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June 23, 2004

"Sovereignty" means whatever we say it means

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Headline we all knew was coming: "Wolfowitz Says Iraq Stay Could Last Years."

This shouldn't be big news, if anyone's paying attention. I mentioned here four months ago that Jay Garner was openly saying the U.S. presence in Iraq should last "the next few decades," with Iraq to be used (in the neocon wet dream) as a long-term base for further operations extending U.S. military power.

Further down in the article, Wolfowitz says it's possible that "U.S. troops could be used to enforce Iraqi martial law."

Possible? Try damned likely -- in fact, the U.S. has already warned Iraq's new "leaders" that "only the US-led coalition has the right to adopt emergency powers after the June 30 handover of sovereignty."

Um... what kind of "sovereignty" is it when not only are you still occupied -- but the occupiers decide which set of laws the country uses?

If you think about it slightly, June 30 should be described as the U.S. "handing over" "power" to a "new" "government." Seriously. Almost every word in that phrase is a distortion, in one way or another.

Meanwhile, further down in this article, Iraq's new hand-picked "prime minister" Iyad Allawi backs away from his recent comment that not only would he resurrect aspects of Saddam's former military, but his government would quite possibly impose martial law:

"No, I didn't specifically say martial law meaning martial law," he said.

Oh my. He'll do nicely.

So never mind the sanctioned torture of innocents. Or kick-starting Saddam's old army. Or the martial law. They love us. It's all fabulous. Everything's fine.

Chatting about this with my buddy Emo yesterday, we joked that the next prime minister after Allawi would be a clean-shaven, vaguely-familiar guy named Shmaddam Hussein.

Whom, you recall, Rumsfeld once traveled halfway around the world to coddle, support, and reassure in the midst of his crimes.

I just wish it felt more like a joke.

Bush Claimed Right to Waive Torture Laws

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

That's the headline on a current AP story. Wow. We have a king! Who knew?

And unless you're one of the 30 million or so belligerent pod people running loose whose mutated version of loving America includes contempt for logic, truth, history, science, human rights, and most everyone else on the planet, that sure seems like Holy Crap! territory.

Although last week Rumsfeld admitted he signed off on a violation of international law, and the fuss is already dying down. Gee, who can remember that far back?

Speaking of pod people running rampant, here's another Holy Crap! moment buried in the story:

An Aug. 1, 2002, Justice Department memo argues that torture — and even deliberate killing — of prisoners in the terror war could be justified as necessary to protect the United States. The memo from then-assistant attorney general Jay Bybee also offers a restricted definition of torture, saying only actions that cause severe pain akin to organ failure would be torture.

Bybee is now a justice on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hold on here. There's a sitting Appeals Court justice, robes and all, right this minute, who views anything short of "severe pain akin to organ failure" as acceptable.

Yet another reason to defeat Bush: he's stacking the federal courts (and thus the interpretation of the Constitution for much of the next generation) with twisted creepazoids you wouldn't turn your back on with a plastic spork.

Update: Human Rights Watch has this handy summary of the international and U.S. laws on torture, including specific language on precisely what legally constitutes said no-no. This stuff's just not ambiguous. Have a read, and see why the liars are starting to freak.


June 22, 2004

And now, your moment of Zen

Why yes, that is Jesus crucified on a cell phone tower. Explanation here.


June 21, 2004

A Uniter, Not A Divider -- Even In India

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

What could possibly bring Muslims and Hindus together in India?

Protesting George W. Bush's policies, that's what.

Thousands cheered the emotionally charged speeches and shouted slogans against the US. It was perhaps for the first time that crowds could be seen shouting slogans like "Allah-o-Akbar and "Har Har Mahadev" in the same breath.

For those who just came in, "Allahu Akbar" is Arabic for "God is the greatest" and is shouted by Muslims as a call to prayer; "Har Har Mahadev" is shouted by Hindus and roughly translates as "In the name of the greatest God," invoking Lord Shiva. I usually read about people yelling these things at each other, with the kind of tension you'd get if the Crips and Bloods had nuclear weapons.

Now they're yelling for God together.

Christ almighty, this is getting interesting (the agnostic with Theravada Buddhist leanings said).

Via Juan Cole, who is worth reading every day.

Will Al-Qaeda attack the U.S. before November?

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Given that (at least according to an unprecedented public censure of Bush from a bipartisan raft of former diplomats and military officers) Bush's mideast policies have actually weakened the U.S., will Al-Qaeda attack the U.S. before November, hoping to give Bush four more years?

According to a new book by a senior U.S. intelligence official... yes.

Hell of a president we've got. Hell of a media, too. When John Kerry says (stating the obvious) that some foreign leaders would prefer him as president, giant hullaballoo. But Al-Qaeda itself would quite logically want Bush to be re-elected? Not a peep.

One side note, re whether bad guys will bomb the Olympics: I might be wrong, but, um, no. No way in hell. What Bush calls the Tara-ists aren't pervasively, indiscriminately evil, trying to ruin everything nice in the world, and then take candy from children, too. It would be comforting to think so, since that means we can just go to mindless bug-eyed rage and feel good about it, but nope. The bad guys have clear, obvious, explicitly-stated goals (see below). For a solid year, the military strategy has been to isolate the United States. (Which, I add, Bush has done a magnificent job of helping with.) Attacking a global lovefest like the Olympics would gain Al-Qaeda nothing but a few billion new enemies. They're murderous and evil, yes. Not stupid.

That's not to say some local faction won't do something idiotic, but we've got well-armed criminals here in L.A., too. Which is why I'm headed to Athens myself if I can squeeze it in, with no worries.

A September plane ride back to the U.S., however... that's gonna be a little more scary.

