micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links

Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.

Please send him email at micahth@chartermi.net.

Holmquist's full archives are listed here.

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Sites Holmquist trys, and often fails, to go no more than a couple of days without visiting (some of which Holmquist regularly swipes links from without attribution)

Aljazeera.Net English
AlterNet (War on Iraq)
Alternative Press Review
Always Low Prices -- Always
Another Irani online
antiwar.com (blog)
Asia Times Online
Axis of Logic
Baghdad Burning (riverbend)
BBC News
blogdex.net ("track this weblog")
The Christian Science Monitor (Daily Update)
Common Dreams
Daily Rotten
Democracy Now
The Drudge Report
Eat the Press (Harry Shearer, The Huffington Post)
Empire Notes (Rahul Mahajan)
frontpagemag.com (HorowitzWatch)
Guardian Unlimited
The Independent
Information Clearing House
Informed Comment (Juan Cole)
Iranians for Peace

Iraq Dispatches (Dahr Jamail)
Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation
Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report (Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice)
Mr. Show and Other Comedy
The Narco News Bulletin (blog)
The New York Times
Occupation Watch
Political Theory Daily Review
Press Action
Project Syndicate
Raed in the Middle (Raed Jarrar)
The Simpsons Archive
Simpsons Collector Sector
Technorati ("search for mth.blogspot.com")
United States Central Command
U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq
War Report (Project on Defense Alternatives)
The Washington Post
Wildfire (Jo Wilding)
wood s lot
www.mnftiu.cc (David Rees)

Blogs that for one reason or another Holmquist would like to read on at least something of a regular basis (always in development)

Thivai Abhor
As'ad AbuKhalil
Ken Adrian
Christopher Allbritton
Douglas Anders
Mark W. Anderson
Aziz Ansari
Atomic Archive
James Benjamin
Elton Beard
Charlie Bertsch
alister black
Blame India Watch
Blog Left: Critical Interventions Warblog / war blog
Igor Boog
Martin Butler
Chris Campbell
James M. Capozzola
Avedon Carol
Elaine Cassel
cats blog
Jeff Chang
Margaret Cho
Citizens Of Upright Moral Character
Louis CK
Les Dabney
Natalie Davis
Scoobie Davis
The Day Job
Jodi Dean
Dominic Duval
Steve Earle
Daniel Ellsberg
Tom Engelhardt
Lisa English
Barbara Flaska
Brian Flemming
Joe Foster
Yoshie Furuhashi
Al Giordano
Rob Goodspeed
Grand Puba
Guardian Unlimited Weblog
Pete Guither
The Hairy Eyeball
Ray Hanania
Mark Hand
Hector Rottweiller Jr's Web Log Jim Henley Arvin Hill Hit & Run (Reason) Hugo Clark Humphrey Indri The Iraqi Agora Dru Oja Jay Jeff Lynne d Johnson Dallas Jones Julia Kane Blues Benjamin Kepple Ken Layne Phil Leggiere Brian Linse Adam Magazine Majority Report Radio Marc Maron Josh Marshall Jeralyn Merritt J.R. Mooneyham Michael Scott Moore Bob Morris Bob Mould Mr. Show and Tell Muslims For Nader/Camejo David Neiwert NewPages Weblog Aimee Nezhukumatathil Sean O'Brien Patton Oswalt The Panda's Thumb Randy Paul Rodger A. Payne Ian Penman politx Neal Pollack Greg Proops Pro-War.com Pure Polemics Seyed Razavi Rayne Simon Reynolds richardpryor.com Clay Richards Mike Rogers Yuval Rubinstein
Steven Rubio
Saragon Noah Shachtman Court Schuett The Simpsons Archive Amardeep Singh Sam Smith Soundbitten Jack Sparks Ian Spiers Morgan Spurlock Stand Down: The Left-Right Blog Opposing an Invasion of Iraq Aaron Stark Morgaine Swann Tapped (The American Prospect) tex Matthew Tobey Annie Tomlin Tom Tomorrow The University Without Condition Jesse Walker Warblogger Watch Diane Warth The Watchful Babbler The Weblog we have brains Matt Welch
Alex Whalen
Jon Wiener
Lizz Winstead
James Wolcott
Wooster Collective
Mickey Z

Thursday, July 31, 2003
Unchecked via dishonesty

Seven days ago OpinionJournal -the online editorial page of The Wall Street Journal- published Steven Den Beste's "We Won't Back Down," a document that could make Tom Petty's individualist aural declaration relevant to a particular collective colonial action if it wasn't already. Den Beste has four main points:

1) The United States invaded and has taken over Iraq "to 'nation build': to create a secularized, liberated, cosmopolitan society in a core Arab nation" because doing so will make the U.S. safer and influence other countries in the Middle East to move in a direction desired by the U.S.

2) Arguments about "U.N. resolutions and weapons of mass destruction" were and are used by U.S. President George W. Bush to justify the invasion because being honest about the mission "would have virtually guaranteed that it would fail. Among other things, it would have caused all of the brutal dictators and corrupt monarchs in the region to unite with Saddam against us, and would have made the invasion impossible."

3) Given points 1) and 2), there should be no controversy over the allegations that the Bush Administration, and their allies in Great Britain, oversold the weapons of mass destructions programs that Saddam was developing since those were not the real issue. Those Democrats, and presumably others although Den Beste does not say so, who continue to be critical of the U.S. being involved in Iraq, which is different than criticizing how the U.S. is involved in Iraq, have no political future.

4) The U.S. will be successful in building an Iraq the U.S. wants because people in the U.S. are "not going to forget 9/11. On some level or another, it's going to be a major political issue here for the next few decades, until we're convinced that the danger is gone. Arab extremism is no longer something that happens a long ways away and that we can ignore, so we aren't going to. It is their problem, but 9/11 made it ours. Now we'll solve it."

I'm in general agreement with Den Beste on the first point, although the two of us disagree on the merits of such an endeavor. Den Beste ignores one important element in the second point which is that Bush said in a February 26 speech that building a nation desired by the U.S. which would influence other countries in the Middle East was a goal of U.S. policy towards Iraq.True it was just one speech amongst many on the topic and "nation building" was hardly the most common justification given the Bush Administration for the war that would come to be known Operation Iraqi Freedom, but openly saying the secret plan seems like it would be a major mistake and something that Den Beste should have addressed.

The third point similarly overlooks the actual arguments being put forward by those who believe the Bush Administration was dishonest in the lead up to Operation Iraqi Freedom when talking about the still yet to be found weapons of mass destruction. While the political success of their cause remains to be seen, many, if not most, who hold this position do not deny that the Bush Administration had other reasons for the escalating the war, and some may believe that at least some of those reasons were valid, but nonetheless they do not believe that dishonesty from the occupants of the White House is acceptable when the matter is justifying a war, which is the very opposite of what Den Beste says. If Den Beste’s logic takes hold and becomes the prevailing wisdom it would be difficult to critique the Bush Administration in any way that would reach out to the unconvinced as any critique of the explicit statements of Team Bush could be dismissed as irrelevant because they are assumed to have other reasons for their actions.

The elimination, or at least near elimination, of the space for such a critique in fact appears to be what Den Beste wants. Much like Jonah Goldberg of The National Review sounded back in March, Den Beste writes:

As combat started, I felt enormous pressure and worry, for the people involved. But on another level I felt a great deal of relief. Once we actually began the invasion, certain political issues became faits accomplis. The question of engagement in the Arab sphere is no longer debatable; we're going to be engaged. That was still in doubt, right up until the first tanks rolled over the border from Kuwait into Iraq. Now it isn't.
Actually the U.S. had long been involved in the “Arab sphere” in a variety of ways. The build-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom may have been the beginning of a new stage in U.S. engagement, but, just as before, this should in no way preclude discussions of whether continued intervention is the right thing to do, if only because eliminating even the possibility of such a discussion amounts to unlimited power for the Bush Administration and those that follow to do whatever they want in the region, and arguably the world.

