Saturday, September 29, 2007

More on Spanish "Downing Street"

I've always known that the real, whole truth of the Iraq War, if ever revealed, would be far worse than even I imagine it. That's probably still the case even today. As we fall further into the rabbit hole, Juan Cole brings us more on the Spanish "Downing Street Memo" in a very worthwhile post(via Empire Blurlesque).

For a devastating take on the latest confirmation of Bush's criminal intent to launch a war of aggression against Iraq – the newly released transcript of the talks between Bush and then-Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar just before the war – see Juan Cole's blistering piece: The War Crime of the Century. One central point of the transcript is Bush's admission that he had turned down Saddam's offer to go into exile – one of several offers Iraq put on the table to avoid war before the invasion, including an offer to hold free, internationally-supervised elections and allow heavily-armed foreign troops to conduct WMD inspections. But Bush wanted war; and the war came. Cole's conclusion is damningly true: "[Bush] had a real offer in the hand, of Saddam's flight. He rejected it. By rejecting it, he will have killed at least a million persons and became one of the more monstrous figures in recent world history."


Chris Floyd:

Now this is the man whom the Democrats are so slavishly eager to support on Iran. This is the man whose minions they so willingly believe about Iran, having already been lied to in precisely the same fashion about Iraq, by precisely the same kind of honorable, patriotic men of unquestionable integrity. (Colin Powell, anyone?) This is beyond cravenness, beyond cowardice, beyond incompetence, beyond even the most bitterly tragic farce. No, something else is at work here. As we have noted before – echoing the powerful arguments of Arthur Silber – the Democrats are doing this because they want to.

Amen again.

If there isn't already a hell waiting for all these people we should make one.



Liz gets hit?

Truncation. It'll get you every time.

This is what happened when the good people at Access Hollywood decided to cover Elizabeth Taylor and her new boyfriend...

Yes, that's right. It's Liz Taylor, a black man and caption that reads, "Liz Taylor: Ready to get hit..."

The actual headline, truncated by the link, reads, "Liz Taylor: Ready to get hitched again?"

I just thought that was funny. Carry on.


The Downing Street Memo: Now Available in Spanish!

I'd actually intended to do a lot less Iraq War blogging going forward, figuring that 1) others had the subject pretty well covered, 2) I'd pretty much summed it up with this post and 3) I don't want my blog to be just another collection of links. But, as will happen from time to time, something comes up that is impossible to ignore. I give you the Spanish "Downing Street" Memo, courtesy Crooks & Liars:

How much money does Bush think a US soldier’s life is worth? How much money does Bush think the lives of our allies’ soldiers or innocent Iraqis are worth?

As we’re finding out, not very much. On March 17, 2003 President Bush issued the warning: “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing ,” yet now thanks to a transcript leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, we learn that more than three weeks prior to that Bush had told former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar that “The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he’s indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he’s allowed to take $1 billion …” When confronted about the leaked transcript yesterday, Whitehouse spokeswoman Dana Perino did not dispute its accuracy.

Now, I know the idea of giving Hussein a golden parachute is a repugnant concept for a number of reasons, but exiles of equally cruel dictators aren't exactly unprecedented. Baby Doc lives in luxury in the south of France to this day, for example.

Furthermore, in some circles I dare say that starting unnecessary disastrous wars to combat mythical, trumped-up "threats" tends to be considered "bad form" in many circles as well. The key differences? One option leads to the death, dismemberment and displacement of millions more people for no good reason at all and the other doesn't while achieving the same goal, the removal of the regime.

[More after the jump]

Besides, he was such a good employee for so long he'd earned his pension from us, didn't he? There's no rule that says you can't pursue war crimes charges against him after his exile begins (Pinochet comes to mind). He could have been tried in a legitimate international court instead of being made into a half-assed martyr in a Shiite militia snuff film.

