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May 06, 2005

Final Thoughts On UK Elections (From Me At Least)

By Andrew Dobbs

I don't mean to distract people from the passing of Rep. Moreno, things are sad around here and the Capitol is said to be like a ghost town. I share with everyone else in expressing my sorrow at this loss and I'll be praying for Moreno's family tonight.

The elections last night were exciting, interesting and have shook up Westminster in ways that are quite unexpected. Let's run down some of the big implications of last night.

First, while the Lib Dems continued in their growth, they are still clearly not going to be a viable government any time in the near future. They did gain 11 seats, giving them their biggest number of seats in the Commons since 1929, but the fact that most of the swing was towards the Conservatives and not the Lib Dems suggest that when people are looking for an alternative to Labour, they look to the Tories and not the Lib Dems. Still, as Kos points out in a Guardian article, they gained four points over 2001, 11 seats and came in second in 160 constituencies, 50 more than in 2001. They are growing, but they are still not the second party that they ought to be.

Secondly, this was about the best possible outcome for the Tories. No one expected them to win-- Labour's majority was just too big. Gaining more than 30 seats and cutting Labour's majority by almost 2/3 does suggest that they are back to life. Michael Howard should not be so quick about stepping down as leader, but Tories should hope that this gives them a much-needed shot in the arm and that new leadership will mean fresh ideas for the party. Labour came back when they spelled out a unique, creative and ambitious platform for Britain. New Tory leadership could do the same for their party and turn their resurgence into a government in the next election.

Third, Tony Blair will not be PM for much longer. He is likely to hand off power to his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. Brown has always looked a bit uncomfortable mouthing the platitudes of "third-way" New Labourism. If he takes a hard tack back to the Left, it could mean jitters in the economic sector and an economic downturn that would give a big opening to the Tories. It would also take the wind out of the Lib Dems' sails. Still, he is very popular with Brits and his current leadership of the Treasury has been very wise-- his granting independence to the Bank of England will be heralded as one of the best moves Britain made domestically in the course of the twentieth century. If he can keep his popularity up and continue on a moderate political course Labour could be the majority for the long-haul.

The war was clearly unpopular in England, and Blair's character was called into question. Things have changed in Britain-- Blair received the lowest vote total for a governing majority in decades and for the first time in British parliamentary history the number of qualified voters who stayed at home exceeds the majority won by the governing party. Blair is the lamest of ducks right now and Britain is about to be undergoing some serious soul-seeking.

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May 05, 2005

UK Election Open Thread

By Byron LaMasters

Labour looks to win a third majority in a row for Tony Blair, although sharply reduced from their current majority. I'm watching the BBC coverage on C-SPAN. Let us know your thoughts.

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May 04, 2005

To The Random Brit Browsing Our Site: Vote Lib Dem

By Andrew Dobbs

Tomorrow is Election Day in the UK, and British voters have an important choice in front of them. It isn't the choice that would seem most likely on the surface: whether you want a government led by Labour, Conservatives or Liberal Democrats. Tony Blair is going to win, period. It would take a monumental, unprecedented and completely unforeseen jump from the Labour Party to one of the others to ensure any other outcome. That is not the choice.

The choice isn't even about whether you think Tony Blair has done a good or bad job. The fact of the matter is he's been better than average. He exaggerated claims about Iraq even more than Bush did, and that was wrong (especially when there were solid reasons for going to war without having to lie) and many of his top proposals have been a bust (NHS waiting lists are still too long, hospitals are dirty, schools have become unmanageable). On top of that he has failed Britain on some pressing issues, introducing tuition fees in Britain's public universities, failing to address increased long-term care costs for the elderly, letting local taxes spiral out of control for those on fixed incomes. Despite all of this, Britain has seen 13 straight years of economic growth, and more people have jobs now than any time in the last several decades. And despite the bellyaching by various elements in the UK, he was on the right side of the war against terror, investing his nation's honor and resources in the effort to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.

But the question shouldn't be about that. When you know that Labour is going to win, you are presented with a powerful opportunity-- the opportunity to realign the political order. Tony Blair's "New Labour" mantra changed the political divide in England and established a new consensus. Now there is an opportunity to return the Liberals to their classic position as the second party in the British system. British voters can listen to the clap trap that Tony Blair is throwing out there about how voting for Lib Dems will return a Tory government (though that is next to impossible), or they can cast their vote for a fast-growing, progressive-minded, increasingly trustworthy party-- the Liberal Democrats.

Imagine this scenario. Imagine if, tomorrow, the Lib Dems get 28% of the vote (the most they would have gotten in decades), the Tories get 30% of the vote and Labour gets 35% (with the rest going to minor parties). Using the BBC's nifty seat calculator, that would mean a solid Labour majority of 116 (though a 22 seat loss for the government), a two seat gain for the Tories and a 23 seat gain for the Liberals. What would the implications be? First, it would hasten Tony Blair's handing over power to the more social democratic chancellor Gordon Brown. It would also mean that the Tories would be seen as an increasingly unviable choice for government, while the Liberal Democrats are emerging as the second party of British government. Continued refinement of message, continued build up of resources and a little bit of discipline could mean that in 2010 the Liberal Democrats emerge as the second party in Britain.

A Labour/Lib Dem divide means that the questions won't be whether or not government should support the most vulnerable, whether or not tax policy should be progressive, whether or not education, health care and other necessities ought to be priorities of the Parliament; but rather how those noble goals ought to be achieved. Britain will be a better country for that.

This isn't to say that the Conservatives don't have some interesting ideas and priorities. I think that their rhetoric on immigration has been rather nativist, but I think that the issue must be addressed-- Britain's values are changing, their culture is being impacted in dramatic ways. They are having trouble assimilating thousands of poor immigrants and it is causing alienation that leads to a multitude of social problems. Something must be done and only the Tories have had the guts to say something, though their guts have gotten in the way of their hearts. Also, I am a skeptic of European integration, particularly for the least European of all EU countries- the United Kingdom. I think that it is in Britain's best interest to remain a part of the EU that keeps its fellow countries at a healthy distance. Only the Tories are a serious Euroskeptic party (without the frightening far-rightism of UKIP or BNP). But the Tories are unprepared to lead and their message is muddled. Better a tried-and-true Tony Blair or an exciting-and-fresh Charles Kennedy than a muddle-headed unreformed Thatcherite like Michael Howard.

In the end, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Lib Dems. It is time that they emerge as Britain's primary challengers to Labour and redefine the political system in the cradle of parliamentary democracy. Tony Blair will still be PM on Friday, but hopefully some Friday down the road, the ginger-haired Scot will get the opportunity.

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April 19, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

By Byron LaMasters

As you might imagine, I'm disappointed with the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as the next Pope, but it could certainly be worse. I agree with the Kos post that progressives ought to refrain from calling this guy a Nazi, because he was not a Nazi, and actually had the courage to stand up to the Nazi's on several occasions. Furthermore, as a 78 year old man, it is unlikely that he will serve nearly as long as John Paul II, and is most likely to serve in a more transitional role.

While I believed it unlikely that a socially progressive pope would be elected, I had hoped that the next pope would focus more on social justice issues such as poverty, hunger and HIV/AIDS. I still hope that is the case, as opposed to the pope focusing on controversial social issues, but we shall see. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this. Use the comment section as an open thread to discuss the new pope.

Update: Andrew Sullivan has some thoughts on the election today that are certainly worth taking a look at.

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April 15, 2005

Why do Senator Hutchison's staffers love Marxist terrorism?

By Jim Dallas

The Mujahedin-el Khalq (MEK) are, to put it bluntly, not nice people. The State Department describes them as a foreign terrorist organization:

The MEK philosophy mixes Marxism and Islam. Formed in the 1960s, the organization was expelled from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and its primary support came from the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein since the late 1980s. The MEK’s history is filled with anti-Western attacks as well as terrorist attacks on the interests of the clerical regime in Iran and abroad...

Nonetheless, that didn't stop some of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's aides from attending a MEK get-together in Washington yesterday, according to Nick Hoover at The Agonist.

(more below)

To be sure, the group invited dozens of senators and representatives, but only a few decided to show. Why? Consider:

Former members and friends of members of the group describe the organization, which insists its members be celibate, as a cult. "They take your individuality and beliefs and tell you that all the love you have must go to the leadership," Sametipour says. "That's how they make terrorists."

Ronak Dashti, 20, who was also introduced to a reporter by the Iranian government, said she was abducted in Turkey by MEK members who took her to Iraq. There, she says, she had to sign documents saying she had no right to contact her family and should not think about marriage. She and three other defectors described communal living, hours of menial work and nightly self-criticism sessions.

(USA Today, Thursday)

In 1991, MEK fighters were on the front lines of Saddam's brutal counterinsurgency campaigns in the Shiite south and Kurdish north. "Up until the fall of the regime, they were part and parcel of the Iraqi military. And they were heavily involved in suppressing the Kurdish uprising of 1991," the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan representative in Washington, Qubad Talabani, said yesterday.


Some congressmen shared Ms. Rajavi's position on the terrorist designation. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican of Colorado, compared those gathered yesterday to America's Founding Fathers. Not all members of the Iranian opposition, however, have such fond words for the MEK. The organization has been left out of the nascent movement inside the country to press for a constitutional referendum.

An Iranian activist in Los Angeles, Roxanne Ganji, told The New York Sun yesterday, "They are definitely a cult, and that is a dangerous thing. If anyone goes to Iran and takes the pulse of the people, though, 90% would never allow them to go back. That does not mean the information they gave America was not good. But they are a terrorist organization. If the United States wants information, then they can get it from viable groups and not terrorists."

(New York Sun, "Iranian Group Asks State To Lift Terror Designation", pg. 8, this morning)

Contrary to what some may say, there are many opposition groups in Iran which refuse to work with the MEK on principle. So why would any thinking person support them?

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend," said terrorism expert Neil Livingstone at a news conference in Washington in February where he and several retired U.S. diplomats and military men unveiled a new organization, the Iran Policy Committee, whose goal is to overthrow the Iranian government by supporting Iranian opposition groups.

(USA Today, Thursday)

In 2003, the Washington Post reported that some senior administration figures would like to use the MEK as a proxy force in Iran, in the same manner that the Northern Alliance was employed against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

("Oil and The Coming War with Iran", Wednesday)

I am inclined to remind Senator Hutchison that this lovely theory worked out real well the last time we employed terrorists for geo-strategic purposes. And the time before that.

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April 14, 2005

Harold Meyerson on Mexico

By Jim Dallas

From the Washington Post:

Democracy may be all well and good, but Lopez Obrador is just not Bush's kind of guy. As mayor of Mexico City, he's increased public pensions to the elderly and spent heavily on public works and the accompanying job creation. He's criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement as a boon for the corporate sector and a bust for Mexican workers. (As economist Jeff Faux has documented, while productivity in Mexican manufacturing rose 54 percent in the eight years after NAFTA's enactment, real wages actually declined.) He's opposed to Fox's plan to privatize Mexico's state-owned oil and gas industry -- a stance that probably doesn't endear him to the Texas oilmen currently employed as president and vice president of the United States.

Worse yet, Lopez Obrador's populist politics and smarts have made him the most popular political leader in Mexico today. The much touted "free-market" economics of President Fox have done nothing to improve the lives of ordinary Mexicans. Lopez Obrador's victory in next year's election would mark a decisive repudiation of that neo-liberal model. Coming after the elections of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina and Hugo Chavez (repeatedly) in Venezuela, it would be one more indication, a huge one, that Latin America has rejected an economics of corporate autonomy, public austerity and no worker rights.

So, democracy in Ukraine? We'll be there. Lebanon? Count on us. Kyrgyzstan? With bells on. Mexico? Where's that? Maybe they should move to Central Asia, change their name to Mexistan and promise to privatize the oil. That's the kind of democracy the Bush guys really like.

America-bashing is not exactly a road to salvation, and there are plenty of folks who think Lula is doing a good job of accomodating global capitalism in Brazil (and frankly, I doubt Lopez Obrador would be a much of a real left-winger if he is elected, either). At any rate, regardless of whether or not you buy into Meyerson's cynical theory of U.S. - Mexican relations, we've claimed to be the indispensable democracy-promoting nation. It stands to reasont that watching a legal lynching in Mexico without comment is not exactly a bold, principled thing to do.

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April 02, 2005

Mexican Democracy Watch

By Jim Dallas

In about a year, Mexico will have its first post-PRI presidential election. Lindsay at Majikthise brings our attention to what may be a less-than-spectacular turn of events: the upcoming impeachment trial of Mexico City Mayor Andres Miguel Lopez Obrador.

The PRI and PAN both would benefit greatly if the PRD were wounded by scandal. While Mexico is now a two-and-a-half party system, with the PRI contesting the PAN in the north and the PRD in the south, my gut tells me this is ultimately an unstable arrangement, and the likely result is probably a two-party system. Which two parties, though, is a big question.

Vicente Fox, of course, is barred from re-election by Mexico's constitution.

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March 31, 2005

Anyone Surprised?

By Zach Neumann

This morning, the NY Times reported that U.S. intelligence pertaining to WMD’s in Iraq was patently incorrect. I don’t think this comes as a shock to anyone. Check out the story:

A report made public this morning concludes that American intelligence agencies were "dead wrong" in almost all of their prewar assessments about the state of unconventional weapons in Iraq, and that on issues of this importance "we simply cannot afford failures of this magnitude."

It adds, "The harm done to American credibility by our all too public intelligence failures in Iraq will take years to undo."

The report concludes that while many other nations believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, "in the end, it was the United States that put its credibility on the line, making this one of the most public - and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history."

The failure was in large part the result of analytical shortcomings, the report adds, saying "intelligence analysts were too wedded to their assumptions about Saddam's intentions," referring to the ousted Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein."

But in the end the agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, collected too little for the "analysts to analyze, and much of what they did collect was either worthless or misleading."

The failures the commission found in Iraq are not repeated everywhere, the report says, but "flaws we found in the intelligence community's Iraq performance are still too common," the report declares.

It adds: "We must use the lessons from those failings, and from our successes as well, to improve our intelligence for the future, and do so with a sense of urgency."

The Economist had something along these lines last week. I guess it goes without saying that the greatest tool in the war against terrorism is information. Given the fact that the application of conventional military force does little to halt the spread of non state militants, it is vital that we fully develop our special forces, elite police units and intelligence agencies. Despite arguments made to the contrary by the Bushies in the National Security Strategy (NSS), America’s primary response to the threat of terrorism is still regime change. This has not (and will not) work. Though I’m not a fan of Donald Rumsfeld, I think he realizes this to an extent. While he has (obviously) supported the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, he has also attempted to revamp the capabilities of the U.S. military to deal with unconventional threats. To a large extent, this has included major changes to our intelligence infrastructure. Hopefully, his proposals will be taken seriously (despite suffering a significant setback last week).

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March 30, 2005

I think I'm going to be sick...

By Zach Neumann

It’s been confirmed. The United States has (and probably) is deporting terror suspects to foreign countries to be tortured by governments not bound by petty little things like due process of law. The NY Times reports:

Maher Arar, a 35-year-old Canadian engineer, is suing the United States, saying American officials grabbed him in 2002 as he changed planes in New York and transported him to Syria where, he says, he was held for 10 months in a dank, tiny cell and brutally beaten with a metal cable.

Now federal aviation records examined by The New York Times appear to corroborate Mr. Arar's account of his flight, during which, he says, he sat chained on the leather seats of a luxury executive jet as his American guards watched movies and ignored his protests.

The tale of Mr. Arar, the subject of a yearlong inquiry by the Canadian government, is perhaps the best documented of a number of cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which suspects have accused the United States of secretly delivering them to other countries for interrogation under torture. Deportation for interrogation abroad is known as rendition.

In papers filed in a New York court replying to Mr. Arar's lawsuit, Justice Department lawyers say the case was not one of rendition but of deportation. They say Mr. Arar was deported to Syria based on secret information that he was a member of Al Qaeda, an accusation he denies.

I understand that certain constitutional provisions have to be circumvented from time to time in the name of national security. However, I question if this is one of those times. I am posting this because I find myself in something of an intellectual quagmire. While my small-l-liberal sensibilities are shaken when I read about this case, I still understand that the government needs to be able to deal with potential terrorists quickly. It seems there is no right answer here. More than anything, this article makes me sad because I’m beginning to realize that security and liberty are not completely compatible. While this conclusion may seem obvious to some, it is one I’ve just come to accept. I am deeply disturbed by all of this.

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March 02, 2005

Arms Race with China?

By Zach Neumann

Things with the Chinese keep getting thicker. This morning, the NY Times reported that the European Union is probably going to move forward with plans to remove an arms ban on China:

Senior members of Congress from both parties emerged from a meeting with President Bush on Tuesday warning Europe that if it lifts its ban on arms sales to China, the United States may retaliate with severe restrictions on technology sales to European companies.

The warning came after Mr. Bush, on his trip to Europe last week, twice cautioned the Europeans not to lift the restrictions, in place for 15 years. His insistence was based, at least in part, on a new American intelligence assessment that Beijing is rapidly becoming better equipped to carry out a sophisticated invasion of Taiwan and to counter any effort by the United States to react to such an attack, administration officials and intelligence analysts say.

After the White House meeting on Tuesday, Senator Richard G. Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that if the ban is lifted - as European leaders have said they plan to do in coming months - Congress could react with "a prohibition on a great number of technical skills and materials, or products, being available to Europeans." The ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, called a lifting of the ban "a nonstarter with Congress."

Their statements reinforce warnings that Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made in meetings with Europeans over the past several weeks that the weapons sales would amount to a transfer of even more sophisticated military technology to China. But European officials say that the concerns are overstated, and that they are considering a compromise proposal that would keep advanced technologies from being exported.

Although Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice have spoken publicly about the sale of heavy weapons, Pentagon officials say the biggest concern is the technology that goes with it, including radar and battlefield communication systems that could take China's rapid military buildup to a new level. And to make their case, the officials have begun to discuss how such technology would give China an increased ability to intimidate Taiwan with the threat of invasion if it moves too aggressively toward independence.

