Saturday, May 31, 2003

As predicted...

No WMDs. Not even a little one.

Spreading anarchy in Iraq. Looking more like Afghanistan with every passing day.

No Saddam Hussein. None of the wealth he looted from the country.

Afghanistan getting more and more mired.

Our allies becoming increasingly offended at cowboy, in-your-face "diplomacy".

Resentment against the US growing by the day in the Middle-east.

Al-Qaida going on strong. They're based out of Saudi Arabia, dudes. Get a clue.

The "War on Terror" being used as an excuse to take away ordinary citizen's privacy. The expansion of federal policing activities for political reasons.

The three largest economies in the world contracting and on the edge of serious recession.

The wholesale transfer of the wealth of the nation into the hands of the mega-rich.

A concerted attack to dismantle Social Security.

And the average schmoe in the street can't see further than FOX "News" flag-waving. We won! We won! We're number 1!

I hope folks like living in the late 19th century (but with remote controls!), because that is where our nation is headed - a two-tier nation of those who struggle on the bottom and those who live large on the top.

All hail the boy king.


Thursday, May 22, 2003

Speech by Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia

The Truth Will Emerge
by US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Remarks - May 21, 2003

"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again, - -
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers."

Truth has a way of asserting itself despite all attempts to obscure it. Distortion only serves to derail it for a time. No matter to what lengths we humans may go to obfuscate facts or delude our fellows, truth has a way of squeezing out through the cracks, eventually.

But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter. The danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized. The reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable facts and go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue. We see a lot of this today in politics. I see a lot of it -- more than I would ever have believed -- right on this Senate Floor.

Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this Senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing International law, under false premises. There is ample evidence that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda who masterminded the September 11th attacks, to Saddam Hussein who did not. The run up to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ laden death in our major cities. We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein's direct threat to our freedoms. The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 911. It was the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger.

Since the war's end, every subsequent revelation which has seemed to refute the previous dire claims of the Bush Administration has been brushed aside. Instead of addressing the contradictory evidence, the White House deftly changes the subject. No weapons of mass destruction have yet turned up, but we are told that they will in time. Perhaps they yet will. But, our costly and destructive bunker busting attack on Iraq seems to have proven, in the main, precisely the opposite of what we were told was the urgent reason to go in. It seems also to have, for the present, verified the assertions of Hans Blix and the inspection team he led, which President Bush and company so derided. As Blix always said, a lot of time will be needed to find such weapons, if they do, indeed, exist. Meanwhile Bin Laden is still on the loose and Saddam Hussein has come up missing.

The Administration assured the U.S. public and the world, over and over again, that an attack was necessary to protect our people and the world from terrorism. It assiduously worked to alarm the public and blur the faces of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden until they virtually became one.

What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war is that Iraq was no immediate threat to the U.S. Ravaged by years of sanctions, Iraq did not even lift an airplane against us. Iraq's threatening death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about which we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of plywood and string. Their missiles proved to be outdated and of limited range. Their army was quickly overwhelmed by our technology and our well trained troops.

Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons, and the occasional buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission and they continue to be at grave risk. But, the Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion has become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary? Was the American public deliberately misled? Was the world?

What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are "liberators." The facts don't seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves. True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but "liberation" implies the follow up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of "liberation," we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years.

Despite our high-blown claims of a better life for the Iraqi people, water is scarce, and often foul, electricity is a sometime thing, food is in short supply, hospitals are stacked with the wounded and maimed, historic treasures of the region and of the Iraqi people have been looted, and nuclear material may have been disseminated to heaven knows where, while U.S. troops, on orders, looked on and guarded the oil supply.

Meanwhile, lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and refurbish its oil industry are awarded to Administration cronies, without benefit of competitive bidding, and the U.S. steadfastly resists offers of U.N. assistance to participate. Is there any wonder that the real motives of the U.S. government are the subject of worldwide speculation and mistrust?

And in what may be the most damaging development, the U.S. appears to be pushing off Iraq's clamor for self-government. Jay Garner has been summarily replaced, and it is becoming all too clear that the smiling face of the U.S. as liberator is quickly assuming the scowl of an occupier. The image of the boot on the throat has replaced the beckoning hand of freedom. Chaos and rioting only exacerbate that image, as U.S. soldiers try to sustain order in a land ravaged by poverty and disease. "Regime change" in Iraq has so far meant anarchy, curbed only by an occupying military force and a U.S. administrative presence that is evasive about if and when it intends to depart.