With that in mind, those who would have objected to this alternative are asked to tell the families of the nearly 4,000 fallen American servicemen, the thousands more who are wounded for life and the millions of killed, maimed and displaced Iraqi citizens that killing Saddam gangland style, rather than exiling and trying him, was worth the sacrifice they have all paid for it.

But the Bush Coup Government was not interesting in legitimate prosecution of this man. This was clear from the start and only confirmed by the trial he actually got -- as well as the controlled coverage of it. So, instead they chose the current illegal course, which is their stock and trade, and we are told with a straight face that it's working out great.

For $1-billion this could have all been over YEARS AGO. Bush took a pass on this opportunity and instead has chosen to spend more than eight times that amount ($8.4-billion) each month in addition to the millions of lives he destroys before 9am (more than most of us destroy all day). He makes this choice because, as I've said before, the limitless occupation of Iraq isn't a problem to these people. It was the goal from the very start. Everything else is pretext.

The war was never necessary. They knew this from the start. They simply want us to be there indefinitely because it makes them and their friends rich.

They don't ever intend to leave.



Monday, September 24, 2007

News Flash! Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Does Not Rule Iran

I know this may come as a shock to people who follow major broadcast and print news in the US but it's true. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, is not - I repeat, not - the ruler of Iran.

  • He does not set national policy.
  • He does not command Iran's armed forces.
  • He cannot pursue a nuclear weapons program without explicit permission (which he does not have).
  • He cannot order attacks on Israel, the US or anyone else.
  • He is a figurehead analogous to a hood ornament, put there to give the illusion of democratic rule.
Believe it or not it turns out Iran's form of democracy is a bit of a sham and some are quick to point this out whenever they get a chance. So it's a little difficult understand why those same people behave as if they believe that a popularly-elected position in such a sham of a democracy would actually come with any real power. That would seem to be an untenable position to hold, yet some of our most prominent media figures enunciate exactly these conflicting beliefs with a straight face.

The President of Columbia University, where Ahmadinejad spoke today, called him "a petty and cruel dictator". But given the set of powers listed above that he does not have I have to wonder what kind of "dictator" this is.

Well, it turns out that in addition to the office of President, which Ahmadinejad holds, the Iranian government has another official executive position called the "Supreme Leader".

Multiple choice:

Who holds more power in the Iranian Government?

A) The democratically-elected President, currently Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is subject to term limits.

B) The rarely-mentioned, unelected Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamanei, who practically serves for life.

C) Satan.

D) None of the above.

Sorry, Christian conservatives, if you chose 'C' you are incorrect (but keep trying, I may ask who calls the shots in the White House later).

The correct answer is actually 'B', the Supreme Leader (the title itself is a bit of a hint). Let that be a lesson to you, test takers. Studies have shown that 'B' is the most frequently correct choice for mulitple-choice questions.

You see, the real power in Iran is wielded by a triumverate consisting of the Supreme Leader, an Assembly of Experts which selects the Supreme Leader and an unelected Council of Guardians, selected by the Supreme Leader by the way, which screens the field of Presidential candidates down to an officially-approved list for a popular election.

This is all well known to our news establishment. Still, on a daily basis we are bombarded with reporting focusing obsessively on the temperment, attitudes, idiosyncrasies and statements of Iran's President to the near exclusion of any coverage of that nation's Supreme Leader.

This is odd in and of itself. But it's particularly odd because it's not as if our learned and serious news givers are unaware of the structure of Iran's government and the existence of a Supreme Leader there. They were certainly aware of Ayatollah Khomeini when he held the position. So what happened in the interim? How and why did the identity of the actual leader of Iran slip down the memory hole?

What's more, I don't recall similar coverage being focused on Ahmadinejad's perfectly tame and reasonable predecessor, President Mohammad Khatami and his platform of reconciliation with the west. I hear tell that Mr. Khatami's electorial defeat at the hand of Ahmadinejad was made possible by the failure of his reconciliation efforts with the needlessly truculent and belligerent George W. Bush, who responded to Khatami's overtures by naming Iran a member of the mythical "Axis of Evil" in what I still view as the single most idiotic speech given in the history of the American Presidency, his 2002 State of the Union Address.

