell is other people.

The responses you get when you appear on Fox News are enlightening, in a terrifying sort of way (speaking from personal experience here). Rall's got some of his latest batch up on his site. Most of the writers have only a passing familiarity with the basic concepts of grammar and spelling, though they are well versed in creative expressions of profanity and the desire to inflict violence. And then there's the sheer level of ignorance. Take this one:

I was born in 1978 .... and I was a child when Reagan was president, but I read about him and his great work. He is the one who established a Department of Education. He turned this country around for the better.

This, my friends, illustrates why it is important to counter the mythologizing of Ronald Reagan, right now. Because people out there are just making shit up. Because people born in 1978 actually have no real memory of the Reagan years--unlike those of us with a few grey hairs, who remember them all too well. Ronald Reagan created the Department of Education? Reagan tried to abolish the Department of Education, you frigging dimwit.

* * *

One other thing: just on the off chance Andrew Sullivan is reading this, I thought I would compile some of the thoughts his fellow Reagan-worshippers were kind enough to share with Rall ... just so he can see the kind of company he's keeping:

By the way, Teddie, it doesn't take a cartoonist to figure out that AIDS was spread by unprotected anal sex amongst homosexuals back then (and still is), not by the President. Now Teddie, you wouldn't be familiar with that practice, would you?... You are a cocksucker,Go back to the USSR, that failed like you.When you are a fag, you need to pull your head out of your ass ... Just for the record, President Reagan did not kill 500,000 gays--they killed themselves by having promiscuous sex without protection and leading a perverted lifestyle. Why is it that people can't take responsibility for their OWN actions, and have to blame their troubles on other people?... Check the mirror and you'll see a wessal-like, weak, weak little asshole of a man and maybe even a faggot ... I could tell by the way you talk, you’ve consumed much sperm, and are addicted to homosexuality ... Fuck you! you cocksucker!... You piss ant twerp… I would shove those gay glasses up your ass… You Cocksucker FUCK YOU ... Mother Fucking low life communist faggot pig. You are as much of a virus as the aids virus. The problem with this country is you and the faggotry you practice ...

Those are your peeps, Andrew. Those are the people with whom you have aligned yourself. Just so you know.

(Any time I go through one of these periodic shitstorms, any time some dimwit right wing blogger decides to send his dimwit readers after me--this is the kind of stuff I get as well. You faggot, you suck dick, blah blah blah. There are still plenty of people out there for whom homosexuality is an active insult, to be hurled indiscriminately at one's opponents. And at the risk of generalizing, I think it's fair to say that most of them vote Republican.)

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June 08, 2004

Torture memo

Go read Billmon, here and here.

Why are you still here? Go.

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June 07, 2004

Out of the mouths of septuagenarians

'It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this," says Donald Rumsfeld. "This" being a little thing called the war on terror. Story here, via Buzzflash.

--------------------

June 06, 2004

History is written by the adulterous toe lickers

Or, I should say, rewritten. Who knew that the point of the Tet Offensive was to give Eugene McCarthy a boost? You learn something new every day.

Andy's hero
Throughout all of this Ronald Reagan did nothing. When Rock Hudson, a friend and colleague of the Reagan’s, was diagnosed and died in 1985 (one of the 20,740 cases reported that year), Reagan still did not speak out. When family friend William F. Buckley, in a March 18, 1986 New York Times article, called for mandatory testing of HIV and said that HIV+ gay men should have this information forcibly tattooed on their buttocks (and IV drug users on their arms), Reagan said nothing. In 1986 (after five years of complete silence) when Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report calling for AIDS education in schools, Bennett and Bauer did everything possible to undercut and prevent funding for Koop’s too-little too-late initiative. By the end of 1986, 37,061 AIDS cases had been reported; 16,301 people had died. 

