Saturday, June 26, 2004


Quote of the Day

I'm not sure of any budget shortfall that prohibits from providing the kind of equipment we need to do our job. We have other issues in production and getting things going, like the up-armored humvees as we try to ramp up production; it takes time to facilitize a plant so they can produce more. But--so there's some lag times. —Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

It's this kind of thing that gives me confidence.

Friday, June 25, 2004


In case you're worried about the November election . . .

As a horror movie, the re-election of George Bush would vie with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as “the most terrifying movie ever made.” It is the stuff of nightmares, the imaginings of a wacko God. And it could be coming to a theater near you.

Do I really think it will happen?

It isn’t something I predict, it’s something I fear. And because it’s something I fear, I have a tendency to analyze how it might happen.

For a while I worked very hard to sort out the real possibilities from my paranoid delusional fantasies. Then I just gave up. It turned out that the real possibilities are indistinguishable from paranoid delusional fantasies.

So here it is—fantasies and all.

First, in the ordered world, the world you and I live in most of the time, an unexceptional world, there’s not a chance in hell that George Bush will win this election.

Jimmy Breslin made an airtight argument for this last October

Nobody who voted for Gore is going to vote for Bush this time. That is common sense.

Then there is a large number of other people who because of the war and the unemployment and the nasty attacks on their civil liberties by John Ashcroft would never vote for Bush.

You put the 500,000 votes that Bush lost by last time together with the people angered and weary of his years so far and there is no Bush at the end of an election that cannot be stolen.

In other words, the only way John Kerry could lose is “to be caught sleeping with a dead woman or a live boy.”

But, whoops! Breslin qualified it. He said “an election that cannot be stolen.” What could he have been thinking?

How can you steal a presidential election in the United States other than by the intervention of the US Supreme Court?1

I see four possible scenarios, though I will admit that I cannot match wits with the Rove-Cheney-Rumsfeld alliance for pure deviousness.

I. Discredit Kerry, otherwise known as “sliming”

The Bush campaign’s preferred method is to disqualify Kerry to the point that voters have no place to turn but Bush. That is in fact the purpose of the Bush ad campaign, and as such, isn’t stealing, if you’re willing to accept that convincing the public of egregious lies is somehow an acceptable part of our political life. But there are other, darker ways.

Aside from the ads, you can plant false information about Kerry. This has already been tried. You may recall the alleged “affair” with the journalist Alexandra Polier that the right-wing media circulated some months ago. Then there was the fake photo with Jane Fonda.

There may be attempts at a set-up. I worry that Kerry’s handlers will leave him unattended in a hotel bar. Republican nymphets will be on him like spies at a satellite launch.

And finally, there’s the hope in their minds (and the fear in mine) that Kerry himself will do the job for them by “messing up.” It can be something trivial—like the “Dean Scream,”— that galvanizes the press for 48 hours and puts Kerry’s “suitability” in question. Perhaps an extra and unwarranted drink at a fundraiser—sure to be called the “Kerry sherry.” The Bush campaign’s “researchers” will be there to record it.

II. Manipulate the votes

Now that so many voting precincts have bought touchscreen voting machines, including Broward County, Florida where the 2000 election results were so hotly contested, the manipulation of the vote remains more a possibility than ever. These machines are unauditable, and despite what you may have read in the press, uncertified in any meaningful sense.2 The CEO of voting-machine manufacturer Diebold, Wally O’Dell, got himself in hot water earlier this year when he said he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President.”

But George’s brother, Governor Jeb, has more weapons in his Florida arsenal than simple vote fraud via machine. Florida is once again updating its ex-felon list to make sure that people formerly imprisoned by the government (read that as “black males”) shall have no say in that government.

But leaving nothing to chance, the Florida Republican legislature has just removed a requirement that absentee ballots be signed by a witness, thus affording Republicans the opportunity to vote “early and often.” The signature requirement was dropped despite a 1997 scandal in which an election was overturned, and a current investigation—both involving absentee ballots.3

III. Go to war

This is standard operating procedure in the Bush administration. At the time of the march to war on Iraq, it cannot have been above their calculation to reflect on the awesome poll bounce a nice little war would generate. Indeed, there’s some reason to believe that for Bush personally,4 he had three reasons for going to war—to exact revenge on Saddam Hussein (thereby showing up his dad, by the way), to enjoy the poll bounce and the heroics, and to have a little more oil available for his family and friends (thereby demonstrating his generous side5).