The motivations for the officials to discuss this intelligence in interviews over the past two weeks are varied, and certainly include concerns about how the Chinese buildup could affect American security interests. But the discussion also comes as Congress takes up Mr. Bush's new spending proposals, which devote a majority of supplemental funding to land forces and the war in Iraq, while missions related to perceived threats from China fall mainly to the Navy and the Air Force.

What is the EU thinking?!. Though, I hate to say it, I’m having a John Mearsheimer moment. I believe that it would be foolish for Europe or the United States to provide armaments to the Chinese government. Aside from blatant, continued human rights violations (which I am going to sidestep here), the Chinese have engaged in a massive naval buildup since 2002. As the article details, China is attempting to develop a military capabilities on par with those of the United States.

This is extremely dangerous. Though I could care less about preserving the “autonomy” of Taiwan, it is not in the best interest of the Atlantic powers to sell arms to an emerging power. With the world’s largest population and a rapidly modernizing economy, China will soon be able to rival the United States in the North Pacific. If their military expansion continues unabated, this power will take on global proportions, posing a significant threat to Western hegemony. In the long run, China’s expansion could throw the world back into a multi polar system, greatly increasing the chances for major power war.

Though I do not think we should make an enemy of China, certain actions must be taken to slow the growth of this potential future rival. They include: 1. Expanding and fortifying our Pacific Fleet. 2. Encouraging the remilitarization of Japan 3. Preventing the Chinese from acquiring sophisticated Western military technology 4. Encouraging the Chinese to hold off on expanding the size of their nuclear force (perhaps through subsidies and confidence building measures??) 5. Engaging the Chinese government through strong economic ties and improved diplomatic relations— it is only by making politicians in Bejing feel secure can we significantly slow Chinese military growth.

While the Bush administration is (rightly) concerned with fighting terrorism, I think they need to be aware that this is ultimately a temporary action based on passing circumstances. Very soon, I feel, the world will be plunged back into multi-power conflict, and we need to be ready for it.

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February 26, 2005

Democracy in Egypt?

By Zach Neumann

Recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called off a visit to Egypt to protest the imprisonment of Al-Ghad opposition leader Ayman Nour. It looks like Hosni Mubarak is attempting to mount a response. I don’t know how sincere this is, but it seems that Egypt might be considering democratic reform.

President Hosni Mubarak asked Egypt's Parliament on Saturday to amend the Constitution to allow for direct, multiparty presidential elections later this year for the first time in the nation's history.

On the face of it, the unexpected proposal from Mr. Mubarak, a former Air Force general who has ruled Egypt unchallenged since 1981, represents a sea change in a country with a 50-year history of autocratic, one-party governments.

"The president will be elected through direct, secret balloting, opening the opportunity for political parties to run in the presidential elections and providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate for the people to chose from with their own will," Mr. Mubarak said, speaking live on television before an audience at the University of Menoufiya in the Egyptian delta.

Some opposition politicians and other analysts hailed the proposal as heralding a new political era for Egypt, the Arab world's most populous nation, while skeptics said they wanted to await the details to be sure that the eventual constitutional amendment would not create only the appearance of democracy, a commonplace in the region.

Again, I want to emphasize how skeptical I am about Mubarak’s sincerity. He has made it fairly clear on several occasions that he wants his son to succeed him. Moreover, all he has offered at this point is some feel good, pro-democracy rhetoric (perhaps to assuage the concerns of the United States). I’m going to keep following this one…

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February 02, 2005

It Isn't Vietnam...

By Andrew Dobbs

If you don't read Christopher Hitchens, you are missing out. A strange bird- a radical Leftist of the Marxist variety who whole-heartedly supports the War in Iraq- his writing is among the most articulate and interesting you can read. From urging the imprisonment of Henry Kissinger for war crimes to lauding Susan Sontag, from arguing in a special Vatican proceding that Mother Teresa was a bad person to celebrating Paul Wolfowitz, you can almost certainly find something to agree with in his writing, and if you can't it is still interesting reading nonetheless. Much better than the reflexively propagandistic nature of most conservative writing and far more intelligent than the insipid sloganeering of the Left, he should be on everyone's reading list.

This week he has a thought-provoking piece that tears apart the "Iraq is the new Vietnam" meme limb by limb with devastating insightfulness. I'll quote just a bit before adding my own ideas on the matter:

Whatever the monstrosities of Asian communism may have been, Ho Chi Minh based his declaration of Vietnamese independence on a direct emulation of the words of Thomas Jefferson and was able to attract many non-Marxist nationalists to his camp. He had, moreover, been an ally of the West in the war against Japan. Nothing under this heading can be said of the Iraqi Baathists or jihadists, who are descended from those who angrily took the other side in the war against the Axis, and who opposed elections on principle. If today's Iraqi "insurgents" have any analogue at all in Southeast Asia it would be the Khmer Rouge.

Vietnam as a state had not invaded any neighbor (even if it did infringe the neutrality of Cambodia) and did not do so until after the withdrawal of the United States when, with at least some claim to self-defense, it overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. Contrast this, even briefly, to the record of Saddam Hussein in relation to Iran and Kuwait.

Vietnam had not languished under international sanctions for its brazen contempt for international law, nor for its building or acquisition, let alone its use of, weapons of mass destruction.

Vietnam had never attempted, in whole or in part, to commit genocide, as was the case with the documented "Anfal" campaign waged by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.

In Vietnam the deep-rooted Communist Party was against the partition of the country and against the American intervention. It called for a boycott of any election that was not an all-Vietnam affair. In Iraq, the deep-rooted Communist Party is in favor of the regime change and has been an enthusiastic participant in the elections as well as an opponent of any attempt to divide the country on ethnic or confessional lines. (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is not even an Iraqi, hates the Kurds and considers the religion of most Iraqis to be a detestable heresy: not a mistake that even the most inexperienced Viet Cong commander would have been likely to make.)

Hitchens was (and is) a committed opponent of the Vietnam War and supports the action in Iraq, so his commentary is a bit more enlightening than the Leftists who oppose both for bad reasons or Right wingers who support both for even worse ones. It basically boils down to the point that in Vietnam you had a popular nationalist movement that had the materiel and military support of two superpowers that was invaded by a misguided United States after they had already won and before they had really done anything worth invading them over. In Iraq, on the other hand, the "insurgency" is an unpopular minority of a minority (only a handful of tribal groups among the Sunni minority, really) that has no real territory of its own and has only pittance support from an impoverished Iran and an al Qaeda that is a ghost of its pre-Afghanistan War power. Furthermore, rather than fighting for an independent Iraq, they are fighting for a return of either Saddam Hussein or the establishment of a non-Kurdish Sunni theocracy- not something the 80% of the country that is either Kurdish, Shi'ia or Christian are really down with. And finally the insurgency and their two icons- Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein- are both guilty of grievous crimes against their neighbors and the United States.

Insurgencies only win when they convince a sizeable portion of the population to support them, when they have steady sources of arms and other resources and territorial bases to launch their campaign from. The Baathist/Sunni Supremacist axis in Iraq has none of these, and with the successful conduct of elections this past weekend the people of Iraq have an outlet for their concerns that is far more peaceful and infinitely more effective than the insurgency. It is just a matter of time before they run out of fighters, out of weapons, out of money, out of patience and out of time. This Iraqi election was no propaganda ploy as 1967 Vietnam's was, and this "insurgency" is no Vietcong.

We're going to win this one, and it'll be something we can all be proud of.

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February 01, 2005

More from Sudan

By Zach Neumann

The U.N. has reached definite conclusions about the violence in Sudan. The NY Times reported today that:

A United Nations commission investigating violence in the Darfur region of Sudan reported Monday that it had found a pattern of mass killings and forced displacement of civilians that did not constitute genocide but that represented crimes of similar gravity that should be sent to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.

In a 176-page report, the five-member panel said that its finding that genocide had not been committed "should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region," and that "international offenses such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."

The commission was appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan in October to determine whether genocide had occurred in Darfur, in Western Sudan, where about 70,000 villagers have been killed and 1.8 million driven from their land.

It was also asked to determine how anyone convicted should be punished, and it answered by saying it "strongly" recommended that the Security Council refer the Darfur crimes to the international court in The Hague. It said the crimes in Darfur met the jurisdictional terms of the 1998 treaty creating the court.
That course of action is favored by most members of the 15-member Council, but the United States has said it will vigorously resist because it objects to the court.

The panel said the Sudanese justice system had proved unwilling or unable to pursue the crimes in what it described as a "climate of almost total impunity for human rights violations."
While the commission said that no evidence of an organized governmental act of genocide existed, it suggested that there might have been government officials and other people who acted "with genocidal intent." Only a court could make that determination, it said.

Many prominent politicians and academics have condemned the U.N. commission for its refusal to brand the tragic events in Sudan as constituting genocide. Though I can understand their dismay, I feel that the U.N. commission made a wise, if not popular, decision.

The term genocide was devised by Samuel Lemkin in the 1940’s to describe “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” In creating the word genocide, Lemkin was attempting to give a specific label to the phenomenal crimes of the Holocaust. By all accounts, he was successful. Genocide was quickly adapted into popular usage and came to describe the routinized destruction of specific national and ethnic groups.

In recent years, Lemkin’s “word” has taken on unintended meanings as it has been used by policymakers to describe widespread violence against civilian populations. While I think it is of the utmost importance to capture the horrors that occur when a state makes war against its people (or against those of another state), such descriptions must be distinguished from act of genocide. In my mind, genocide is a crime that’s magnitude far exceeds that of massive slaughter. Tainted by fanatical racism, genocide represents the potential elimination of entire cultural and language groups—a loss to human civilization that has implications that extend far beyond physical death.

Getting back to Sudan, I do not think that the atrocities in Darfur constituted genocide. While I agree (with the U.N. commission) that the actions of Bashir et al. entailed violence on par with genocide, I think they took a bold step in making a distinction between tremendous slaughter and the systematic extermination of an entire national/cultural group.

Samantha Power’s book, “A Problem From Hell” influenced this post. I would recommend it to anyone interested in genocide.

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January 30, 2005

Representative Government?

By Byron LaMasters

I'm pleased that the Iraqi elections were completed without widespread violence, however, I fear that the National Assembly will hardly be representative of the Iraqi people. Via Juan Cole are some Zogby Poll results:

Sunni Arabs who say they will vote on Sunday: 9% Sunni Arabs who say they definitely will not vote on Sunday: 76% Shiites who say they likely or definitely will vote: 80% Kurds who say they likely or definitely will vote: 56%

What would be the American equivalent of such results? Juan Cole adds more:

On the other hand, if the turnout is as light in the Sunni Arab areas as it now appears, the parliament/ constitutional assembly is going to be extremely lopsided. It would be sort of like having an election in California where the white Protestants all stayed home and the legislature was mostly Latinos, African-Americans and Asians.

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Iraqi Elections

By Jim Dallas

Polls are slated to close in about 75 minutes (at 8 a.m. Houston time, or 5 p.m. Baghdad time).

Turnout is high in some places, low in others. There were several cowardly bombings in Baghdad, as well as other acts of violence.

Will the elections produce a clear winner? Juan Cole points to a poll that shows the UIA (the group associated with, et alia, moderate Shi'a clerics) to have a large plurality, but not a majority.

Nonetheless, perhaps the biggest issue for most Iraqis is the one that's not on the ballot: whether the U.S. should disengage.

P.S. Don't expect results any time soon. We're gonna have us a good ol' fashioned American-style election, with weeks worth of counting, accusations about accounting, possible recounts, etc.

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January 25, 2005

Securing the blessings of liberty

By Jim Dallas

This new article in the occasionally-respectable New Republic is really all I have to say about why I am a dippy good-government liberal. Southern Nigeria may be as close to Hobbes' state of nature as we're likely to see these days (OK, except perhaps in Iraq or Afghanistan-outside-of-Kabul).

We've talked a lot about "Reform Democrats" around here; but sometimes it's worth keeping in mind that by world standards, America is already a pretty honest, virtuous, and efficient country. And I would tend to think that most everybody ought to be in favor of keeping it that way.

(Also worth pondering: should we increase our foreign aid budget? Would it be more effective and sincere than piecemeal efforts by multinational corporations? Or merely run into the same difficulties; to wit, corruption and a lack of security?)

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January 24, 2005

The Manchurian Candi-debt

By Jim Dallas

Atrios is beating the foreign debt horse again. And this Kos diary seems to make things seem like they're ready to rumble.

My understanding is that the Chinese central bank's motive in buying so many U.S. bonds stems from the peg between the RMB and the dollar, and the likelihood that the failure to prop up the dollar would result in massive unemployment in China (or so I've been told). So it's not so much inspired James Bond-ian evil Chinese scheming (remember Goldfinger - the Chinese trying to destroy the U.S. dollar by irradiating our gold supply!) as it is political realism.

Nonetheless, it seems like we're being driven into a macroeconomic trainwreck by technocrats on both sides of the Pacific.

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January 23, 2005

The Previous Wars on Terrorism

By Jim Dallas

For the younger readers, a brief reminder that terrorism has been an issue in politics since at least the 1950s, when Puerto Rican terrorists shot up Congress and tried to kill Harry Truman.

Some observers have noted the parallels between the 9/11 hi-jackings and earlier hi-jackings in the 1960s; and we now learn that the 9/11 scenario was actually considered by government terrorism experts as early as 1972.

(Additionally, we learn, the United Nations has been ignoring terrorism for just as long).

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January 07, 2005

Mandela speaks out on HIV/AIDS

By Zach Neumann

Nelson Mandela once again displayed the courage and resolve that made him famous. The NY Times reports:

Nelson Mandela, who has devoted much of his life after leaving South Africa's presidency to a campaign against AIDS, said Thursday that his son had died of the disease in a Johannesburg clinic. The son, Makgatho L. Mandela, 54, had been seriously ill for more than a month, but the nature of his ailment had not been made public before his death on Thursday. At a news conference in the garden of his Johannesburg home, the elder Mr. Mandela said he was disclosing the cause of his son's death to focus more attention on AIDS, which is still a taboo topic among many South Africans. To keep the illness secret would wrongly imply that it is shameful, he said. "That is why I have announced that my son has died of AIDS," he said. "Let us give publicity to H.I.V./AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and say somebody has died because of H.I.V./AIDS, and people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary."

I am glad to see prominent African leaders being upfront about the HIV/AIDS crisis. I hope that Mandela’s behavior will inspire others to take a more personal approach to victims.

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January 03, 2005

Where's James Dobson when you actually need him?

By Nathan Nance

Guest post by Nate Nance

As much as I disagree with and am totally creeped out by James Dobson and his ilk in the Christian Right, I have to give them props for being able to raise huge amounts of money for their causes. you know, things like gay bashing and fundamentally altering the Constitution to take away freedoms. But they do raise money.

So where is the Christian Right and where is their money to help out with tsunami relief. Digby has a listing of several Christian Right Web sites that, as of today, still have nothing about where to send money or to donate anything. I mean, come on, a disaster of Biblical proportions, these guys should be all over this. The only person on the Christian Right I've heard mention anything about the tsunami was glad it killed so many gay Swedish people. What the hell?

Before I totally come off as a hypocrite because I haven't really mentioned anything about where to send donations (or send cash as our Dear Leader might say), I just assumed that you're all geeks like me and you play around with goofy Google searches in your spare time. If not, then this should take you where you need to go. I'm sure you've got at least five bucks in your checking account that can be spared for the Red Cross or one of the other relief agencies. I've heard members of the Indonesian govt. claim that 400,000 people lived in one affected area alone and that has been totally destroyed and there is no way to find out if anyone is still alive, so this 155,000 could be way below the mark. Not to mention the untold billions of dollars worth of damage.

This is a guest post from Nathan Nance. He can be reached at nate_nance@yahoo.com.

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December 31, 2004

Who will Lead Iraq?

By Byron LaMasters

Juan Cole brings us the platform of the United Iraqi Alliance, the party most likely to win the upcoming Iraqi elections:

1. A united Iraq - land and people - with full national sovereignty.

2. A timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq.

3. A constitutional, pluralistic, democratic and federally united Iraq.

4. Iraq that respects the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people. The state religion is Islam.

5. Iraq that respects human rights, that does not discriminate on the grounds of sects, religions, or ethnicities, and that preserves the rights of religious and ethnic minorities and protects them against persecution and marginalization.

6. Iraq that provides a climate of peaceful coexistence among Iraqis without preferential treatment for any group.

7. Iraq in which the judiciary is independent and in which justice and equality prevail.

Juan notes two key issues that are perhaps troubling to the Bush administration. First, the platform calls for a specific timetable towards the withdraw of U.S. troops. Later in the platform, Juan mentions that the party promises membership in the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. That suggests the the new Iraqi government would join other Arab nations in non-recognition of Israel until those organizations reached a settlement with Israel. It's certainly worth reading the full post by Juan Cole to understand what sort of policies we can expect from a future Iraq.

Update: Juan Cole has more, and this certainly isn't promising.

Candidate name recognition doesn't appear very important, however. For security reasons, the actual names of most candidates on the 78 party or multiparty lists have so far not been released. This odd situation, in which the candidates are not known amonth before the election, attests to how dire the political and security situation in Iraq really is.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that it's kind of hard to know who to vote for when you don't know who is actually going to be on the ballot.

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December 28, 2004

60,000+ Dead

By Byron LaMasters

The death toll keeps going up from the earthquake in Sumatra the other day.

It's impossible for most of us to actually grasp the magnitude of such a tragedy. Like Charles, I have no words of my own to describe what people affected by this are going through. So, I decided to spend a few hours this afternoon scrolling through blogs of those who experienced the earthquake / tsunami first hand. Here are some of their words...

Sri Lanka 1:

The sheer brute violence of that single wave is staggering. Every house and fishing boat has been smashed, the entire length of the east coast. People who know and respect the sea well now talk of it in shock, dismay and fear. Some work to do this week.

