Friday, September 19, 2008

Everything Went Black

I wanted to take a few moments to pay tribute to a few of our compañeros in blogtopia who've gone silent. I chose today for a reason: it marks the last date that an old blogging friend, Ductape Fatwa, posted so much as a comment. After that point, his blogging stopped and he stopped answering his emails, leaving many of us who had grown to consider him a dear friend to wonder about his whereabouts and well-being. Anyone who knew him will recognize him as a rather unique presence – at once a radical gadfly tweaking the noses of Democratic and Republican bloggers and a folksy elder gentleman telling anecdotes of his grandchildren; a devout Muslim with a keen intellectual curiosity and fascination with pop culture; a storyteller weaving dystopian narratives and yet unwaveringly optimistic; a stirrer of controversy who yet built something of a community among a diverse and divergent cast of internet characters. Words outlive their authors, and although he may have been just another obscure blogger among obscure bloggers, his words – scattered as they are throughout blogtopia – continue to live on and inspire.
This goes out to Ductape Fatwa and other bloggers whose voices have gone silent.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

New Free-speechiness-like Blog

Former Pffer, Jack's Smirking Revenge, has launched his own little experiment in free-speechiness: The Free Speech Zone

From his maiden post: (not that I'm calling him a maiden although he's now taken on the job of being the collective Pff rejects' - including the various pinches, of course - handmaiden...)

Give me your banned, your poor, your huddled masses yearning for free speech in the blogosphere!

In the blogosphere there are sites that wish to discuss political matters in a civil manner.

Here, I want that discussion, as well as other kinds in which the community will take care of the trolls and people deemed "assholes" rather than have them banned for their opinion.

Say what you want, post what you want*.

*Note: No Child Porn unless you want the real world to come to your door.

I'm not quite sure what "take care of" means in that context. We shall see, I suppose.

In the meantime: meet the new blawg, same as the old blawg. Same as it ever was. Lipstick on a pig. [insert next cliché here]

Have fun, little hamsters.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Political Fleshfeast is dead.

What had been launched last year as a dubious yet perhaps promising free speechiness alternative to American, so-called "progressive", big box blogs (BBB) by disgruntled blog commenter peeder, has suddenly closed its' doors this Labour Day weekend. According to its owner, it had become too labour intensive...or he needed more time to cook...or some such thing.

The Pff regulars who actually tried to save the swamp have a different story to tell and they're welcome to do so here: the home for Mo Betta META (minus the frat boy pRon and misogyny that Pff had become infamous for).

Where will the newly homeless go now? Has peeder destined them to wander the bloggy desert for 40 days and 40 nites until they find their new promised land? Or will a new incarnation of the unabashedly screeching hall of online hell be created by the next new dissident/saviour/prophet/guru/frat boy?

Stay tuned.


If this is your first visit to Mo Betta, you can read about our blog's purpose here - as written by our "founding father", the sorely-missed Ductape Fatwa.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The years before the current phase of the Iraq War

I always figure that a reminder that the US had been at war against the Iraqis for longer than the five years that we've been marking this week. To take a trip down memory lane, here's a list of some noteworthy US bombings of Iraq during the Bill Clinton years:
June 27, 1993: The U.S. launches a cruise missile attack on the headquarters of Iraq's intelligence service. Although the action, which is not authorized by the Security Council, is allegedly undertaken in retaliation for an attempt to assassinate former Pres. Bush during a visit to Kuwait, no evidence is ever produced to confirm that Iraq was involved (or even if the supposed assassination attempt actually occurred. Among the many "collateral" victims of the missile strike is the prominent Iraqi painter, Leila Attar.

September 3-4, 1996: The U.S. launches a series of cruise missile attacks against targets in northern Iraq. Although the action, which is not authorized by the Security Council, is supposedly undertaken to protect the Kurdish population around Irbil from Iraqi depredations, the U.S. policy of supporting assaults against these same Kurds belies any such noble motive. On Sept. 14, Pres. Clinton admits that he actually "ordered these attacks in order to extend the no-fly zone." The U.S. missile strikes thus violate Chapter VII of the UN Charter, As Well as UNGA resolution 337A (V) and a host of other elements of international law. Given the extent of "collateral" civilian casualties involved -- not the least among the very Kurds Clinton claimed to be trying to "save" -- violations of the 1923 Hague Rules of Aerial Warfare and the 1949 Geneva Convention IV are also at issue.

December 16, 1998: UNSCOM chief Richard Butler, having withdrawn the last of his personnel from Iraq, submits a report to the Security Council stating that the Iraqis had refused admission of inspectors to a number of "sensitive" installations (this is a conscious misrepresentation; Iraq had refused admission mainly to presidential palaces and other facilities deemed essential to "the dignity and sovereignty of the country."). On this pretext, and without Security Council authorization, Pres. Clinton orders the commencement of "Operation Desert Fox" the same evening. Over the next 4 days, more than 100 sites -- several of them in Baghdad -- are subjected to heavy bombing. As U.S. inspector Scott Ritter later observes, by that point, Iraq's existing stockpiles and capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction had already been completely destroyed. The U.S. airstrikes are thus plainly geared far more to impress upon the Iraqi government that it must do whatever it is told, than to "eliminate Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capabilities."
From about three years ago, I noted:
It is also the case that the US and UK had been cooperating since the end of the 1991 Gulf War to continue periodic bombing raids within Iraq's borders. None of this is a secret. The US (abetted by UK) campaign of genocide in Iraq was already on-going by the time Bu$hCo usurped the throne - the economic embargo imposed by the US had led to the death by starvation and disease of some 500,000 children in Iraq, for example - something that Clinton's ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright considered an acceptable price to pay.
In that light, from around the same time period, I said:
I've discussed previously the fact that following the presumed "end" to the Gulf War the regular bombings of Iraq targets continued unabated throughout the 1990s and early 2000s - at which point begins the official "beginning" of the war that our government is currently perpetrating. These airstrikes, conducted under the pretext of preventing the Evil Saddam from engaging in further hostilities with his neighbors, actually served the purposes of preventing efforts to rebuild the infrastructure (and worked in tandem with economic sanctions serving the same end). These strikes included, among other targets, the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq on Sept. 3 & 4, 1996 (ostensibly to "protect" the Kurds) ordered by none other than Bill Clinton (see, e.g., Ward Churchill's On the Justice of Roosting Chickens for a more thorough treatment of the US posture towards Iraq during this period). Of course, there were periodic spikes in bombing activity including - as it turns out - a noticeable escalation in airstrikes during the latter half of 2002:
THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.