Democracy and Freedom cannot be force fed at the point of an occupier's gun. To think otherwise is folly. One has to stop and ponder. How could we have been so impossibly naive? How could we expect to easily plant a clone of U.S. culture, values, and government in a country so riven with religious, territorial, and tribal rivalries, so suspicious of U.S. motives, and so at odds with the galloping materialism which drives the western-style economies?

As so many warned this Administration before it launched its misguided war on Iraq, there is evidence that our crack down in Iraq is likely to convince 1,000 new Bin Ladens to plan other horrors of the type we have seen in the past several days. Instead of damaging the terrorists, we have given them new fuel for their fury. We did not complete our mission in Afghanistan because we were so eager to attack Iraq. Now it appears that Al Queda is back with a vengeance. We have returned to orange alert in the U.S., and we may well have destabilized the Mideast region, a region we have never fully understood. We have alienated friends around the globe with our dissembling and our haughty insistence on punishing former friends who may not see things quite our way.

The path of diplomacy and reason have gone out the window to be replaced by force, unilateralism, and punishment for transgressions. I read most recently with amazement our harsh castigation of Turkey, our longtime friend and strategic ally. It is astonishing that our government is berating the new Turkish government for conducting its affairs in accordance with its own Constitution and its democratic institutions.

Indeed, we may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move ahead to develop WMD as a last ditch attempt to ward off a possible preemptive strike from a newly belligerent U.S. which claims the right to hit where it wants. In fact, there is little to constrain this President. Congress, in what will go down in history as its most unfortunate act, handed away its power to declare war for the foreseeable future and empowered this President to wage war at will.

As if that were not bad enough, members of Congress are reluctant to ask questions which are begging to be asked. How long will we occupy Iraq? We have already heard disputes on the numbers of troops which will be needed to retain order. What is the truth? How costly will the occupation and rebuilding be? No one has given a straight answer. How will we afford this long-term massive commitment, fight terrorism at home, address a serious crisis in domestic healthcare, afford behemoth military spending and give away billions in tax cuts amidst a deficit which has climbed to over $340 billion for this year alone? If the President's tax cut passes it will be $400 billion. We cower in the shadows while false statements proliferate. We accept soft answers and shaky explanations because to demand the truth is hard, or unpopular, or may be politically costly.

But, I contend that, through it all, the people know. The American people unfortunately are used to political shading, spin, and the usual chicanery they hear from public officials. They patiently tolerate it up to a point. But there is a line. It may seem to be drawn in invisible ink for a time, but eventually it will appear in dark colors, tinged with anger. When it comes to shedding American blood - - when it comes to wreaking havoc on civilians, on innocent men, women, and children, callous dissembling is not acceptable. Nothing is worth that kind of lie - - not oil, not revenge, not reelection, not somebody's grand pipedream of a democratic domino theory.

And mark my words, the calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the "powers that be" will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long. Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge. And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Homeland Security

The airplane tracking capabilities of the Homeland Security Office have been used for the purposes of hunting down political opponents.

Hold on here.

What the hell is going on that the Republican party feels free to make use of policing functions of the state in order to enforce their political desires on dissenting officials in the other party?

HELLO? This is outrageous. The staffers of the office were tricked into thinking there was a true emergency - that the plane was missing, possibly due to a terrorist act - when all that was happening was Tom DeLay trying to force redistricting on Texas to increase Republican power in the national congress.

Read Talking Points Memo for a quick overview of the lies being tossed about to try to get out of this mess.

I wonder just how hideous a violation of privacy and law the current administration will have to commit before ordinary Americans will object. We've had our budget surplus ripped away and handed over to the already obscenely rich. We've been engaged in a war that was waged on the basis of lies. We have a "Patriot" act passed that makes presumptive criminals of us all (Proove you're not a terrorist!). And now the police apparatus of the state has been turned on public officials who were trying to prevent manipulation of voting.


Wednesday, May 14, 2003

No Polemics

I just finished reading the New York Times article about the killing fields in Mahawil, Iraq, the marshes that Saddam Hussein used for disposing of the bodies of Shi'ites murdered for opposing him.