Now I’m doubtful that another “preemptive” war would be just the thing he needs right now. But a war that was “forced” on him—well, that’s another thing. So keep an eye on the international situation. A year ago it seemed to me that Syria (where Saddam hid the missing WMDs) or Cuba were the most likely targets. They’re militarily weak and under a never-ending propaganda assault, which predisposes the American people to accept an “intervention.” But the consequences of the Iraq invasion have opened another near-term possibility: the need for an intervention in Saudi Arabia.

Of course, you don’t have to actually go to war. You can create a diplomatic crisis so severe that it puts us at the “brink” of war. The voters just won’t desert a President in a time of crisis. We have two candidate countries here—Iran and North Korea.6

IV. Scare ‘em and spare ‘em

Here’s where the “homeland” comes in. Bush’s other great triumph in the polls was after 9/11. But another actual attack here would bring this administration down faster than the Towers. No, what he needs is a “near” attack.

Ideally, a big plot will be revealed to the public a week or two before the elections. There will be arrests from sea to shining sea. Ashcroft will try to arrest at least one person in every town over 100,000, which will guarantee good coverage in the local news outlets.

The Bush administration will claim that they’ve been working on the case for six months or more. Breaking it the week before the election will have nothing to do with politics. Don’t be ridiculous. “The terrorists were about to act. Thank god we caught ‘em in time.”

After the election, of course, the Justice department’s cases will fall apart, as they usually do, but by then Bush & Co. will be planning their next great adventure.

Of course, all the scenarios above assume there will be an election in November and that Bush will somehow manage to win it. But Bush didn’t actually win the last election, and as you know, he gets accustomed to privilege rather quickly.

The purpose of an election is to determine who is to be in power. And make no mistake, winning an election is not the point for Bush & Co.—the point is power. So if it appears that Bush will lose in the election, or if he does lose the election, will these guys go gracefully?

Keep in mind that the members of the Bush cabal are not only inept, they are also the most corrupt in living memory. So long as they hold the reins of power and so long as the Congress remains in the hands of the Republicans, they can classify documents and refuse to respond to members of Congress and to federal judges all they like. In other words, they can avoid indictment. But if they lose their grip on power—whoa, Nelly!—grand juries are going to be working from morning to midnight.

So can they refuse to go?

I think they have only one way out here—another real disaster here at home so catastrophic that it would warrant the imposition of martial law. But I console myself with this thought—the military doesn’t like them any better than I do.7


1 I find the idea of a second Supreme Court intervention unlikely down to the level of insignificance. But if it happened, the charge of “stealing” would have to be elevated to a charge of “armed robbery.” [back]

2 From the NY Times “Who Tests Voting Machines?”

Although they are called independent, these labs are selected and paid by the voting machine companies, not by the government. They can come under enormous pressure to do reviews quickly, and not to find problems, which slow things down and create additional costs. Brian Phillips, president of SysTest Labs, one of three companies that review voting machines, conceded, "There's going to be the risk of a conflict of interest when you are being paid by the vendor that you are qualifying product for."

3As the Miami Herald reported,

Lawmakers say they acted this year to drop the witness signature because election supervisors were throwing out ballots because they lacked the signature. Nearly 2,000 absentee ballots weren't counted in the March presidential primary because they did not have a witness signature.
Yet this change in law came despite the fact that witness signatures were pivotal in tracking down allegations of voter fraud in the 1997 mayoral election in Miami that was eventually overturned and led to multiple arrests.

And there are signs of another Florida election scandal brewing involving absentee ballots: The Florida Department of Law Enforcement this week has opened an investigation into a March city election in Orlando.