The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.

The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make "regime change" in Iraq legal.

Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, told the meeting that "the US had already begun `spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime".

The new information, obtained by the Liberal Democrats, shows that the allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001, and that the RAF increased their attacks even more quickly than the Americans did. Link
Keep in mind what both Bush and Blair were saying both to their respective constituencies and to the rest of the world: they lied when they contended that they were still pursuing diplomatic avenues.
I can only reiterate that the history of US hostilities against the Iraqi people stretches back to 1990, and has included not only two major military phases (The 1991 Gulf War and the current occupation that started in 2003), but also largely successful effort via sanctions to starve out the Iraqi people. Of course, as the above serves to remind us, the bombings never really stopped and indeed escalated in the months running up to the "Shock and Awe" that occurred on March 19th/20th. This genocidal effort was and is largely a bipartisan affair inside the Beltway, and aided and abetted by the UK's governments (e.g., John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown).

It's easy to try to rewrite history. It's up to us who know otherwise to continue to call bullshit at those revisionist efforts.

What other bloggers have been saying on the Iraq War anniversary

Image caption: Falluja/Guernica, 2004 by Rob Landeros (found at Gernika)

Although there are some 375 blogs participating in the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm, there are plenty of other similarly-minded bloggers who are not formally part of the blogswarm but who deserve to be read. Please check these folks out. You'll be glad you did.

Marisacat - The Thousand and One Nights
A Tiny Revolution - Five Years Later and Spencer Ackerman on Jeffrey Goldberg and Stephen Hayes
The Heathlander - Polling Your Face Off (part of the post includes results from a recent Iraqi opinion poll)
Left I on the News - Obama on the 5th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq
Lenin's Tomb - The re-division of Iraq and Extraordinary testimony from Iraq vet
Mickey Z: Cool Observer - The Iraq War did not "begin" on March 19 (useful reminder that the war and occupation in its present incarnation is merely a continuation of what Papa Doc Bush and Bubba Clinton perpetrated)
Arthur Silber - Tragic Reprise: A Nation of Stupid Children Who Refuse to Give Up the Lies and Over One Million Murdered -- and Nothing Has Been Learned
The Try-Works - Happy Fifth Anniversary US Soldiers! and Happy Fifth Anniversary Iraqi Civilians! (both posts contain very graphic images - enter at your own risk)
Who is IOZ - Psalms
Green Left Infoasis - Global Warming and the Iraq War and National Day Of Protest Against Iraq War Includes Labor
Invictus - Five Years of U.S. War on Iraq (Graphic)
World War 4 Report - More than 100 arrested in San Francisco anti-war actions
jmbzine - Still stunned by everything at Winter Soldier
Peace Arena - 5 Years Too Many events in OKC and Voices from the war
Okie Funk - Iraq Occupation Killed Truth
Free Iraq - There rarely was a suicide in Iraq before 2003 and Corporate Genocide - Result of 5 years of occupation
Earthside - Five Years of Failure
Empire Notes - Nothing Ever Happens in Macondo
The Fanonite - There Must be a Reckoning and Was It Worth It?
Informed Comment - The Arab Conscience and the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War and 5 Years, Five Lies: Cole in Salon
EuroYank - Blog Debates - Your Life Hangs on a Thread (includes a mention of the Iraq War)
American Samizdat - Iraq: teachers told to rewrite history
Fitness for the Occasion - Iraq: Seeing the Violence
Empire Burlesque - Five Years and Counting: A Milestone on America's Long March Into Hell

Suffice it to say, this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Some other columnists' fifth anniversary writings

Image caption: 'Photo-Op' by Martha Rosler, from the article "House Beautiful Iraq"

From CounterPunch:

Jeff Taylor - Five Years of War in Iraq: When Failure is Rewarded
Patrick Cockburn - A War of Lies: The Terrible Reality of Iraq
Robert Fisk - The Little Men and the Inferno: The Hell-Disaster of Iraq
Ron Jacobs - Five Years and Counting: Who'll Stop the Rain?
Yifat Susskind - Iraqi Women Resist the Occupation: Will Progressives Stand With Them?
Andrew Wimmer - War Demands Its Due: Getting the Story Right


Justin Raimondo - Iraq: Five Years After the Conquest
Jim Lobe - Why Did the US Invade Iraq?
Ivan Eland - For the Iraq War's Birthday, Slice of Cake

From elsewhere:

Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky - A surge in Iraq gasbags
Jonathan Steele and Suzanne Goldenberg - What is the real death toll in Iraq?
Greg Mitchell - 5 Years Ago, As War Neared, Hillary Clinton Was Silent, 'NYT Archives Show - Robbing the cradle of civilization, five years later
Linda Heard - How to Destroy a Country and Get Off Scot-Free
Curt Guyette - The Left Was Right
Scott Horton - Six Questions for Aram Roston, Author of ‘The Man Who Pushed America to War’
Walter C. Uhler - My Protest to The Times: Effete Warmonger Kristol/Sanitizing Five Years in Iraq
Dahr Jamail - Rule, Not Reconciliation
Jon Soltz - Iraq: Five Years and Fading
Michael Goldfarb - Happy Anniversary
Rebecca Solnit - Five Years Later
Madeleine Mysko - Winter Soldiers: Nation must heed the horrifying words of those who have returned from the front lines
Nofa Khadduri - Occupation is Corporate Genocide
Rob Winder - US Voices Against the War
Firas Al-Atraqchi - The Iraq Invasion: Five Years On
Robert Parry et al. - How Could So Many People Buy into Bush's "Patriotism Sweepstakes" War?
Michael Zweig - The War and the Working Class
Maya Schenwar - Five Years Into War, Soldiers Speak
Susan Donaldson James - Penn's War: Media Lap Dogs Backed Iraq Mess
Bill Moyers - Casualty of War

Also, The Huffington Post has a whole series called Iraq Five Years of War.