How Wolf Blitzer just helped Al-Qaeda

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

(Note: nothing in the following should be considered as even slightly pro-bad-guys. Remember, Charlie Manson only got locked up after Vince Bugliosi got inside Charlie's brain. Understanding the bad guys is how you defeat them. Pretending you do, then attacking an entirely different enemy, while making up shit to justify it, is how you get your ass kicked.)

A few minutes ago on CNN they were blithering about an Al-Qaeda offshoot group's claim to Saudi police collaboration in the kidnapping and murder of Paul Johnson. The question was framed, and I quote: "Saudi Arabia -- ally or enemy?"

Um, kids...?

Saudi Arabia (members of whose Army Signal Corps I once trained, back when I first got out of college, before I had a freakin' clue) is a nasty dictatorship steeped in puritanical Wahhabism whose populace is as likely to support Al-Qaeda as oppose it, in large part because they've been bullied by a selfish regime tight with the West for as long as anyone can remember.

In short, what we're looking at may well be 1970s Iran, all over again.


A big chunk of what Al-Qaeda wants -- and they've always been pretty damned up front about it -- is to get the West out of what they consider holy land. (That's not to justify a damned thing they do. But even bad guys have motives, and we need to understand them to fight intelligently.) More than that, once the former Saudi Arabia is in their hands, they intend to harness the region's oil resources to finance a greater war against the West.

Which puts the U.S. in an interesting position right now. Support the Saudis in a greater crackdown? Al-Qaeda probably gains in the long term. Withdraw support for the Saudis? Al-Qaeda probably gains in the short term.

Thanks a bunch, Mr. President. Thanks for not staying focused on Al-Qaeda full-on.

Did Saudi cops actually assist with the kidnapping? Hell if I know.

But would convincing America that they did -- and in turn, leading us to begin questioning our support for the Saudi government -- be absolutely perfect PR for Al-Qaeda right now? You betcha.

This is absolutely not the last time you're going to hear Al-Qaeda claim they have support within the Saudi police, military, or government.

So what do we do next? Good question. Actually using our leverage to help the Saudi citizenry gain the most basic of palpable rights -- like, say, um, voting -- as fast as possible might help defuse the situation. This stuff really isn't that hard, people. If you're a Saudi cab driver, and you're getting a better deal just by hanging out and doing your job, you're a lot less likely to sign on to blowing yourself to bits as a method of personal advancement.

Given that the only long-term options the House of Saud really have are a) reform or b) overthrow, it seems like a plan. The fact that Bush isn't openly pushing for it in Saudi Arabia tells you just how meaningless his rhetoric about democracy really is.

In any case, here's the point of this post: I sure as hell wish Wolf Blitzer (or any of these damned idiots) was capable of framing a debate in realistic, informed terms -- instead of the with-us-or-against-us stupidity of framing an entire country suddenly as "ally or enemy."

The way it's sounding, I'm afraid we're about to start hearing a lot about how 15 of the 19 WTC hijackers were actually Saudi -- almost 3 years too late.

We have one hell of a crappy ally in Saudi Arabia. Really, really super crappy. But mindless reporting like this -- submitting Saudi Arabia into a possible national enemy -- is playing directly into Al-Qaeda's hands.

51 separate elections

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

It shouldn't have to be pointed out constantly, but it does. Every time a national poll comes out showing some result like:

Kerry 48
Bush 43
Wish for a candidate you'd allow in your house 9

... it doesn't mean a bloody thing about who's gonna win, since the electoral college means that we have 51 separate elections, not one national one. You'd think that 2000 would have taught everyone that permanently, but no.

So if you want to keep track of how things are really going, there are several websites which monitor state polls and display the results graphically. I'm fond of electoral-vote.com for its simplicity, but with about 30 seconds and a Google search I'm sure you can find a dozen others.

There's also a cool map over at the vestigal Edwards for President site, showing how the U.S. would look if the states were physically proportional to their electoral size. Cheneyland suddenly looks teeny.

Reassuring, that.

Update: I should note that the Edwards site isn't the official one. Incidentally, I'd personally rate the likelihood of Edwards becoming Kerry's VP choice as extremely high. Whether that's accurate or not, one thing to remember -- the longer Kerry is able to delay the choice, the more free media he gets on slow news days.

Okay, just one more...

...and then I'm done. This time I mean it.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba, June 19 — For nearly two and a half years, American officials have maintained that locked within the steel-mesh cells of the military prison here are some of the world's most dangerous terrorists -- ''the worst of a very bad lot,'' Vice President Dick Cheney has called them.

The officials say information gleaned from the detainees has exposed terrorist cells, thwarted planned attacks and revealed vital intelligence about Al Qaeda. The secrets they hold and the threats they pose justify holding them indefinitely without charge, Bush administration officials have said.

But as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the legal status of the 595 men imprisoned here, an examination by The New York Times has found that government and military officials have repeatedly exaggerated both the danger the detainees posed and the intelligence they have provided.

In interviews, dozens of high-level military, intelligence and law-enforcement officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East said that contrary to the repeated assertions of senior administration officials, none of the detainees at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay ranked as leaders or senior operatives of Al Qaeda. They said only a relative handful -- some put the number at about a dozen, others more than two dozen -- were sworn Qaeda members or other militants able to elucidate the organization's inner workings.

Story here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, all those Precious Moments figurines aren't going to pack themselves...

Sound of one hand slapping a forehead
Iraq Might Welcome a Strongman

BAGHDAD — On the eve of sovereignty, Iraq (news - web sites) is a nation in disarray, riven by bombings, assassinations and sabotage. Yet many people here appear cautiously optimistic that a tough-talking new government run by Iraqis can confront the withering cycle of violence better than their U.S.-led occupiers.

Talk of imposing martial law or restoring the death penalty has been welcomed by many among a war-weary populace.



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