Den Beste’s point about how committed the people of the U.S. are to remaking the Iraq is interesting because it only gives two examples, both from the same period, of situations where the U.S. has successfully rebuilt other countries and he bizarrely assumes that the commitment of the U.S. public to rebuilding another country is of primary importance. The U.S. may or may not be successful in create a democratic, secular and stable state in Iraq and doing so may or may not make the U.S. safer, but Den Beste doesn’t provide any argument one way or the other.

When put together Den Beste’s third and fourth points create an interesting portrait of a public in the U.S. that doesn’t mind being lied to about the reason for war and at the same time is firmly committed to doing whatever is necessary to support the war effort because of their desire to avoid another tragedy. I suspect this is a fair description of a significant portion of the U.S., but that should be worrisome as opposed to encouraging. Such an attitude is at peace with the public only having access to a purposely designed false version of reality and seeks to dampen or even eliminate any checks on the use of military power –the ultimate in “big government”- by a relatively small group of people that are in charge of the U.S.


Although even bringing this up seems like a cheap shot, it should be noted I have written this entry up to this point as if it can be assumed that Den Beste actually believes what he says in “We Won't Back Down”and is not the result of him being dishonest in order to promote some “greater good.” While the critique of Den Beste’s argument that I’ve presented still stands up even if Den Beste doesn’t believe his own argument, the fact that any of this even needs to be said illustrates how absurdity is likely set in once dishonesty is enshrined as necessary and justifiable.

Et tu, Condi?


"Israel's parliament on Thursday passed a new law that would force Palestinians who marry Israelis to live separate lives or move out of Israel," Gavin Rabinowitz writes in a story from yesterday.

Such a law, if enacted, would fit in with the observation that Baruch Kimmerling makes in the recently published book Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians about the contradictory relationship that Zionist ideology has with Palestinian identity.


Ian Penman on irony and what Duke Ellington didn't say.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

If the complaints about how much U.S. involvement in Iraq is costing keep up, I suspect Team Bush may just say, "Fine, we're using the oil."


"I take personal responsibility for everything I say," U.S. President George W. Bush said today, which lead me to say, "Maybe he really is an idiot."


Somebody gets paid to write this? Everything is starting to become clear now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Two recent reports have put a damper on belief that the Loch Ness monster ever existed. I doubt either will have much impact on the true believers.




"Obsessed with capturing Saddam Hussein, American soldiers turned a botched raid on a house in the Mansur district of Baghdad yesterday into a bloodbath, opening fire on scores of Iraqi civilians in a crowded street and killing up to 11, including two children, their mother and crippled father," Robert Fisk writes in a story that CounterPunch published today. "At least one civilian car caught fire, cremating its occupants. The vehicle carrying the two children and their mother and father was riddled by bullets as it approached a razor-wired checkpoint outside the house."


Douglas Anders' weblog is readable again.

Monday, July 28, 2003
Bob Hope's death will most likely only temporarily halt the processs in which Hope increasingly becomes someone who is well known amongst people in the U.S. but not frequently viewed, as has happened to the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles.

Sunday, July 27, 2003
Ten years ago this summer I was in Roanoke, Virginia as part of a summer vacation with my parents. While there, I saw this image on a t-shirt, which I had to get and which was worn out within a couple of years. I've been in love with the work of Mose Tolliver ever since. His work looks like it would be the grafitti found in Machine had Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995) been shot in color.

Saturday, July 26, 2003
Power outages

Four years ago this summer I was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan and was depressed to the point of being suicidal. To deal with the situation I would often listen to the David S. Ware Quartet’s May 2 and 3, 1996 recording Godspelized, particularly the title track. The tempo laid down by bassist William Parker and pianist Matthew Shipp combined with the expressive drumming of Susie Ibarra provided the perfect background for saxist David S. Ware to shriek like Ayler on Sunday morning and in the process soak up my pain for a little while.

One early Thursday evening, July 8, I had just begun “Godspelized” when the power in my apartment went out. The temperature outside was in the 80s and it was humid. To deal with the heat I went to see Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam (1999). I had seen the film the previous Saturday and been moderately impressed –I thought it was Lee’s best work since Do the Right Thing (1999), a position it now holds in my mind even though I thought 25th Hour (2002) was a superior picture for a while- but didn’t figure I’d see it again on the big screen, if ever. But when the power went out I quickly knew I should go and see it again, in part because the fictional story of life in New York City during the summer of 1977 mentioned the electrical outages that the city faced but also because I needed the air conditioning of a theater and it would feel good to look at people who were at least as fucked up as me, even if their pathos and mine were different.

Seeing it again was one of the smarter things I ever did for exactly reasons I did it.

The power was back on when I returned to my apartment.


Two years ago in May I saw Ibarra perform a solo set at the HotHouse in downtown Chicago. Afterwards I told her how much Godspelized had meant to me. Ibarra, who by the time was long of the “Parker Axis,” hugged me in response.


Two, at a little before two p.m., the power went out again. I had been listening to Marzette Watts’ self-titled ESP Disk, which presents the results of a December 8, 1966 session featuring vibist Karl Berger, bassists Juney Booth and Henry Grimes, drummer J.C. Moses, guitarist Sonny Sharrock, reedist Byard Lancaster, trombonist Clifford Thornton and Watts bass clarinet and tenor and soprano sax performing primarily improvised music which seems like a precursor to the work of leaders like Peter Brotzmann in terms of its antagonism. When the power went out I briefly felt emptiness but pursued other activities, primarily reading. Roughly five and a half hours later, the power returned.

Friday, July 25, 2003
Cheney like Bush

Yesterday's speech on Iraq by U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney is exactly the dishonesty we all should have come to expect from the Bush Administration. It only stands out because Cheney asks two questions that deserve a response.

The first:

Now the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever. And at a safe remove from the danger, some are now trying to cast doubt upon the decision to liberate Iraq. The ability to criticize is one of the great strengths of our democracy. But those who do so have an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi threat?
All that Cheney gives in this speech, and all that the Bush Administration has ever given, about the "Iraqi threat" is a bunch of false analogies and implications that are empirically false. Unless the Bush Administration knows something very significant about the "threat" Saddam Hussein's now deposed regime posed to the U.S. posed to the U.S. that they haven't revealed, there was no threat. In short, the "Iraqi threat" could have been ignored because it didn't exist.

For the sake of the argument, let's say that Saddam's regime did pose a threat to the U.S. If that were the case, how could a "responsible leader" like U.S. President George W. Bush not do anything about the threat until after more than two years of being in office? And why is Cheney so confident the threat has been dealt with? Saddam has yet to be caught or accounted for and the same is true of his alleged weapons of mass destruction and programs to build such weapons. How do we know he isn't working with some of "the terrorists" right now to attack the U.S. with such weapons?

The second question is even more amusing:

Critics of the liberation of Iraq must also answer another question: what would that country look like today if we had failed to act?
Cheney answers his own question in the speech - Iraq would be presumably be the same right as it was before Operation Iraqi Freedom. The insinuation is that this is unacceptable, but the Bush Administration was willing to accept this reality until they started talking about Iraq being a "threat." Furthermore, in a world where terrible things happen all of time, what makes Iraq so important? Why is the definitive accomplishment of making the world a better place by the U.S. not stopping support for repressive governments but replacing a government that the U.S. had not had much influence on for over a decade? Cheney doesn't even attempt to answer these obvious questions.


The full report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 can be found here.




"President Bush today directed the Pentagon to position a limited number of Marines off the coast of Liberia to facilitate the arrival of West African peacekeepers as fighting raged in Monrovia and conditions deteriorated for the Liberian people," Vernon Loeb of The Washington Post writes today. "Defense officials said a three-ship Amphibious Ready Group with 2,200 Marines led by the helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima would arrive in the region from the Mediterranean in early August, about the time the first battalion of Nigerian peacekeepers is planning to go into Liberia." The key parts:

A senior U.S. official later explained that there had been no "hard decision" on whether U.S. troops would actually go into Liberia. But he said the troops would not engage in any peacekeeping mission.

Instead, a limited number of troops might be used to make sure humanitarian aid is being distributed after a vanguard of Nigerian troops stabilizes the situation, the official said. The U.S. troops, if used, would withdraw after a full peacekeeping force arrived, he added.



