Saturday, March 20, 2004
All. I will be unavailable to post until Monday, Mar. 22. Hoping to find a fill-in for the interim. Please do not panic. Look to the right and click on one of the links there. Or feel free to explore the vast knowledge on my site. Thanks for checking it out. I'll be back in a few days.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Just who is al-Qaeda? Though much of this comes from (the dubious) American intelligence community, the point is salient.
A group purporting to be part of Al Qaeda that claimed responsibility for the Madrid train bombings and warned of a looming attack on the United States seems to be a phantom organization, according to US intelligence officials and terrorism specialists."Al-qaeda", which I've taken the liberty of putting in quotation marks lately, is a nebulous term, easily abused by law enforcement and would-be terrorists alike. Who knows who this is? Yet the outcome remains the same: terror, reaction. Does it matter? Yes, because so much of America's resources, in money, lives, political capital, and ideology are being spent on this target. But is it a phantom? This gets to the heart of what we are going through right now and, I think, defines the times. Be careful...
...specialists say there is no evidence the organization exists. E-mail messages purporting to be written by the group previously claimed responsibility for everything from the North American blackout to a suicide attack that killed 20 Italian policemen in Iraq. But none of those claims has proved true, intelligence specialists say.
Deciphering the group -- which first surfaced in July 2003 -- illustrates a larger challenge for counterterrorism officials: assessing the murky world of purported Al Qaeda splinter groups that have been responsible for a dramatic increase in highly sophisticated terrorist bombings around the world.
But the worldwide attention generated by the Abu Hafs al Masri e-mail, received hours after the attacks occurred, demonstrated how easily threats purported to be from Al Qaeda can be spread. Terrorism analysts say such claims form part of the tactics of psychological warfare and propaganda, designed to capitalize on actual violence and deepen public fear of more attacks.
Bush set up his own pins for this one: remember the row over claims that Iraq had bought weapons-grade uranium from Niger? Remember how Bush had made this claim in his State of the Union Address, and how it was one of the lynchpin pieces of "evidence" for invading Iraq? Remember how it was easily disproved? Good. Now remember how Bush took full responsibility for saying it and, by default, full responsibility for any claims he makes in public? No? Well read this:
President Bush accepted responsibility Wednesday for making an allegation about Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions that was based on flawed intelligence, but he broadly defended the war against Iraq and the evidence his administration used to justify the conflict.Has the President not set a precedent by saying this? If, as I hope, traction can be gained in coming months (and who better to create that traction than we denizens of the new source of the revolution, the blogosphere?) around his reasoning for invading Iraq, riddled with lies as it is, then should he not be held to his own self-imposed standard of responsibility? We need to pursue this. The wall is cracking, and we have the hammers. Strike away, defenders of freedom, strike away!
The president's taking of "personal responsibility" for the charge in his State of the Union address that Iraq sought nuclear material in Africa followed three weeks in which he allowed others on his staff and at the CIA to take the blame for including the charge, which was doubted by U.S. intelligence and was later learned to be based in part on forged documents.
Bush's acknowledgment was part of a lengthy and wide-ranging news conference in the Rose Garden assessing developments abroad and at home in the first half of the year on the eve of a month-long break on his Texas ranch.
The Iraq War. All but forgotten, yet forever present. Weird. Please read this on Eschaton. Please. Spread it around. Remember it.
Text Of Bush Speech On Iraq
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2003
"My fellow citizens, events in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision..."
I forgot it was this bad...
In a sign that even terrorists live in postmodernism, the group claiming responsibility for Thursday's Madrid bombing is handicapping this year's Presidential race. And they want Bush!
The statement [sent to the Arabic language daily al-Hayat] said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."Well I'll be. How about that for foreign leaders and their say on US politics? If nothing else, it proves that these guys are not hiding in caves. They read, and they are shrewd manipulators of the media. The group also offered a truce with Spain, saying they hope the new government will abide by promises to pull out of Iraq.
In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."
"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
"Whose turn is it next? Will it be Japan or America, or Italy, Britain or Oslo or Australia?" the statement said, adding Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were also targets.
The group is named after Muhammed Atef, also known as Abu Hafs, a close bin Laden aide killed in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
Whether this statement really comes from "al-Qaeda" is up to much dispute. I don't recall the group ever offering such political analysis. The language is almost sophomoric in its mocking, as if it were a prank. I certainly doubt Osama bin Laden had anything to do with it, nor would he have approved.