Thousands of bodies. Some of them were armed rebels taken in battle, but the evidence is showing many (if not most) were civilians who were in support of his over-throw, not combatents themselves.

The locals have taken it upon themselves to disinter the bodies and alert people to come look for lost family memebrs. They are trying to do this carefully so as to keep remains discrete, and to make them identifiable after years in the sodden ground.

Here are the true crimes of the Hussein regime, here in this killing field and in the grave sites around the nation. Though governments fight over the resources of the country, here is where the eyes of the world should be.

There need to be witnesses to these deaths, and restoration of the murdered to their kin and countrymen. As was done in Guatamala, in the Balkans, in other places where butchers would hide their deeds and disappear their enemies, forensic experts are needed to help identify the lost and give back to them their place in the world, a place the regime tried to eradicate.

If there is a single good to the war, it should be this - to take back those whom Hussein would consign to oblivion, and to tell the world the truth of his regime. One body at a time.


One-party rule

Has anyone in America grasped what is happening in Texas?

The Republican majority in Texas legislature is trying to force a mid-census redistricting of voters. Why does this matter?

There is a political tradition in America, started with the Progressives of the late 19th & early 20th centuries in an effort to reduce cronyism in the system, to redraw voting districts every ten years after each national census. The reason for this is to understand how the population has grown and where it is located, and then to divvy up voters into roughly equal sized districts for the purposes of national representation. Each Representative is repsonsible for a group of voters approximately the same size as any other Representative.

There have been cases where the courts have intervened to force a district to be redrawn because of deliberate efforts to dilute non-white votes, but otherwise the districts are done once every ten years.

The Republicans in Texas, under the instruction of the Republican-controlled Congress, are trying to force through mid-term redistricting in order to dilute Democratic party voters in potentially Republican voting districts, and to concentrate Democratic voters into fewer districts, the sum result of which is to artificially create "safe" seats for Republican candidates.

It doesn't take much. You only have to move maybe 1000 households in or out of a given district to shift the voting effects. Most elections are decided by less than a few hundred votes. The districts that result from this are "Gerrymanders" (Gerry - the name of the man who first tried this kind of redistricting, -mander, from salamander, indicating the strange, contorted shape of these districts) and cover the strangest bits an pieces of territory. Some look like octopi with a central core of voters and then long arms reaching out and penetrating surounding neighborhoods to gather in clumps of Republican faithful.

Now, let's be realistic - *both* parties will try, every ten years, to redraw the map in a way that gives them a small edge. However, that process is part of the regular political system, and the redrawing is done in public committees, with non-partisan oversight (doesn't always stop the results from *being* partisan), and with attention by the courts. The average voter has a fighting chance of being represented in a realistic manner.

This effort was done behind the scenes, and forced in the closing hours of a legislative session, to ensure that the districts would be in place for the next national election and guarantee the Chimp-in-Chief another rubber-stamp congress by making it impossible for the Democrats to vote their candidates into office. If done succesfully for this electoral cycle, they will try it across the country in the next.

The Republican party is trying to return the US to the conditions of the late 19th century, when politics was patronage, when the working class was destitute and brutalized, when people of color and women were non-persons, when destruction of the land was lauded, and when the interets of a monied elite crudely dominated the national agenda.

The very dangerous part of the social roll-back, however, is that this is not a laissez-faire government. Unlike the Gilded Age, when the national government was a very wimpy operation, there is a strong (and expanding) police apparatus in place. The IRS is being instructed to harrass the working poor. The "Patriot Act" authorizes intrusion into private lives for "reasons of security". Expressions of dissent are being labeled "un-American" (Hey, dudes, ever heard of founding fathers? They held dissent to be *sacred*.) and attacks on dissenters tacitly encouraged. The Administration simply lies, and shrugs off attempts to make it accountable for its actions.

So, less power in the workplace, less social support (kiss Social Security bye-bye, kids), less representative government, more intrusion and surveilance of your private life (the two-edged sword of the electronic age in action), more goodies form them that already has, and less for the majority of us who have barely enough or not at all.


Sunday, May 11, 2003

Real Concerns

Hmm, the news in the US is starting to get a clue that, gosh, maybe the Gummint was lying about the reasons to attack Iraq. Whoda thunk it?