4At times I use the term “Bush” to mean Bush, the man, and at other times to mean Bush, the persona of the government. I will try to make clear when I am speaking of Bush, the man, of whom there is very little to say. Otherwise, if I write, for instance, that “Bush needs to win big,” you may assume that I am speaking of Bush, the persona, an avatar for the Unholy Alliance. [back]

5George Bush is the kind of guy who wouldn’t drop a dime into the cup of a paralyzed veteran. “It would only make him lazy.” Certainly the Unholy Alliance seems determined not to drop any federal dollars into veterans care, so expect to see quite a few veterans on the street—and soon. [back]

6We’re moving toward a détente with North Korea. We have to. We need to extricate enough troops from South Korea to shore up the forces in Iraq. So that leaves Iran. (Remember the little flutter I mentioned last week.) And, of course, Iran picked up that British boat this week. [back]

7For a darker view than mine, you might consider “When the war hits home” or "The Armagedon Plan: Nightline Sells Martial Law." [back]

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Rat watch

As the heat builds in the bowels of the burning Ship of State, we'll be seeing more and more rats jumping ship.

I would have placed George Tenet, head of the CIA, in this category, but I'll have some interesting speculation on him for you later--which is to say that it's not entirely clear that he's "jumping ship."

But today we have an indisputable entry for our list:

Theodore B. Olson, 42nd Solicitor General of the United States, has announced his resignation effective sometime in July.

Chatterbox wrote of him,

Olson was a card-carrying member of the "right-wing conspiracy" to destroy President Bill Clinton through endless legal investigations of his personal life. Olson never liked to advertise that fact—indeed, in his Senate confirmation hearings he so minimized his role in the American Spectator's get-Clinton "Arkansas Project," funded by the deep-pocketed Clinton-hater Richard Mellon Scaife, that an ungenerous person would call it perjury. But Olson was a hugely important player in that tawdry episode. "If any single figure in Washington embodied the effort to undermine Clinton," write Joe Conason and Gene Lyons in their book The Hunting of the President: The Ten Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, "it was Ted Olson."

More recently, you would have heard Mr. Olson dutifully presenting the government's case to the Supreme Court in the matter of the right of detainees in Guantánamo to have access to the federal court system. He was "agin" it.

I promise that we'll have many more entries for the Rat Watch before November, so keep watching.

Meanwhile, as John McLaughlin would say, "Mr. Olson, bye-bye!"


"Come out of her, my people" - South Carolina to secede again

Thanks to Buzzflash for alerting me to a new secessionist movement in South Carolina. Christian Exodus has announced that it's giving up on the nation and is going to focus its efforts on the godly state of South Carolina.
Rather than spend resources in continued efforts to redirect the entire nation, we will redeem States one at a time. Millions of Christian conservatives are geographically spread out and diluted at the national level. Therefore, we must concentrate our numbers in a geographical region with a sovereign government we can control through the electoral process. is orchestrating the move of thousands of Christians to reacquire our Constitutional rights and, if necessary to attain these rights, dissolve our State's bond with the union.

The group hopes to overwhelmingly affect the state elections by 2014. Should that happen, the question is--Will South Carolina secede or will they simply be asked to leave?


Berkeley considers prostitution; the AP takes a poke

Berkeley residents will get to express their opinion at the polls as to whether prostitution should be a crime. No matter the outcome, prostitution will remain illegal.
Robyn Few, head of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, said a win at the polls would send an important message.

"What we're trying to do is build a groundswell here in California," she said.

The Associated Press begins their story with this:

Residents of this left-leaning city...

When have you ever seen a city described as a “right-leaning city”? You haven’t, unless you read That’s right, they’re the only news outlet that has used this phrase, according to Google. On the other hand, "left-leaning city" pulls 454 hits.

I didn’t count how many news outlets were among them, but a quick scan shows that it’s not a first for the Associated Press. AP writers seem to use it when a progressive measure is under consideration in a city, as in “This left-leaning city [Seattle] joined the gay marriage fight Monday.”

If you feel moved to send them a comment, they can be reached at

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Quote of the day

At the end of my time in Guantánamo, I had to sign a paper saying I had been captured in battle, which was not true. I was stopped when I was in my taxi with four passengers. But they told me I would have to spend the rest of my life in Guantánamo if I did not sign it, so I did. - Wazir Muhammad, former prisoner in Afghanistan and Guantanamo

The U.N. Security Council develops a backbone

Last year the U.N. gave the U.S. a one-year exemption from any war crimes prosecutions by the International Criminal Court. The exemption is about to run out, and some folks in the Bush administration and Pentagon seem to need it more than ever.