But if it does come from then, I think this opens a whole new chapter in global politics, a perverse and lopsided one, in which these "savages" can have influence in world opinion. While BushCo calls it cowardly to "give in" to their demands, I wonder how the average schmo riding the subway feels. If al-Qaeda -- whatever it is -- wants to thrust itself into politics, and continues to grow even more glib with the media, things could really veer into the surreal. This is certainly fascinating. And I would love to see what BushCo has to say about it.
(Found on Eschaton.)
Thanks again to Dad for pointing this out. You know how you've wondered if there is a list of George W. Bush's lies? Something that would spell it all out, cough up the phlegm on this most illusory of Administrations? Especially since Bush is accusing Kerry of being a flip-flopper (and I don't mean beach bum)? Until now we've had to rely on our own dedication or websites like The Daily Misleader. But now, it looks like at least some of our public servants are actually serving the public, and have assembled a veritable cornucopia of deceptions.
Several Democratic members of Congress, including Senators Carl Levin and Ted Kennedy, have recently assembled decent compilations. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace put out a report in January that presented a good sampling of the best--or worst--of the administration's false remarks about Iraq's WMD and the al Qaeda-Iraq relationship. But the prize goes to Representative Henry Waxman.We all know he lied, even if philosophers and theologians tell us Truth is unknowable. But we're not talking about truth with a capital T, not the God-stuff, but the little one, all those little truths that, when subverted, add up to Lies, with a capital L. Almost everything Bush said during the 2000 campaign turned out to be a lie -- not a mistruth, not an exaggeration or omission. A lie. He said he'd protect Social Security. He said he would provide a humble and respectful foreign policy. He said he would change the tone in Washington. He said he didn't believe in nation-building. He said the Administration would step back from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He said he'd be a uniter, not a divider. All lies. And since getting into the White House (in a big lie), he's continued to mislead. Besides the obvious stuff (global warming, tax cuts, WMD, foreknowledge about 9-11), his modus operandi is complete and utter avoidance of the truth; so encompassing is this method that I'm not even sure Bush knows or can admit to himself that he's lying anymore. Every policy initiative is falsely named, conjuring up some sunny label designed to mask the Administration's true intent, which is, simply, to carry out the exact opposite of what the name implies: No Child Left Behind, Clean Skies, Healthy Forests, USA PATRIOT Act, Operation Enduring Freedom (though that one can be twisted around so many ways, it's a bit mind-scrambling), Homeland Security, Roadmap to Peace. And now, he's lying about Kerry.
He just released a report that identifies 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in 125 separate public appearances. There's even an on-line database. (Click on the link above to reach the website.) Want to peruse the whoppers about Iraq's supposed biological weapons? Plug "biological weapons" into the search feature, and up pops 91 examples of Bush officials claiming there were bioweapons in Iraq. The evidence to date, of course, indicates they were wrong. And there is indisputable evidence that Bush and his underlings were mistaken not because the intelligence was off but because they exaggerated or ignored the available intelligence. One example: in an October 2002 speech, Bush said Iraq had a "massive stockpile" of biological weapons. But according to the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, the intelligence community had not reached such a conclusion, and CIA director George Tenet said a few weeks ago that the intelligence analysts had possessed "no specific information" on bioweapons stockpiles.
I read in the indespinsible Harper's Index this month that the major news media has not once used the word "lie" in reference to Administration's misstatements on Iraq. Two things are at work here I think. First, there is a ridiculous and ingrained "respect for the office" which somehow elevates Presidents to an almost holy status. It is the media's first obligation to give the Chief Executive a pass on almost any deception, to apologize and euphamize until all seems completely relative, leaving him all but unaccountable -- as if it were the President's right to lie. Sometimes the climate shifts, and it becomes okay to downgrade the President's citizen status, if only briefly. (Visit Bill Clinton's penis.) With this Administration, too, the boundaries are clearly marked. Criticisms of Bush are "partisan politics" and harsh criticisms are "political hate speech." Beltway loopers set the tone, the echo chamber vibrates, and self-editing does the rest. Decorum. Respect. Et al.