Note that I'll be continuing my series of posts on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War through today, as - depending on the perspective of Americans/British or Iraqis (different time zones) - the war either commenced on the 19th or 20th of March.

While You're At It

Make sure you check out what some other bloggers are saying as part of the March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm. Many of us have posted links to our offerings in the comments.

A couple more blasts from the past

Here are my Iraq War anniversary posts from the old Left End of the Dial days.

March 19, 2003 - A Day That Will Live in Infamy (2006 - a slightly updated version of the 2005 post)

March 19, 2003 - A Day That Will Live in Infamy (2005)

One Year Later: We Are All Victims of Bu$hCo's Groupthink (2004)

It's interesting to look at how one's thoughts about the Iraq War have evolved over time. If anything, the Iraq War and its aftermath have led me to a more radical perspective than I would have held previously. I'm probably not alone in that regard.

So it goes. We'll keep lighting candles in the darkness for as long as necessary.

What the war propagandists were saying

As I've said before, I have a long memory:
Here are some blasts from the not so distant past courtesy of Norman Solomon:
"the Defense Department has evolved highly selective and accurate munitions that can sharply reduce the need to take or receive casualties. The predictions of widespread mayhem turned out to be false last time – when the weapons [in the Gulf War] were nothing like so accurate. [...] it can now be proposed as a practical matter that one is able to fight against a regime and not a people or a nation."
-- Christopher Hitchens, March 18, 2003
"what I've seen of Iraqi television, with Saddam Hussein presenting propaganda to his people and showing off the Apache helicopter and claiming a farmer shot it down and trying to persuade his own public that he was really in charge, when we're trying to send the exact opposite message"
-- Michael Gordon, NYT reporter, March 25, 2003
"The American public knows how important this war is, and is not as casualty sensitive as the weenies in the American press are."
-- Fred Barnes, Fox News, March, 2003
"They are calling this the cleanest war in all of military history. They stress they're fighting a regime and not the people, using smart bombs, not dumb, older munitions. But there have been and will be accidents. … And there's a new weapon in this war: Arab media, especially al-Jazeera. It's on all the time, and unlike American media, it hardly reflects the Pentagon line. Its critics say it accentuates civilian casualties and provokes outrage on the Arab street."
-- Brian Williams, NBC News, April 2, 2003
"Thank you for coming on the show. And I want to add, I think the Special Forces rock!"
-- Katie Couric, NBC Today Show, April 3, 2003, to a US military official appearing on the show
"We're all neocons now."
-- Chris Matthews, MSNBC Hardball, April 10, 2003
"He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star, and one of the guys."
-- Lou Dobbs, CNN, May 1, 2003
"We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple."
-- Chris Matthews, May 1, 2003
Never forget. Never forgive.

Since we'll likely have a "six years too many" blogswarm next March

Here are a few words commemorating the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War by Arthur Silber, under the title, Tragic Reprise: A Nation of Stupid Children, Who Refuse to Give Up the Lies:
As the United States is about to begin the sixth year of its eternally unforgivable, genocidal war crime in Iraq, I direct your attention to a piece I wrote just over a year ago, on March 1, 2007. I could have selected any number of essays, but this one will do for my purposes.

"A Nation of Stupid Children, Who Refuse to Give Up the Lies" arose out of yet another of the utterly meaningless controversies of the moment. Such daily contortions over trivialities -- which contortions consume our major media and far too many bloggers of all political persuasions -- prevent us from understanding anything of significance about the actual meaning of our nation's actions. This is why so many of us love them so much: we never have to think and, of even greater importance, we never have to do a damned thing that might actually matter to stop the ongoing crimes. In this case, the circus was set in motion by John McCain's comment that the United States had "wasted a lot of ... American lives" in Iraq.

And the heavens shook. Almost no one would speak the truth, which was far, far worse than anything McCain or any other national figure had said. As I wrote:
The truth is infinitely worse than that these lives have been "wasted": these deaths have served to strengthen our enemies and weaken our own country in countless ways that our actual enemies could never have achieved on their own. That these lives have been "wasted" is the best one can say, not the worst. They are the greatest boon our enemies could dream of. These lives have not been "wasted": they are the precious tribute laid at the feet of our enemies, by our own leaders in the pursuit of indefensible and criminal aims.

Of course, the recognition of this truth requires that we act like adults, and that we are capable of coherent thought, shorn of lies. We must be willing to give up the myth of the "noble soldier" who "selflessly sacrifices" his life for the glory of the Perfect and Good United States -- and see that these individuals died in a criminal war of aggression launched to consolidate and expand America's hegemonic role, a goal embraced by almost every leading politician, Republican and Democratic, over many decades of entirely avoidable conflict, chaos and death.

I find it easier to deal with the widespread ignorance that afflicts so many Americans -- for example, the almost total lack of knowledge concerning the U.S. occupation of the Philippines that I detailed last week. Since they are rarely provided with this information, it is possible that at least some Americans might prove capable of absorbing it, and begin to question the myths that sustain their identities as "Americans."

But it is almost impossible to deal with the fact that so many Americans, almost all our political leaders, and our media virtually without exception are so relentlessly stupid, and so resolutely determined to remain so. As this latest episode in national idiocy proves yet again, and for the millionth time, this laughably pathetic state of affairs certainly would appear to be the unalterable truth of where we are.