Thursday, July 24, 2003
War notes

"In an exclusive interview with CBS News, three men who claim to have participated in several recent and deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers say they're not doing it for love of Saddam -- but instead for God and their country," CBS News writes in July 21 story.

Robert Fisk says the deaths of Uday and Qusay will likely only increase resistance to the U.S. occupation.

I find it very interesting that the U.S. military is not generally catching those responsible for these attacks.


Salam Pax writes about the aftermath of the deaths of the sons.


"Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the CIA failed to act on intelligence it had about hijackers, the FBI was unable to track al Qaeda in the United States, and key National Security Agency communications intercepts never were circulated, a congressional investigation has concluded," Curt Anderson of the AP writes today. "But even had these and many other failures not occurred, no evidence surfaced in the probe by the House and Senate intelligence committees to show that the government could have prevented the attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania."


"The CIA sent two memos to the White House in October voicing strong doubts about a claim President Bush made three months later in the State of the Union address that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material in Africa, White House officials said yesterday," Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus write in yesterday's Washington Post. "The officials made the disclosure hours after they were alerted by the CIA to the existence of a memo sent to Bush's deputy national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, on Oct. 6. The White House said Bush's chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, on Friday night discovered another memo from the CIA, dated Oct. 5, also expressing doubts about the Africa claims."

This AP story by Tom Raum on the same topic is also worth reading.


"The deputy secretary of defense said yesterday that some key assumptions underlying the U.S. occupation of Iraq were wrong, tacitly acknowledging the judgment of current and former U.S. officials critical of the occupation planning," Peter Slevin and Dana Priest write in today's Washington Post. "Paul D. Wolfowitz, briefing reporters after a 41/2-day trip to Iraq, said that in postwar planning, defense officials made three assumptions that 'turned out to underestimate the problem,' beginning with the belief that removing Saddam Hussein from power would also remove the threat posed by his Baath Party. In addition, they erred in assuming that significant numbers of Iraqi army units, and large numbers of Iraqi police, would quickly join the U.S. military and its civilian partners in rebuilding Iraq, he said."

The transcript of what Wolfowitz said is here.


Yesterday U.S. General John Keane announced a new troop rotation policy for Iraq:

...before I get to the specifics of the rotation policy itself, I want to let you in on the policy guidelines that are actually driving this policy. And I think it's important to understand them.

The first is, we want to provide the combatant commander, General Abizaid, the force he needs to decisively defeat those elements that threaten security in Iraq, and allowing the Coalition Provisional Authority to meet its objectives. We want to:

Instill predictability in the force by developing a force rotation plan with an intended Iraq tour length of up to 12 months.

Use active component forces from all services, including support forces, to the extent possible, recognizing the majority of these forces are going to come from the United States Army.

But it -- for example, if we need engineer forces, the Air Force has some, and so does the Navy. And we want to make certain we can use other forces from the other services to complement the Army ground forces that are being committed to the operation, as well as our coalition forces.

Use Reserve volunteers and Reserve component forces not recently mobilized, to balance deployment stress across the force.

Craft a rotation plan to balance risk across other potential contingencies.

Eliminate or reduce in scope exercises and force commitments that would further stress the force without contributing significantly to the global war on terrorism and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Further seek to internationalize the force.

Support the Coalition Provisional Authority to rapidly develop the police force, Iraqi civil defense force and the new Iraqi army to transition the bulk of security tasks to these forces as quickly as possible.

Use contractors, when possible, to provide logistics support, training support and other functions.

Establish quality of life initiatives and incentives to support the up-to-12-month tour length policy.

Now, what we have done is we have taken General Abizaid's requirements and his needs, looked at the forces in Iraq, and we devised a plan to meet those needs.

Down the left-hand column is the forces that are currently in Iraq, and we have labeled that "Operation Iraq Freedom 1," or in a sense, Rotation 1. And these are the units that are currently participating in that rotation.

And these are the units, "Operation Iraqi Freedom 2," that will begin replacing them.

First out, first in: 3rd Infantry Division. They'll be replaced by the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division, one of its maneuver brigades and a brigade task force. And the 3rd Infantry Division will be redeploying in the month of August and September and be cleared by September; 82nd Airborne Division will be in there by September.

Now, this is not a 12-month rotation. It's a six-month rotation. Why? Because the 82nd Airborne Division headquarters participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom during major combat operations. That's number one. And number two is one of their brigades has recently redeployed from Afghanistan.

The 1st Marine Expeditionary Forces will be replaced by the Polish Multinational Division in the time frame indicated.

4th Infantry Division will be replaced by the 1st Infantry Division from Europe, and it will have an attached brigade from the Army National Guard...

Essentially it is a first-in-first-out policy.


Amnesty International has noted some alleged human rights abuses stemming from the U.S. military actions in Iraq.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Blair and Shock and Awe

British Prime Minister Tony Blair plays an odd role in the "war on terror." On one hand, he is an ambitions leader in charge of a country with one of the world's most powerful militaries. On the other, the country powerful enough to do much on its own and so Blair works as a junior partner with the United States as a way of being in on the action. One could say that in the realm of foreign policy Blair is a glorified advisor to U.S. President George W. Bush.

This was the implicit message in Blair's speech before the U.S. congress this past Thursday:

As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible, but in fact, it is transient. The question is, what do you leave behind? And what you can bequeath to this anxious world is the light of liberty. That is what this struggle against terrorist groups or states is about. We're not fighting for domination. We're not fighting for an American world, though we want a world in which America is at ease. We're not fighting for Christianity, but against religious fanaticism of all kinds. And this is not a war of civilizations, because each civilization has a unique capacity to enrich the stock of human heritage. We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind -- black or white; Christian or not; left, right or merely indifferent -- to be free -- free to raise a family in love and hope; free to earn a living and be rewarded by your own efforts; free not to bend your knee to any man in fear; free to be you, so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.

That's what we're fighting for, and it's a battle worth fighting. And I know it's hard on America. And in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to but always wanted to go. I know out there, there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me, and why us, and why America?" And the only answer is because destiny put you in this place in history in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.

And our job -- my nation, that watched you grow, that you fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond -- our job is to be there with you. You're not going to be alone. We will be with you in this fight for liberty.

It should be noted that Blair's interest in a role like this began before September 11, 2001 and was most noticeable around NATO's 1999 bombing of some parts of the former Yugoslavia.

Whether Blair enjoys being in this position or is in it only out of practicality is an open question.


It was only today that I finally slogged through Blair’s speech before Congress after several terminated attempts due to the generally boring nature of the speech. I managed to get through it today by simultaneously listening to Bill HicksShock and Awe: Live at the Oxford Playhouse, Invasion Records new release of material from a November 11, 1992 performance. As I did, I was struck by how Hicks –a citizen and resident of the U.S. speaking in Great Britain- received a response similar to what Blair –a citizen of Great Britain speaking in the U.S.- got last week. Both had the audiences responding positively to just about everything they said. I don’t know if that is a common experience for Blair, but it wasn’t for Hicks, who passed away in 1994, as the recordings Rant in E-Minor (1997) and especially Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1 Pittsburgh 6/20/91 (2002) make clear. The results are quite interesting. Hicks seems to create a false antagonism with the crowd during “English Porno” by suggesting that they aren’t into fuck flicks and pics when their response, at least as far as I can hear, actually indicated no such thing.

The material is largely similar to that found on Arizona Bay (1997), which makes sense given the date of Shock and Awe’s recording. Hicks’ musings on the arts, culture, politics, religion and war, however, are significantly different than what is found Arizona Bay, where material has either been added or deleted. Speaking about the 1992 presidential election that was just eight days old, Hicks gets off his best line of the recording. “The reason I didn’t vote for him,” he says of then sitting President George H.W. Bush, “is because he is a mass murderer.” Interestingly Hicks then gives voice to false hope about then President Elect Bill Clinton. “I’ll play that extra nickel on… you know… an extra liter of petrol just knowing little brown kids aren’t being clubbed to death like baby seals in Honduras so Pepsi can put a plant down there… I’ll pay the extra nickel.” The raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas and Clintons bombing of Iraq would dash such thoughts as made clear on Rant in E-Minor.

