Sunday, June 10, 2007

News & Notes

Miscellaneous items of note:

Empire Burlesque: Seasons in Hell: Voices From the American Gulag

The Independent has a remarkable story on Sami al-Haj, the Sudanese journalist who has been held in George W. Bush's concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay for five years. Haj has not been charged with any crime, but he is undoubtedly guilty of a grave sin in the eyes of the Bush Regime: he is a cameraman for Al Jazeera.

Orcinus: Ron Paul vs The New World Order
I have to admit that when Rep. Ron Paul announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, I didn't raise much of an eyebrow, even though I am a longtime Paul watcher. After all, he's run before; his 1988 Libertarian Party candidacy attracted little attention because he ran mostly from the fringe, and his views haven't changed substantially over the years.

What I didn't expect was that his anti-war advocacy would attract as many evident admirers from the left as it seems to have, particularly those who are dissatisfied with Democrats' apparent fumbling of the Iraq war issue. Certainly, the message boards at liberal outlets like Crooks and Liars who've carried factual counterinformation about Paul have been flooded with raging defenses of the man, as have some of our comments threads.

To what extent this is an illusion created by Paul's legion of True Believers is difficult to ascertain. Paul is very well organized online -- much of his support is derived from this -- and it's entirely likely the flood of "liberals" and "progressives" who are busy arguing that someone like Paul is worth forming an alliance with are, in fact, simply part of Paul's corps and they're doing their part to muddy the waters and ultimately attract new supporters in a "Third Way" kind of strategy.

And to some extent it seems evident that they're succeeding. Mostly, they seem to be taking advantage of a combination of amnesia among those experienced enough to know better, and simple ignorance on the part of progressives who've never heard of, or paid any attention to, Ron Paul previously. They hear Paul's carefully crafted antiwar rhetoric and his critique of the Bush administration -- all of which elide or obscure his underlying beliefs -- and think it sounds pretty good, especially for a Republican.

As Sara has already explained, there's a real problem with that -- namely, for all of Paul's seeming "progressive" positions, he carries with him a whole raft of positions well to the right of even mainstream conservatives.

Does any of the following sound familiar?

Chris Hedges: Looking Back on 40 Years of Occupation
Israel captured and occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank 40 years ago this week. The victory was celebrated as a great triumph, at once tripling the size of the land under Israeli control, including East Jerusalem. It was, however, a Pyrrhic victory. As the occupation stretched over the decades, it transformed and deformed Israeli society. It led Israel to abandon the norms and practices of a democratic society until, in the name of national security, it began to routinely accept the brutal violence of occupation and open discrimination and abuse of Palestinians, including the torture of prisoners and collective reprisals for Palestinians attacks. Palestinian neighborhoods, olive groves and villages were, in the name of national security, bulldozed into the ground.

Lastly, on "Force labor", formerly known as slavery...

Inter Press Service: IRAQ: Blood, Sweat and Tears at New U.S. Embassy
The U.S. Justice Department is actively investigating allegations of forced labour and other abuses by the Kuwaiti contractor now rushing to complete the sprawling 592-million-dollar U.S. embassy project in Baghdad, numerous sources have revealed.