Sri Lanka 2:

For those of you who don’t know: An earthquake shock Sumatra on Sunday morning registering 9.0 and causing a tidal wave that devastated most of the countries in the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka is the worst hit with 12,000 presumed dead and still counting and two million at least displaced.

We need aid. We need food, clothes and bottled water. We need you to help. Red Cross and Oxfam are helping but we have local efforts here that you can all contribute to as well no matter where you are in the world.

There is no food staples in the city: people have either started hoarding food or have started to buy up all the food to donate it to the victims.

Tourism was our biggest drawcard and earner for our economy. The coastline hit was out stretch of tourist beaches. Our economy is suffering. We seriously do need help.

Sri Lanka 3:

Here in Sri Lanka, ground blocks began to emerge out of the floods, all but in a very neat mess. Buses were seen in the middle of the ocean, boats in the middle of the road and carriages on top of houses. In an arial view, It wouldn't be any different from a bunch of toys thrown all around. By daylight corpeses were lying almost everywhere and inspite of all the efforts made on rescuing the ones in need, many lives were hampered due to the lack of resources. As of today local authorities reported more than 10,000 deaths and the Tamil Tiger rebels reported 2,000 dead in the territory they hold in the northeast. But there are always facts in these figures which will never be uncovered, even with the greatest efforts yet to come.

Chennai, India:

I went to see if there is something that I can do for those people. I went when I got the first message that the Marina water has entered the city and that the water has come out till Mandaveli. I took my camera for any picture possibilities, mobile to keep in touch and some money. I wasn't sure if it was true. So it didn't occur to me that I should also carry something for those people.

But when I reached there, I realized that I couldn't have carried enough for all those people running out of their homes. Some drenched till their hips, some till their chest, some all over and some of them were so drenched that they had already stopped breathing. Men and women, old and young, all were running for lives. It was a horrible site to see. The relief workers could not attend to all the dead and all the alive. The dead were dropped and the half alive were carried to safety. Old women had to be carried in chairs or transported by rickshaws. People scrambled what they could from their homes and could not check if they had carried enough. There is a pic of a couple checking if they have carried enough in the middle of the road. Lucky couple! They could at least do that! Many could not carry anything from home, because they had to run for their lives. And many couldn't run for their lives, because they were already dead. Helicopters were hovering around to try and salvage the alive (if any). It was a sad scene. It is true that we as a nation are ill prepared for such crisis situations. But I couldn't even blame the authorities here. They were just taken aback by the gravity of the situation. It was just too much for them. The Police Station in Foreshore estate was submerged in knee deep water when I had been that side.

Java, Indonesia:

I spent the day away from the television and it’s disturbing imagery. Tonight, witnessing the local news coverage from Indonesian stations has forever etched the horror into my memory.

Once again, they are showing video and photographs that will never reach the major media networks. A few examples of what I’m seeing:

Military men pulling bodies from the waist high water, and stacking them in trucks like bags of rice.

Relief workers climbing trees to remove the bodies of those tangled in branches.

Unclothed bodies hanging from electric powerlines, caught at the waist.

More children and babies who’ve perished.

Rooms full of hundreds of corpse, lying uncovered.

Mothers screaming in agony while carrying their dead children in their arms.

Kiruba.com has a visual representation of the path of the tsunami, as well as a before and after picture of the Indian coastline. The damage and loss of life across the Indian Ocean are devestating, so if you are able, here are two places to go to find multiple links to places where you can make a donation to help those suffering from the disaster: Tsunami Help and Command Post.

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December 27, 2004

A Victory for Democracy

By Byron LaMasters

It's a victory that both the American right, and the American left can celebrate, because this is a victory for democracy.

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December 21, 2004

Some thoughts on foreign policy...

By Zach Neumann

In the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine, Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis says some interesting things about the Bush foreign policy. I thought I’d post them here (along with some of my own commentary). I’d like to get everyone’s input on these matters as they have a direct impact on the course our country will take over the next fifty years. This is going to be an extended-length post.

Neither Bush nor his successors, whatever their party, can ignore what the events of September 11, 2001, made clear: that deterrence against states affords insufficient protection from attacks by gangs, which can now inflict the kind of damage only states fighting wars used to be able to achieve. In that sense, the course for Bush's second term remains that of his first one: the restoration of security in a suddenly more dangerous world.

Those of you who know me personally are undoubtedly familiar with my interest in the much-talked-about globalization phenomenon. I am particularly interested in the effect globalization will have on the moral restraints that generally govern the nation state. With threats emerging from a variety of non-state actors, it seems that there is potential justification for the use of force against almost any entity that threatens the security interests of a nation state. Not only does this weaken human rights internationally, it also sets the stage for a world plagued by miscalculation, confusion and unnecessarily prolonged military conflicts. I think that Gaddis’ recognition of America’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks underlines a much deeper problem in the emerging system of “globalized” international relations.

But the traditional warnings governments had used to justify pre-emption--the massing of armed forces in such a way as to confirm aggressive intent--would not have detected the September 11 attacks before they took place. Decisions made, or at least circumstances tolerated, by a shadowy regime in a remote country halfway around the world produced an act of war that killed more Americans than the one committed six decades earlier by Japan, a state known at the time to pose the clearest and most present of dangers.

I agree. To begin with, America must develop its intelligence services to the point where potential threats can be assessed with a high degree of accuracy. That being said, intelligence will never be perfect. Though it is important that the United States do its best in evaluating the dangers it faces, we must be quicker to the “draw” if we are to survive. While Iraq has been something of a debacle, its potential alternative is/was much scarier. America must send the message that it will deal promptly with its potential enemies, regardless of their background or their construction.

The narrowest gap between Bush's intentions and his accomplishments has to do with preventing another major attack on the United States. Of course, one could occur at any moment, even between the completion of this article and its publication. But the fact that more than three years have passed without such an attack is significant. Few Americans would have thought it likely in the immediate aftermath of September 11. The prevailing view then was that a terrorist offensive was underway, and that the nation would be fortunate to get through the next three months without a similar or more serious blow being struck.

The Bush Administration has not done enough to prevent attacks on the United States. With poorly guarded nuclear weapons floating around Russia and other former soviet bloc states, it is imperative that border/port security be increased. Our continuing vulnerability to a nuclear “brief case” attack is overwhelming. Though I am not completely opposed to Bush’s interventionist policies, I feel that they have distracted the country from the more important tasks of deterring nuclear proliferation (see North Korea and Iran) and ensuring that we not fall victim to another major terrorist attack.

Pre-emption defined as prevention, however, runs the risk--amply demonstrated over the past two years--that the United States itself will appear to much of the world as a clear and present danger. Sovereignty has long been a sacrosanct principle in the international system. For the world's most powerful state suddenly to announce that its security requires violating the sovereignty of certain other states whenever it chooses cannot help but make all other states nervous. As the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has pointed out, Washington's policy of pre-emption has created the image of a global policeman who reports to no higher authority and no longer allows locks on citizens' doors. However shocking the September 11 attacks may have been, the international community has not found it easy to endorse the Bush administration's plan for regaining security.

What this means is that the second Bush administration will have to try again to gain multilateral support for the pre-emptive use of U.S. military power. Doing so will not involve giving anyone else a veto over what the United States does to ensure its security and to advance its interests. It will, however, require persuading as large a group of states as possible that these actions will also enhance, or at least not degrade, their own interests.

We cannot go it alone. Though I believe that preemption and intervention are necessary (even in cases where a nation-state is not primarily involved), it is impossible to continue down the path we have chosen. If we are track highly mobile terrorists, deter proliferation in the developing world and secure our economic interests, we must be willing to work with others.

A final and related lesson concerns vision. The terrorists of September 11 exposed vulnerabilities in the defenses of all states. Unless these are repaired, and unless those who would exploit them are killed, captured, or dissuaded, the survival of the state system itself could be at stake. Here lies common ground, for unless that multinational interest is secured, few other national interests--convergent or divergent--can be. Securing the state will not be possible without the option of pre-emptive military action to prevent terrorism from taking root. It is a failure of both language and vision that the United States has yet to make its case for pre-emption in these terms.

We must repair the security problems globalization has created. Though Al-Qaeda will one day meet its demise, others will follow the trail it has blazed. Until the world model can be adjusted to address the growing threat posed by non state actors, civilian populations will become increasingly more vulnerable. This entails a restructuring of our military forces as well as a change in the way states do business with one another. If we are to take on the threats our nation faces, we must be willing to radically change our paradigm.


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December 16, 2004

Toys, Mines, Iraq and America

By Andrew Dobbs

If this doesn't make you proud to be an American and optimistic about our mission in Iraq, nothing will.

It makes me proud to have a loved one overseas.

Update: And before you start decrying me for linking to a blog that supports President Bush, realize that just because you disagree with a blogger's personal positions doesn't mean you oppose everything he or she says.

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British Courts Take Out The Trash...

By Zach Neumann

A British court overturned the country’s main anti terrorism law today. The NY Times reports that:

Britain's highest court ruled today that the British government cannot indefinitely detain foreigners suspected of terrorism without charging or trying them, and called the process a violation of European human rights laws.

A specially convened panel of judges in the Law Lords ruled 8 to 1 in favor of nine foreign, Muslim men who have been in detention, most of them in Belmarsh Prison in London, for as long as three years. The prison has been called "Britain's Guantanamo" by human rights groups.
In its powerfully worded decision, the court said that the government's "draconian" measures unjustly discriminate against foreigners since they do not apply to British citizens and constitute a lopsided response to the threat of a terrorist attack.

The judges deemed it a clear violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, a declaration that complicates the British government's strategy on combating terrorism.

The ruling by the Law Lords, a panel of senior judges who sit in the House of Lords and act as the country's highest court, parallels a June decision by the United States Supreme Court that said "a state of war is not a blank check for the president."

Using the sharpest language of the nine judges, Lord Leonard Hoffman, said today the case was one of the most important decided by the court in recent years.

"It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention," he wrote.

He went on to say that the government's actions posed a greater threat to the nation than terrorism. "The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these," Lord Hoffman wrote.

"That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve," he added. "It is for parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory."

The ground-breaking decision removes one of the government's crucial anti-terrorism tools and muddles its ability to deal with suspected foreign terrorists. It also forces Prime Minister Tony Blair, his cabinet and the Parliament to either modify the law, or release the men and do away with the law altogether. The law must be renewed next year and is scheduled to expire in 2006. Until the government makes that decision, the detainees will remain in prison.

This is interesting. With opposition to restrictive anti-terror laws growing on both sides of the pond, it seems something is going to have to change. Hurray for the common law, I guess. Any thoughts?

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December 14, 2004

Islamists in Texas

By Andrew Dobbs

This is scary.

A group of respected "moderate" Muslim leaders, including one from the mosque a block away from where my mom used to live, gathered in Irving this weekend for a "Tribute to the Great Islamic Visionary." Who might this visionary be? Some moderate/progressive Muslim leader who will bring peace and development to the Muslim world?

Nope. They honored the Ayatollah Khomeini. The flier lauds the Ayatollah's "Islamic revolution in a world of hunger and oppression and outlines the true policy of non-alliance for the Islamic countries and countries in the near future, with the help of Allah SWT, will accept Islam as the only school for liberating humanity and will not recede nor sway from the policy even one step."

So let's parse this one. They are 1. celebrating the Islamic revolution in Iran, which has led to 2 and a half decades of support for terror against the United States and our allies, 2. urging other Muslim countries to refrain from working with the United States and other Western powers, 3. saying that Islamic governance is not only good, but is the only legitimate form of government and 4. stridency in the matter is needed. Terror, Islamic extremism and anti-Westernism all in one place- in Irving, Texas. Scary.

For those of you who don't think the War on Terror is a serious deal, its getting ever closer to home.

Update: I should have mentioned that I don't think that they should be shut down for saying these things- that is their constitutional right. But at the same time, one has to wonder if the "moderate" clerics are celebrating the Ayatollah, what are the "radicals" thinking? We should be keeping our eyes open to subversion and radicalism here at home.

And Christian fundamentalists are pretty scary too, but they use legitimate political channels to promote their beliefs. Islamic fundamentalists don't. That may be a function of their nations tending to be undemocratic, but at their core there is a huge difference between the two.

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December 05, 2004

That just proves my point

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nate Nance

I probably didn't help my case by misspelling Musharraf in my last post, so I decided to bring out the big guns: The Pentagon's Defense Science Board.

While I was reading the Sunday Herald, I came across this article about the mistakes we've made in our foreign policy. To quote:

THE Pentagon has admitted that the war on terror and the invasion and occupation of Iraq have increased support for al-Qaeda, made ordinary Muslims hate the US and caused a global backlash against America because of the “self-serving hypocrisy” of George W Bush’s administration over the Middle East.


On “the war of ideas or the struggle for hearts and minds”, the report says, “American efforts have not only failed, they may also have achieved the opposite of what they intended”.

“American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies.”

The rest of the article is very shocking, if only for how much it criticizes the Bushies rather than reveal anything most of us did not already know. And I think it is paradoxical, since this report was pepared for Rumsfeld, who seems to be the only top-tier Cabinet official to have enthusiastic welcome in the White House.

I think they more than back up my earlier claim that Iraq is quicksand and that Bush led us there.

Nate Nance is a 21 year-old news/sports clerk at the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

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Hindsight's always 20/20

By Nathan Nance

Guest Contributor Nathan Nance

I doubt many of you are regular readers of my blog, so you have no idea how I feel about the war in Iraq or the war on terror in gerneral. You have no idea if I'm a liberal or if I'm off the scale socialist or conservative.

I think, in maybe getting to know me, we should talk about the war in Iraq, since it is the most pressing issue on our agenda. But, I'm going to do something a little different. Instead of telling you in my own words, how I feel, I'm going to let someone who was praised just this morning by Bush himself for his leadership in the war on terror, tell you. President Musharaf of Pakistan:

"I think it's less safe," Gen. Pervez Musharraf said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." Asked whether he considered the invasion a mistake, the Pakistani leader said, "With hindsight, yes. We have landed ourselves in more trouble, yes."


However, Musharraf said he does not believe U.S. and coalition troops should pull out immediately. Only after elections are held and the situation stabilized should the United States consider a withdrawal from Iraq, he said.

"[An early withdrawal] would create more problems in the region," he said. "Now that we are there, we need to stabilize the situation."

Now, I have my bones to pick with Pakistan and the fact that he is a military dictator plays very much against him in my estimation. But he's right.

As an aside, Musharaf also admitted in this morning's Washington Post that they have no idea where Osama bin Laden is, they just know he is alive.

No matter how you felt before the invasion, I can't see how you can agree that this was a good idea now. The closest to sane rationale I've heard from my Republican friends so far is "We were going to fight him eventually anyway." I'm not sure why war was inevitable with him, especially with the sanctions working. So I can't see this as anything more than a mistake.

But I also don't see how one can just pull up stakes and leave. If all of a sudden there were no troops to keep what little order there is in place, that country would be worse than Beirut in less than a day. But as long as we are there, there will still be an insurgency killing U.S. troops and still focused hatred on us in the Muslim world.

That is the very definiton of a quagmire. It's like quicksand. Once you step in, you're stuck. No matter what you do, you're still going to sink. Bush walked us straight into this quicksand, and even if John Kerry had been elected, we would still be stuck. That is the scary, painful truth of it. Wiser men than I don't know how to get us out, and that's probably because there is no way out. The really scary, scary thing I find, is that if the oppurtunity did arise to leave without consequence, I don't think Bush would take it.

Nate Nance is a 21 year-old sports/news clerk (glorified intern) at the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper. He is also writer/editor of Common Sense a Texas-based Democratic Web log.

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December 03, 2004


By Karl-Thomas Musselman

The Navy SEALs have launched a criminal investigation into photographs that appear to show commandos in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees, and photos of what appear to be bloodied prisoners, one with a gun to his head.

Some of the photos have date stamps suggesting that they were taken in May 2003, which could make them the earliest evidence of possible abuse of prisoners in Iraq. The far more brutal practices photographed in Abu Ghraib prison occurred months later.

Was a culture of abuse put in place over time? Did it start with our supposed elite?

Also, Rumsfeld to stay as Defense Secretary as Tommy Tompson for HHS goes by the wayside.

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December 02, 2004

Why Fallujah Matters

By Andrew Dobbs

I saw this article by Max Boot from the LA Times and I'd reccomend it to everyone- supporters of the war (such as this blogger, who has come to realize the justness of our cause) can use it to bolster their confidence in our mission and reflexive opponents should read it to understand that we ARE winning.

Nothing except a battle lost can be half as melancholy as a battle won.

-The Duke of Wellington (...)

It is right and proper to mourn the death of 71 Americans and the wounding of hundreds more. As Wellington realized, martial glory rings hollow when weighed against the cost in blood. But it is wrong to rush to the opposite extreme by assuming, as so much of the current commentary implicitly does, that war solves nothing and that all casualties are meaningless. In fact, many of the turning points of history have been battles, such as Wellington's victory at Waterloo, which ended for all time the threat of French expansionism in Europe. (...)

Coalition troops killed 1,200 to 1,600 guerrillas and captured more than 1,000. They uncovered 26 bomb factories, 350 arms caches (containing thousands of weapons), several chemical weapons laboratories and eight houses where hostages were held and probably tortured and killed. And they accomplished all this with less than half the number of casualties suffered in Hue, Vietnam, in 1968, the last major urban assault mounted by the Marine Corps. (...)

This is not meant to suggest that everything went perfectly. Many terrorists were able to escape Fallouja before the assault and create mayhem in Mosul, where the local police folded with dismaying speed. But U.S. and Iraqi forces quickly shifted their focus to the north and snuffed out the uprising in Mosul. Now they are pressing their offensive in the "triangle of death" south of Baghdad.