Second, this White House is, truly, a house of lies. They deceive across the manifold, from politics to policies to personal statements and actions. It is based on an electoral lie, and not once -- once -- will any one in the Administration admit they were wrong or give a straight answer. Telling the truth just is not how it's done. Which is wise because they operate on a whole new level of graft and cronyism and the only way to legitimate this in the public eye is by lying. So if reporters were to start calling lies lies, they'd have to do it all around, and then the Administration would have no, no, N-O credibility, it would fall like a house of cards, and the courts would be tied up for months will their criminal trials. The lies are too much, hard to believe, stretching our very senses. It would mean, too, that our highest office is not what we want to believe it to be, and this would do something very ugly to our nation's image, to our ideas of self. And who wants to open that can of worms?
I'm really feeling too sad to be cynical. Another bombing. More people killed.
A suspected car bomb blast ripped through a Baghdad hotel and neighboring houses in the heart of the Iraqi capital Wednesday, killing at least 25 people and wounding about 45.The hotel was used mostly by Arabs -- Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Kurds alike.
"All the evidence suggests a car bomb," a senior Iraqi policeman said, as a column of flames and smoke soared into the night sky from the blast.
The blast, which occurred three days before the first anniversary of the start of U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein, carved out a crater about 20 feet across and 10 feet deep in the road outside the hotel.
Asked about reports angry Iraqis at the scene had attacked U.S. soldiers, a U.S. military spokesman told Britain's Sky News television: "We do have a quick reaction force on sight. They are assisting Iraqi police.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Liberty Soul's got the goods on this.
Senator Kerry, opponent of the Iraq War, was singing a different tune 7 years ago. The following is from a discussion he had with John Sununu on Crossfire.
I mean the fact is there is a unanimous statement by the Security Council and the United Nations that there has to be immediate, unrestricted, unconditional access to the sites. That's very strong language. And it also references the underlying resolution on which the use of force is based. So clearly the allies may not like it, and I think that's our great concern – where's the backbone of Russia, where's the backbone of France, where are they in expressing their condemnation of such clearly illegal activity? But in a sense, they're now climbing into a box and they will have enormous difficulty not following up on this if there is not compliance by Iraq."
"The administration is leading." said Kerry. "The administration is making it clear that they don't believe that they even need the U.N. Security Council to sign off on a material breach because the finding of material breach was made by Mr. (Richard) Butler. So furthermore, I think the United States has always reserved the right and will reserve the right to act in its best interests. And clearly it is not just our best interests, it is in the best interests of the world to make it clear to Saddam Hussein that he's not going to get away with a breach of the '91 agreement that he's got to live up to, which is allowing inspections and dismantling his weapons and allowing us to know that he has dismantled his weapons. That's the price he pays for invading Kuwait and starting a war."
Kerry's a politician, and we all know politicians waffle all the time. This, though, sends a shiver down the spine. It's the same hardline language we despise in BushCo.
However, this was 1997, on the eve of Clinton's terrible Operation Desert Fox, in which he lobbed a few missiles at Baghdad for no reason other than to show he could. Clinton wanted to look strong, and Kerry had to stand behind him. Also, in 1997, 1998, it was more unclear whether Saddam had developed any of these technologies. In retrospect, it doesn't look like there was much of a threat then, and I'd bet that few in the Clinton Administration really thought there was. But they had the UN then, and chief inspector Richard Butler (wrongly) claimed he was thrown out of Iraq. This, at least, lent some legitimacy to the operation. Some. At bottom, Kerry is a party fellow, a company man. He went along for the ride with Clinton. Now he may have to answer for it.
More on the elections in Spain, and the new PM's cajones.
Spain's new prime minister, the Socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, yesterday followed his dramatic election triumph with a pledge to bring troops home from Iraq and accusations that Tony Blair and George Bush lied about the war.And typical reactions to these harsh words:
"Mr Blair and Mr Bush must do some reflection _ you can't organise a war with lies," he said in his first radio interview after ousting the ruling conservative People's party in a Sunday election dominated by the terror attacks on trains that killed 200 Madrid commuters last week.
His stinging comments caused political shockwaves across Europe and in the US. Sunday would go down in history as "the day when Islamist fundamentalism was seen as dictating the outcome of a European election", said Wilfried Martens, the head of the European People's party, an umbrella group for European conservative parties.
Jonathan Eyal, the director of studies at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, said if al-Qaida were responsible for last week's bombs, Spain had become the first country "to have a prime minister owing his position to Bin Laden".
This is getting interesting.