The most memorable Reagan AIDS moment was at the 1986 centenary rededication of the Statue of Liberty. The Reagan’s were there sitting next to the French Prime Minister and his wife, Francois and Danielle Mitterrand. Bob Hope was on stage entertaining the all-star audience. In the middle of a series of one-liners, Hope quipped, “I just heard that the Statue of Liberty has AIDS, but she doesn’t know if she got it from the mouth of the Hudson or the Staten Island Fairy.” As the television camera panned the audience, the Mitterrands looked appalled. The Reagans were laughing. By the end of 1989, 115,786 women and men had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States—more then 70,000 of them had died. 

More.

Single lines and alternate paths

I knew Reagan owed the presidency to a one liner he almost certainly did not write. (Edit--his second term, I should have specified.) Watch enough of the obit footage, and you'll see a clip of his befuddled first debate with Walter Mondale--he clearly loses his train of thought, doesn't know what to say, starts rambling nonsensically. One could blame it on early-stage Alzheimer's, though honestly, it's not too different from some of our current President's performances. At any rate, after questions were reasonably raised about his age and competence, he dispelled them all--with the joke about how he wasn't going to hold his opponent's youth and inexperience against him. And, boom. That was it. He recited a clever one liner and the issue was put to rest.

And at the time, I thought, huh?

But there was another important one liner in his political career. And apparently he didn't write that one either. You may remember the story:

CONCORD, N.H. - A debate, a microphone and one famous remark during the 1980 New Hampshire primary helped thrust Ronald Reagan to the presidency. George H.W. Bush had scored an unexpected victory in the Iowa caucuses, and appeared to have the momentum in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary. But a debate on Feb. 23, 1980, turned the tide in Reagan's favor.

Bush's strategy was to whittle the crowded race to himself and Reagan, and close the debate to the other candidates.

So Reagan's campaign covered the rental for the hall, but when he tried to explain to the audience why the others should be included, the moderator called for Reagan's microphone to be turned off.

Reagan snapped: "I paid for this microphone," as Bush looked woefully on.

Reagan came out of the debate looking like a decisive leader, and went on to a landslide victory in the primary that led him to the Republican nomination and the presidency.

"That was the turning point in the national campaign," said Sen. Judd Gregg, whose father, former Gov. Hugh Gregg, was Bush's state campaign adviser. "His spontaneity in a time of high theater was devastating for Bush."

Here's the interesting part, according to reader Barry Rosenfeld:

But what no one ever seemed to notice was where this line "I paid for this microphone" came from.  It came from a movie -- a 1948 movie called "State of the Union" starring Spencer Tracy as a plain talking industrialist running for president.  Tracy was making a radio speech and strayed from the lines his slick advisors had written in favor of something straight from his heart.  The advisors tried to cut him off and Tracy dramatically says "I paid for this microphone!"

Figures. This was the guy who regularly confused his own movie roles with reality, after all.

Barry thinks that history might have turned out differently if more people had understood where Reagan got that line. I don't know if he's right or not, but speaking of alternate histories, there's an odd little book that I've been thinking about lately, for obvious reasons: Time on My Hands, by Peter Delacorte, a sort of liberal wish-fulfillment book about a man who is given a time machine and a simple quest--to go back to the thirties and prevent Ronald Reagan from heading down the path which will eventually culminate in his Presidency. So naturally the time traveller becomes a contract screenwriter, befriends Reagan, and devises a plan in which Reagan will star in a movie based on the life of Garcia Lorca, thereby becoming so indelibly associated with the left that he can never become the Republican party's salvation. Convoluted as that may sound, it's a completely charming book, one of the surprises of which is that you actually end up liking 'Dutch' quite a lot, at least as the author portrays him. (The ending's a bit ambiguous, though--hey Delacorte, if you're out there, when do we get the damn sequel?)

(Edited.)

Public service warning

In the last couple of days, I've received email from my ISP telling me that my credit card has been declined and I need to click the handy link and enter a new number, and email from Paypal telling me that my account has been hacked and I need to click the handy link and change my password.