The best news of recent days is the growing competence of Iraqi security forces. Two thousand Iraqis fought alongside 10,000 Americans in Fallouja and, by all reports, they performed reasonably well. In the operations south of Baghdad, Iraqis are said to outnumber British and American troops.

Skeptics are right to point out that no insurgency can be defeated by force alone, but it's also true that effective military action is usually a prerequisite for a political settlement. Only if the insurgents are convinced they cannot shoot their way to power will they give up their guns. (...)

Even in a best-case scenario, however, the bombings and beheadings won't end the day after the vote. It can take a decade or more to defeat an insurgency (Colombia has been fighting Marxist guerrillas since 1966), and even a small number of determined fighters can wreak mayhem. In the 1970s, fewer than 100 members of the Baader-Meinhof gang terrorized West Germany, a country that is considerably more populous and more stable than Iraq, which is estimated to have at least 10,000 insurgents.

Thus, for all their success in Fallouja, we should not expect U.S. troops to completely pacify Iraq anytime soon. What they can do — what they are doing — is to keep the insurgents from derailing a political process that, one hopes, will soon result in the creation of a legitimate government that can field indigenous security forces and defend itself.

To paraphrase the words of John Stuart Mill, war is an ugly thing, but not quite as ugly as believing that there is nothing worth fighting and dying for. I wasn't aware of how many insurgents we had killed and captured- somewhere between 2200 and 2600- perhaps a quarter of their force- while we lost 71 soldiers- about 1/20 of 1% of our entire force. And though I wish that we didn't have to lose even one soldier, that sounds like a victory to me.

We also dramatically reduced their ability to strike out against Americans and innocent Iraqis by capturing a significant ammount of their materiel. And no insurgency can succeed without a stable base of operations. Castro succeeded because he had the mountains and Mexican bases, the mujahedeen succeeded because they had Pakistan, etc. Now that their main base of operations has been shut down and their plan B and plan C (Mosul and the "triangle of death") are not serious options, they are scattered. There will still be a large contingent of bad guys, but if they aren't coordinated, they have limited munitions and are constantly on the run, their effect will be small (relative to what exists now).

In another part of the column that I decided not to quote, Boot points out that when we struck against Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi militia, they learned quickly that the ballot box is a more viable option than violence. Sunni insurgents seem to be learning that lesson now, leaving only a small, uncoordinated insurgency that a nascent Iraqi military can handle on its own. In essence, the insurgency is on the run and our military is ready for the fight. The elections offer an opportunity for more peaceful redress of grievances, and we must keep them on schedule. If we continue shutting down insurgent bases, developing the Iraqi military and hold free and fair elections, we will have accomplished a great deal.

Fallujah was the turning point in this effort and we should be proud of our soldiers' performance there. Things are looking up, and if we succeed, it will mean a better world for billions of people- not the least of which will be our own countrymen.

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December 01, 2004

World AIDS Day

By Byron LaMasters

What can I say that hasn't been said? HIV/AIDS is one of the biggest tragedies of our time. It's a tragedy that we didn't do much about it in the 1980s when we really had a chance to do something about it. It's a tragedy that pharmaceutical companies are often more concerned about profits than getting life-saving medications to victims of AIDS, especially in Africa. It's a tragedy that the gay community isn't as proactive as it should be in addressing issues like bareback sex and crystal meth, that as much as we'd like to deny it, are major problems in the gay community.

Do what you can to make a difference. Here's some sites for more information.

World AIDS Campaign and the UN AIDS Campaign.

If you'd like to make a local donation in honor of World AIDS Day (although you wouldn't know if you just watch FOX News), here's a few organizations that I would recommend:

AIDS Services of Austin
AIDS Services of Dallas
AIDS Services of North Texas
Project Transitions

Hope, Ryan and the Stakeholder have more thoughts.

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November 25, 2004

We've always been at war against Eurasia

By Jim Dallas

Vladimir Putin is the next Saddam Hussein. That is, by the magic of popular amnesia, in five years Americans are absolutely gonna hate this guy, despite the fact that our conservative leaders were going gaa-gaa over him.

It was only a few months ago when righties were absolutely giddy about Putin being "tuff on terror" (just like our President!). Dubya looked into his soul. Putin returned the compliment with a nice endorsement. Meanwhile, liberals, such as myself, have always had a queasy feeling about Putin. I'll admit it - from the very begininng, I was hoping that a nice liberal or social democrat would win the Russian election so that we could be happy hippy comrades. But since, I've had serious concerns about efforts to crack down on the freedom of the press, the whole Chechnya mess, and the fact that Putin was KGB. And then of course last week's announcement about nukes.

Now that the Russians are looking like they're ready to party like it's 1979 as the Ukraine post-election drama unfolds, there appears to be a little bit of a falling out. My cybernemesis, Canadian blogger Adam Yoshida, (almost) goes as far as comparing Russia to Nazi Germany.

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November 11, 2004

Arafat Dead

By Andrew Dobbs

Good riddance. If his vicious anti-Semitism, his history of support for terrorism, his torpedoing of the best peace offer ever made in the history of this sad conflict, his bilking of his own people out of billions or his turning of a tragedy into massive political capital for his own self-aggrandizement aren't enough to make you hate him and welcome his recent arrival at the gates of hell, then perhaps learning more about his place in the genocide of 100,000 Lebanese might.

The left has conveniently forgotten this incident in order to propagandize against the self-defense of a democracy- Israel- but it sheds light onto the character of Yasser Arafat.

This excerpt from the Jewish Virtual Library offers a good starting pont.

For Arab residents of south Lebanon, PLO rule was a nightmare. After the PLO was expelled from Jordan by King Hussein in 1970, many of its cadres went to Lebanon. The PLO seized whole areas of the country, where it brutalized the population and usurped Lebanese government authority.

On October 14, 1976, Lebanese Ambassador Edward Ghorra told the UN General Assembly the PLO was bringing ruin upon his country: “Palestinian elements belonging to various splinter organizations resorted to kidnaping Lebanese, and sometimes foreigners, holding them prisoners, questioning them, and even sometimes killing them.”6a

Columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, not known for being sympathetic toward Israel, declared after touring south Lebanon and Beirut that the facts "tend to support Israel's claim that the PLO has become permeated by thugs and adventurers."6b

The columnists talked to a doctor whose farm had been taken over without compensation by the PLO, and turned into a military depot. "You ask how do we like the Israelis," he said. "Compared to the hell we have had in Lebanon, the Israelis are brothers." Other Lebanese — Christian and Muslim alike — gave similar accounts.

Countless Lebanese told harrowing tales of rape, mutilation and murders committed by PLO forces. The PLO "killed people and threw their corpses in the courtyards. Some of them were mutilated and their limbs were cut off. We did not go out for fear that we might end up like them," said two Arab women from Sidon. "We did not dare go to the beach, because they molested us, weapons in hand." The women spoke of an incident, which occurred shortly before the Israeli invasion, in which PLO men raped and murdered a woman, dumping her body near a famous statue. A picture of the victim's mangled corpse had been printed in a local newspaper.7

Dr. Khalil Torbey, a distinguished Lebanese surgeon, told an American journalist that he was "frequently called in the middle of the night to attend victims of PLO torture. I treated men whose testicles had been cut off in torture sessions. The victims, more often than not, were...Muslims. I saw men — live men — dragged through the streets by fast-moving cars to which they were tied by their feet."8

New York Times correspondent David Shipler visited Damour, a Christian village near Beirut, which had been occupied by the PLO since 1976, when Palestinians and Lebanese leftists sacked the city and massacred hundreds of its inhabitants. The PLO, Shipler wrote, had turned the town into a military base, "using its churches as strongholds and armories" (New York Times, June 21, 1982).

When the IDF drove the PLO out of Damour in June 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin announced that the town's Christian residents could come home and rebuild. Returning villagers found their former homes littered with spray-painted Palestinian nationalist slogans, Fatah literature and posters of Yasser Arafat. They told Shipler how happy they were that Israel had liberated them.9

So Arafat tortured these people and killed Christians specifically. A piece from Wikipedia notes thus:

In 1981, armed forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) occupied large areas of southern Lebanon. Attacks against Israeli territory increased, as the PLO's armed forces used Lebanon as a base to attack Israel with rockets and artillery. PLO soldiers fought with Lebanese forces; in 1996, the World Lebanese Organization, the World Maronite Union, and multiple human rights groups concerned with the Middle East issued a public declaration accusing the PLO of genocide in Lebanon and stating they were responsible for the deaths of 100,000 Lebanese civilians.

In a short time, Arafat led a brutal dictatorship in Lebanon responsible for the brutal deaths of 100,000 people and the torture of thousands more. The effort was a concerted one to wipe out Lebanese Christians. Arafat thus joins the ranks of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic as an architect of genocide. His passing in a comfortable bed in a Parisian hospital with his family by his side is a slap in the face to those he gunned down, bombed, tortured and otherwise brutally murdered.

In the end, despite the worries about the aftermath of his passing, the only thing that can be said is that he ought to have swung from the end of a rope many many years ago. Bury him with a pig. Burn him and spread his ashes in a distant desert that no one may ever honor him. Let the world remember him as he worked hard to be remembered- as a brutal murderer and betrayer of his own people.

Goodbye Arafat, you won't be missed.

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October 27, 2004

While you were in Iraq...

By Zach Neumann

North Korea has still not come to the table to discuss their growing nuclear armaments program. The NY Times reports that:

A trip to East Asia by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell aimed at forging a united front on North Korea ended Tuesday on a discordant note, with Mr. Powell rebuffing a suggestion by China and South Korea that they all show greater flexibility in pressing for an end to the North's nuclear program.

The disagreement appeared to reinforce the diplomatic impasse over North Korea's nuclear activities and to make it unlikely that the North would end its boycott of regional talks on the issue anytime soon.

Standing by Mr. Powell at a news conference, the South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki Moon, said in response to a question that the United States and other partners in talks on nuclear issues "must come up with a more creative and realistic proposal so that North Korea can come to the negotiating table as soon as possible."

Earlier, the official New Chinese News Agency released a similar comment from China's foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing.

"We wish the U.S. side would go further to adopt a flexible and practical attitude on the issue," the press agency quoted Mr. Li as telling Mr. Powell during a meeting in Beijing on Monday. "China will make efforts to push for a new round of six-party talks at the earliest date in a bid to carry on the hard-earned peaceful discussion process."

I find it ironic that President Bush talks big about disarming dictators but turns a blind eye to Kim-Jung Il’s unabashed pursuit of a nuclear arsenal. While North Korea has openly sought to improve payload and delivery capacities, Bush has responded by withdrawing a considerable number of troops from South Korea. It seems that the President only supports wars that get rid of weak dictators who pose no imminent threat to the United States.

Before I get ten angry comments calling me an idiot allow me to clarify… I’m not saying we should invade North Korea here, I’m saying the President is a hypocrite.

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October 22, 2004

Sounds Like Liberte to Me

By Zach Neumann

After a month of hemming and hawing the French Government has begun enforcing a recently passed law that prohibits students from displaying religious symbols in schools. According to the NY Times:

Nine female Muslim students who have refused to remove their Islamic head coverings have been thrown out of schools across France. After the All Saints break, dozens of cases that are pending will be reviewed.

The phase of dialogue and consultation is over," said an official at the ministry, who refused to allow her name to be used. "It was an unbearable situation for the teachers and the pupils. It was a crazy situation. The law has to be respected at some point."

Since school started a month ago, students who have refused to remove what school administrators define as conspicuous religious symbols have been quarantined in study halls or libraries and not allowed to attend class.

The banned symbols include anything that can be construed as an Islamic veil (head scarf, bandanna, beret), a Jewish skullcap, a large Christian cross and a Sikh turban.

Officially the law is aimed at enforcing France's republican ideal of secularism. Unofficially it is aimed at stopping female Muslim public school students from swathing themselves in scarves or even long veils.

What in hell are the French doing? I love the separation between church and state as much as the next guy, but this goes way too far. Not only is this new law a serious affront to the rights of students—it’s also going to drive a large portion of the Muslim population out of public schools.

Hey France, I’ve got an idea. Maybe if we make public school unbearable for the most conservative Muslims in the country we can get them to stop going. And then, (if we’re lucky) maybe they will go to religiously operated private schools controlled by other really conservative Muslims. And then because they have been excluded from public schools for their religious beliefs and spend all their time talking with radical Clerics they’ll contribute to significant social unrest!! Won’t that be awesome!?

France is setting itself up for some serious trouble. In addition to establishing a political precedent that seems to contravene basic notions of personal freedom and expression, the French are about to permanently isolate a large part of their population.

Vive La Liberte.

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October 19, 2004

Genocide in Sudan a “Purely African Question."

By Zach Neumann

The NY Times reported yesterday that:

Leaders from Sudan and four regional states concluded a meeting (Tripoli) early Monday with a statement rejecting any "foreign intervention" in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The African leaders also urged rebel groups in Darfur to sign an agreement with the Sudanese government, said the Nigerian foreign minister, Olu Adeniji.

The participants, from Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria and Chad, expressed strong support for the Sudanese government, which is under threat of United Nations penalties over the crisis in Darfur, where 1.4 million people have been displaced by pro-government Arab militias.

The statement emphasized the leaders' "rejection of all foreign intervention in this purely African question."

I find it very disturbing that Sudan and its neighbors think that genocide is a local issue. Thankfully, the rest of the world seems to disagree with them. With U.N. sanctions looming, maybe the Sudanese government will back down and allow black refugees to return to their (now destroyed) villages and begin rebuilding their lives.

It is ironic that the United States is willing to invade Iraq to (allegedly) promote freedom and democracy but stands idol when millions of people are being slaughtered in a xenophobic massacre. Too bad Sudan doesn’t have a lot of oil or a cocky dictator…

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October 14, 2004

Iraq is safe for democracy, Right?

By Zach Neumann

President Bush just can’t get away from that pesky little Iraq problem. The NY Times reported today that:

In a brazen attack that punctured any illusions of a safe haven in the capital, 10 people, including four Americans, were killed today when two separate explosions were set off inside the heavily controlled Green Zone in central Baghdad.

The four Americans were civilians working as security officials and the other six were Iraqis, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington. Two Americans were also seriously wounded and several other embassy employees were also injured.

While it was not the first attack in the Green Zone, it was one of the worst, and raised questions about the military's ability to maintain the security necessary to carry out its work of bringing peace to Iraq.
Mr. Boucher said officials were still trying to sort out what happened while security officials sweep the compound for more explosives.

"We all know that the work of reconstruction in Iraq is dangerous, that there are some very nasty people who have no respect for human right — human life, no respect for the Iraqi people, no respect for the efforts that we're all making to help the Iraqi people, who are out to attack us and the Iraqis and others," Mr. Boucher said.

But, he added: "It's premature to start speculating about what kind of changes might be necessary, whether they're major or minor."

Even though Richard Boucher and the State Department think it’s too early to start “speculating” about whether we need to change our tactics in Iraq, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that maybe (just maybe) there is a little room for some good-natured speculation…

Since President Bush declared and end to hostilities in Iraq last May (looking very strapping in a well fitted flight suit I might add) violence in Iraq has spiraled out of control. Not only have militants been able to inflict heavy casualties on American soldiers, they have also succeeded in bringing reconstruction efforts to a virtual standstill. Though democratic elections are scheduled for January, it is highly unlikely that they will occur.

I do not see how the President can claim that Iraq is free and safe when insurgents are able to make devastating attacks on targets in the heart of Baghdad. Though Bush can talk a good game when it comes to defense, it seems like he’s having a hard time acting on it.

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October 13, 2004

Note to Zach

By Byron LaMasters

Here's a foreign policy story if Zach wants to take a dive at a good one that's in the international headlines today:

Germany might deploy troops in Iraq if conditions there change, Peter Struck, the German defence minister, indicated on Tuesday in a gesture that appears to provide backing for John Kerry, the US Democratic presidential challenger.

Via Political Wire.

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September 26, 2004

Iraq: Objectively Worse Than Houston

By Jim Dallas

About a year ago I suggested that Iraq was (contrary to a blurb in the Houston Press) much, much worse than Houston.

According to Reuters, Iraq is worse than everywhere else on the planet, up to and including Houston.

I wonder how much longer it'll be before the advertising geniuses start putting up billboards that say "Iraq: It's Not Worth It!"

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September 17, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 Reaches the Axis of Evil

By Byron LaMasters

From Andrew's post a few weeks ago, you might think that Michael Moore is trying to undermine America internationally by fanning the flames of anti-Americanism by showing his movie in the axis of evil. Well, here's a shocker. Take a look at the reaction to F 9/11 in Iran.

"It sure is a great country, where someone like Moore trashes the president and gets away with it -- and makes so much money!" he laughed.

Another woman said she was impressed with the scene where Moore chases US congressmen to ask them if they would send their children to Iraq.

"How many top officials here sent their offspring to fight in the Iran-Iraq war?" asked the woman, one of several who directed their frustrations at Iranian authorities -- and not President Bush.

So what was the conclusion of those interviewed in Iran who saw the film? That George W. Bush is the great white satan? Nah. If anything, the reaction of the viewers was one of envy for the American values of democracy and capitalism, and an understanding of the parallels between the unwillingness of those in power in Iran, and America to send their children to war. That doesn't sound like promoting terrorism or communism to me...

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September 09, 2004


By Karl-Thomas Musselman

One in Five Germans Wants the Berlin Wall Back

Germans would vote 74-10 Kerry v. Bush, World Would Vote Kerry

It's quite interesting in my opinion. And true.

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September 07, 2004

We were at war with Eurasia? When?