The biggest problem with Shock and Awe is that is has been heavily edited, with very noticeable cuts coming between and even during cuts. It appears that all of the bits heard on the disc are included in full and listeners are treated to some crowd reactions and then Hicks’ response but the edits are distracting since they are appear to have been done for no other reason other than to cut down on time and fit the release onto a single disc. A two-disc package would have been nice, especially since the performance does not appear on The Bill Hicks Bootleg Archive.

The delivery on this disc is noticeably laid back compared to many Late Hicks recordings and the profanity and misogyny that has colored most of his extended material is less prevalent than expected, although by no means absent. Towards the end the stand-up get philosophical. “Do I have message?” he asks before giving his own answer. “As scary as the world is, and it is, it is merely a ride in the amusement park of the universe. It is merely a ride. It has thrills. It has its chills. It has its ups. It has its downs.” And Shock and Awe is an important addition to the catalog of one of the most important performers of the sound recording era.


"A City Council member who crusaded against violence was gunned down during a routine meeting Wednesday afternoon, and a plainclothes police officer in turn shot and killed the assailant on a second-floor balcony inside City Hall, police sources said," Timothy Williams of the AP writes today from New York City. "Brooklyn Councilman James Davis, a former police officer, died after being shot twice in the chest, a city official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity."

"What we know is that after 2:00 o'clock, somebody in the balcony of the City Council Chambers, during a City Council meeting, apparently pulled a gun and shot two individuals," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today. "We don't know the condition of either individual but they were clearly seriously hurt and removed to the hospital. This is a terrible attack, not just on two people, and they are in our prayers, but this is an attack on democracy. We will not stop until we find who did this. It is not terrorism."

"Today," President George W. Bush said on September 11, 2001, "our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts."

People interested in doing attacking should take note. If you want to be a terrorist, attack "our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom." If you do not want to be a terrorist, attack "democracy."

Sorta being honest

It looks like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz can't keep up the joke that Iraq was a threat to the U.S.

"'I'm not concerned about weapons of mass destruction,' Wolfowitz told a group of reporters traveling with him. 'I'm concerned about getting Iraq on its feet. I didn't come (to Iraq) on a search for weapons of mass destruction,'" Robert Burns of the AP writes in a story from yesterday.

And it looks like the U.S. military can't keep the charade that freedom for Iraqis is a significant concern.

"For the first time, coalition authorities in Iraq have shut down an Iraqi newspaper, charging that its publication of a July 13 article calling for 'death to all ... who cooperate with the United States' and threatening to publish a list of collaborators' names was a dangerous violation of international law," Ann Scott Tyson writes in today's edition of The Christian Science Monitor. "A special investigative unit of the Iraqi police on Monday sealed the offices in Baghdad of the semiweekly Arabic newspaper Al Mustaqilla and took into custody its office manager. The manager, whose name was not released, is undergoing questioning. A search of the premises turned up blank Baath Party membership cards, a sign that the newspaper was 'anything but independent,' said Coalition Provisional Authority chief spokesperson Charles Heatly."

I'd like to believe People and VH1 are aiming for satire about what the public will believe when they list Bob Denver and Bruce Willis as greater "pop culture icons" than Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, Sigmund Freud, Hugh Hefner and Babe Ruth.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

"Bush administration officials are considering granting North Korea formal guarantees it will not come under U.S. attack as part of a verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in what would be part of a diplomatic gambit by the Bush administration aimed at resolving a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions," writes Glenn Kessler in today's Washington Post.

"The death toll from Monday's fighting in the Liberian capital of Monrovia is well over 600, according to Defense Minister Daniel Chea," Alexandra Zavis of the AP writes today. "There was no way independently to confirm the figure and aid groups and hospitals have put the number of dead above 90, but say they expect the number to rise."

U.S. President George W. Bush is "not only monitoring events closely, because it is a dynamic situation over in Liberia right now, it's also remaining actively engaged with the United Nations, actively engaged with the Economic Community of West African States, so that we can get back to a cease-fire, so that we can make sure that that cease-fire takes hold," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said today. "And that's what we are doing. The United States strongly condemns the latest round of violence and we strongly condemn the escalation that has taken place. We continue to call on all parties to immediately cease any military activity and focus on the peace talks."

"Their behavior is -- today, Syria and Iran continue to harbor and assist terrorists" Bush said yesterday. "This behavior is completely unacceptable and states that support terror will be held accountable."

When stacked up with the Bush Administration's policy towards Iraq, these bits of news indicate that governments which have nukes or are in a country that is deemed less imporpatnt then can get away with more than governments in stragetically importantly countries which don't have nukes.

What a message.

United States Central Command says it has killed former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay.

Monday, July 21, 2003
Edward Said's "The Meaning of Rachel Corrie: Of Dignity and Solidarity" is very much worth reading, although I'm pretty sure that Said's contention that "the school system, the health system, and the whole economy in America are degenerating into the worst levels since the 1929 Depression." is a bit much.

For links to many of Said's writings go to The Edward Said Archive.

robert-fisk.com features a similar collection of the work of Robert Fisk.

Sunday, July 20, 2003
War notes

"The White House, in the run-up to war in Iraq, did not seek CIA approval before charging that Saddam Hussein could launch a biological or chemical attack within 45 minutes, administration officials now say," Dana Milbank writes in today's Washington Post.


"President Bush and his national security adviser did not entirely read the most authoritative prewar assessment of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, including a State Department claim that an allegation Bush would later use in his State of the Union address was 'highly dubious,' White House officials said yesterday," Dana Milbank and Dana Priest write in yesterday's Washington Post. "The acknowledgment came in a briefing for reporters in which the administration released excerpts from last October's National Intelligence Estimate, a classified, 90-page summary that was the definitive assessment of Iraq's weapons programs by U.S. intelligence agencies. The report declared that 'most' of the six intelligence agencies believed there was 'compelling evidence that Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program.' But the document also included a pointed dissent by the State Department, which said the evidence did not 'add up to a compelling case' that Iraq was making a comprehensive effort to get nuclear weapons."

Greg Miller and James Gerstenzang have a story in yesterday's Los Angeles Times on the same briefing but puts the focus on some different points:

The excerpts suggest that the CIA and other agencies were more concerned than they have previously acknowledged that the build-up to war might provoke Saddam Hussein to attempt terrorist strikes in the United States.

The report says Iraq "probably would attempt clandestine attacks against the U.S. homeland if Baghdad feared an attack." It goes on to say that Hussein was likely to use biological weapons for such strikes and order his intelligence service to carry them out...

The excerpts also include wording that seems to undercut Bush administration claims before the war that Hussein had links to Al Qaeda. The report makes clear that the intelligence community believed cooperation with the terrorist network would represent an extreme step for Hussein.

"Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as Al Qaeda" could help him strike America, the report said. The scenario was presented in the context of the build-up to war...

The finding that Baghdad "probably would attempt" clandestine attacks on the United States contrasts with more nuanced language the CIA released publicly in October.

At that time, the agency said that Baghdad appeared "to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks," but that if Hussein considered a U.S. invasion unavoidable "he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions." That assessment was in an Oct. 7 letter to Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who was then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The NIE cautioned that U.S. intelligence officials had "low confidence in our ability to assess when Saddam would use WMD."

In contrast, the intelligence officials expressed "high confidence" in their assessments of Iraq's possession of banned weapons.

The newly released pages serve as a reminder that the CIA and other agencies were convinced that Hussein had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, as well as other munitions, though scant evidence of such items has been found in Iraq.

The NIE asserts that Hussein "probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons, and possibly as much as 500 metric tons" of chemical agents — or between 110 and 550 tons — "much of it added in the last year."

The document also says intelligence agencies believed that Baghdad had chemical warheads for Scud missiles it had supposedly kept hidden.

Did the Bush Administration get lucky?