They were both scams, of course--but convincingly executed. So watch yourselves. If you get this sort of email, never click the hotlink--enter the URL of the site in question manually, and see if there's actually a problem or not. (If your mail program allows it, you can also just take a look at the message source code and see where the hotlink is actually set up to take you.)

But you knew that.

Fair and balanced

More Reagan memories (compiled last year, but more timely than ever).

More

Billmon:

The legacy of Reagan's policies in the Middle East, meanwhile, are still being paid for - in blood. The cynical promotion of Islamic fundamentalism as a weapon against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the alliance of convenience with Saddam Hussein against Iran, the forging of a new "strategic relationship" with Israel, the corrupt dealings with the House of Saud, and (perhaps most ironic, given Reagan's tough guy image) the weakeness and indecision of his disastrous intervention in Beruit - all of these helped set the stage for what the neocons now like to call World War IV, and badly weakened the geopolitical ability of the United States to wage that war.

But all this pales in comparison to Reagan's war crimes in Central America. We'll probably never know just how stained his hands were by the blood of the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of defenseless peasants who were slaughtered in the Guatemalan highlands, or the leftist politicians, union leaders and human rights activists kidnapped and killed by the Salvadoranian death squads, or the torturned in Honduran prisons, or terrorized by his beloved contras.

Reagan

Some liberal bloggers are concerned that lefties not be seen as "gloating" over Reagan's death. I agree that it would be inappropriate to gloat over the death of a 93 year old man with Alzheimer's, if anyone were inclined to do so. But I don't think anyone should shy away from a realistic appraisal of the man's legacy--particularly right now, when the tributes are being given and the past is acquiring its gauzy haze. Those were not good years.

...as Timothy Noah reminds us:

But the only hot war waged during the Reagan administration was to remove a comic-opera Marxist government from the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada. The United States retreated from Lebanon after a suicide bomber killed more than 200 American soldiers. It is seldom observed that Saddam's gassing of the Kurds, which George W. Bush rightly denounced prior to the Iraq war, occurred on Reagan's watch. In 1984, when the Reagan administration got its first inkling that Iraq was engaged in chemical warfare, it chose not to make a fuss. The most ambitious foreign intervention during the Reagan administration--the funnelling of aid to the Nicaraguan contras--was done illegally, and, after it was discovered, embroiled Reagan's second term in a scandal from which it never recovered.

Reagan can probably claim some credit for ending the Cold War, but his principal weapon, characteristically, was spending—the Soviets bankrupted themselves trying to keep up with the Pentagon's weapons-buying binge through the 1980s. Reagan's greatest achievement in foreign affairs was therefore linked to his greatest achievement in domestic affairs. He taught Republicans that they could be even less responsible than Democrats.

--snip--

...The deficit, which stood at $74 billion in Carter's final year, ballooned to $155 billion in Reagan's final year. In the words of Vice President Dick Cheney, "Reagan taught us deficits don't matter."

Today, what does it mean to be a Republican? It means you can cut taxes indiscriminately and needn't worry about the debt you're piling up. It certainly doesn't mean that you want to shrink the federal government. Indeed, government spending under George W. Bush has increased faster than it did under Bill Clinton. Before Reagan, pandering was principally a Democratic vice. Today, it's principally a Republican vice. Ronald Reagan performed that transformation, and it remains his most enduring legacy.


Will Take Fall For Entire Administration For Food

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

From George Tenet's resume:

ACHIEVEMENTS:

Collected and analyzed vast amounts of information, so that it could be more effectively ignored by two presidents.

Reorganized CIA after 40+ years of misinterpreting the Soviet Union; now possible to misinterpret 21st century threats.

Provided intelligence for US forces' smashing victory against aspirin factory, setting back powerful Sudanese pharmaceutical industry.

Created (and posted to Monster.com) by Jon and Mike over at A Tiny Revolution.

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