And so we debate whether these lives were "wasted." With the blind ferocity of religious maniacs, we enforce our new Puritan code, which demands that certain prohibited thoughts may never be uttered. Violation of this code means banishment from public life and from further "serious" consideration. Every matter of importance is reduced to the intellectual level of a remarkably backward house pet.

Meanwhile, no one will stop this criminal war and occupation. And no one will do a goddamned thing to stop the next war, which could alter all our lives forever.

How in the world do most Americans face themselves each morning? Someone needs to explain that to me. I truly would like to know.
It is now a year later, and I still would like to know.

It is now a year later, and more than one million people have been murdered.

It is now a year later, and still no one will stop this damnable war and occupation.

A year from now, perhaps some American troops will have been withdrawn. But regardless of who the new president is, at least 80,000 or 90,000 American troops will remain, and probably more. The Theater of Death will go on.

A year from now, the war may very well have widened. If there is a major attack on U.S. troops in Iraq (or any of a number of similar possible incidents), if the blame is laid at the feet of Iran -- regardless of whether such a claim is true or not, and we may not know for many more years, if ever -- and if the fevered and unreasoning demand for retribution rises, fed by a media that, like our political class, has learned nothing from the catastrophes of Iraq, no U.S. president will be able to resist the tide. He or she will probably not even want to. John McCain will not stop it, Hillary Clinton will not stop it, Barack Obama will not stop it.

So, we will once more have cause to note this date in March after another year has passed. Many more people will be dead, and the chaos may have spread far beyond Iraq. And we will fiercely debate the latest instance of idiocy, while the crimes of the United States continue unimpeded and uninterrupted.

Happy Anniversary.

Iraq: Five Years Too Many (Perp Edition)

As part of the series of posts in solidarity with March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm, here's a roundup of what the perps - the ones who wanted and got their war - are saying and doing.

Dick Cheney, when asked about the mounting opposition to the war, had this to say - "So?":

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

Never mind, of course, that opinion polls have been pretty consistently against the Iraq War for quite a while now, and were part of the impetus for putting (albeit misguidedly) the Dems back in control of Congress. Then again, as at least a few of us around blogtopia have contended, the ruling class simply does not care what we "mere citizens" might think. By the way Cheney also was once more trying to link Iraq and 9/11 (gotta keep that urban myth alive, eh, Dickie?), and is claiming (despite plenty of reason to believe the opposite) that the more the US stays in Iraq, the better the Iraqis feel about the US.

Junior Caligula - taking one right out of the old Madeleine Albright playbook - claims that the high costs in lives and treasure were "necessary".

Think Progress looks at the Rogues' Gallery of Iraq War architects, and where they are now. They've largely made out like bandits. (h/t the blog)

Arthur Silber highlighted the words of some of those architects, advocates, and "Good Germans" appearing in a recent edition of New Pravda few days ago, including those of Richard Perle, Kenneth Pollack, and Paul Bremer.

Perle, as one of the war's architects is now flip-flopping a bit regarding how "easy" the war would be to "win." These days he's saying it "won't be overnight."

Pollack, one of the most vocal Iraq supporters back even before it began, and also one of those advocating and propagandizing for last year's "surge", also seems to be using the Madeleine Albright playbook. In he most recent dribblings over at WaPo, he contends that in 30 years, we'll view the Iraq War as "worth it."

Paul Bremer seems only to regret the alleged lack of a "plan." As the head honcho of the "Coalition Provisional Authority" during that first year after Junior Caligula crowed about the so-called "end" of major combat operations in Iraq, Bremer squashed Iraqi attempts to hold local town and city elections (so much for "democracy"), and somehow managed to "lose" $9 billion that was supposedly going to "reconstruction." His response? Don't worry, it was only Iraqi money.

Don't forget to check the updated Iraq War Timeline, to get a quick picture of the propaganda that Americans are fed, and those pesky inconvenient facts.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five years of war journalism from outside the corporate media

The one silver lining thinly plated around the dark cloud which is the Iraq War (and more broadly the "Global War on Terra") is the high quality journalism that has occurred - usually underneath the radar. New Pravda, WaPo, CNN, FauxNews, and so on were of course little more than stenographers for the government's propaganda, and obviously I wouldn't be giving them any props. Instead, it's a lot of these cats who dared to travel outside of The Green Zone. From TomDispatch:
And that's where Greg Mitchell, the editor of Editor & Publisher magazine, comes in.

He himself is a shining example of someone who exhibited foresight about the invasion and then regularly dealt with issues that the mainstream media was slow to pick up. Just take, for example, this initial sentence he wrote on March 7, 2003, less than two weeks before Bush's invasion began, for a piece included in his new book, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, The Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq: "Considering that we seem to be on the verge of a major war, with little firm evidence of the Iraqi WMD driving it, the questions for Bush at his final press conference before the war seems likely to start were relatively tame." Mitchell then asked 11 questions of his own, all more piercing than any posed on Sunday's Times op-ed page five years later.

As his book makes brilliantly evident, you didn't have to be wrong all the time to be an "expert" on Iraq. His article below begins the necessary acknowledgement of those who were right, or did right, in these years and it should encourage all of us to make our own lists and create our own walls of honor to go with the wall of shame the Times displayed Sunday.

My list would be long indeed, but it would certainly include: the Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) reporters Warren Stroebel and Jonathan Landy in Washington, as well as Tom Lasseter, Hannah Allam, and others in Iraq who never had a flagship paper to show off their work, but generally did far better reporting than the flagship papers; Seymour Hersh, who simply picked up where he left off in the Vietnam era (though this time for the New Yorker); Riverbend, the young Baghdad blogger who gave us a more vivid view of the occupation than any you could ordinarily find in the mainstream media (and who has not been heard from since she arrived in Syria as a refugee in October 2007); Jim Lobe who covered the neocons like a blanket for Inter Press Service; independents Nir Rosen and Dahr Jamail, as well as Patrick Cockburn of the British Independent, who has been perhaps the most courageous (or foolhardy) Western reporter in Iraq, invariably bringing back news that others didn't have; the New York Review of Books, which stepped into some of the empty print space where the mainstream media should have been (with writers like Mark Danner and Michael Massing) and was the first to put into print in this country the Downing Street Memo, in itself a striking measure of mainstream failure; and Juan Cole, whose Informed Comment website was so on the mark on Iraq that reporters locked inside the Green Zone in Baghdad read it just to keep informed.