The Washington Post has presented several articles on the non-existence of WMDs in Iraq, and how the Pentagon is pulling the WMD units out of the country. Well, if that is true, what does it mean?

It means that the UN inspections were working and kept Hussein from developing them to the point where he could use them in war.

Isn't that what they were supposed to do? Doesn't this show that the world (acting in concert) can engage in effective, non-combative policing of dangerous states?

No, the UN is far from perfect. But, as Winston Churchill famously said of democracy, it is the worst thing except for all of the alternatives.

There is such a thing as a just war. The US invasion of Iraq was not one of them.

There was another article discussing the helplessness of US troops in Iraq to do what they want to do - get the country back on its feet, get people's lives restord to normal, make things work on the average, everyday level, like water, power, and the city buses. The average American soldier is home-town kind of person. They know how to fight, but they're happier building something. Give an American a hammer and some plywood, and they'll start putting things back together. US soldiers are beginning to resent the position they've been left in. There are (maybe) 150,000 soldiers who are supposed to maintain peace and order, and restore normal everyday operations, to a country the size and population of California.

This would be hysterically funny if it did not mean that my countrymen and women have been put into a condition of danger as an under-powered occupying force in a hostile country. If it did not mean that ordinary Iraqi civilians are being forced to live in atrocious conditions because no one was thinking about basic services. If it did not mean that the adminsitration is more concerned about conducting a religious war with the Shi'ite majority of Iraq than with unearthing the wrongs of the previous regime and building representative local institutions.

Iraq is better off without Hussein - there can be NO argument on that point. None. Iraq is also better off without the fumbling attempts of the Bush administration to monopolize the oil production and the airfields while imposing a kinder, gentler authoritarian regime. It should be reasonably clear to any moderately intelligent person that this war was done to threaten "lesser" nations into (outward) compliance with US wishes, to secure oil, and to provide photo-ops for the Chimp-in-Chief. As long as Halliburton controls the oil and the Pentagon controls the airfields, the rest of the country can go hang. The Administration is already whining and pouting and wanting the UN and the EU to come in and do the hard work of rebuilding the nation (with the US controlling lucrative construction contracts, n'est ce pas) and provide all that icky, mushy humanitarian shit like caring for children maimed by cluster bombs.

My nation is being used for the personal gain of a small sliver of men at the very top of the socio-corporate heirarchy, and they are doing so with utter disregard for the dignity and welfare of Americans and of the other human beings who inhabit the world. They attack those who disagree with them hysterically, demanding that everyone agree to their vision of the world and how things should be, denying the validity of contrary opinions, using threats and force when desired to impose their will.

Rather like the regime they just defeated.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Speech by Sen. Robert Byrd, West Virginia

Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd
US Senate Chamber
May 6, 2003

In my 50 years as a member of Congress, I have had the privilege to witness the defining rhetorical moments of a number of American presidents. I have listened spellbound to the soaring oratory of John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. I have listened grimly to the painful soul-searching of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

Presidential speeches are an important marker of any President's legacy. These are the tangible moments that history seizes upon and records for posterity. For this reason, I was deeply troubled by both the content and the context of President Bush's remarks to the American people last week marking the end of the combat phase of the war in Iraq. As I watched the President's fighter jet swoop down onto the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, I could not help but contrast the reported simple dignity of President Lincoln at Gettysburg with the flamboyant showmanship of President Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

President Bush's address to the American people announcing combat victory in Iraq deserved to be marked with solemnity, not extravagance; with gratitude to God, not self-congratulatory gestures. American blood has been shed on foreign soil in defense of the President's policies. This is not some made-for-TV backdrop for a campaign commercial. This is real life, and real lives have been lost. To me, it is an affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the President to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech. I do not begrudge his salute to America's warriors aboard the carrier Lincoln, for they have performed bravely and skillfully, as have their countrymen still in Iraq, but I do question the motives of a deskbound President who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech.

As I watched the President's speech, before the great banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," I could not help but be reminded of the tobacco barns of my youth, which served as country road advertising backdrops for the slogans of chewing tobacco purveyors. I am loath to think of an aircraft carrier being used as an advertising backdrop for a presidential political slogan, and yet that is what I saw.