By Jim Dallas

:: Bangs head violently ::

Juan Cole on Iraq's new vice-presidents, the axis of used-to-be-evil:

Ash-Sharq al-Awsat says that the council first voted by a strong majority to alter the original plan of having two vice-chairs, increasing the number to four. 92 of the 100 members were present, and 12 persons put themselves forward for the offices. The winners (with vote tallies) were:

Jawad al-Maliki, Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Shiite) - 56
Hamid Majid Moussa, Communist Party, - 55
Rasim al-Awadi, Iraqi National Accord (Allawi's Party) - 53
Nasir A`if al-Ani, Iraqi Islamic Party (Sunni) - 48

Al-Maliki at least used to be a Khomeinist radical. The Iraqi Islamic Party is a Sunni fundamentalist outfit, the leader of which has denied that there is a Shiite majority in Iraq. The INA groups mainly ex-Baath officers and officials.

So, this list is further evidence that the US invaded Iraq to install in power a coalition of Communists, Islamists and ex-Baathist nationalists. If you had said such a thing 3 years ago you would have been laughed at.

Every day that goes by, I become more and more convinced that we are living either in an George Orwell novel or in a Woody Allen movie.

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July 17, 2004

On the Road Again...

By Jim Dallas

The "Invade Iran" boomlet coming from the usual uber-hawk suspects and their supporters -- "look ma, no credibility!" -- is starting to rub me the wrong way.

Apparently Mr. Drum is of the same opinion.

Of course, many Iraq skeptics, myself included, were of the opinion that if we were forced (at gun point) to pick a country to invade, it'd have been Iran. But luckily, we're not threatened with that choice.

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July 09, 2004

News Combination

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

First, the Coalition of the Willing Death Toll passes 1000.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- In a grim milestone, the number of deaths in the American-led coalition in Iraq surpassed 1,000 this week.

The latest reported deaths include a U.S. soldier who died from wounds in fighting Thursday in Baghdad, an American soldier killed in a Samarra attack Wednesday and another who died in a nonbattle-related incident Thursday.

The deaths bring multinational fatalities -- both in combat and "nonhostile" situations -- to 1,002 since the start of the war in March 2003. U.S. military deaths now total 881.

And then the Senate Report on the Crappy "Intelligence" from the CIA. I'm sure the families of the above would have appreciated a little more truth.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a highly critical report issued Friday, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee found that the CIA's prewar estimates of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were overstated and unsupported by intelligence.

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, told reporters that intelligence used to support the invasion of Iraq was based on assessments that were "unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence."


"Before the war, the U.S. intelligence community told the president as well as the Congress and the public that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and if left unchecked would probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade," Roberts said.

"Today we know these assessments were wrong."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the leading Democrat on the 18-member panel, said that "bad information" was used to bolster the case for war.


"Leading up to September 11, our government didn't connect the dots. In Iraq, we are even more culpable because the dots themselves never existed."

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July 03, 2004

How do you say "Judge Ito" in Iraqi?

By Jim Dallas

Uhh... it's stories like this and this and this that give me the unpleasant sensation of believing that, if Saddam is half as smart as he thinks he is, he might end up walking free.

That would be anywhere from embarassing to catastrophic.

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July 02, 2004

State Department Karaoke Night

By Jim Dallas

Having been given the elbow by the Pentagon, the State Department resorts to drastic measures in order to get attention.

Hat tip to The Note.

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Slightly less crazy than the crazies

By Jim Dallas

Brad DeLong links to Tyler Cowen's ripping of the Bush administration's god-awful Cuba policy. The White House is focusing on tightening the embargo and travel restrictions on Cuba, which will have the primary effect of eliminating American competition to European investment in Cuba, and just generally pissing people off. This is neither a hawkish position, nor a dovish position, nor a realistic position. It just basically defies explanation. And unfortunately, it's probably going to be the consensus opinion in Washington. Here's DeLong:

I should, however, point out that there is fine print: this kind of absurd, punitive, counterproductive, and stupid policy toward Cuba is not the exclusive province of this particular administration or this particular congress, but is the reflection of the structural strength of the anti-Castro lobby. Don't hope for things to become less stupid for a while, no matter who wins elections.


As I mentioned earlier, this is not a truly hawkish position. A hawkish position on Cuba would involve invading Cuba and carpet-bombing the Revolution.


  • Cuba's Castro has historically been hostile to the United States.

  • The Dictator oppresses his own people!

  • Cuba is developing chemical and biological weapons -- according to exiles, anyway. There will be leftists and clear-eyed realists who will dispute this fact, but they hate America anyway, so we can discount their analysis.

  • Cuba is "with the terrorists," and while they weren't the masterminds behind 9/11, they certainly have been impeding our investigation.

It seems to me the argument for invading Cuba was always about as strong as the case for invading Iraq; indeed it ought to be stronger for the following reasons:

  • We need to finish what Eisenhower started before we finish what Old Man Bush started. Priorities!
  • Cuba is 90 miles away, not 9000 miles away. Basically, the state of Florida is a 500-mile long, aircraft carrier parked off-shore.
  • It's a lot easier to find 100,000 Spanish-speaking MPs than 100,000 Arabic-speaking MPs.
  • Because Cuba already has spiffy schools and hospitals, we won't have to worry about building brand new ones (of course, this might make it hard for us to use the "look at the beautiful new schools" line as proof of progress on the ground).
  • Oh yeah, they're Communists. And we don't want to be perceived as soft on communism, since our struggle against the communists is a struggle for national survival, and ultimately, Civilization Itself!

Not that I would advocate this course of action, but 50 years of Cuba strategery reminds me of the scene in Austin Powers where Dr. Evil lectures on the proper use of force:

SCOTT EVIL But what if he escapes? Why don't you just shoot him? What are you waiting for?

I have a better idea. I'm going to
put him in an easily-escapable
situation involving an overly-
elaborate and exotic death.

Why don't you just shoot him now?
Here, I'll get a gun. We'll just
shoot him. Bang! Dead. Done.

One more peep out of you and you're
grounded. Let's begin.

The more I think about it, the more I can empathize with Curtis LeMay.

Yes, invading Cuba on the flimsiest of pretenses is an absolutely crazy plan, but it would be a slightly less crazy foreign policy than, you know, the foreign policy we're actually adhering to at the moment.

What we need, of course, is a non-crazy Cuba plan (that might involve finally normalizing relations), but it isn't in the interests of the politicians in Washington to get with the program.

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June 28, 2004

War on Iraq and Howard Dean

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Sometimes there is a little part of me that just wants to get up and say, "I told you so." It wouldn't be very grown-up or professional, but I'm 19 and a blogger so I'll say it.

I told you so, and so is Howard Dean.

Howard Dean sounded like he had been vindicated on Sunday when he noted that most Americans now agree that the United States should not have invaded Iraq. It was a position that fueled his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, and earned Dean much criticism in the process.

“After being castigated by both Democrats and Republicans for a while, now the majority of Americans agree with me this was a mistake,” the one-time Democratic front-runner said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

More than half, or 52 percent, of Americans said the war was not worth fighting, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll taken June 17-20. That number is up from 50 percent in May.

Dean said most people also agree with him that the war hasn’t made America safer.

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Iraq is Now "Sovereign"

By Andrew Dobbs

So yeah, we went ahead and signed the letter transferring sovereignty to Iraq two days early. Good idea, since terrorists were surely planning on spoiling the photo op on Wednesday but still meaningless. Sovereignty is like virginity- you either have it or you don't. Having 150,000 US Troops stationed in your country charged with keeping the peace makes you a client state of ours. Iraq won't be truly sovereign until they kick us out, which is about the only new power they have gained. And they are unlikely to do that because since they have no military of their own and are facing a well-organized brutal resistance.

In other news, Bush really wants to sell this as some kind of victory for him but nobody is buying it. A CNN poll that they have been running all day reports that 60% of respondents believe that the handover of sovereignty is a sign that we have failed in Iraq. My boss put it the best way- for Bush the American public is starting to look like a critical father you just can't please. America is ready to get this kid out of the house and things are starting to look scary for the president.

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June 27, 2004

The Next Saddam?

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I have a friend who lives in Pakistan, who in the past has been able to provide first hand accounts of events in the country and in Europe which take longer to get to the American Media, if at all. He sent me a short note the other day with the following thoughts attached. Just some food for thought...

Anyway...as the European constitution goes. I think by having a section on religion, Europe faces a difficult choice. Preserving history and culture which have made it so powerful...at the risk of upsetting and promoting intolerance to its secular ideals which in the past century have made it possible for millions to migrate to Europe and help in its prosperity by bringing in new ideas and beliefs which have helped it immensly.

The best plan of action ould probably be one which recognizes a connection to a higher being but at the same time allowing for enough room for the minorities
and growing immigrants to practise their religion freely without any fear of being legally termed "unpatriotic".

Pakistani prime minister resigned yesterday after months of speculation. Apparently he disagreed with the American supported Military dictator General
Musharraf about the armys continued involvement in the affairs of the government. I think Musharraf is going to be a future Saddam Hussain. He's already imprisoning and making opposition leaders and critics dissappear. It'll be a short time before he starts persecuting his own people.

Anyways, thats my update from Karachi, Pakistan.

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June 16, 2004

No Evidence Connecting Iraq to Al Qaeda, 9/11 Panel Says

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

Wow, and this is big news?

There is "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq collaborated with the al Qaeda terrorist network on any attacks on the United States, according to a new staff report released this morning by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Although Osama bin Laden briefly explored the idea of forging ties with Iraq in the mid-1990s, the terrorist leader was hostile to Hussein's secular government, and Iraq never responded to requests for help in providing training camps or weapons, the panel found in the first of two reports issued today.

The findings come in the wake of statements Monday by Vice President Cheney that Iraq had "long-established ties" with al Qaeda, and comments by President Bush yesterday backing up that assertion.

Would this be an ok time for us to realize that we didn't have to freak out over Howard Dean's "the capture of Saddam does not neccisarily make America any safer comment?" Along with those Weapons of Mass Destruction, Imminent Threats, and Mobile Weapons Labs...this ranks right up there with the continued flow of lies from the White House. And to what end? Can anyone name one reason why we went to war that has turned out to be true?

In fact, give me 837 reasons. Or maybe you are a visual learner.

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June 10, 2004

I went to Sea Island, Georgia once...

By Jim Dallas

Does that count as insightful news analysis of the G-8 Summit?

Wonkette has more. I completely agree.

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June 09, 2004

Nota Bene (or, Jim's worst blog joke ever)

By Jim Dallas

I was a little worried when I saw the headline "CCR to sue Iraq mercenary outfits" from Daily KOS float by on KNewsTicker (one of the cool things in KDE 3.2 is this little applet, which pulls RSS/Atom news feeds from blogs and displays them on your toolbar). After all, would CCR really be up to the task? And would they be laughed out of court as "hippies"?

Then I read the story and breathed a sigh of relief.

Apparently,Creedence Clearwater Revival is not suing; the suit will be filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a competent and hard-working group of lawyers fighting for our rights.

Which is a good thing.

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May 28, 2004

A Tough Road Ahead for US Olympians

By Byron LaMasters

I really feel bad for our Olympic athletes this year. The Olympics are supposed to be a celebration and a way for the diverse cultures and nations of the world to come together. Instead, beacause of the divisive leadership of George W. Bush, the Olympics look to be a political spectical. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The U.S. Olympic team will carry some extra baggage to the Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

Because of the war in Iraq, American athletes are being prepared for what may be the most hostile environment they have ever faced at the Olympics.

"We're not the favorite kid in the world as a country," said Bill Martin, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The USOC wants to make sure its athletes, its 600 ambassadors, behave as "great guests" in the Athens Games, which will be Aug. 13 to 29.

They will be given the usual instruction on the culture of the host nation to try to prevent any social faux pas. But beyond that, they will be counseled to think twice about things they never gave a thought to in the past – such as how to celebrate a victory without going over the top and offending anyone.

"Being an American abroad is not like Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain," said Mike Moran, a consultant to the U.S. Olympic Committee. "It's a different world."

The USOC will caution its athletes about pregame gestures or acts that might have seemed innocent enough four years ago but today might be interpreted as arrogant, ungracious, taunting or jingoistic.

It's not just Europe where we are looked down upon. American athletes were taunted by our southern neighbor, Mexico in a qualifying soccer game which we lost:

In February, the U.S. men's soccer team played Mexico in Guadalajara in a game to determine which team would go to the Olympics. Mexican fans booed and whistled during the playing of the U.S. national anthem. And after Mexico won, 4-0, some celebrated by chanting, "Osama, Osama, Osama."

The actions of the Mexican fans are outrageous, but the fact that the citizens in our neighboring country feel so hostile towards America is highly disturbing. All we can do is hope and pray that this won't be Munich in 1972 all over again, and that in November we elect John Kerry so that we can regain the dignity and respect around the world that America deserves.

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May 25, 2004

Peace, Love, and Golf

By Jim Dallas

Let's take a minute to recognize Iraqi and Afghan sports fans. In a time of war and want, the people of Baghdad and Kabul need something to keep them going.

The Iraqi national soccer team qualified for and will compete in the Olympic Games this year, which is quite a feat (the United States team did not make the cut). While this is a bit of old news, I don't think we've yet taken the opportunity at BOR to wish the Iraqi national team good luck in Athens.

Reuters is also reporting that a group of Afghan golfers are making plans to rebuild and re-open Kabul's 9-hole golf course. The course was trashed first by the Communists and then by the Taliban, who associated the noble game of golf with "the West."

We're not sure that liberal democracy will take hold in the Middle East, but we're pretty sure soccer and golf will.

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May 19, 2004


By Andrew Dobbs

I have been deeply troubled by all the "prison abuse" scandal. Most pertinently I have been troubled by the media's inability to call a spade a spade- this was torture. And according to Talk Left not only are Pentagon officials calling this torture, at least 5 detainees were killed in the commission of the acts.

The Denver Post has examined Pentagon records and is reporting that :

  • five prisoners have died at four detention camps (including Abu Ghraib) while undergoing interrogation by the U.S.

  • at least one of the deaths was previously reported as being from natural causes

  • the soldiers got off light, mostly without criminal charges. Here's more:

    Brutal interrogation techniques by U.S. military personnel are being investigated in connection with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents obtained by The Denver Post show.

    The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation. Pentagon officials declined to comment on the new disclosure.

    Another Iraqi military officer, records show, was asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands tied to the top of his cell door. Another detainee died "while undergoing stress technique interrogation," involving smothering and "chest compressions," according to the documents.

    (Back to Talk Left-AD) Here are some of the techniques used:

    (Denver Post)....intelligence soldiers and other personnel have sometimes used lethal tactics to try to coax secrets from prisoners, including choking off detainees' airways. Other abusive strategies involve sitting on prisoners or bending them into uncomfortable positions, records show.

    (Talk Left) Even a pentagon official calls this torture:

    "Torture is the only thing you can call this," said a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal investigations into prisoner abuses. "There is a lot about our country's interrogation techniques that is very troubling. These are violations of military law."

This is horrific. I don't care what these Iraqis did, the reason America has any moral authority anywhere in the world is that we have always held ourselves to a much higher standard- we respect everyone's inherent rights. When we do this, we might as well cede our place as the "leader of the free world" and end this failed experiment of a Republic. We must end the reign of these horrible people that have done this- either by criminal and legislative action or at the ballot box. Rumsfeld belongs in the Hague, Rice belongs in Ft. Levenworth and Bush belongs in Crawford at best.

If nothing else makes you decide to turn out and vote for John Kerry- not Ralph Nader, not Fred Brown not any other vanity candidate- this ought to.

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May 02, 2004

Spain Speaks Again

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

It seems so simple doesn't it?

Spain's prime minister said Sunday he hopes the deteriorating situation in Iraq (news - web sites) will serve as a warning to countries against using preemptive wars in the future.

"The mission in Iraq, which is showing itself every day to be a failure, should serve as a lesson to the international community: preemptive wars, never again; violations of international law, never again," Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said.

Speaking before some 20,000 supporters at a meeting celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Socialist party, Zapatero reiterated that he had ordered Spain's troops home from Iraq April 18, a day after he was sworn in, "because they should have never been sent there."

On Wednesday, the last 260 of the 1,300 Spanish troops who took part in the U.S.-led occupation returned home. Another 1,000 soldiers remain in Iraq to pack up military hardware and ship it back to Spain. The government says those soldiers will be in Spain by May 27.

Zapatero's predecessor as premier, Jose Maria Aznar of the conservative Popular Party, had supported the war in Iraq despite massive opposition in Spain. Spain did not take part in the invasion but sent in troops afterward.

Zapatero vowed his government would never break, nor support the violation of, international law in order to fight terrorism.

"The real and most efficient fight against terrorism is through the cooperation of all democratic countries, all free countries, in the United Nations (news - web sites) with the cooperation of all and not via unilateral interventions, which only lead to failure," he told the meeting at a bullring on Madrid's outskirts.

So we royally fucked up. Are we seeing it now? Now we are stuck with a situation that is going nowhere, with the 2nd key supporter of the Coalition of the Willing pulling out (leaving England and Poland left, even though I think Poland has been thinking of leaving.) And now we are left with the choice of "staying the course" and increasing troops, changing nothing which means we sink deeper into this morass, or pulling out and leaving the mess to stew in its own juices.

What do we do? Besides not getting into things like this in the first place.

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April 27, 2004

Ten Years of Democracy in South Africa

By Byron LaMasters

Today is a day to celebrate in South Africa. The BBC reports:

President Thabo Mbeki has been sworn in for a second term in office on a day of celebration in South Africa - marking 10 years of multi-racial democracy. Guests at the ceremony in Pretoria included key figures in the transition from apartheid, ex-presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk.

Wild cheers and singing broke out as Mr Mandela arrived with his wife, Graca Machel, and made his way to his seat.

Choirs greeted some 40, mainly African, leaders and other dignitaries.

The 27 April is known as "Freedom Day", symbolising the end of white minority rule and the start of multi-racial democracy.

South Africa has a long way to go, but the nation has certainly taken many steps toward progress over the past decade.

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April 19, 2004

Honduras to Pull Out of Iraq

By Byron LaMasters

A second country in two days has decided to pull their troops out of Iraq. Today it's Honduras. Reuters reports:

In a blow to President Bush and his coalition partners in Iraq, Honduras on Monday followed Spain in announcing it will pull its troops out of the country.