And there's more of note from the Guardian today.
An attack on the US consulate in Karachi was thwarted yesterday when a bomb was discovered in a van parked next to the building two days before a visit to the country by Colin Powell, the US secretary of state.
The vehicle contained a large blue water tank filled with 200 gallons of liquid explosive. A police official said that prompt action to remove the van from the area had "saved this place from big destruction".
It was unclear last night who had built and placed the device, though there have been a series of attacks by extremists in recent weeks.
* * *
The Oxfordshire coroner today ruled out reopening the inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.
Nicholas Gardiner, the coroner, had the right to conduct a fresh inquiry into the weapons scientist's death if he was not satisfied with Lord Hutton's findings into the cause of his death.
During a 15-minute hearing, Jeremy Gompertz QC, who represented the family at Lord Hutton's inquiry, told the court that Dr Kelly's widow and children were satisfied with the finding that he took his own life but had hoped for more consideration of his state of mind at the time of his death.
God save the Guardian.
There's a brief interview with Noam in today's Guardian. He's attacks the issue with typical Chomsky flair.
Not very many people are aware of the fact that the US is planning to construct what will be the world's largest embassy in Iraq, with maybe 3,000 people. The military plans to maintain permanent bases and a substantial US military presence as long as they want it.
...The trial [of Saddam Hussein] ought to be under some kind of international auspices that have some degree of credibility... The trial should bring to the bar of justice his associates, those who gave decisive and substantial support for him right through his worst atrocities, long after the war with Iran.
...They're not all equally culpable but they were all critically involved - that includes European countries right through the 80s, including Russia and France, Germany and others, it includes, crucially, the United States and Britain all the way through, including 1991.
That's what we like to see, Chomps!
We will see other countries in Europe, and maybe even Japan, remove governments that collude with the US over the next couple years. Especially if terror is visited upon them. The Spanish people have opened up a can of worms.
Fed Chair and certifiable lunatic Alan Greesnpan is flopping around like a fish. Apparently, it's okay to mortgage incredibly irresponisble economic policy against our grandchildrens' future.
In speeches and testimony, Mr. Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, is piecing together a theory about debt that departs from traditional views and even from fears he has himself expressed in the past.
In the 1990's, Mr. Greenspan implored President Bill Clinton to lower the budget deficit and tacitly condoned tax increases in doing so. Today, with the deficit heading toward a record of $500 billion, he warns more emphatically about the risks of raising taxes than about shortfalls over the next few years. On Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published new calculations showing that the budget deficit now stems almost entirely from tax cuts and spending increases rather than from lingering effects of the economic slowdown.
Mr. Greenspan's thesis, which is not accepted by all traditional economists, is that increases in personal wealth and the growing sophistication of financial markets have allowed Americans — individually and as a nation — to borrow much more today than might have seemed manageable 20 years ago.
Huh? What is this all about? The only thing I see in this is an encouragement to rack up debt, and a recognition that our country's "wealth" is a mirage. Rather than being the richest country, our enormous debt actually makes us, by far, the poorest. And yet our most important economist says that's just fine. Mr. Greenspan only makes $175,000 as Fed chair, so we know he doesn't have very much personal stake. So why is it now okay to lower taxes as the economy and treasury spirals? I really just want to know. Could it be that this is the real US policy? Bankruptcy?
Noam Chomsky has argued for years that the US capitalist model is headed for a Third world-style money pyramid, with a few ultra rich at the top and the swarming masses proping them up. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that exactly that is happening. In fact, it looks as if BushCo's policy is to loot the treasury, including that irksome Social Security, and redistribute the rest to his benefactors. Greenspan recently showed that he's on board with this policy.
Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve's chairman, called on Congress and the Bush administration today to cut spending and rein in Social Security programs to narrow the record budget deficit and protect the "vigorous expansion" now under way in the American economy.We're headed for an economic trainwreck, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's the goal. A relative depression will keep most of us helpless and and economically trapped. I truly believe They are planning for years in advance, looking at tried and true methods for consolidating power. A US depression would spark a global one, meaning that none but the chosen few will have any ability to maneuver, and plans of dominance may proceed as planned. They would not even have to entertain the wishes of other countries. This may sound far-fetched, but I beg you to look at history. The one thing world leaders have wanted is more power. This is as universal as a heartbeat. The group we have in charge now makes no bones about their desire for hegemony, and they're obviously not stupid. While many shake their heads at seemingly insane fiscal and foreign policy choices, others wonder what they're really up to. If permitted, they will control all the money in the country, all the oil in the world, and the most powerful military on earth.