Maybe I'd throw in as well all the millions of non-experts who marched globally before the war began because commonsense and a reasonable assessment of the Bush administration told them a disaster -- moral, political, economic, and military -- of the first order was in the offing. And, of course, that's just a start. Tom

Read the rest.

Fifth anniversary: Fragments of writing from March 2003 (with commentary)

As we're coming up on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War - largely an escalation of what had already begun under Poppy Bush and Bill Clinton - I'm taking a trip down memory lane. In March 2003 I did not as of yet have a blog, but did post to message boards and usenet groups of one sort or another. I didn't really go out of my way to archive much of what I might have written at the time, as it was largely in the form of off-the-cuff remarks. That said, here are a few fragments that capture where I was at in late March of that year. I'll try to provide some context for these fragmentary comments wherever possible.

March 18, 2003

Note - In response to a conversation regarding the alleged accuracy of the so-called smart bombs to be used in the opening bombing raids:
Well, one way to interpret the "shock and awe" strategy is that the massive bombings will end up creating massive collateral damage. The "smart bombs" aren't that smart.
Note - I expected that the Iraq War would escalate conflict, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia:
If I were the leader of one of the so-called "axis of evil" nations, I'd be pushing to get armed to the teeth with whatever weaponry possible, including biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons, if for no other reason than because of the realization that the U.S. won't stop with Iraq & that if one's country is on the list of nations to be invaded, at least those invasions would be more costly to the U.S.
March 20, 2003

Note - Regarding a conversation on the continuing world-wide protests as the war started:
Many of us did not ask for this waste of a war. We have a voice too. Bring on the noise. Word.
March 21, 2003

Note - The last part of the following sentence captures my thoughts about the actual motivation for the US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq:
Makes me wonder if Bush et al ever bothered to listen to Iraqi citizens, or if (as I suspect is way more likely) they simply made the decision to impose their vision of manifest destiny in which Iraqis are viewed strictly as sharecroppers on those Oil plantations.
Note - A bit of sarcasm aimed at some of the happy talk that permeated the opening days of the war:
The U$ has made the world safe for SUV owners everywhere. The companies will be pleased.
March 23, 2003

Note - In response to the well-worn canard that the US was "fighting terrorists in Iraq to make Americans safer at home" I wanted to point out our own home-grown right-wing Christian fundamentalist terrorists:
I'd be willing to wager all 5 cents of my life savings that the vast majority of the people being "shocked and awed" are underpaid working stiffs like me, who simply could not afford to leave.

Sometimes I find it a good idea to look close to home. How many terrorists are our major cities harboring? (i.e., people who bomb family planning clinics & target staff of these clinics for assassination; people who burn crosses in front of the homes of African-Americans, who set fire to mosques & churches, and so forth).
March 26, 2003

Note - Another response illustrating my skepticism about the US government's motives for embarking on the war:
I suppose the best way to put this is that I don't buy the premise that the war has anything to do with the human rights situation in Iraq. The Reagan/Bush crowd in the 1980s didn't give a damn back then, and the current Bush crowd doesn't give a damn now. If it suited the purposes of our government, they'd gladly place another brutal dictator in power there and politely ignore the plight of Iraqi civilians (provided of course that the dictator in question cooperates with our government).
I thought that the war was an awful idea from the get-go, having at various points prior expressed skepticism about the initial rationale for the war (i.e., the alleged WMDs that turned out to be non-existent) as well as all the b.s. about democratizing Iraq, ad nauseum. I was convinced that the people who would be hurt the most were going to be low-income Iraq civilian families, and that 21st century equivalents of Guernica and Dresden were likely to transpire before all was said and done. Indeed, if anything, the events that have transpired in the five years since the war started have been in a number of respects worse than I could have imagined. An Iraqi death toll estimated at around one million only captures part of the story. There's also the distress caused to the friends and relatives of those murdered by the "Coalition" (don't forget the mercenaries) the massive number of injured, human displacement, disease, torture, and social death experienced by those who had the misfortune of merely being in the way of the US war machine to be considered. We'll still need to come to terms with the likelihood that Iraq was yet another "laboratory" for predatory capitalist ventures, and that the chaos caused by the war is even desirable in the eyes of our ruling class.

There is no comfort to be found in being correct; only a really bad feeling at the pit of one's stomach that the various efforts to raise awareness of the lies leading up to the war as well as the likely consequences of going to war simply failed to prevent the massive loss of lives since it all began on March 19, 2003. That day will indeed live in infamy.

It's also clear in this dark year 2008 that the US is not even remotely facing up to what's going on. The "great" experts whose opinions were gathered by New Pravda a few days ago to wax philosophically about the war don't even begin to touch on the purely criminal nature of the Iraq War. Our elections are so effectively gamed so that the only "choices" left to voters are warmongers: John "One Hundred Years War" McCain; and either Hillary "was for the Iraq War from the beginning" Clinton or Barack "the kinda-sorta-but-not-really war opponent" Obama. For war opponents, like myself, neither of these candidates is particularly inspiring, and at least two of them are quite loathsome. Let's just say that I have no reason to be optimistic about any "change" from the White House coming about in the near future, save perhaps a change for the worse. Don't expect any "change" from Congress either.