"The FBI blew repeated chances to uncover the 9-11 plot because it failed to aggressively investigate evidence of Al Qaeda’s presence in the United States, especially in the San Diego area, where two of the hijackers were living with one of the bureau’s own informants, according to the congressional report set for release this week," writes Michael Isikoff in the issue of Newsweek dated July 28, 2003.


Bob Joseph?


In a July 16 story, Reuters writes:

U.S. troops are facing a classic guerrilla war in Iraq spearheaded by Saddam Hussein loyalists, and American forces need to adapt their tactics to crush this increasingly organized resistance, the head of the U.S. Central Command said on Wednesday.

This contrasted with an assessment given by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on June 30 that it was not "anything like a guerrilla war or an organized resistance."

But Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid, who commands U.S. forces in Iraq, said a guerrilla war is exactly what U.S. troops are confronting.


"American air war commanders carried out a comprehensive plan to disrupt Iraq's military command and control system before the Iraq war, according to an internal briefing on the conflict by the senior allied air war commander," Michael R. Gordon writes in a July 19 New York Times story. "Known as Southern Focus, the plan called for attacks on the network of fiber-optic cable that Saddam Hussein's government used to transmit military communications, as well as airstrikes on key command centers, radars and other important military assets. The strikes, which were conducted from mid-2002 into the first few months of 2003, were justified publicly at the time as a reaction to Iraqi violations of a no-flight zone that the United States and Britain established in southern Iraq. But Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the chief allied war commander, said the attacks also laid the foundations for the military campaign against the Baghdad government."


"Saddam Hussein is probably still alive and hiding in Iraq, but the ousted leader is not orchestrating the daily attacks on American troops, the top U.S. official for the country said Sunday," the AP writes today. "Civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer also said Americans should prepare for a lengthy stay in Iraq."

Saturday, July 19, 2003
August 6 appears to be the next court date in the legal proceedings that may come to be known as this century's first "The Trial of the Century."

Friday, July 18, 2003
Broad Bush

While listening to U.S. President George W. Bush speak yesterday, I was struck by how good he was at speaking in broad terms. In the decontextualized manner that serves him well, Bush touched on all of the major justifications for the latest stages of the war that U.S. is waging with and/or in Iraq and also connected these actions to the ever present good vs. evil structure known as the “war on terror.”

This outlook will likely prove as popular in the coming months and years as it has throughout history, including immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which is another way of saying I suspect it will prove very popular. The root of this appeal is quite simply that this vision allows people to feel good about themselves and ignore complications. It doesn't hurt that Bush's formulation of a binary world -with the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, the lesser allies on the side of good and the loosely defined "other" or "others" representing the side of evil battling over whether "progress and success" will succeed- isn't empirically false. It is horribly simplistic on numerous levels, but there is a element of truth to it, or at least there are enough real examples that support this mindset so as to be credible in the minds of many.

If the Iraq/Niger/Uranium scandal has revealed anything, it is that the Bush Administration is open to criticism that they are dishonest or misleading on factual manners. While this is good so far as it goes, the other side of the message is that the season is still closed on broader critiques of the assumptions that from the basis for the "war on terror." Yesterday Bush talked about the "threat" that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed to the U.S. and the broader world but there was not clarification of what this "threat" constituted and, just as was the case in March, no reporter asked a question on this matter. I keep waiting for a reporter to snap, think "fuck it, I'm going to ask a real question" and proceed to say something like, "Mr. President, you once again failed to qualify how Saddam posed a threat to the U.S. when he was in power. He used chemical weapons well over a decade ago and only in a situation where he faced no risk of retaliation, in part because your predecessor Ronald Reagan wasn't about to do anything. In the time since then he never used chemical or biological weapons against anybody and the most you can say about his attacks on the U.S. is that he may have been involved with a failed assassination attempt on former President George H.W. Bush. In light of these facts, how did Saddam pose a threat to the U.S. and, if he did post a threat, why did you wait so long to go after him?"

Or maybe pounce on this disturbing passage from Bush:

We're seeing movement toward reform and freedom in other parts of the Middle East. The leadership and courage of Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon are giving their peoples new hope for progress. Other nations can add to the momentum of peace by fighting terror in all its forms. A Palestinian state will be built upon hope and reform, not built upon violence.

Terrorists are the chief enemies of Palestinian aspirations. The sooner terrorism is rooted out by all the governments in the region, the sooner the Palestinian flag will rise over a peaceful Palestinian state.

Lots of states have been founded by violence that could be defined as "terrorism" so these words are absurd, except when understood as a statement that the U.S. -the world's greatest military power- runs the show and that the Palestinians and everyone else have no hope if they cross Uncle Sam. Such a message gives lie to the idea that the U.S. is "promoting freedom and democracy" in the "war on terror" and is another element of this imperial statement that should be pointed out.

Of course merely pointing out these issues isn't enough. And neither would asking questions of Bush be, since he would just ignore the matter if he didn't want to answer it. To a critical mind this makes Bush look weak but I suspect many of the people who want to believe Bush have a much different reaction that does a lot to bolster Bush's broad message. By focusing on individual points or even a collection of points, Bush's critics look like they are missing the bigger picture -a belief that the U.S. is in a war against evil, which really doesn't exist as a collection of smaller points so much as it is justified by these points. Conversely, critique the war as a whole and the response is a concern about the "threat" -one of the smaller points. Create a broad critique that covers all of these issues and the general outline, and it will probably be widely ignored even by many, probably even most, political opponents of the Bush Administration who aren't as attracted to broad and serious critiques as they are political accusations like "Bush lied."

Until some way out of this situation is discovered or the "war on terror" turns disastrous for the U.S., I believe Team Bush and their successors will continue to have widespread popular support.

Thursday, July 17, 2003
Two questions

"My fellow citizens," President George W. Bush said on March 19, "at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."

There are two principle questions that need to be asked about this. Was now deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussien a "grave danger" to the world? Did the Bush Administration believe Saddam's regime was a "grave danger" to the world?

So far no evidence has been made public that suggests "yes" is the correct answer to either question.

Jokes breath easier now that none of Jimmy Hoffa's remains have been found.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Occupational myths

" It looks like we're going to be in Iraq eight or 10 years. I think the president would have been better served by saying, we may have to be in Iraq for a long, long time to preserve the peace," John Fund of The Wall Street Journal said last night on CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown.

Fund, a general supporter of the "war on terror," probably isn't alone in this belief, but the facts don't support the contention. Say what you will about President George W. Bush, but don't deny that he has repeatedly stressed that involvement in Iraq would likely be a lengthy endeavor. "Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more," "War has no certainty, except the certainty of sacrifice," "A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment" and "The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done" are a few quotes from Bush's speeches that make this clear.

One could argue that Bush didn't stress this part in his public statements or that public wasn't listening, but that is different from saying Bush didn't say these things.


Then there are those who believe the problems the U.S. is currently facing in Iraq could be cured if Bush were to just internationalize the mission. This view, which was expressed by Senator Ted Kennedy on yesterday’s edition of CNN”s Inside Politics, ignores that the problems in Iraq stem from there being an occupying force in Iraq and having more countries participate will neither alter this fact nor reduce the actual and symbolic importance of the U.S. in the occupation. Of course this faulty reasoning is to be expected from the people who like U.N. interventions.


None of this is meant to say that there is not reason to believe that the Bush Administration did not a good job in planning "post-war" Iraq. There is plenty.

"Troops deposed the government in this island nation off West Africa on Wednesday, a revolt that could change control of the impoverished country's new oil wealth," the AP reports. "The rebellious soldiers said they would install a military junta to govern Sao Tome and Principe, one of Africa's smallest and poorest countries."

I don't know anything about Sao Tome and Principe other than what the CIA tells me.

real existing liberation

Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Talking only about what they want to talk about

I stand in awe of the shameless way members of the Bush Administration refuse to talk about anything other than their slogans. Yesterday, for example, President George W. Bush was involved in the following Q&A:

Q Mr. President, thank you. On Iraq, what steps are being taken to ensure that questionable information, like the Africa uranium material, doesn't come to your desk and wind up in your speeches?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me first say that -- I think the intelligence I get is darn good intelligence. And the speeches I have given were backed by good intelligence. And I am absolutely convinced today, like I was convinced when I gave the speeches, that Saddam Hussein developed a program of weapons of mass destruction, and that our country made the right decision.