Giving a lift to Republican lawmakers and to President Bush, who are trying to make $1.7 billion in tax cuts permanent, Mr. Greenspan said tax increases posed a risk to economic growth and should only be adopted as a last resort.
"The crucial issue out here is the rate of growth of productivity and the rate of growth of the economy, and what history does tell us is that keeping tax rates down will tend to maximize that," Mr. Greenspan told members of the House Budget Committee.
In addition to spending cuts in the overall budget, Mr. Greenspan said Congress should consider ways to reduce the costs of Social Security, including pushing up the age at which retirees could begin to receive Social Security and Medicare payments.
And I ask: Is there anything in their actions to argue that this is not the case?
Coalition countries reacted predictably to Spain's promise to remove troops from Iraq. The top US general in Iraq, Ricardo "Dirty" Sanchez, said the loss of Spain's 1,300 troops will not adversely effect the mission there. That sort of headstrong leadership (or outright arrogance) is to be expected from the country that started the whole mess. But Austrailian leaders are taking a different tack.
In Canberra, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer urged Spain not to withdraw, saying that would be seen as a victory for terrorists.
"Whatever people in Spain think, it will be interpreted in some parts of the world as a great victory for the terrorists," he said. "We very much hope the Spanish government won't do that."
"They killed 200 people, they changed the Spanish government and then Spain withdraw their troops from Iraq," he said. "That's everything Al-Qaeda could have wanted for a day's work."
Australia, part of Winston Churchill's "Special Relationship" triumverate, the barely-masked racist allegiance of Anglo-Saxons, is trying to bully Spain by accusing them of, essentially, wussing out. It's the same kind of Us v. Them pressure that makes so many countries uneasy.
Some Spanish officials denied that the bombing had anything to do with the new Prime Minister's position, and this is partly true. Jose Maria Aznar's conservative government, which allied itself with the US, was going against regular Spanish foreign policy, and certainly defying the sentiment of the population. So this policy was not necessarily the country's, because Spain would not have committed troops or associated itself with an illegal invasion without Aznar and the PP. Still, it can be said that the terrorists have won in a sense: the message is that if you get caught up in this, you will pay a price. This is clear. It is not blackmail, however, to remove troops from an operation you wanted nothing to do with in the first place. That's good sense. Obviously, the Iraq invasion has created a volatile situation, at least in the short-term, that leads to more terrorism. It holds then that a legitmate step to curb any further terrorism is to change strategies and break off from that policy. What is wrong with this? The people feared the Iraq war because of this very thing, and they saw 200 people die as a direct effect. Now they are changing course. It points to a larger trend, which I would very much encourage -- Europe uniting to offset American dominance.
Spain's newly elected Socialist prime minister pledged Monday to shift allegiance away from Washington to Paris and Berlin, a move that could lead to a reduction of American influence in Europe on a range of issues.The EU already has a stronger economy than the US, and BushCo's actions over the last 3 years have gone a long way toward de-legitimizing the US's credibility in world affairs. That Spain feels it can leverage with this degree of independence is a good sign. A "unipolar" world with a greedy, violent country at the top is a dangerous place. Though we've seen cooperation with France in the Haiti matter (sigh) I believe that was largely diplomatic, and both countries had an interest in the situation. Overall, though, Europe is getting its boots back -- a term I just made up, but I think you know what it means.
..."I want Europe to see us again as pro-European," he told the Spanish radio station Cadena Ser on Monday.
He added: "The war has been a disaster; the occupation continues to be a great disaster. It hasn't generated anything but more violence and hate. What simply cannot be is that after it became so clear how badly it was handled there be no consequences." He said President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain "will have to reflect and engage in some self-criticism, so things like that don't happen again."
In a news conference at party headquarters later in the day, Mr. Zapatero pledged to repair relations with France and Germany, which were badly damaged when Spain supported the war in Iraq and France and Germany opposed it. "Spain is going to see eye to eye with Europe again," he said. "Spain is going to be more pro-Europe than ever. I am deeply convinced of that."
Meanwhile, Poland is left in an awkward position, in that Spain was planning to replace that country's troops operating in the south of Iraq.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski Tuesday ruled out sending any extra troops to Iraq if Spain pulls out.