Unless or until a critical mass of folks get it through their skulls that the mentality that the US owns the fucking planet is not only incorrect but dangerous, the blood of innocents will continue to be spilled. As one might gather from the fragments, I might have been somewhat more optimistic back then. I certainly would have given the ruling class too much credit in even suggesting that any of them would bother to listen to Iraqis and their concerns - inside The Beltway (along with usual cronies on Wall Street), the Iraqis were never more than fauna. Turning to members of the ruling class to get it together and stop the warmongering is not where it's at - almost without exception, they've been drinking that fire water for far too long. The summary of the last five years can be boiled down to a title to an essay by fellow blogger Arthur Silber: over one million murdered, and nothing has been learned. As far as the US elites are concerned, there is nothing to learn - other than how to commit genocide more efficiently. No, the critical mass I'm thinking about is to come from us - just ordinary folks. We're the ones who will have to say "enough is enough" in words and deeds.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Announcing: March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm

This March 19th marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. That's five years too many! To mark the occasion, fellow blogger Godless Liberal Homo has set up March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm. To give you some idea of what it's all about, here's the mission statement:
This blogswarm will promote blog postings opposing the war in Iraq and calling for a full withdrawal of foreign occupying forces in Iraq. Five years of an illegal and catastrophic war is five years too many. On the March 19 anniversary of the conquest of Iraq by the Bush Administration, there needs to be a loud volume of voices countering the pro-war propaganda from far too many politicians and corporate media outlets.
If you wish to participate, there are plenty of topics to tackle. If you're going to an anti-war demonstration, you could offer a first-hand report. You could interview an Iraq War veteran or a military family. The war has certainly laid bare any of a number of human rights abuses at the hands of the US, such as torture (does Abu Ghraib ring a bell?) and genocide (whether it's the estimated million deaths caused by the war or the mass displacement of millions of civilians - including the wholesale elimination of whole cultures). You could examine issues that otherwise are overlooked by the corporate media (how about the environmental contamination caused by the use of depleted uranium bombs, or the effects of Friedmanesque neoliberal economic policies that have been imposed on the Iraqis), or look at the positions that various political candidates and parties have taken regarding withdrawing the US military from Iraq - this is, in the US, an election year. If you know of an action alert that would be relevant to your readers, by all means make sure to spread the word. In other words, the possibilities to mark the atrocious Iraq War are many.

What else do you need to do? It's as easy as 1, 2, 3:

1. Go to March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm, and leave a comment with your blog's name and URL. Those who've signed up by February 15 (the fifth anniversary of the mass actions held around the globe against the then-impending war) will be listed as Charter Blogs. Of course, there will be updated listings of any blog that joins the blogswarm even after that deadline.

2. Add one of the kewl badges to your blog (if you wish), or if you're more artistic than I am, create your own badge.

3. Spread the word. Ultimately, blogswarms succeed with a bit of good old fashioned elbow grease. In this case, that means not only mentioning this blogswarm on your own blog, but also in comments on other relevant blogs. Say it; say it out loud; say it often.

Finally, of course, around March 19, make sure to let March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm know about what you've written in the comments.

Obviously, blogging is not a substitute for actual activism, but rather as a supplement. If you're planning to go to one of the many demonstrations that will likely be held in the US or elsewhere, by all means go. Through words and deeds, hopefully we can prevent the need for a sixth, tenth, or hundredth anniversary blogswarm in opposition to the Iraq War.

For more info, go to March 19 Iraq War Blogswarm or RickB at Ten Percent.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Daily Kos, Chevron, Bill Clinton, and Kazahkstan

Follow the bouncing ball:

So, I popped into dkos late Thursday nite and discovered a front page post by (Mr Environment/Tree Hugger Extraordinaire) Meteor Blades about massive oil company profits.

Noticeably absent: any mention of Chevron.

Now, those of you who are familiar with the history of the controversy of Chevron ads appearing at dkos may also remember kos'"it's all about the money I make" response to the fact that Chevron has abused the human rights of thousands around the world.

Running an ad doesn't imply endorsement. But, if I start rejecting ads, THEN every ad that DOES run has an implied endorsement.

And you guys aren't idiots. The advertising purity trolls seem to think that site readers are moron automatons easily manipulated by advertising. I have a higher opinion of you guys. I actually think you're quite intelligent and capable of independent evaluation of the advertising you consume here and elsewhere.

Finally, I'm not afraid of money, and I'm putting it to good use -- the abandonment of Scoop and a massive ground-up redevelopment of Daily Kos to be the ultimate blogging platform in the world, and the establishment of a corps of "fellows" to do great activism.

More details on those projects will emerge in December, but [sic] bottom line is that I won't cry if Chevron or anyone else wants to help fund the rise of a professional netroots activist class.

(I'll wait while you laugh about that "professional netroots activist class" bit.)

So, is it any wonder MB didn't mention that Chevron'a profits are up 29% more than they were a year ago. You just can't bring that up at dkos without being told one of at least 3 things by the Mighty Defenders of kos brigade:

1. This is kos' site and he has the right to make money (and who cares if he makes it by accepting major cash from big oil?)

2. We're actually fooling Chevron by taking their money (while at the same time, we're not boycotting their products or doing anything like "activism" to bring them down).

3. If you don't want to see the ads, buy a subscription to block them (ie. pay kos so you won't have to be reminded what a sell-out he is to his so-called "progressive" principles.

And what does this have to do with Bill Clinton and Kazakhstan, you ask?

Keep reading...

When "Borat-Gate" broke on dkos earlier this week, alleging that Clinton may have had a role in Canadian Frank Giustra's uranium mining deal with Kazakhstan, kossacks were outraged - outraged that Bill was dealing with a dictator from a country that had such a poor human rights record.

And that's where Chevron and kossack hypocrisy comes in yet again because this week this story also came out: Chevron venture boosts Kazakhstan oil production.

A Chevron Corp. joint venture has boosted production of oil at a field in Kazakhstan using new technology.