We worked with the United Nations -- as Kofi mentioned, not all nations agreed with the decision, but we worked with the United Nations. And Saddam Hussein did not comply. And it's the same intelligence, by the way, that my predecessor used to make the decision he made in 1998.

We are in the process now of interrogating people inside of Iraq, looking at documents, exploring documents to determine the extent that -- what we can find as quickly as possible. And I believe, firmly believe, that when it's all said and done, the people of the United States and the world will realize that Saddam Hussein had a weapons program.

And then later:
Q Mr. President, back on the question of Iraq, and that specific line that has been in question --

THE PRESIDENT: Can you cite the line? (Laughter.)

Q I could, if you gave me some time.

THE PRESIDENT: When I gave the speech, the line was relevant.

Q So even though there has been some question about the intelligence -- the intelligence community knowing beforehand that perhaps it wasn't, you still believe that when you gave it --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the speech that I gave was cleared by the CIA. And, look, the thing that's important to realize is that we're constantly gathering data. Subsequent to the speech, the CIA had some doubts. But when I gave the -- when they talked about the speech and when they looked at the speech, it was cleared. Otherwise, I wouldn't have put it in the speech. I'm not interested in talking about intelligence unless it's cleared by the CIA. And as Director Tenet said, it was cleared by the CIA.

The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region. I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful.

Is it really beneath Bush to answer questions? To let someone finish a question? It appears that way and if it is, I suggest that he just be honest about it and stop responding to questions. It would save everybody a lot of time and make his attitude clear for all to see. And it might cut down on his administration's dishonesty since even here he is incorrect about Saddam not letting inspectors into Iraq.

What Bush is doing here is confusing several issues. There are legitimate questions about U.S. intelligence knew and/or knows on matters such as the whereabouts of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Iraq's ties to terrorist groups, who is currently attacking U.S. troops in Iraq on a regular basis and Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and related programs. (Bush may reason to believe that such intelligence was "darn good," but such information hasn't been made public.) And then there are questions about whether or not the Bush Administration was dishonest in their public presentations on Iraq with regard to Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and related programs. Assuming the Bush Administration was dishonest, and I think it is clear they were in more than one way, they could have been dishonest about correct intelligence and they could have been dishonest about incorrect intelligence. Of course, Bush's we-were-right response is a non-answer. Operation Iraqi Freedom might have been the greatest military action ever but that doesn't mean that dishonesty or bad intelligence might not have been used to support the action.

New White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan looks like he is going to be a frequent practioner of his boss' non-answers if his first press conference is any indication. To quote all of the examples would likely mean quoting at least half of the press conference, but I thought this example was particularly funny:

Q Two quick questions, one on Iraq. When the President said of Saddam Hussein, we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in and he wouldn't let them in, why didn't he say that, when the inspectors went into Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: What he was referring to was the fact that Saddam Hussein was not complying with 1441, that he continued his past pattern and refused to comply with Resolution 1441 of the United Nations Security Council, which was his final opportunity to comply. And the fact that he was trying to thwart the inspectors every step of the way, and keep them from doing their job. So that's what he's referring to in that statement.

Q But that isn't what he said.

No answer was given.


In light of the controversy, this June 12 Reuters story by Jim Wolf is interesting:

The CIA rejected any blame on Thursday for the use of a faulty intelligence report by President Bush as he built his case for war against Iraq.

A spokesman, Bill Harlow, voiced confidence that "a careful reading" of documents supplied to congressional oversight committees would show the spy agency "did not withhold information from appropriate officials" about Iraq's purported attempt to buy uranium in Niger.

The Central Intelligence Agency, he said, had shared hundreds of pages of material with the panels looking into charges, from lawmakers and others, that the administration and the intelligence community oversold the weapons threat to foster public support for ousting President Saddam Hussein.

So was the CIA right on Friday or last month?

Monday, July 14, 2003
Late democracy

"Iraq has taken its first step towards self-government since the fall of Saddam Hussein with the inaugural meeting of a governing council composed of Iraqi nationals," the BBC reported yesterday. "The new body, whose 25 members were chosen by the US-led coalition occupying Iraq, met amid tight security in the former Ministry for Military Industry building in Baghdad."

Although there is some question as to what this council will actually do and Iraqis reportedly are skeptical of its ability to represent them, the formation of this council does represent a step in what is likely the path towards some form of Iraqi democratic self-rule. The Bush Administration has made too much of bringing "democracy" and "freedom" to Iraq to turn back, and so, short of the U.S. being forcibly removed from the country, it appears almost certain that the U.S. will set up some form of democratic governance in Iraq in the near future. However, such a system is not likely to come to fruition until the U.S. has taken care of its major concerns in the country and the democracy is unable to challenge those concerns.

While that may sound like a conspiracy theory, I came to this conclusion through an analysis of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's own word in late May, an analysis that was bolstered by what Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday:

...we now have to focus on the future, and that is to build a better Iraq for the Iraqi people, and help them put in place a representative form of government that will make sure that there are never any more weapons of mass destruction in this country, and that it's a country that will live in peace with its neighbors.
There is nothing about having "a representative form of government" that is inconsistent with having weapons of mass destruction. Democracies like the U.S. have developed weapons of mass destruction, while a country like Russia has moved towards democracy while continuing to possess such weapons. Powell can only make such a statement because to Team Bush "a representative form of government" actually means, "a government that is largely compliant with U.S. desires and which reaches this position through a modicum of popular and representative decision making."

This is nothing new. Throughout the Cold War the U.S. attacked Soviet bloc countries for their lack of democracy, but, as U.S. involvement in anti-democratic coups in Guatemala in 1954 and Chile in 1973 make clear, democracy was not necessarily enough for the U.S. to leave a country alone. As Slavoj Zizek observes in 2002's Welcome to the Desert of the Real, more recently "democracy" in the context of the Palestinian people is a term that has come to be used to refer to scenario where the Palestinians are defeated and demoralized to the point of giving up on the use of violence as a tactic in their struggle for some conception of "liberation."

This phenomenon can be seen a group like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a group that only seems interested in defending democracies when doing so coincides with exporting democracy to other countries so as to get them on the same page as the U.S. Democracy is the preferred form of an obedient regime, in other words.

If the construction of such a democracy in Iraq goes relatively smoothly, and there are of course those who want to prevent that from happening, the Iraqi experience will likely become a model for the U.S. to follow when taking over other countries and establishing new governments. It is worth noting, however, that President George W. Bush has made a gesture towards promoting democracy in countries that the U.S. does in fact get along with. At the same time, it would be foolish for the U.S. to start attacking allies -why make more people hate you and cause your resources to be further stretched for little gain-, and one would like to believe something that almost certainly won't be happening. This latter reality will inhibit the former impulse, but to what extent? What sort of framework of relations with allies will the U.S. develop in light of this tension? Will non-democratic allies assume a lesser position compared to democratic allies? Definitive answers might not be soon forthcoming as it will take some time to get enough examples, but the creation of such a framework that is stable will do a lot to allow for stability, although anything even approaching perfect stability is likely to remain out of reach, in the world that will be created and recreated by the "war on terror."

Sunday, July 13, 2003
More on the Iraq/Niger/Uranium/Whitehouse scandal

Reading the Q&A between Tony Snow and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on today's Fox News Sunday, I'm struck by how Rice is slightly harder on the White House than Snow is. Of course Rice trys to have it several ways with explanations that are idiotic and which would be taken apart by any credible journalist. I did find this section interesting:

SNOW: All right, just to follow up, was Iraq trying to procure uranium elsewhere in Africa?

RICE: We have reporting that the Iraqis were trying to procure uranium in countries other than Niger, which has been called into question. And again, what is cited in the president's speech is the British report.The British stand by their statement. They have told us that despite the fact that we had apparently some concerns about that report, that they had other sources, and that they stand by the statement.

SNOW: Have you been privy to those sources and that information?

RICE: The British have reasons, because of the arrangements that they made, apparently, in receiving those sources, that they cannot share them with us.