What I heard the President say also disturbed me. It may make for grand theater to describe Saddam Hussein as an ally of al Qaeda or to characterize the fall of Baghdad as a victory in the war on terror, but stirring rhetoric does not necessarily reflect sobering reality. Not one of the 19 September 11th hijackers was an Iraqi. In fact, there is not a shred of evidence to link the September 11 attack on the United States to Iraq. There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was an evil despot who brought great suffering to the Iraqi people, and there is no doubt in my mind that he encouraged and rewarded acts of terrorism against Israel. But his crimes are not those of Osama bin Laden, and bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not bring justice to the victims of 9-11. The United States has made great progress in its efforts to disrupt and destroy the al Qaeda terror network. We can take solace and satisfaction in that fact. We should not risk tarnishing those very real accomplishments by trumpeting victory in Iraq as a victory over Osama bin Laden.

We are reminded in the gospel of Saint Luke, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Surely the same can be said of any American president. We expect, nay demand, that our leaders be scrupulous in the truth and faithful to the facts. We do not seek theatrics or hyperbole. We do not require the stage management of our victories. The men and women of the United States military are to be saluted for their valor and sacrifice in Iraq. Their heroics and quiet resolve speak for themselves. The prowess and professionalism of America's military forces do not need to be embellished by the gaudy excesses of a political campaign.

War is not theater, and victory is not a campaign slogan. I join with the President and all Americans in expressing heartfelt thanks and gratitude to our men and women in uniform for their service to our country, and for the sacrifices that they have made on our behalf. But on this point I differ with the President: I believe that our military forces deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and not used as stage props to embellish a presidential speech.


After reading all the bullshit articles about how tough and manly and presidential the Chimp-in-Chief looked getting flown out to the aircraft carrier, and after reading Byrd's speech to the Senate, I couldn't help but dig up this little ditty about the real man who is sitting in the Oval Office.


Come and listen to my story 'bout a boy name Bush.
His IQ was zero and his head was up his tush.
He drank like a fish while he drove all about
But that didn't matter 'cuz his daddy bailed him out.


Well, the first thing you know little Georgie goes to Yale.
He can't spell his name but they never let him fail.
He spends all his time hangin' out with student folk.
And that's when he learns how to snort a line of coke.


The next thing you know there's a war in Vietnam.
Kin folks say, "George, stay at home with Mom."
You're not a commoner to risk with getting scarred.
We'll buy you a spot in the Texas Air Guard.


Twenty years later George gets a little bored.
He trades in the booze, says that Jesus is his Lord.
He said, "Now the White House is the place I wanna be."
So he called his daddy 's friends and they called the GOP.


Come November 7, the election ran late.
Kin folks said "Jeb, give the boy your state!"
Don't let those colored folks get into the polls.
He put up barricades so they couldn't punch their holes.


Before the votes were counted five Supremes stepped in.
Told all the voters "Hey, we want George to win."
Stop counting votes! was their solemn invocation.
And that's how George finally got his coronation.



Saturday, May 03, 2003

The political front

Didn't think I'd forget about this, now, did you?

The Chimp-in-Chief and his handlers are spinning the "victory" in Iraq as though it was V-E day and bringing down the Berlin Wall all wrapped into one.

Meanwhile, the US economy continues to choke and flail.

I sit here and I scratch my head at the complete lack of any critical judgment on the current administration's brutalizing of the country and of the rest of the world. There really is no answer to the Media Whores who refuse to ask substantial questions, or to a citizenry who would prefer to be bullies than to have a future.

There was no need for the deaths of the US soldiers, and even less need for the deaths of the Iraqis, soldier and citizen alike. The administration can't make up its mind whether it wishes to abandon it all or be dictatorial overlords, suppressing religion, freedom of speech and self-determination. Of course, they get to do that at home, so perhaps the appeal isn't so strong to do so overseas.

Hey, any sign of those WMDs? No? Didn't think so.

The US attacked another nation for the purpose of giving the Chimp nice photo-ops for his re-election campaign. Think about it. Oh, and to enrich Uncle Dick & cohorts some more.

We are facing the most venal, most criminal, most self-interested administration in US history, and my average countryman is cheering them on to rape, pillage and plunder. When the last yahoo is downsized and tossed out on the street with no job, no medical insurance, no pension, no social security, no welfare, and no unemployment benefits, the moron will look around - and blame Clinton. 'Cuz Prince George is a good Christian who'd never do us wrong and wants America to stand tall.

Americans are SO fucking stupid.