The AP this afternoon carried this:

Facing strong opposition, the United States announced Wednesday it was dropping a resolution seeking a new exemption for American peacekeepers from international prosecution for war crimes.

U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham made the announcement after a U.S. compromise that would limit the exemption to one final year failed to win support from key Security Council opponents.

Of course, we couldn't just leave it at that. A veiled threat was made.

Cunningham said,
[I]n the absence of a new resolution, the United States will need to take into account the risk of ICC (International Criminal Court) review when determining contributions to U.N. authorized or established operations.

The U.S. has also threatened not to participate in any future U.N. peacekeeping operations.

All is not lost. By using the power of the purse, the U.S. has forced a number of smaller, impoverished countries to provide it with just such an exemption.
Washington has signed bilateral agreements with 90 countries that bar any prosecution of American officials by the court.

Cunningham said Wednesday that the United States will "continue to negotiate bilateral agreements" to protect Americans.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Once more, with feeling — the Nuremberg defense

Ruling on pretrial motions yesterday, a military judge designated Abu Ghraib prison as a “crime scene,” which means the prison must be preserved. That frustrates George Bush’s generous if belated offer to tear down the prison, though if past be prologue, he wouldn’t have done it anyway.

The judge also compelled the two top generals—John Abizaid, chief of Central Command, and Ricardo Sanchez, chief commander in Iraq—to supply depositions. The defense is also to have access to Geoffrey Miller, formerly of Guantanamo, Thomas Metz, commander of the Multinational Corps, and Barbara Fast, chief of coalition intelligence operations. Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush got off scot free—for the moment.

Strangely missing from the list, at least as reported, is Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the military police overseeing the prison. Gen. Karpinski, a reservist, was suspended back in January, and has since made statements to the press indicating that she doesn’t intend to be the fall-guy for anybody’s military. I would have thought the defense would want her testimony.

Meanwhile, defense counsels are speaking to the media on behalf of their clients and resurrecting the “Nuremberg defense”—that the soldiers were acting on orders from higher-ups and are therefore not culpable.

Womack, Graner's civilian lawyer, said he could prove the MP and military intelligence commanders "were aware of everything that was being done."

And besides,
"We can't have American soldiers in a war zone questioning the legality of orders," ...

Defense counsel Bergrin said,
"One of the last things my client heard before deployment to Iraq last year was a speech by Bush saying that the Geneva Conventions don't apply in the war on terrorism."

And Bergrin wants to question President Bush because
"we know as a matter of fact that President Bush changed the rules of engagement for intelligence acquisition."

The Nuremberg defense was rejected at Nuremberg and hasn’t fared very well ever since. Nevertheless, it’s about the only defense these defendants can make, so they make it.

I thought it would be instructive to learn what the Nuremberg tribunal actually said about the “Nuremberg defense.”

From “International Law Applied to Individual Wrong-Doers,” Opinion and Judgment of the Tribunal. Nuremberg: Palace of Justice. 8 April 1948. pp. 64 – 66:
Defense Counsel have urged that the responsibilities resulting from International Law do not apply to individuals. It is a fallacy of no small proportion that international obligations can apply only to the abstract legal entities called States. Nations can act only through human beings, and when Germany signed, ratified and promulgated the Hague and Geneva Conventions, she bound each one of her subjects to their observance.
Further arguing the proposition of individual non-responsibility for their clients, several defense counsel have submitted that this trial in effect represents a trial of the victors over the vanquished. This objection dissolves so quickly under a serious glance that one wonders if it was presented reflectively.... The defendants are in court not as members of a defeated nation but because they are charged with crime. They are being tried because they are accused of having offended against society itself, and society, as represented by international law, has summoned them for explanation. The doctrine that no member of a wronged community may try an accused would for all practical purposes spell the end of justice in every country. It is the essence of criminal justice that the offended community inquires into the offense involved.

The opinion also alludes to "The Ten Commandments for Warfare of the German Soldier" which was printed in every soldier’s paybook –
  1. While fighting for victory the German soldier will observe the rules of chivalrous warfare. Cruelties and senseless destruction are below his standard.

  2. Combatants will be in uniform or will wear specially introduced and clearly distinguishable badges. Fighting in plain clothes or without such badges is prohibited.