Translation: We believe the British intelligence on the same basis that we have asked the American public to believe us when we talk about Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was on Meet the Press this morning and Tim Russert gave a similarly bad performance and appeared like he was not interested in anything that that could make Team Bush bad, save for one notable exception. For instance, there was no follow-up when, during a discussion of determining what has happened to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Rumsfeld said:

We do need to find him. We do need to get closure, and it’s quite different from Osama bin Laden, for example. The fact that he has not been found isn’t causing that kind of a problem. The fact that Saddam Hussein has not been found does cause a problem.
You could be excused for wondering why finding Saddam was of such importance since Rumsfeld has himself given a different impression. In a May 27 interview Rumsfeld said:
Well, the fact is that Saddam Hussein may or may not be alive. He clearly is not running Iraq. So, the fact that he is not locatable at the moment if he is alive is too bad but it certainly isn’t determinative, it doesn’t have anything to do with who is running Iraq.
I guess the importance has changed and it would be nice if Rumsfeld had taken the time to explain why, but that dream didn't come true.

Russert did as good of a job on the intelligence controversy as can be expected from a journalist with a network t.v. show, but that is a back-handed compliment if ever there was one.


" CIA Director George J. Tenet successfully intervened with White House officials to have a reference to Iraq seeking uranium from Niger removed from a presidential speech last October, three months before a less specific reference to the same intelligence appeared in the State of the Union address, according to senior administration officials," Walter Pincus and Mike Allen write in today's Washington Post.

The sources are of course unidentified. Assuming they are real, I really have to wonder about the mindset of someone who only comes forward to expose the Bush Administration when a controversy is brewing and still wants to work as a member of Team Bush. They could do a lot more good by just coming out and saying what they know. Of course I suppose doing that might result in them ending up dead.


Given how easily the Bush Administration was able to present Iraq-having-Weapons-of-mass-destruction-means-they-are-a-threat as a fact, it is notable that they are now catching any flak for any dishonesty that they might have engaged on a relatively small matter. I suspect that this has been made into a bigger deal actually because it is a smaller matter. The idea that that Bush Administration lied about Iraq being a threat is a matter more profound than the mainline media can likely deal with.

From the file of funny statements

U.S. Central Command has been at the 'leading edge of the global war on terrorism' for the past two years, according to Tommy Franks, the U.S. Army general who led the U.S. offensive against terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks," writes Casie Vinall in a July 11 American Forces Press Service story.

I wonder who U.S. Central Command surpassed to get to this lofty position.


"The head of a private historical group says the government and NBC should have stopped a scantily clad Beyonce Knowles from dancing in a 'patently inappropriate' way on the steps of the tomb of President Ulysses S. Grant," the Associated Press writes. "Saying the former Destiny's Child singer used 'lascivious choreography' and barely dressed backup dancers, [Grant Monument Association President Frank] Scaturro's letter to NBC complained: 'At that location, a certain decorum should have been observed from which popular entertainers are not exempt.'"

Saturday, July 12, 2003
President George W. Bush's popularity apparently has gone down, even thought it still remains high.

O.K. I can see how "kill the president" isn't a good thing to type, but what about the all-American slogan "kill George W. Bush"?

Friday, July 11, 2003
"I don't believe anything the government tells me. Nothing... Zero!"

                                                               -George Carlin, Jammin' in New York (1991)

The Iraq/Niger/Uranium scandal has lead to Central Intelligence Agency Director George J. Tenet issuing a mea culpa this evening and taking the blame:

Portions of the State of the Union speech draft came to the CIA for comment shortly before the speech was given. Various parts were shared with cognizant elements of the Agency for review. Although the documents related to the alleged Niger-Iraqi uranium deal had not yet been determined to be forgeries, officials who were reviewing the draft remarks on uranium raised several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence with National Security Council colleagues. Some of the language was changed. From what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct - i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This should not have been the test for clearing a Presidential address. This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for Presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed.
It is worth noting that nothing in this report is inconsistent with the CBS News report that the Bush Administration justified including the now famous words in the State of the Union speech on the basis that it was true that British intelligence said Iraq had tried to get uranium from Niger. And Tenet certainly doesn't look honorable in this statement. A decent civil servant would have tried to get the Bush Administration to correct this aspect of the speech, publicly if necessary. The same goes for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who says he didn't think much of the charge but apparently was willing to let it pass until it became an issue, and everyone else in both the White House and what I have termed the national attack other countries apparatus who heard what Bush said, knew the problem with the statement and let it pass.

My unsubstantiated suspicion is that Tenet is just a patsy here and that the Bush Administration forced him to take the fall.

Of course Tenet's statement could be an accurate reflection of reality. If that is the case, the Bush Administration has serious problems of a different kind. Maybe this point is lost in a world where just about nobody sees anything odd, let alone dangerous, about the United States frequently and loudly threatening to attack a country that is said to be a threat for over a year, but how close Iraq was to developing nuclear weapons was not matter of just politics if Saddam Hussein's regime was actually a threat to the U.S. (If Team Bush didn't actually believe that Iraq was a threat, then they were highly dishonest with not only the people of the U.S. but the entire world.) "[W]e don't know how close he is to a nuclear weapon right now," Bush said of Saddam's nuclear capabilities on November 7. If that was true, it seem like the a competent Commander in Chief, and those around such a Commander in Chief, who believed that Iraq was a threat that needed to be dealt with would have wanted to know every scrap of information about Iraq's military, including how close they were to developing nuclear weapons and what efforts they were making to develop them if only to try to halt the development. But if Bush and those around him were unaware of the CIA's assessment of some reports, as Tenet suggests was the case, the question becomes, what lead to this? Were they not being made aware of intelligence reports or was the Bush Administration not bothering to familiarize themselves with the reports? Either option makes Team Bush look incompetent. The former is a communication problem that should have been obvious and quickly fixed if it in fact did exist. The former suggests laziness that hard to fathom.

It is impossible to determine any answers at this point in time from my vantage point. Hopefully, however, time will tell if, on this issue, the Bush Administration was a bunch of liars or simply auditioning to play the Nazis on a new version of Hogan's Heroes.

UPDATE: My final formulation here is weak as it is possible that the Bush Administration is both dishonest and incompetent on this matter. My point is that if one is to deny that they are dishonest, incompetency is the only explanation, and vice-versa. 5:53 p.m. 07/13/03

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on Tuesday that U.S. citizen Yasser Esam Hamdi could be detained indefinitely as an enemy combatant and that he does not have the right to legal representation. Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan. Please "The impact of a war that isn't always on" for more on the general issue.

Also on Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union said that it had "found a consistent pattern of factually inaccurate assertions by the Department of Justice in statements to the media and Congress, statements that mischaracterize the scope, potential impact and likely harm of the now-notorious USA PATRIOT Act" and issued a report on the matter.

Thursday, July 10, 2003
Are Bush II and Clinton II the same movie?

I both think and have "proven" that the Bush Administration is a bunch of dishonest people when it comes to Iraq, but even I am amazed by this CBS News story:

Senior administration officials tell CBS News the President’s mistaken claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa was included in his State of the Union address -- despite objections from the CIA.

Before the speech was delivered, the portions dealing with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were checked with the CIA for accuracy, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

CIA officials warned members of the President’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.

The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has ... sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” Mr. Bush said.

The statement was technically correct, since it accurately reflected the British paper. But the bottom line is the White House knowingly included in a presidential address information its own CIA had explicitly warned might not be true.

The national attack other countries apparatus should not be left off the hook however. As I wrote two days ago, "a State Department document from the previous December 19 said Iraq had engaged in 'efforts to procure uranium from Niger' without qualification."

If Team Bush actually did what the CBS alledges they did, President George W. Bush appears pretty Clintonesqe.

In a story from today's Guardian, Julian Borger writes:
A former US intelligence official who served under the Bush administration in the build-up to the Iraq war accused the White House yesterday of lying about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

The claims came as the Bush administration was fighting to shore up its credibility among a series of anonymous government leaks over its distortion of US intelligence to manufacture a case against Saddam.