San Ramon-based Chevron (NYSE: CVX) has a 50 percent stake in Tengizchevroil LLP, the company doing the work in the Tengiz oil field, located on the northeast shore of the Caspian Sea in Central Asia. Chevron's partners in the venture are ExxonMobil Kazakhstan Ventures Inc., which holds a 25 percent stake; a Russian oil company, LukArco, which holds 5 percent; and the government of Kazakhstan, which owns 20 percent through its state oil company, KazMunaiGas.

Don't expect to see any outrage about that over at dkos though. That would be tantamount to blasphemy as I noted above and, as we know, kos doesn't care anyway. Just like the big oil companies, kos' concerns about human rights come second (or third or fourth) to blatant capitalist exploitation so just STFU.

To top it all off, I accidentally discovered that the city of Berkeley (where kos lives) passed a resolution last week to boycott Chevron products citing the company's "ecological destruction and involvement in human rights abuses in Angola, Burma, Ecuador and Nigeria, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area".

Oh, the irony.

You can't buy a subscription to make those facts go away, kossacks.

(crossposted at Political Fleshfeast)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Question du Jour

So, riddle me this: with all of the Obama-love™ going on over at Daily Kos, why is is that no one over there (from what I've seen) is bothered that this so-called "progressive" candidate who promises them the liberal nirvana they claim to seek (and will not come anywhere close to providing anyway) has completely snubbed that site since 2005 (when he was roundly trounced for trying to start a round of Kumbaya in the Democratic party after the John Roberts nomination)?

Now I can see why Obama wouldn't bother with that bunch considering the insanity and inanity that goes on there, but they just don't seem to care that he's not rushing over to pull them all into his grand new plan. Or, maybe they do care but they don't want to mention it because that might make him look bad.

I think it's the latter.

Friday, January 25, 2008

John Aravosis: Elitist Wanker of the Day (2nd Day in a Row)

Originally I nominated the dude strictly for the following post:
Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Dems just gave away your stimulus check

by John Aravosis (DC) · 1/24/2008 10:23:00 AM ET · Link
Discuss this post here: Comments (20) · reddit · FARK ·· Digg It!

According to AP, congressional leaders have reached a deal on those economic stimulus checks. And rather than being geared towards helping the economy, they're apparently geared towards redistributing wealth (that would be our wealth) to the poor. What a surprise. Folks in the middle (i.e, those who are not rich or poor) are screwed by the Democrats (and Republicans) yet again. Let me give you the details that just leaked, and again this may not be the final deal, but it sure sounds like it:
Families with children would receive an additional $300 per child, subject to an overall cap of perhaps $1,200, according to a senior House aide who outlined the deal on condition of anonymity in advance of formal adoption of the whole package. Rebates would go to people earning below a certain income cap, likely individuals earning $75,000 or less and couples with incomes of $150,000 or less.
That means that if you make $75,000 or more a year, no check for you. Forget that fact that you live in NYC or DC or San Francisco, where prices from property to food are outrageous. No, forget that. Some guy living in a mansion in Topeka making $74,999 a year will get his little gift from the US Treasury and you, living in NYC making $75,001 out of a 300 sq ft studio apartment will get nothing. How about my friend who bought an entire house in Baltimore for $275,000 when that would get you a very small studio in DC. I know someone who got an entire house in Ohio for $2000 a month when that would get you a one-bedroom apartment in DC. I have a friend who moved to North Carolina and got offered a bit over $75k a year. He said it was a king's ransom in NC. In DC, well, again, keep checking out those studios. And another friend has a 900 sq ft condo, and paid more for it than another friend's parents paid for their 6000 sq ft house.

That's because far too often the Democrats don't give a damn about anybody who isn't a minority or starving to death (both valid causes to be sure, but are they the ONLY causes out there?). If you're in the middle, you're on your own.

And don't think this is only about a stupid $300. It's about health care. It's about education. It's about every single issue you care about. The powers that be simply aren't in this to help people in the middle. The Republicans want to help the big pharmaceuticals and the big business hospitals, while the Democrats want to help uninsured poor people and kids. And while all of that's nice, what are the rest of us supposed to do when our premiums hit $2000 a month and, God forbid, something catastrophic hits us?

The Republicans ONLY want to help the rich, and the Democrats ONLY want to help the poor. Screw everybody else. I am so sick of these people.
Unfortunately, I guess Aravosis became both unhappy with the negative feedback that he received in mass quantities, so he killed off the original post (thus decoupling it from the 500+ comments it had received), reposted, got yet another set of negative feedback (which he subsequently censored heavily), and then deleted the post altogether. Like Sir Robin, he "bravely ran away." So, for a second day in a row, Aravosis has earns the top honors for wankery - this time for cowardice.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Never Comin' Home, b/w Stolen Moments

Loyalty oaths are a crock of shit. Almost as bad as the kind you have to consciously sign are the ones you find you'd unconsciously signed. You think you've found a friendly lodging where at least a few people will share your quirks and then just like that, you realize that you can't live there any more.

I've bailed on debunkingwhite. I was there for about a year. It's a great little livejournal "grand central" for anyone interested in anti-racist work. I've learned a lot from the space and made what I think are some valuable connections. Maybe the folks I've connected with will now be done with me, too. So be it. Frankly I can't abide all the pro-Obama hype over there and the subliminal fine print that seems to say that nobody can be a committed anti-racist unless they want to genuflect before the glory of Obama. I don't genuflect before Democrats. I think the party is a loathsome pile of shit that more or less gave Bush a blank check to do whatever the fuck he wanted. Which includes continuing to wage both a global and domestic race war that's plenty vicious even if it doesn't quite measure up in clarity to the baroque fantasies of villain-du-jour, Ron Paul. I don't sign loyalty oaths to any Democrat, in the name of any cause, anywhere. For that reason and many, many others.