"I have told the coalition countries that the troops are going to return from Iraq," Maduro said in a speech on national television and radio.

"I have ordered... the carrying out of the decision taken in the shortest possible time and under safe conditions for our troops."

Soldiers from Honduras, a strong U.S. ally in Central America, were sent to Iraq last summer as peacekeepers only and have been clearing mines and providing medical care in central Iraq.

They had previously been set to leave when their mandate expires in July.

Honduras said earlier Monday it was considering the withdrawal due to spiraling violence and pressure created by Spain's decision to pull its forces out.

Some on the left will obviously be happy with these developments in Spain and Honduras. I'm not. Our troops are under fire. Our troops are dying. I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed that our country completely failed to put together a worldwide coalition to govern in Iraq. The Bush administration has proved that it is unable to reach out to the world community in a meaningful way. We need a president who can. We need John Kerry.

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April 18, 2004

Speaking of Spain...

By Byron LaMasters

As Karl-Thomas mentions, Spain will be granting gay marriage soon. They're also pulling their troops out of Iraq within the next two weeks:

Spanish troops in Iraq are expected to come home within the next two weeks after an order to withdraw by Spain's new Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero.

Mr Zapatero made it one of his first duties as prime minister, ordering Defence Minister Jose Bono to begin the process of pulling Spain's 1,300 troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible.

In a televised address to the nation, Mr Zapatero said he is fulfilling the wishes of the people and the election pledge he gave a year ago.

Spanish troops are currently engaged alongside US forces in the tense stand-off with supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the holy city of Najaf.

Prime Minister Zapatero says Spain remains committed to supporting the democratisation and reconstruction of Iraq as part of any operation overseen by the United Nations.

Now, I stated previously that I was pleased with the Spanish election results for several reasons. First, the Aznar government lied to the Spanish people in regards to the March 11th terrorist atttacks, and the voters responded. Second, the turnout in Spain was the largest in recent history, and third, I believed that the new Spanish government has the ability to influence the Bush adminstration into accepting broader United Nations control in Iraq. Obviously, it's not good for our troops to have our allies pull out of Iraq and increase our burden at a time where our troops are under fire. However, I still hold out hope that the actions of the Zapatero government will lead to the Bush administration going to the United Nations to put a strong multilateral force in place in Iraq supported by the Iraqis and the world community. It may surprise some that I actually agreed with what Joe Lieberman on something today. What is the best thing that the Spanish can do now? Joe said on CNN's "Late Edition" to send the troops in Iraq to Afgahistan. I agree. It would provide cover for the Zapatero administration, but also show their desire to help fight the war on terrorism.

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April 16, 2004

Iraq and Vietnam

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I was not around for Vietnam so I am not one to casually say that Iraq is turning into a Vietnam simply because it is a good soundbyte. But I was VERY impressed with this New York Times article by Krugman that does a good job at drawing the parallels and correct lines on this issue.

Iraq isn't Vietnam. The most important difference is the death toll, which is only a small fraction of the carnage in Indochina. But there are also real parallels, and in some ways Iraq looks worse.

It's true that the current American force in Iraq is much smaller than the Army we sent to Vietnam. But the U.S. military as a whole, and the Army in particular, is also much smaller than it was in 1968. Measured by the share of our military strength it ties down, Iraq is a Vietnam-size conflict.

And the stress Iraq places on our military is, if anything, worse. In Vietnam, American forces consisted mainly of short-term draftees, who returned to civilian life after their tours of duty. Our Iraq force consists of long-term volunteers, including reservists who never expected to be called up for extended missions overseas. The training of these volunteers, their morale and their willingness to re-enlist will suffer severely if they are called upon to spend years fighting a guerrilla war.


This fiscal chicanery is part of a larger pattern. Vietnam shook the nation's confidence not just because we lost, but because our leaders didn't tell us the truth. Last September Gen. Anthony Zinni spoke of "Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies," and asked his audience of military officers, "Is it happening again?" Sure enough, the parallels are proliferating. Gulf of Tonkin attack, meet nonexistent W.M.D. and Al Qaeda links. "Hearts and minds," meet "welcome us as liberators." "Light at the end of the tunnel," meet "turned the corner." Vietnamization, meet the new Iraqi Army.

Some say that Iraq isn't Vietnam because we've come to bring democracy, not to support a corrupt regime. But idealistic talk is cheap. In Vietnam, U.S. officials never said, "We're supporting a corrupt regime." They said they were defending democracy. The rest of the world, and the Iraqis themselves, will believe in America's idealistic intentions if and when they see a legitimate, noncorrupt Iraqi government — as opposed to, say, a rigged election that puts Ahmad Chalabi in charge.

If we aren't promoting democracy in Iraq, what are we doing? Many of the more moderate supporters of the war have already reached the stage of quagmire logic: they no longer have high hopes for what we may accomplish, but they fear the consequences if we leave. The irony is painful. One of the real motives for the invasion of Iraq was to give the world a demonstration of American power. It's a measure of how badly things have gone that now we're told we can't leave because that would be a demonstration of American weakness.

Again, the parallel with Vietnam is obvious. Remember the domino theory?

And there's one more parallel: Nixonian politics is back.

What we remember now is Watergate. But equally serious were Nixon's efforts to suppress dissent, like the "Tell It to Hanoi" rallies, where critics of the Vietnam War were accused of undermining the soldiers and encouraging the enemy. On Tuesday George Bush did a meta-Nixon: he declared that anyone who draws analogies between Iraq and Vietnam undermines the soldiers and encourages the enemy.

Read the whole thing, it's really good.

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April 14, 2004

Big ANC Victory in South Africa

By Byron LaMasters

South Africa successfully held their third national election since the end of Apartheid, and the African National Congress won a big victory again. I don't follow South African politics much, but theres some good coverage here.

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April 13, 2004

War is (not) profitable

By Jim Dallas

One of the most important things that you need to know about the structure of U.S. force in Iraq (and throughout the world right now) is that the U.S. military is currently being joined by a rather large shadow force of private contractors (at least some of which appear to be mercenaries). That is part of the reason, I think, why the Defense Department are apparently low-balling deployment projections in that part of the world - because many of the things soldiers used to do are now being done by the private sector.

My friend James, who left the Army last year (and who is a self-proclaimed Schwarzanegger Republican), had a pretty bad feeling about privatization in the early days of the Iraq War, and his misgivings may be borne out.

I recall him mentioning over drinks about a year ago, that the likely result of putting supplies and such in the hands of private contractors was that they would "cut and run" as soon as things got bad.

And that's happening right now - the Financial Times reports that reconstruction contractors are suspending operations and preparing to leave the country. Even worse for our troops, Kellogg Brown & Root (which has 24,000 people in Iraq - more people than any of our "Coalition of the Willing" allies) is probably going to cut back on supply convoys.

The Dallas Morning News today has a good story about what's going on:

Military historian Charles Shrader, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served two tours in Vietnam, points to another distinction between military personnel and private contractors: Civilians don't have to follow orders and can go home when they want.

In some situations, such as a chemical or biological attack, "almost certainly your contractors are going to want to get out of Dodge," he said. And if they perform critical functions, "then you're really stuck."

Historically, support troops also could be called upon to fight in an emergency. During the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, for example, cooks, truck drivers and even members of an Army band fought as infantry after Nazi troops launched a ferocious surprise offensive. "The probability of it happening is a lot lower than it has been in the past, because of the enemies that we face," Dr. Shrader said. "But who's to say it won't happen again."

Even the lowliest cook in the Army is a soldier first and a cook second. Private contractors are nothing more than that, and can't be expected to be.

Quite simply, the biggest reason why the United States must now expand the number of troops in Iraq is that we are putting our current deployments at too great a risk by our reliance upon contractors.

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Who are we turning over Iraq to?

By Byron LaMasters

Paul Bremer gives a bad answer:

MR. RUSSERT: June 30: You're going to turn the keys over to the Iraqis. Who do you turn them over to?

AMB. BREMER: Well, that's a good question, and it's an important part of the ongoing crisis we have here now. We've always said that there are two dimensions to dealing with the problems of Iraq. One, of course, is the military dimension, which we're working on right now, but the other is to give a political perspective for the Iraqis to have more and more responsibility. We've been working on that for months. We are now working with the secretary-general of the U.N.'s special representative here, Mr. Brahimi, to figure out the best way to get a representative government in place before the end of June so it has a little practice and then turn over sovereignty to it on June 30. And I'm confident that working with him and with the Iraqi people, we, in fact, will get that. We'll get a representative government in place before June 30.

We're going to turn over power to the Iraqis on June 30th - less than 80 days away, and we don't even know who we're turning power over to??? What exactly have we been doing for the past year? The Bush administration had a plan to attack Iraq, and they were successful. However, they never had a plan to win the peace in Iraq. They don't know what they're doing, and they have no plan.

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April 07, 2004

Is this How we "Win the Peace"?

By Byron LaMasters

I don't think so:

.S. Marines in the third day of a battle to pacify this Sunni Muslim city fired rockets that hit a mosque compound today, and witnesses said as many as 40 people were killed. Shiite-inspired violence spread to key cities in Iraq.


An Associated Press reporter in Fallujah saw cars ferrying the dead and wounded from the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque. Witnesses said a helicopter fired three missiles into the compound, destroying part of a wall surrounding the mosque but not damaging the main building.

The strike came as worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers, witnesses said.

If terrorists or insurgents are hiding out in mosques, we should contain them, and force them or starve them out. If firing on a mosque is absolutely necessary, then for God's sake, don't fire on it when worshippers are gathered for afternoon prayers. Firing missles at mosques, and killing Muslim worshippers is the last way to acheive peace in Iraq.

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April 06, 2004

What the Hell is Going on in Iraq?

By Byron LaMasters

This just keeps getting more depressing.

18 American soldiers have died since this weekend and today Iraqi police lost control of Najaf to Al-Sadr supporters. Despite all this, President Bush still wants to turn over control to the Iraqis on June 30th? If the Iraqis can't control a single town, how the heck can they control the country? Those of us who opposed the war in Iraq (at least most of us), didn't oppose it because we were against getting rid of Saddam Hussein. I'm glad he's gone. I opposed the war in Iraq, because the Bush administration didn't articulate an exit plan. I opposed the war in Iraq because the Bush administration didn't exhaust all other options, an approach that prevented us from forming a broad coalition where the burden of occupation would be shared among our allies. And right now we're feeling the effects of our failure to build a broad coalition to share the burden of occupation. Sure, there's British troops and a smattering of troops from a dozen or so other countries, but the burden of occupation is squarely on our shoulders. Yet despite the fact that a civil war is possibly brewing in Iraq, Bush won't budge. John Kerry is right here. June 30th was chosen for political reasons:

Democrat John Kerry said on Monday the United States made a mistake in setting an arbitrary date for handing over power in Iraq and suggested President Bush may have chosen June 30 for political reasons.

Bush has vowed to stick to the deadline for handing over Iraqi sovereignty, even as a Shi'ite uprising against the U.S.-led occupation stirred fears of a possible civil war.

Calling the turn of events and the loss of American lives "deeply disturbing," Kerry told reporters: "I have always said consistently that it is a mistake to set an arbitrary date and I hope that the date has nothing to do with the election here in the United States."

I hope that John Kerry comes out with a comprehensive plan for Iraq in the coming weeks, because things are getting out of hand.

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March 30, 2004

NRCC Fundraiser Falsely Labels Two Countries as Harboring Terrorists

By Byron LaMasters

Here's another example of Republicans exploiting Americans fear of terrorism for the sake of winning elections (or in this case, raising money). A National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser labeled the Phillippines and Thailand as nations that "harbor and aid terrorists". However, neither nation is on the State Department list of nations that sponsor terror, and in fact, the state department praised both nations in 2002 for working to combat the global war on terror. Still, even when given this information, the NRCC spokesman refused to apology. This is outrageous. The Republican Party is attempting to solicit donations by scaring their donors into falsely believing that countries that the State Department has praised for their contribution to fighting terrorism are actually counties that "harbor and aid terrorists". The AP reports:

A voter survey tied to a Republican effort to raise money for House candidates mislabels Thailand and the Philippines as countries that "harbor and aid terrorists," say officials from both governments.

A question on the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Ask America 2004 Nationwide Policy Survey" asks: "Should America broaden the war on terrorism into other countries that harbor and aid terrorists such as Thailand, Syria, Somalia, the Philippines, etc.?"


Officials from both nations say the question came as a surprise since the Bush administration has praised their countries for their roles in the anti-terror war.

"It doesn't accurately describe the view of the Bush administration," Patricia Paez, a spokeswoman for the Philippine Embassy, said Friday. Her office sent a letter to the GOP campaign committee complaining about the question.

Paez noted that the Philippines sent troops to Iraq to assist in peacekeeping efforts. "We have, in fact, contributed a lot to the war on terror," she said.

Chirachai Punkrasin, deputy chief of mission at the Royal Thai Embassy, called the question misleading. "I don't think we are knowingly harboring known terrorists," he said.

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said the question was based on information from the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank based in New York. "I think the question probably could have been vetted better," he said.

The council's Sharon Otterman did not agree with the question's wording. She said the group's Web site identifies the Philippines as a "haven" for terrorism, "but it doesn't mean the state is helping the terrorist groups."

The council did not identify Thailand as either a state sponsor or a haven for terrorism.

He THINKS the question probably could have been vetted better? Ya think?!?! Is that the latest way Republicans explain outright lies? The article continues:

Neither the Philippines nor Thailand is on the State Department's list of terror-sponsoring nations, and both have faced problems with Muslim extremist groups.

In fact, a 2002 State Department report lauded both countries for working closely with other nations in the global war on terror and for strengthening counterterrorist measures.


Meanwhile, Paez noted that President Bush, during a trip to the Philippines last year, praised President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's anti-terror efforts. Her country has faced problems with the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf.

It's hard to believe that this was just an honest mistake. You would think that a major GOP fundraising letter would be overlooked by someone who knows their facts, but then again, who knows. Was this simply an accident, or is the National Republican Congressional Committee using scare tactics on its own backers to make them believe that terrorism is more widespread than it acctually is, and pushing them into making a (larger) contribution?

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March 17, 2004

Bush Administration Protecting Jobs... in India

By Byron LaMasters

The New York Times reports:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, encountering the other side of a tempestuous debate in the United States, sought to assure Indians on Tuesday that the Bush administration would not try to halt the outsourcing of high-technology jobs to their country.

In discussions with Indian leaders and college students, Mr. Powell found that the issue of the transfer of American jobs to India by leading technology companies was as emotional in India as in the United States.

But whereas American politicians have deplored the loss of such jobs, it was clear that the anxiety in India focuses on threats by some members of Congress to try to stop the transfer by legislation.

Responding to a questioner in a session with students who asked if he supported or opposed outsourcing, Mr. Powell said: "Outsourcing is a natural effect of the global economic system and the rise of the Internet and broadband communications. You're not going to eliminate outsourcing; but, at the same time, when you outsource jobs it becomes a political issue in anybody's country."

One of the jobs of the president is to help create and preserve good jobs in America. Colin Powell may bee reassuring the Indians that their jobs will remain safe, but the Bush adminnistration is doing nothing to reassure American high-tech workers that their jobs will remain secure.

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Who won the Spanish Elections?

By Byron LaMasters

The American right-wing would try to make you believe that the terrorists won. A brief browsing of Town Hall.com or any other conservative news site is filled with articles such as "A Win for Terror", "Blame Spain for Next Terror Attack", and "The Bin Laden Vote". And then Owen Courreges writes that "The Spanish are cowards who allow themselves to be manipulated by murderous terrorists". Is this the best the right-wing can do? Go around and fume that any election victory for a leftist or center-left government for one of our allies means that they have succumbed to Al-Queda? Is it not possible, perhaps, that there is not more to the story?

When I posted on the election the other day, I received the same type of comments in my comment thread... "it was only a good day for terrorists", "I can think of NOTHING more corrosive of democracy", etc. I stand by my post. I probably should have been a little bit more clear about why I think that the election results are good, not only for Spain, but for the world community. That's what I'll elaborate on here.

First, the Aznar government completely botched the 3/11 terrorist attack. Instead of admitting that the government had failed to adequately protect its citizens from a terrorist strike by what is most likely to be al Qaeda, the Aznar government attempted to blame the strike on the Basque separatist group ETA. Blaming the attacks on ETA was politically expedient for the Aznar government. Its much easier to blame a separatist group than to take responsibility for being unprepared for the attack of a worldwide terror organization. The Washington Post reports:

In the first frantic hours after coordinated bomb blasts ripped through several packed commuter trains Thursday morning, the government of outgoing Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar undertook an intense campaign to convince the Spanish public and world opinion-makers that the Basque separatist group ETA had carried out the attacks, which killed 201 people and wounded more than 1,500.

Beginning immediately after the blasts, Aznar and other officials telephoned journalists, stressing ETA's responsibility and dismissing speculation that Islamic extremists might be involved. Spanish diplomats pushed a hastily drafted resolution blaming ETA through the U.N. Security Council. At an afternoon news conference, when a reporter suggested the possibility of an al Qaeda connection, the interior minister, Angel Acebes, angrily denounced it as "a miserable attempt to disrupt information and confuse people."

"There is no doubt that ETA is responsible," Acebes said.

Within days, that assertion was in tatters, and with it the reputation and fortunes of the ruling party. Suspicion that the government manipulated information -- blaming ETA in order to divert any possible link between the bombings and Aznar's unpopular support for the war in Iraq -- helped fuel the upset victory of the Socialist Workers' Party in Sunday's elections. By then, Islamic extremists linked to al Qaeda had become the focus of the investigation.


Immediately after Thursday's bombings, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio telephoned her British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, to say that it was ETA, according to a British official, who added, "We had no independent evidence of our own that the Spanish were wrong." Less than two hours later, Straw was on television saying, "It looks to be an ETA terrorist outrage, and that is the information we've received from Madrid."