Despite all this, you never heard much about Khatami from our news media. But today it's all Ahmadinejad all the time.

I wonder why that is.

For whatever the reason the coverage we're getting on Iran these days is absolutely ludicrous to point of being completely unreadable.

Yes, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a nut. Fine.

He denies the Holocaust. Idiotic.

But he did not, and cannot threaten to "wipe Israel from the map", not only because there is no such idiom for saying such a thing in Farsi but because he has no power to attack a mole-hill, let alone another country.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not run Iran. Lets stop pretending that he does.

Enough already.

UPDATE: As fate would have it, as I was typing this post yesterday this was just published on the pages of the NY Times:

In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts.

Political analysts here say they are surprised at the degree to which the West focuses on their president, saying that it reflects a general misunderstanding of their system.

Unlike in the United States, in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, whose role combines civil and religious authority. At the moment, this president’s power comes from two sources, they say: the unqualified support of the supreme leader, and the international condemnation he manages to generate when he speaks up.

“The United States pays too much attention to Ahmadinejad,” said an Iranian political scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “He is not that consequential.”

...unless you want to use him as an excuse to start a war.



Monday, September 03, 2007

Blame America First

Among the many contradictions rife in "conservative ideology", such as it is, is their penchant for accusing their critics of wanting to "blame America first". This meme is usually trotted out whenever someone criticizes certain aspects of US foreign policy. The first and most glaring contradiction inherent in this tactic is the fact that it is these very "conservatives" who tell us incessantly that government cannot and should not be trusted for anything, yet they demand absolute, unquestioning deference to that same government in matters of war and peace.

I plan to write about that aspect of the contradiction more extensively later. But for now I'd like to deal with a second aspect. America is more than just its government. America is also its people and it's culture and when it comes to "blaming America first", where the people and the culture are concerned no one does it better than our "conservatives". One need look no further than their reaction to the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina for confirmation of this.

In the same vein, when they see economic hardship befalling American citizens their reaction is not to examine what may be wrong with the economy to cause it. Oh, no. Instead they must look at what's wrong with Americans. They want to know what Americans are doing to mess up the perfection inherent of their crackpot theories.

Case in point, George Will, appearing on This Week with Mr. Snuffelupagus believes he has pinpointed the cause of the growing economic inequality in our nation. In a discussion on the "the meat" in John Edwards economic policy ideas Will expresses an opinion that is very typical and sadly instructive of what conservatives really believe about the average American. He says, in effect, that half of Americans are stupid and that in the old agricultural and industrial ages they could get away with it. But today we live on our "intellectual capital" and that's why these stupid people cannot keep up.

I quote:

"The meat is actually in Bob's [Robert Reich's] book and it's the problem equality. That is, is the problem of inequality in our economy becoming too wide? The problem with that is two centuries ago the great source of wealth was land and century ago it was fixed capital -- think if Carnegie steel mills. Now it's intellectual capital. The fact is 25 years ago the disparity between the earnings of a college graduate and a high school graduate was 30-percent. Now it's 70-percent. The market is screaming, "Stay in school". The problem is half of America's children are below-average in intelligence, always have been, always will be. And therefore, the more we reward intellectual capital the more these inequalities are built into our modern economy."

This is an interesting departure from the Reaganite style of blaming America first. Where Reagan said the poor want to be poor, Will says the poor should be poor because they're stupid. This theme permeates the "conservative" movement and I certainly don't mean to give the impression that Will is at all unique in this belief. I'll explore this topic more in future future posts.

In the meantime check out the video via Crooks & Liars.



The Hiatus Is Over

I haven't been posting much lately, choosing to spend more time on other things. But there are some topics I've been wanting to write about for some time. I've decided it makes more sense to grit my teeth and once again and wage my existential struggle against the Blogger editor in order to post them here than to continue to flood my friends' and family's e-mail with them. So, enough with this hiatus business. More posts coming soon.