"Poland will not send a single extra soldier to Iraq. We are working according to a precise timetable laid down well in advance and have no troops available," he was quoted as saying on Polish public radio Trojka.
Kwasniewski said that if the Spanish troops were withdrawn Warsaw hoped for a stronger input by NATO.
This leads me to another intersting point: a good chunk of the US's allies in Iraq are former Soviet republics or eastern bloc nations: Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Georgia, Estonia, Kazakhtan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, and Ukraine. This is no coincidence. I believe they are part of the coalition, and staunch US allies for two reasons.
1) they are the poorest in Europe, with the lowest status. Companionship with the US brings them money, military bases, prestige. Many also pointed out that these countries were much more willling than most of Europe to go along with the US because they understand dictatorships, and share the experience with Iraq of seeking freedom under tyranny. I'm sure this is true, but it's probably not the most important consideration in terms of policy.
2) it is part of a geopolitical strategy by the US to effectively neutralize the former Soviet Union. Russia remains a threat to complete American dominance. Their economy has a lot of potential, and, more important, as Mideast oil becomes less and less accessable, Mother Russia's vast expanses of petroleum look very attractive. The US must make sure it has some say in how and where Russia expands. Likewise, NATO, I believe, is an attempt to isolate that country -- we now have Poland and Turkey on the brink of membership in that alliance.
Another aim of the Afghanistan adventure, I am sure, was this plan to surround Russia. Take a look at where the US now has military bases, all around the Evil Empire:
(larger view here.)
Just imagine how Russia must feel about this. (An interesting web site, Iraq War, has some notably paranoid coverage on this topic.)
You'll also notice that we're moving ever closer to another potential threat, China. There is more at stake here than just oil. America is out to dominate the world. I do not think this is very much of a stretch; in fact, what great nation would be so negligent as to not protect the world's most important resources, and preemptively shut down potential adversaries? Physically, the planet is running low on petroleum. Spiritually, there is an unsettling number of fundamentalist christians with a lot of influence in this country, and a lot of them think End Times are on their way.
This is really what the US is up to, this is what we're up against. This is why it is so important to get BushCo out now. It won't end there, though, as even John Kerry would be under some pressure to move forward, perhaps more subtly, with the nation's business. It's a lot of work to protect all this wealth, and to make more money for those at the top, and to make sure the world is a friendly place to US capital. There are nuances out the wazoo, I'm sure, but the strategy seems pretty clear, at least to me. This is why I have been so opposed to the Iraq war and opposed to the arrogance and danger of US foreign power. We don't want to be an empire. Empires fall. And they fall hard.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Last week's Marid bombings did the trick for the people of Spain, who will now, no doubt, be thrust into the same camp of disloyalty and cowardice as their easterly neighbor France.
Spanish prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero vowed to withdraw troops from Iraq (news - web sites) and slammed US President George W. Bush over last year's invasion of the country, in a clear break with the politics of the government his party defeated.
"The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation of Iraq is a disaster," Zapatero, 43, told Cadena Ser radio.
Socialist Party (PSOE) leader and future prime minister Zapatero vowed to keep his pre-election pledge that barring new developments in Iraq before June 30 -- the date the United States has promised to hand over power to a provisional government -- Spain's 1,300 troops in Iraq "will return home".
And a Socialist no less. While war fans here will likely say this only gives the terrorists what they want, a distraught Spanish electorate saw it another way: their wishes were circumvented, tragedy apparently followed, and the voers cleaned house. John Kerry is no Socialist, but he's a start. (Spain is also the only country to have had any success with Anarchy -- though Fascism wound up winning.)
Sunday, March 14, 2004
Kerry can't name names,, but we're all sure most of the world's leaders, or at least the one's with more than a child's understanding of the world and a general distaste for evil, would prefer a John Kerry White House in 2005.
"No leader would obviously share a conversation if I started listing them," Kerry told reporters after Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) suggested he name some names or stop implying foreign leaders were encouraging him to beat Bush.
Kerry, who visited the battleground state of Pennsylvania to slam Bush's health care policy and hold a town hall meeting, said last week he had met foreign leaders who told him "you've got to beat this guy" because of unhappiness over U.S. foreign policy.