This was the first time an administration official has put his name to specific claims. The whistleblower, Gregory Thielmann, served as a director in the state department's bureau of intelligence until his retirement in September, and had access to the classified reports which formed the basis for the US case against Saddam, spelled out by President Bush and his aides.

Mr Thielmannn said yesterday: "I believe the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq."

He conceded that part of the problem lay with US intelligence, but added: "Most of it lies with the way senior officials misused the information they were provided."


"Senior UK Whitehall sources no longer believe weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq, the BBC has learned," the BBC writes in a story from today. "BBC political editor Andrew Marr said 'very senior sources' in Whitehall had virtually ruled out the possibility of finding the weapons."

Prime Minister Tony Blair apparently has a different view.


"The State Department told a Congressional committee today that seven days after President Bush gave his State of the Union address, in which he charged that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase uranium in Africa, American diplomats warned the International Atomic Energy Agency that the United States could not confirm the reports," David E. Sanger and Carl Hulse write in a July 8 New York Times story. "The State Department letter, provided to Representative Henry A. Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Government Reform, confirms that there were deep misgivings in the government about some intelligence Mr. Bush cited in his January speech."


"The United States will help Egypt in support of its air force weaponry," writes Middle East Newsline. "The Bush administration has approved a project to help several of its allies in the Middle East and other areas of the world with support for U.S. air weaponry and equipment. The allies include Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Defense Department has awarded a $13.8 million contract to Madison Research Corp. to head a support program for Egypt and other U.S. allies. The program is meant to provide a wide range of diverse non-engineering, technical and acquisition management support required in the acquisition, development, production and support of various equipment and weapon systems. Madison Research provides support for the the acquisition of products for U.S. fighter jets."


The poppy trade is doing well in Afghanistan, April Witt reports in today's Washington Post.


"Britain is secretly stepping up military assistance to Colombia as the war on drug trafficking becomes increasingly entangled in the effort to defeat leftwing guerrillas and drive them back to the negotiating table," David Pallister, Sibylla Brodzinksy and Owen Bowcott write in yesterday's Guardian.


The U.N.'s "Human Development Report 2003" and this response to it are worth reading.


This and this on Iran are interesting.


Yeah Mateen

Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Bush admits to dishonesty regarding Iraq

With the Iraq/Niger/enriched uranium scandal in the news, although not be taken as seriously as it should be, President George W. Bush got into the following exchange today:

Q Yes, Mr. President. Do you regret that your State of the Union accusation that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa is now fueling charges that you and Prime Minister Blair misled the public? And then, secondly, following up on Zimbabwe, are you willing to have a representative meet with a representative of the Zimbabwe opposition leader, who sent a delegation here, and complained that he did not think Mr. [President of South
Africa Thabo] Mbeki could be an honest broker in the process?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think Mr. Mbeki can be an honest broker, to answer the second question.

The first question is, look, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world peace. And there's no doubt in my mind that the United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing him from power. And there's no doubt in my mind, when it's all said and done, the facts will show the world the truth. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind. And so there's going to be a lot of attempts to try to rewrite history, and I can understand that. But I am absolutely confident in the decision I made.

Q Do you still believe they were trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa?


Q No, were they? The statement you made --

PRESIDENT BUSH: One thing is for certain, he's not trying to buy anything right now. If he's alive, he's on the run. And that's to the benefit of the Iraqi people. But, look, I am confident that Saddam Hussein had a weapons of mass destruction program. In 1991, I will remind you, we underestimated how close he was to having a nuclear weapon. Imagine a world in which this tyrant had a nuclear weapon. In 1998, my predecessor raided Iraq, based upon the very same intelligence. And in 2003, after the world had demanded he disarm, we decided to disarm him. And I'm convinced the world is a much more peaceful and secure place as a result of the actions.

As someone who is very convinced that the Bush and those around him are dangerous liars who need to be stopped I am "absolutely confident" that it is right for me to reveal an email that a reliable source at the White House sent me just a few minutes ago:
Date: Sat, 09 Jul 2003 12:48:07 -0500 (EST)
From: president@whitehouse.gov
To: vice.president@whitehouse.gov

THANKS DICK! i sometimes get too worried about these things not having your experence.



Vice President Richard B. Cheney (vice.president@whitehouse.gov) wrote:


Don't worry about it. The media in America is so subservient to us, it won't be a big deal so long as you just keep talking around the matter.



-----Original Message-----
From: President George W. Bush [mailto:president@whitehouse.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, July 09, 2003 9:37 AM
To: Veep


do you think our dishonestly about Iraq is finally going to be widely exposed?

i'm worried



FWIW, I will retract this report as soon as the appropriate punishments have been doled out.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Time for a counter-narrative

Saddam's a Hitler

Saddam abuses human rights

Saddam has ties with al Qaeda

Saddam wants and/or has weapons of mass destruction

Before, during and after Operation Iraqi Freedom the Bush Administration threw up a lot of arguments for the action. It seemed obvious that they were just looking for a reason that would sell the war to whoever the intended audience was, and the reason they settled on was the threat of Saddam's current weapons of mass destruction and programs for such weapons, including the possibility of Saddam getting nuclear weapons. "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," President George W. Bush said in his State of the Union speech this past January. The unnamed country was supposed to be Niger and in fact a State Department document from the previous December 19 said Iraq had engaged in "efforts to procure uranium from Niger" without qualification.

There has long been plenty of reason to doubt this claim and, for reasons deserving of speculation, this claim was not regularly repeated by the Bush Administration. Secretary of State Colin Powell didn't mention it in his February 5 United Nations Security Council speech, for instance. Doubts really began to circulate last month due to a New Republic piece by John B. Judis and Spencer Ackerman. Joseph Wilson, U.S. envoy to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, said over the weekend that he had been evaluated the charge for the Central Intelligence Agency last year and found that there was no merit to the claim. Yesterday the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee of Great Britain issued a report that said that there was no evidence to back up the charge that Saddam's government had tried to get enriched uranium from Niger.

Responding to this, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said yesterday that the Bush Administration should not have made the claim, according to Josh Marshall, The New York Times and The Washington Post. (Strangely Fleischer's comments don't seem to be coming up on the whitehouse.gov.)

"The CIA warned the US Government that claims about Iraq's nuclear ambitions were not true months before President Bush used them to make his case for war, the BBC has learned," the BBC writes in a story tonight. It is perhaps something of an understatement to say this is big news. Although Team Bush's case for war was never one-dimensional, if they could lie about this, it is worth trying to figure out what else, if anything, they lied about. It is also worth demanding an answer from them as to why they did lie about the claim that Iraq had attempted to get enriched uranium from Niger.

Congressional Democrats are reportedly up in arms about this and demanding an investigation. There should no doubt be one, although this call and even such an investigation is an insufficient response to the situation. As explained in "Channeling Cavuto" and "Musing on the 'Shanes' of this world," much of what the Bush Administration says about the "war on terror" does not appear to be intended to be taken literally but rather as the equivalent of macho jock posturing. The Bush Administration's "war on terror" is pro-active on the military level and that will appeal to a lot of people in a country where the mainstream political discourse is filled with people like Arizona Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth who believe that not actively seeking out war with country's that the Bush says the U.S. should go to war with even though those countries are not a threat to the U.S. is "appeasement." The facts are there for a serious critique of the "war on terror" but to popularize this critique it will most likely be necessary to wrap this critique to a narrative that is as popular as Bush's boastful statements. In other words, it is necessary to convince people that they should feel good about opposing the "war on terror." I wish I knew of a narrative that could be that popular.

Chaplin Classic Movies

Monday, July 07, 2003
If someone told me that this exchange between Ann Coulter and John Hawkins was a parody, I'd be tempted to believe them.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Please ignore what I wrote yesterday. I actually spent all of today cooking and eating shish-ka-bobs that consisted of my patented mix of orangutan, gorilla, chimpanzee, lemuridae, owl, giant panda, candied giraffidae, hindu because I'm trying to cut down on cow and bald eagle in honor of all of the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who continue to protect my freedom, and the freedom of all other people, in Iraq.