At the same time, the Spanish Foreign Ministry was sending instructions to its embassies, saying diplomats "should use any opportunity to confirm ETA's responsibility for these brutal attacks," according to a copy of the letter published in the Spanish daily El Pais. Spanish officials have confirmed that the instructions went out, but said they were only for "guidance."


in Madrid, radio stations were referring to "the ETA attacks" and carried none of the discussion about whether others might have been involved.

Managing the coverage of the disaster became a priority for the government, which contacted both the Spanish and international news media, stressing the official line that the bombings were the work of ETA.

El Pais, which was preparing a special edition on the attacks, received several calls directly from Aznar, its reporters confirmed. The editor of the Catalan-based paper El Periodico said Aznar called twice. Aznar "courteously cautioned me not to be mistaken. ETA was responsible," the editor, Antonio Franco, wrote in an editorial Tuesday. At a news conference on Friday, Aznar said he had called several newspapers, saying he wanted to explain the government's view.


On Saturday night -- hours before the polls opened -- the government announced the arrests of three Moroccans and two Indians, and the discovery of a videotape from a purported al Qaeda official asserting responsibility for the attacks. Thousands of Spaniards responded by taking to the streets, banging pots and pans in protests and denouncing the government.

That voter anger swept the Socialists back to power for the first time in eight years.

It's probably best to read the entire article in this morning's Washington Post. It is quite deliberate in laying out the actions of the Spanish government in trying to prevent disclosure of possible al Queda links to the attacks, and place the entirety of the blame on ETA without cause. The Aznar government deceived the Spanish people, and the voters responded. That is, as I wrote, "very good news". Anytime that a government that deliberately deceives its people on matters as important as this - their defeat is "very good news".

Second, not only did the Spanish voters respond their government's attempts to deceive them, but they responded in record numbers. The Spanish election was not a victory for terrorists. In fact, it was an example of the democratic process. The Spanish turnout saw an enormous voter turnout with millions of new voters:

Spanish voters came out in much larger than usual numbers, with a voter turnout as high as 77 per cent. Socialists who were thought to have stayed home last time came pouring out to teach the government a lesson. Particularly significant were the 2 million first-time voters, most believed to have voted Socialist. The election turned out to be a robust exercise in democracy.

How can the terrorists win when millions of new people are brought into a democratic political process? I don't get it.

Finally, the election of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero will be good for pushing the timetable forward in Iraq. As Paul Krugman writes, Zapatero's "most intimate priority" is to "fight terrorism". If Zapatero just pulls Spanish troops out of Iraq immediately, that would be unfortunate. However, Zapatero also has a unique opportunity to use his leverage to influence the United States to further internationalize the situation in Iraq. Such pressure could help legitimize in the minds of the Iraqi people the process towards democracy in that country and lessen the burden on the American troops now in Iraq. The New York Times editorialized on this very idea, yesterday:

The Socialists, under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, ran on a platform of withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq unless a United Nations-led force takes charge after June 30. Mr. Zapatero now has an opportunity to use his new mandate to pressure Washington to seek U.N. help. The Bush administration has already learned it needs the United Nations. That, like the defeat of Mr. Bush's allies in Spain, should help the president to realize what it really takes to win a permanent international war against violent outlaws like Al Qaeda. The peaceful nations of the world are all in this together, and they must work as partners.

Mr. Zapatero, for his part, cannot view his victory as a mandate for isolationism, an option that is simply not available to any member of the European Union. It is instead a summons to join Europe and the United States in the kind of intense and broadly based cooperation that can provide the most sustained and effective answer to the tragedy of Madrid.

Agreed. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction of blaming the terrorists for the Spanish election results, lets look at the results as an opportunity to continue the war on terrorism with a greater emphasis on cooperation with the world community.

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March 14, 2004

Bush Lackeys Defeated

By Byron LaMasters

Very Good news from Spain. CNN reports:

With more than 90 percent of the vote counted, the Socialist Workers Party is on track to win 164 seats in the country's 350-seat parliament, just shy of an absolute majority.

The ruling conservative Popular Party is tipped to win 148 seats.

The Socialists so far have won 43.01 percent of the total vote, ending eight years of conservative rule.

The Socialist Party's leader José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has appeared live on Spanish television to claim victory, saying his party was now in a position to form government.

Zapatero vowed that fighting terrorism would be his first priority as he sets about creating a government of change "that will work for peace."

"Today, the Spanish people have spoken, and they said they want a government of change," he said.

After a minute of silence to remember Thursday's bombing victims, Zapatero expressed thanks "to all the governments and countries that have been with us in our pain."

Zapatero congratulated Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy as "a very good rival," and said he had called him and pledged "to cooperate in the matters of state."

Cuurrent Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar had anointed Rajoy as his successor, but Spain's people had other ideas.


Turnout was high at 76 percent with voters seeming to express anger with the government, accusing it of provoking the Madrid attacks by supporting the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which most Spaniards opposed.

Very good news. No, the socialists aren't crazy communists who will destroy America. Rather, they're pragmatic liberals who will work with our country for peace across the planet. Aznar sucked up to President Bush, and even in a time of terrorism, the Spanish voters sent Aznar and the conservatives a message. It's a good day for Spain and a good day for the world.

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February 05, 2004

Thought of the Day

By Jim Dallas

"The Sources of Soviet Conduct," X [George Kennan], July 1947 (Relevant now as much as it ever was).

...no mystical, Messianic movement... can face frustration indefinitely without eventually adjusting itself in one way or another to the logic of that state of affairs.

Thus the decision will really fall in large measure in this country itself. The issue... is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.

Surely, there was never a fairer test of national quality than this. In the light of these circumstances, the thoughtful observer... will find no cause for complaint in the... challenge to American society. He will rather experience a certain gratitude to a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear.

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December 29, 2003

Down and Out in the Spider-Hole

By Jim Dallas

Reports in the foreign press that claimed that Saddam Hussein's capture had been, in effect, staged, got people thinking harder about that strange coincidencewhereby President Bush signed the FY2004 Intelligence Authorization Act on the same day that Saddam Hussein was captured.

(Via Kos poster Xavier Sigala and the San Antonio Current)

n December 13, when U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush not only celebrated with his national security team, but also pulled out his pen and signed into law a bill that grants the FBI sweeping new powers. A White House spokesperson explained the curious timing of the signing - on a Saturday - as "the President signs bills seven days a week." But the last time Bush signed a bill into law on a Saturday happened more than a year ago - on a spending bill that the President needed to sign, to prevent shuttng down the federal government the following Monday.

By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote. Consequently, while most Americans watched as Hussein was probed for head lice, few were aware that the FBI had just obtained the power to probe their financial records, even if the feds don't suspect their involvement in crime or terrorism.

By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote.

The Bush Administration and its Congressional allies tucked away these new executive powers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, a legislative behemoth that funds all the intelligence activities of the federal government. The Act included a simple, yet insidious, redefinition of "financial institution," which previously referred to banks, but now includes stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, and any other business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters."

Congressional leaders had already come under fire for the shenanigans that got the clause inserted into the funding bill.

There's reasons to question the Kurd claims that Saddam Hussein was tucked away for the Coalition in his spider-hole. Still, if we put on our tin-foil hats, it gets pretty easy to suspect that maybe, just maybe, this was more than a coincidence.

Did the White House know about Saddam, and time his perp walk to provide political cover? Most likely not. We don't know, and without any other knowledge, it's best to resist the temptation to speculate, particularly in the times we live in.

But in this era of uncertainty, it's also worth noting that there are people in the world for whom such conspiracy theorizing emboldens, and no, I'm not just talking about us crazy left-wingers at Burnt Orange Report.

For example, consider the chatter on the ground reported by Stars and Stripes --

Though most Iraqis seem to have accepted the fact Saddam was nabbed on Dec. 13, bizarre rumors on his real fate and whereabouts still circulate. Most of the theories suggest the military nabbed a double, not Saddam. The credulous majority, however, seem to view the rumors as a psychic hangover from years of brainwashing.

The sheer span of time — more than three decades — that the strongman ruled Iraq and the hard rivets he used to keep it that way made the man a myth. Children even sang songs about Saddam the very day he was caught, not so much out of respect, according to one Iraqi, but out of routine.

Though he’s heard the rumors, Abbass believes Saddam is in custody. Many Iraqis who believe the official U.S. account said the way the grizzled man on the television moves and gestures proves he is the ex-president.

“Because he ruled for 35 years, he is like a legend,” Abbass says. “They don’t want to believe he’s been caught.”

The shop’s owner, Ali Abbass, said about half of Iraqis still mourn the fall of Saddam. When news broke that Saddam had been captured, celebratory gunfire rattled throughout Baghdad. Ali says yet more lead was spent after some Sunnis and Baathists heard rumors that Saddam had been sighted, still free, in Fallujah...


... American military and coalition officials say they don’t proactively attempt to dispel rumors, even when they’re in print.

“We try to make ourselves as open as possible, and almost every day we have a press conference,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Gainer, spokesman for military forces here. “The press is welcome to ask us questions. … They ask us a lot of times, ‘Is this true?’ And we haven’t even heard of it.”

And Iraq’s free press has only been that way for a short time and is still getting the hang of it. Responding to a press conference question on rumors in general, coalition spokesman Charles Heatly said authorities plan no crackdowns on the tales, tall or otherwise.

“We will deal with these rumors in a free media environment,” Heatly said.

Hopefully, there will be a commitment to transparency and honest government in Iraq, because ultimately it will cultivate trust.

But let's zoom back to Washington, for a comparison.

President Bush has become infamous for not holding press conferences; although I hesitate to quote from the far-righters over at lewrockwell.com, it's apt --

Our current president, George W. Bush, avoids formal press conferences like Ellen DeGeneres avoids men, and it’s no wonder why. Without the guiding hand of the teleprompter to feed his speechwriters’ words into his mouth, he’s as lost as Rush Limbaugh at a NOW convention. And so, understandably perhaps, Bush stages a press conference about as often as the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.

President Bush, is (or at least, ought to be) infamous for not producing information. be Stonewalling on Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force. Stonewalling on the 9/11 Commission. Yellowcake and the never-ending game of "Who Endangered CIA Asset Valerie Plame?"

Need I go on?

The result has been a vicious circle, whereby Bush has, generally through his own incompetence and the incompetence of those around him, failed to cultivate the trust or respect of many Americans, mostly Democrats. We don't have to like what he's doing; but the fact of the matter is that we could still like him -- and we don't, in large part because he's not doing much to win us over besides smirking, telling awkward jokes, and pretending to be a rancher.

The vicious circle continues as such. We don't trust him. We get shrill. They accuse us of aiding and abetting the enemy, or whatever (contrast that again to Baghdad, where shrillness is tolerated in a "free media environment").

And just to think, maybe, just maybe, that wouldn't happen if the President would just start acting like the "uniter" he promised to be.

George W. Bush has been President now for nearly three years, and I think the fact of the matter is that he has generally failed in restoring honor and integrity to the White House. Our country is worse off today because of that.

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December 23, 2003

Christmas Music Causes Emotional Trauma

By Byron LaMasters

Well, not really, but thats what some workers in the Czech Republic are saying.

Labor unions in the Czech Republic demanded Monday that stores stop playing Christmas carols incessantly or pay compensation for causing emotional trauma to sales clerks.

Some stores here play the same songs all day -- and play them loudly. Employees say shifts have become unbearable.

"To listen to it for eight hours a day is not healthy, that's for sure," said Alexandr Leiner, a union leader. "And for the customers, it's almost unbearable as well."

Sure, it may sound frivolous, but if you've ever worked at a store that plays Christmas music the ENTIRE month of December, then you probably have similar thoughts. Nothing against Christmas music, but an entire month of it is tough to manage.

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December 14, 2003


By Jim Dallas

Unconfirmed as of 0523 12/14/03: Saddam Hussein captured by US forces

Confirmed as of 0523 12/14/03: Andy Pettitte captured by Houston Astros

Unbelievable as of 0523 12/14/03: Heisman captured by Sooner QB White

Update (0639): Yup, we got Saddam.

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November 23, 2003

How We Got There (an opinion greatly aided by 20/20 hindsight)

By Jim Dallas

Over the last few weeks, through the use of 20-20 hindsight, I've made a few conclusions about US foreign policy towards Iraq. Arguably, you can't argue with somebody unless you undertand how it is that they interpret history and what lessons they draw from it. For the sake of public debate, here is how I understand the backstory to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

We need to flash back to December 1998, during Operation Desert Fox, which was launched by President Clinton in concert with our British allies. This marks the real beginning of US policy of "pre-emptive" war against Iraq, and showed the weakness of the policy of dual-containment which had been undertaken by the first Bush administration and continued by President Clinton.

The policy relied essentially on two pillars. The first was weapons inspections, the second was sanctions. (A strong case could be made that by 1998 regime change was already official US policy).

During the 1990s, Saddam systematically misled the United States and UN weapons inspectors (though arguably both the US and UN share some of the blame for the failure of inspections). The result was that our government and our allies simply did not know what was going on in Iraq in regards to weapons of mass destruction. And considering the fact that Saddam certainly had chemical and biological weapons before and possibly after 1992, there was a lot to worry about.

When President Clinton ordered air strikes in 1998, the situation was made worse, because inspectors were forced out (or withdrawn by the UN, depending on how you frame the events). Our limited knowledge about Iraqi NBC weapons became even more limited.

Moreover, the sanctions put in place after the first Gulf War were not accomplishing what they were intended to. Although Saddam never successfully rebuilt his army (which had been funded in no small part by the US, which after the first Gulf War was persona non grata, and by the USSR, which after 1992 simply did not exist anymore), the Iraqi people suffered by being cut off from the rest of the world. While Saddam deserves primary blame for that, the US and the UN were certainly complicit in letting the sanctions regime condemn the Iraqi people instead of the Iraqi dictator.

Moreover, in a separate-but-related arena, the Clinton administration tried (but failed) to exert pressure on Al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations in its last couple years. While the political will existed to use force to subdue Osama bin Laden, actual effort seems to have been sporadic and hard to explain to a GOP congress which was increasingly isolationist and averse to any serious foreign policy discussion in 1998 and 1999. Obviously, the country was already distracted by more serious issues like Monica Lewinsky, school vouchers, and "partial-birth abortion."

But in sum, the policy of Iraqi containnment was clearly failing by the end of the decade, and the inability of the Clinton administration to articulate an alternative framework for dealing with Saddam was extremely short-sighted, and created a policy vacuum (a lack of real ideas) that allowed a patently nutty idea like invading Iraq to advance unchecked two years later.

So by the time President Bush took office in 2001, something had to give. At first, it seemed that the Bush administration was considering what Secretary of State Powell called "smart sanctions", which to some suggested that US-Iraqi relations might be liberalized and perhaps eventually normalized. Provided, of course, that realists like Powell could suppress the protests of neoconservatives in the Pentagon (who by early 2001 were already planning for war).

The tragedy that occurred on September 11 of that year clearly forced the administration to re-evaluate the situation and finally get "serious" about terrorism, or at least try to continue the unfinished business of the Clinton administration in subduing Al Qaeda. The problem is that, aside from a stunningly successful war against terrorist-harboring Afghani Taliban, there were very few tangible things that the President could do to vanquish Osama bin Laden himself.

September 11 also forced Bush to revisit the attitude of the Clinton administration towards "rogue states." While there has never been any evidence to link the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to any rogue state whatsoever, many of the "what-ifs" that had been advanced during the 1990s involving rogue states, terrorists, and "weapons of mass destruction" suddenly became more palpable. Hence the "Axis of Evil" speech delivered in the months immediately after 9/11.

The desire to "do something, anything" after 9/11 manifested itself in truly awful policy-making. Hence the USA PATRIOT Act, which many lawmakers have since regretted. This attitude also influenced the Bush administration's rapidly shifting (and prior to 9/11, possibly non-existant) policy on Iraq.

In mid-2002, UN weapons inspectors had been absent from Iraq for nearly four years, and the lack of intelligence (evidenced by the failure by the US to find any "WMDs" in Iraq thusfar) was staggering. We simply did not know what was going on. After 9/11, this was unacceptable.

So the Bush administration began considering military action against Iraq - on the basis of what they did not know or could not know. And the US Congress approved a use-of-force resolution justified, essentially, by ignorance.

Eventually, Secretary of State Powell convinced the President to do the right thing and go to the UN. Eventually, the give-and-take of global politics led to the passage of UNSC Resolution 1441, which given the tensions and anxieties of the time, was a masterful compromise which might have laid the groundwork for a return to a "normal" state of affairs with Iraq. The United States, and the world, had a right to know what Saddam Hussein had been doing during the absence of UN weapons inspectors. The renewal of inspections uner Res. 1441 offered a chance for the US and the UN to figure out whether Iraq actually posed a threat to its neighbors (and the Coalition).

Had the drive to war ended in November 2002, when Iraq relented to UN pressure under the threat of war, the world might have had peace as well as piece-of-mind. And George W. Bush would have succeeded in making a broken process work again.

But it did not. The weapons inspectors came away with mixed evidence for and against the presence of illegal weapons, and despite the need for more time to come to a real conclusion, Bush's patience simply ran out. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In sum, there was a bi-partisan failure under both the Clinton and Bush administrations to develop a realistic, long-term strategy for dealing with Iraq that did not involve the use of force -- and when one seemed to emerge when the UNSC passed Resolution 1441 unanimously, the Bush administration simply rejected it out of hand.

There were some advantages to the eventual outcome -- US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. The most of important of which was the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. But the disadvantages cannot be overlooked either, and I remain convinced that on balance it will not be viewed kindly by history (and given the since-aborted framework for regime change tentatively developed under the Iraqi Democracy Act, it cannot be said that war was the only option for removing the dictator).