He was challenged on the issue by Powell, who said on "Fox News Sunday" that "if he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names. If he can't list names, then perhaps he should find something else to talk about."
That smells a bit desperate on Powell's part, doesn't it? We've seen how childish and petty BushCo. can become when things don't go their way, and this is one instance when I'm a fan of the smarmy goader. Kerry should keep at this, let them snipe desperately as to exactly which leaders he means. It sounds ridiculous! Discipline is starting to break, and the veneer of confident invincibility is tarnishing as well. Please, Secretary Powell, please take it out to the schoolyard, and watch Kerry walk right into the White House. I am certain that BushCo will fall fantastically off the rails if Kerry plays the determined and stately leader, staying above the fray (and I don't even like that term). The truth emerges in time, and the truth about BushCo. is an ugly one.
By the by, shall we try to name a few names ourselves?: Jacques Chirac, Gerhardt Shroeder, Vladimir Putin, Roh Moo-hyun, Paul Martin, Vincente Fox, Hugo Chavez, Junichiro Koizumi, (Kim Chong-il, I'm sure) Khatemi, Vajpayee, and many, many more. Why? Because BushCo is trying to take over the world, probably.
Spain's ruling conservative party was sent packing in elections there today, in an emotional response to this week's bombings. One can only hope that American citizens will have the same sense come November, and get Bush and his chaotic, violent policies out of office -- and I hope it won't take another terrorist attack to do it.
Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who is to become prime minister after winning 43 percent of the vote compared to the government's 38 percent, declared a minute's silence for the victims in Madrid before launching into his victory speech.
"My immediate priority will be to fight all forms of terrorism," Zapatero vowed after the minute elapsed.
Kerry, too, should focus on his determination to fight terrorism, and keep hitting home how poorly Bush and the Republicans have actually done. ie. Do you feel any safer? Really?
Meanwhile, Rummy and Powell are still in major denial over the bombings.
"I think that we don't know if this is the ETA or some other terrorist activity," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said on CBS' "Face the Nation."(There goes Rummy again about the elusive question of what can be known.)
He added, "I don't have any intelligence that would give clarity."
Secretary of State Colin Powell, asked what the United States knows about who might be responsible, said, "Essentially what the Spanish know, and that is that they can't yet place responsibility."
Powell told "Fox News Sunday" it is "just premature to make a judgment. I don't think we know enough.
I supposed their statements are strictly true, but it seems clear they want to keep al-Qaeda out of it. And with good reason: allies are getting voted out of office! I wonder how long it will take them to spin it the other way, once it becomes inevitable to concede responsibility to al-Qaeda, or whomever the hell it is. Watch for them to make the case that terror has been visited on a friendly neighbor, that it can strike anywhere, that now, more than ever, do we need the resources, resolve, and leadership that George Bush has offered the country. Or, they may pull the old "desperation" argument: that the terrorists are on the run, they know their days are numbered, so they lashed out and attempted something horrific hoping to trick us into backing off. But we won't, will we? Because it's working. And thus and such.
Bottom line is, they got problems, and it is a delight to watch them run every which way but loose.
I watched Pirates of the Caribbean last night, and it was wicked good. Beyond the general spectacle and awesomeness of skeleton pirates fighting with red-hot pokers, there was actually a bit to be learned about life. The undead pirates, for example, with that lousy curse. At one point Geoffrey Rush is explaining his fate to Elizabeth (the painfully beautiful Keira Knightley); the crew of the Black Pearl (all a bunch of undead seafarers) were infected with the curse when they took a bunch of jinxed gold and spent it all on frivolities. They soon realized that they were under a spell, and spent the next ten years collecting all the cursed gold, so that they might regain their lives. It is actually a bit poignant when Rush (who, as my friend Tom pointed out, plays a very convincing undead pirate captain) describes the vacancy in his life. No drink will quench his thirst, no food will meet his hunger, no leisurely company will satisfy his lust; because of greed his senses are dead, he is dead, unable to feel sunlight on his face, or the wind in his hair (though he does rather seem to enjoy apples...).
It made me think of buddhism, and the idea that you should pay no mind to your cravings -- in fact, that craving and fear are the two surest ways to suffering. This idea is not solely the Buddha's, but that's the discipline in which it first made sense for me. So these men are sailing around the world, trying to get this fleeting thing, dead to every emotion and feeling because they are completely driven by greed, by craving.
Maybe George Bush should watch it.