Strange though it seems, I would still recommend the space to lurkers interested in the hard work activists do and (especially) the White privilege we Whites need to dismantle before we can do anything for anybody outside the personal arena. I wish I was more like these folks, but I came up short when stamina was handed out. :o It infuriates and grieves me to see good people falling for Obama, a charlatan in a party full of charlatans. I just don't, in my heart of hearts, believe that he gives a damn about the things they give a damn about. I think he's a user running with other users. More anger and more grief is something I don't need to seek out deliberately, as it finds me on its own most of the time. I've been through this before. I've been the "bad feminist," the "bad Unionist," the "bad Jew," etc. because I left the DP and refuse to come back. Life goes on.

...If people ask me why I have to roam
I say that 90% of all accidents occur in the home...
-- Peter Case

I leave you with some "Stolen Moments" from the Anti-Divine Madman:

...Just put the damned ballot boxes on an altar while we’re at it. It’s a mystery what’s happening in them already, might as well go the rest of the way with it. Let’s just hold elections on sanctified ground. Anoint voters’ foreheads with holy water or ashes or the blood of a virgin or something as they are welcomed into the sacred offering of their futures to another pious fraud...

From Prey: Our Souls, 1/09/08 Liberal Street Fighter

...[I have] no patience for the cozy lies and the careful obfuscations anymore. I would like to believe that this was really a country of diversity, that we really were willing and able to confront and reconcile our centuries of enslavement and debasement and theft and genocide. Part of me smiles to see a black man building such momentum in a country as benighted as this one. I’m a sap. I want to believe all of the hallmarkian drivel of the “promise” of America. I want to believe that WE really believed in cooperation and openness and we’re not really a nation of greedy, warmongering racists eager to expand our hegemony over the globe.

The Invisible Man may very well be the Democratic (sic) party’s nominee for President. He is willing to practice the right sorts of misdirection to keep our eyes away from the real problems we face, willing to parade his beautiful assistant/wife to captivate and enthrall. He is willing to disappear behind a fog of beautiful words and high-flown promises, encased in the cozy nostrums of faith and family and a “new generation” of “change”.

I wish I could believe, but I just can’t fill in that blank anymore. I can’t allow another corporate lawyer to coax me into seeing in him what I wish he was. The exploited lower classes in this country will not find a champion in the Invisible Man anymore than they did in Bubba Clinton...

From Fill In The Blank, 1/6/08, Liberal Street Fighter.

[Cross-posted with minor alterations to Ms. Xeno's Remainder Bin.]

Thursday, January 03, 2008

How Soon They Forget

Markos on January 2, 2008:
Obama has made a cottage industry out of attacking the dirty fucking hippies on the left, from labor unions, to Paul Krugman, to Gore and Kerry, to social security, and so on. People think I was being ticky tack with the Gore thing, and in isolation it would’ve been but a minor non-event. But it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for me, yet another in a pattern of attacks against Democrats and their constituencies.
Markos on January 20, 2003:

But it's not even just ANSWER. It's every yahoo with a pet cause. I turned on C-SPAN's coverage for 30 seconds before listening to a speaker make a pitch for slavery reparations. Nevermind that reparations is about the dumbest cause in the country today, what the heck did it have to do with opposing war against Iraq? Jeez.

Problem #2: I don't care for many of the participants. You know, those eager to relive their 60's activism using the exact same tactics as they did in the 60s, or the younger generations trying to capture a bit of that old time religion. Call me cynical, call me an asshole, but the world is a bit more complex than "make love, not war". There is a time and place for war, and blanket outrage at the concept of war is simply naive. By contrast, WTO protesters seem to be far more educated about their cause and have far more of an edge (for lack of a better word) -- which, to me, makes them more effective. Anger is good (short of smashing storefronts, that is), and far better than this "smile and sing folk songs" crap. Or the "support my pet cause and, oh yeah, oppose war while you're at it" crap.

Markos on June 5, 2005:

And I certainly won't let the sanctimonious women's studies set play that role on this site. Feel free to be offended. Feel free to claim that I'm somehow abandoning "progressive principles" by running the ad. It's a free country. Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.

Me, I'll focus on the important shit.

Or here's Markos on October 17, 2005:
I'm increasingly convinced that the biggest intra-movement divide nowadays isn't ideological -- we mostly all agree on the same things -- but generational. Old school activists view politics and the activist realm differently than new school activists (very generally speaking). Those differences manifest themselves in arguments over single issue groups, effective activism, partisanship, tone, style, pragmatism, the types of candidates we should run, etc.

New school progressives are also less tolerant of ideological orthodoxy. We don't fall in line with the "acceptable" liberal position, frankly, because we're not trained to fall in line. We are more likely to be educated in an economy that values "proactiveness" and "self-initiative" and "problem solving" over blindly following the orders of our boss. We have the tools to research any and every issue in a way inconcievable even 10 years ago. We no longer need to rely on our "leaders" or the media to tell us what the "right" position on any one issue might be. And our own individual life experiences will color our perceptions of any issue. If you are an inner city parent with shitty public schools for your kids, school vouchers probably look pretty darn good even if the theory offends progressive sensibilities.


The political landscape is different, no doubt -- the politics of old where "leaders" told us how to think and act is dead. The media landscape has changed -- the era when a few editors and producers determined our "leaders" and excluded other voices is dead.
Markos on May, 2006:
“If I was antiwar, I did it very poorly,” he says. “I supported going into Kosovo and Afghanistan. I’ve earned a lot of enmity by dismissing the antiwar protestors and the hippie mentality of the far left, this whole ‘all-war-is-bad’ bullshit. I grew up in war in El Salvador. I served in the military. I understand the concept of a good and just and fair and necessary war.”
Dude, given how you characterize Obama, and given your own past behavior of dissing core constituencies within the party you claim to be promoting, he should be your ideal candidate. There's an old saying about casting stones while living in glass houses. Might be a good time for old Markos to brush up on that one.

Bonus: of course Kos isn't the only one to indulge in the Big Orange fetish for hippie-bashing. There are others (e.g., Lestatdelc).

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy 2008!

I stole these fireworks from Sydney, Australia. Enjoy.

Oh yeah...I almost forgot the...


Happy New Year!

(2008 has to be better than last year...right??)