  3. No enemy who has surrendered will be killed, including partisans and spies. They will be duly punished by courts.

  4. P.O.W. will not be ill-treated or insulted. While arms, maps, and records are to be taken away from them, their personal belongings will not be touched.

  5. Dum-Dum bullets are prohibited; also no other bullets may be transformed into Dum-Dum.

  6. Red Cross Institutions are sacrosanct. Injured enemies are to be treated in a humane way. Medical personnel and army chaplains may not be hindered in the execution of their medical, or clerical activities.

  7. The civilian population is sacrosanct. No looting nor wanton destruction is permitted to the soldier. Landmarks of historical value or buildings serving religious purposes, art, science, or charity are to be especially respected. Deliveries in kind made, as well as services rendered by the population, may only be claimed if ordered by superiors and only against compensation.

  8. Neutral territory will never be entered nor passed over by planes, nor shot at; it will not be the object of warlike activities of any kind.

  9. If a German soldier is made a prisoner of war he will tell his name and rank if he is asked for it. Under no circumstances will he reveal to which unit he belongs, nor will he give any information about German military, political, and economic conditions. Neither promises nor threats may induce him to do so.

  10. Offenses against the a/m matters of duty will be punished. Enemy offenses against the principles under 1 to 8 are to be reported. Reprisals are only permissible on order of higher commands.

Hmmh. High marks for attitude; low marks for execution.

As T.S. Eliot observed in The Hollow Men,
Between the idea
And the reality
Falls the Shadow.

As in the military of the Third Reich, it appears that between American ideals—both military and cultural—and the reality of our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan quite a shadow has fallen.

Let us hope that the Nuremberg defense does not finally prevail.

Monday, June 21, 2004


Why isn't the press defending freedom of the press? (Revisited)

Referencing a previous post, a friend and reader, Louise Kienast, emailed me this:
I was listening this morning to C-Span “House hearing on Iraqi perceptions of U.S. actions."1 I became more interested when they began discussing shutting down Muqtada al-Sadr’s newspaper. The following remark by Rich Galen, former Director of Strategic Media Coalition Provisional Authority got my attention since you had written about this topic (Why isn't the press defending freedom of the press?):
There is no shortage of public discourse, at least in Baghdad, in terms of varying points of view. We do draw the line, even in our country, at shouting fire in a movie theater. That does not fall into free speech.
The point is that this is the take they have on the topic. I don’t know much about Muqtada al-Sadr or his newspaper, but this is most likely how people will view this issue. How would you respond to that?
Well, we don't just go shutting down newspapers on the government's say-so—at least that's the theory. The old "fire in a crowded theatre" argument requires some proof that actual incitement has occurred.

In my article I quoted Juan Cole, who said,
Many observers in Iraq said that move was a mistake, since no specific violence could be traced to the newspaper
It would seem that the U.S. has taken another preemptive action. No link of which I am aware has been made between Sadr's newspaper and any violent action. Of course, It's impossible to prove that no such linkage exists, because that would be to prove a negative.2

But if we are to close newspapers that encourage violence, what should we do with the newspapers in this country that urged us on to war?

Related post: Allawi stands up for freedom of the press -- yeah, sure


1 Louise says, "If you want to hear the discussion go to House Hearing on Iraqi Perceptions of U.S. Actions [link updated 6/25/04]

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) chairs a House hearing on Iraqi perceptions of U.S. actions. Douglas Feith and Andrew Natsios are among the witnesses.
6/15/2004: WASHINGTON, DC: 3 hr.
Once the program comes up, (RealPlayer), go to 1:18:09 of the second hearing to hear this discussion (I just moved the button all the way to the end and immediately the second hearing began.) [back]

2 For an interesting discussion of proving a negative, see Richard Carrier's comments. [back]

Sunday, June 20, 2004


Quote of the Day

It’s very important to defend those who suffer because of their nonviolent struggle for an open society, for justice, for other people whose rights are violated. It is our duty and yours to fight for them. I think that a lot depends on this struggle -- trust between peoples, confidence in lofty promises, and, in the final analysis, international security. - Andrei Sakharov, Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1975, in a letter to US President Jimmy Carter, 20 January 1977

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