The President's political team has tried to paint the occupation of Iraq as not merely a success (which is dubious in-and-of-itself), but as a bold new approach to the Middle East. But quite frankly, I do not believe that what has unfolded in Iraq can be understood without considering the policies adopted by the Clinton administration (after all, weren't anti-war people reminded over and over again that the left was "hypocritical" because Clinton bombed Iraq because of alleged NBC weapons?) and, more importantly, the weaknesses of those policies. Moreover, eventually historians are going to need to grapple with why Clinton's adventures abroad (to wit, Bosnia and Kosovo) were so successful and relatively-bloodless, compared to the quicksand-quagmire that Iraq is rapidly becoming.

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November 20, 2003

Majority of Americans "Hate America"

By Jim Dallas

Picked up by Atrios:

Fifty-five percent of those polled disapproved of how the United States has handled post-war Iraq, marking the highest negative response to the question since US tanks entered Baghdad in April, USA Today reported.

I guess this means we're "against us" now, too.

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November 15, 2003

The Price of Bush's War

By Byron LaMasters

No, not the pricetag. What about the human cost?

The number of U.S. casualties from Operation Iraqi Freedom -- troops killed, wounded or evacuated due to injury or illness -- has passed 9,000, according to new Pentagon data.

In addition to the 397 service members who have died and the 1,967 wounded, 6,861 troops were medically evacuated for non-combat conditions between March 19 and Oct. 30, the Army Surgeon General's office said.

That brings total casualties among all services to more than 9,200, and represents an increase of nearly 3,000 non-combat medical evacuations reported since the first week of October. The Army offered no immediate explanation for the increase. A leading veterans' advocate expressed concern.

"We are shocked at the dramatic increase in casualties," said Steve Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center. Of the non-combat medical evacuations:

-- 2,464 were for injuries, such as those sustained in vehicle accidents.

-- 4,397 were due to illness; 504 of those were classified as psychiatric, 378 as neurological, and another 150 as neurosurgery.

"We are especially concerned about the psychological and neurological evacuations from this war," Robinson said. "We request a clarification of the types of illnesses people are suffering from so we do not have a repeat of the first Gulf War. We need to understand the nature and types of illnesses so scientists can determine if significant trends are occurring."


In early October, the Army Surgeon General's office said 3,915 soldiers had been evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom for non-combat injuries and illnesses, including 478 with psychological problems and 387 for neurological reasons.

The new total of 6,861 reported non-combat evacuations is a rise of 57 percent since then.

This doesn't even touch the issue of Iraqui casaulties. The media obviously will focus on the deaths, but the death toll is only a part of the tragedy of how many American lives this war has affected. This war has caused 9000 U.S. casaulties. 9000!. What a shame.

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November 04, 2003

Fox, Perry, will have a lot to talk about

By Jim Dallas

Today's Stateman notes Mexican president Vicente Fox's planned trip to Austin this week.

While the visit is part of a swing though Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona aimed at building local support for an immigration accord, President Fox and Rick Perry are going to have a lot to talk about.

Hopefully, though, when discussing items like Rio Grande water rights, matricula consular cards, and migration, the two leaders won't waste their time talking past each other, since progress on those issues has been stalled for some time.

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November 03, 2003


By Byron LaMasters


I'm sure we'll hear more of the same crap tomorrow about how much "progress" we've made in Iraq six months after the our mission was "acomplished". This kind of news and the way the administration responds to it just makes me sick.

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October 09, 2003

Vatican Idiocy

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, that'll catch your attention. And before I get blasted for religious intolerance, read on...

I'm very open-minded, and while I'm not the most religious person out there, I respect people who are religious of whatever faith, even if we disagree politically. But this kind of crap just pisses me off to no end:

The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which the HIV virus can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people to risk. The church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to the HIV virus.

A senior Vatican spokesman backs the claims about permeable condoms, despite assurances by the World Health Organisation that they are untrue.

Promoting abstainance is fine. It's not my policy, but if a church wants to promote it, then fine. Heck, if the Catholic Church doesn't want to talk about safe sex, that's fine. But to deliberately lie about condoms? That's a grave (literally) disservice. I know, condoms don't work 100% of the time, but they save lives. The point is that the Vatican is lying and using scare tactics to discourage condom use:

The WHO has condemned the Vatican's views, saying: "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million."

The organisation says "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%. There may be breakage or slippage of condoms - but not, the WHO says, holes through which the virus can pass.

Scientific research by a group including the US National Institutes of Health and the WHO found "intact condoms... are essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens including the smallest sexually transmitted virus... condoms provide a highly effective barrier to transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD viruses".

Furthermore, the preachings of the Vatican lead to deadly misconceptions in the lower levels of the church:

In Kenya - where an estimated 20% of people have the HIV virus - the church condemns condoms for promoting promiscuity and repeats the claim about permeability. The archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki, said: "Aids... has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms."

Sex and the Holy City includes a Catholic nun advising her HIV-infected choirmaster against using condoms with his wife because "the virus can pass through".

Blatant lies. Deadly lies. I don't ask for people to agree with me in regards to sexual morality, but for God's sake, don't go around telling people lies that kill people.

Update: Needless to say, I hope that Drudge's sources are wrong about the Pope winning the Nobel Peace prize. Sure, he's more deserving than previous winner Yasir Arafat, but I could think of much more deserving people.

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September 22, 2003

Happy Birthday to a Hero for Peace

By Byron LaMasters

A very happy birthday to former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

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September 20, 2003

"Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast"

By Byron LaMasters

We want International U.N. assistance in Iraq, yet we still go out of the way to antagonize our allies. Sure, the French had their own agenda in opposing war in Iraq, and opposed the war in Iraq for less than genuine reasons (i.e. their own self-serving interests such as oil contracts with Iraq), but isn't it time for the United States Congress to show some maturity and start calling French Fries and French Toast "French Fries" and "French Toast" again... especially when we want U.N. support? Kudos to Shelia Jackson-Lee for speaking out on the issue.

French Fries / Toast article via Stout Dem Blog.

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A Sign of Things to Come?

By Byron LaMasters

The Labour Party suffered a defeat in one of its strongholds in a special election in Great Britain to fill an open seat. Labour is hurting from its unpopular support of President Bush, while the Liberal Democrats, the only major British party to oppose the war in Iraq have benefited:

Senior Labour figures blamed a backlash against the war in Iraq and the aftermath of the conflict yesterday for the party's humiliating defeat in the Brent East by-election.

MPs urged Tony Blair to change his policies and style of government, with some warning that the party could lose power at the next general election despite its majority of 163 in the House of Commons.

A senior Labour source told The Independent: "There was a combination of factors but they all relate to Iraq - the war itself, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the death of David Kelly and the Hutton inquiry. We have had six months of background noise on Iraq. Without that, we would almost certainly have held the seat."

The Liberal Democrats were jubilant after overturning a 13,047 majority in one of Labour's safest seats with a 29 per cent swing. There was gloom for the Tories, whose embarrassing third place revived speculation about Iain Duncan Smith's future as party leader.

Labour's preliminary inquest into the party's first by-election defeat for 15 years, which will be reported to its national executive committee on Tuesday, will say that Iraq was the decisive factor.

A Labour official said that Iraq became a symbol on the doorstep in Brent for people who wanted to "give the Government a kicking". It was a particularly important issue for Muslims and AB professional workers, he said. Iraq had also undermined people's trust in the Prime Minister, another factor in Brent. A Blair aide said: "Iraq and the Hutton inquiry crowded out our message on, and the reality of, public-service reforms. People think the Government is not concentrating on what they put it there to do." And Ian McCartney, the Labour chairman, admitted that Iraq had caused "difficulties" for the party, which needed to re-focus on domestic issues. "The backdrop of the controversy surrounding the Iraqi conflict, in its many forms, made this the most difficult by-election Labour has fought in the last 20 years," he said.

Glenda Jackson, MP for Highgate and Hampstead, said: "There is a severe breakdown in trust in the Government rooted in issues such as the Iraq war, the death of Dr Kelly." In the public's mind, the Government was associated almost exclusively with Mr Blair.

Frank Field, a former minister for welfare reform, said: "We are in deep trouble and for the first time we see the prospect that we might actually lose the election on a record low turnout."


Sarah Teather, who becomes Britain's youngest MP at 29, hailed her 1,118-vote victory over the Labour MEP Robert Evans as a "vindication" of Charles Kennedy's opposition to the Iraq war.

Mr Kennedy said: "We're now on course, steadily and with perseverance, at least in principle, to overtake the Conservatives as a political party in opposition. They are the big, big losers in this contest without any shadow of doubt."

Labour has a lot of work to do to repair the damage that they've created among their supporters. But if this by-election is any indication, the Labour base is very alienated, which will be a big problem for Blair and his party next election.

Posted at 12:29 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 13, 2003

Death hits close to home

By Byron LaMasters

Henry Ybarra III of Austin, was killed in Iraq this week. He's the first U.S. casualty from Austin. My sympathy goes out to his friends and family.

Posted at 03:06 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2003

Multilateral Realists

By Byron LaMasters

Back to my post on the Christian Science Monitor Neocon Quiz. Most everyone with a Democratic / moderate / left leaning perspective on foreign policy was listed vaguely as a "realist". I wanted to repost a comment that I wrote on the earlier thread.

From looking at the questions of the quiz it seems like the answers are generally go like this:

A) Far left-wing, Anti-American radical answer

B) Centrist, multilateral answer, pro-alliances, pro-diplomacy answer

C) Center Right/Right wing American Empire answer


D) Protectionist, isolationist, crazy right wing answer.

So, 'A' is for "liberals" although I'd really probably classify it as "far left". 'C' is for the Neocon's and 'D' is for the isolationists. Fine, but what is a realist? It's a broad term which unlike liberals or neocons spans the traditional left / right, Democratic / Republican divide in order to include people from Colin Powell to Bill Clinton. 'B' is the "realists" which I would guess that the majority of people come closest to. I think that realists could be further divided into conservative realists and liberal realists. I guess I'd call myself a "liberal realist". Still broad. So, how would you define me?

I consider my foreign policy to be center-left, multilaterist, pro-alliances, pro-diplomacy, hawkish on national defense, but anti-pre-emptive strike/unilateral action, strongly pro-NATO and pro-UN, pro-Israel but anti-Sharon and pro-Peace and pro-Palestinian state (two state solution). If I could make a category, what should I call it? Multilateral Realists?

Historial "multilateral realist": Tough one, but Woodrow Wilson comes close (he's the guy the CSM guys chose for historical leader of "liberals").

Modern "multilateral realist": Easy. Wesley Clark. Hmmm... interesting.

Posted at 07:08 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

I'm a Realist

By Byron LaMasters

According to the Christian Science Monitor Neocon Quiz via Strategeric Thought, I am a Realist. Here's what they say about it:


Are guided more by practical considerations than ideological vision
Believe US power is crucial to successful diplomacy - and vice versa
Don't want US policy options unduly limited by world opinion or ethical considerations
Believe strong alliances are important to US interests
Weigh the political costs of foreign action
Believe foreign intervention must be dictated by compelling national interest
Historical realist: President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Modern realist: Secretary of State Colin Powell

I'd agree with most of the above. I'd also add that the modern realist should only include the pre-dark side Powell, before he became a yes-man to Wolfowitz and Rumsfelt. Until this last year, I actually highly respected Colin Powell. I always find online quizes interesting, and I'd encourage anyone to take this one, however there were several questions that I found biased. Take question #10 for example:

10. Does the US have the right balance between foreign and domestic priorities?

A. President George W. Bush rightly made the nation's security his No. 1 priority after 9/11. The growing deficit is unfortunate, but increased spending is certainly justified. The US didn't start the war on terrorism, but it will finish it, even if that moves some domestic concerns to the back burner.

B. The US is spending billions per month to help Iraqis, but millions of US workers can't find jobs. Managing a global empire is unconscionably costly.

C. The billions spent on homeland security and far-flung bombing campaigns haven't made the US any safer. With the money it wastes killing civilians abroad and chipping away at civil liberties at home, the US government could provide health insurance to all Americans.

D. If the cold war was World War III, 9/11 began the opening shots of World War IV. This is no time to "go wobbly" by whining about the federal budget deficit. Compared with the sacrifices Americans made in WWII, there is little to complain about. The cost to win the war on terrorism may be quite high, but the US truly cannot afford to lose this fight.

Well, I can't agree with 'A' because besides the obvious "George Bush rightly...", I do think that the deficit is a big deal, and 'A' downplays that. As for 'B', well I opposed the war in Iraq, but at this point pulling out of Iraq isn't a good idea either (we should go to the UN that we alienated and said that we didn't need earlier this year). Jobs are important, and Bush has neglected them, but it has little to do with Iraq. I'm close to agreeing with 'C', but I don't like it either because I think that it's critical that we spend a good deal of money on homeland security post-9/11, and I think that it has made a difference, although I strongly oppose parts of the Patriot Act and other violations of the Constitution. Health insurance is important and all, but what does it have to do with homeland security? And 'D' again dismisses the budget deficit and goes into this WWIII and WWIV that I find a over the top. So, I really didn't agree with any of them. Since I had formed opinions on the previous nine questions, I decided to try all four answers and all four gave me the same result: a realist. I just with that there was a 'E' reading something along the lines of: "It is critical to invest in homeland security in order to prevent another 9/11 from terrorizing America. However, we must balance the federal budget, and in order to pay for our new security concerns it is critical that the Bush tax cuts be repealed." Hmm... well, that's my opinion, what's yours?

Posted at 12:24 AM to International | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 02, 2003

IMF discovers Weapon of Mass Economic Destruction in U.S. Budget Deficit

By Jim Dallas

How do you unite radical peaceniks, freepers, the global finance community, and the New York Times in opposition to the Bush administration?

Answer: Drown the global economy in red ink.

Posted at 11:48 AM to International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2003

More evidence we invaded the wrong country

By Jim Dallas

The Guardian reports that UN inspectors have found evidence of highly-enriched weapons-grade uranium in.... Iran.

You know, the junior member of the Axis of Evil.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - U.N. inspectors found traces of highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium at an Iranian nuclear facility, a report by the U.N. nuclear agency says. Iran said Tuesday the traces came with equipment purchased abroad decades ago.

The find heightened concerns that Tehran may be running a secret nuclear weapons program.

Agency inspectors found ``particles'' of highly enriched uranium that could be used in a weapons program at the facility at Natanz, said the report prepared for a meeting of the U.N. agency's board Sept. 8 in Vienna. Contents of the report were made known to The Associated Press by diplomats who requested anonymity.

The United States has accused Iran of developing a clandestine nuclear weapons program, violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty barring the spread of atomic weapons.

Iran has denied the allegations, insisting its programs are devoted only to generating electricity.

Ali-Akbar Salehi, Tehran's ambassador to the IAEA, said the equipment was ``contaminated'' with enriched uranium before it was purchased by Iran.

Salehi told AP the equipment in question was ``brought many years ago from intermediaries'' and so it was impossible to name the countries of origin.

Iran strongly insists it doesn't have a nuclear program.

Posted at 04:35 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

Bring them Home Now

By Byron LaMasters

Bush says "Bring it on", military families say "Bring them home". Check this out.

Posted at 01:14 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 07, 2003

Recall Roundup 8/7

By Andrew Dobbs

So I spent all day yesterday traveling home from Burlington, isolated from the news for the first time in two and a half months and I was afraid I was going to miss something. Sure enough, I miss Arnold Schwarzenegger’s announcement that he will, in fact, be running for governor of California. I gotta hand it to the muscle man, he had us all convinced he was out of the race and then pow he runs. That was the only smart move here though- this guy’s goose is cooked and he promises to take the California GOP even further into, as Joe Lieberman might say, the “political wilderness.”

Why is that you ask? First off, he’s running against Gray Davis. Davis has never won a single race in his entire life- he’s only caused other people to lose. He can’t tout a record or a vision or a charisma or anything else worth electing him on, he can just make the other guy (or gal as the case may be) in the race look worse. Arnold has about as rich a treasure trove of embarrassing details as anybody- not all of them will stick with everybody but enough will stick with enough people to make this his last race ever. To wit:

1. Arnold’s drug use could be problematic. In at least one of his bodybuilding documentaries back in the day it showed him using marijuana (not a big deal necessarily but likely to alienate the conservative base he has to win as a Republican) and it is pretty clear that he used steroids for years. Pot people can handle, other drugs, particularly drugs that constitute cheating and make people violent are another story. This alone could kill his candidacy.

2. Violence, sex and profanity. All Gray would have to do is take a scene from one of his movies where he blows stuff up, curses or has some steamy love scene and ask if this is the example we want to be setting for our kids. The home of Hollywood probably won’t be as phased as a lot of places, but again, the base will be pissed and it does make him look rather non-governor like.

3. Sex in real life. Arnold is accused of being quite a womanizer and perhaps even an adulterer. Tabloids and other sources have been sitting on these stories for years as Schwarzenegger is known to be very litigious but all bets are off in this race. A couple of stories about a serial adulterer could hurt him- it didn’t hurt Clinton in CA but Arnold doesn’t have Clinton’s charisma or talent.

4. Lack of experience. Poorly mumbling inane lines in a thick Austrian accent as a cookie-cutter character in some mindless action film doesn’t make one qualified to steward the world’s fifth largest economy.

So Arnold has some skeletons and Gray knows how to get him on the defensive. This is bad news for the CA GOP because they wasted their only real prospect on a race he will walk away from in shame.

And now some Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring- namely Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi. Cruz is a much better candidate and Garamendi would be smart to drop out of the race while he still can and having one Democrat greatly increases the chances that we’ll have a friend in the governor’s mansion come October. Regardless of how it works out, Schwarzenegger will come under attack from his right flank by Bill Simon and Tom McClintock and Democrats will side with Bustamante or Garamendi leaving him without any real base except for people who want to vote for a celebrity. Those people already have Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and Larry Flynt, making this race what we all knew it was going to be all along- a circus of unparalleled proportions.

The smartest guy in this race so far might just be Darrell Issa, who announced today that he would not be running. This guy gets his name ID up, gets to claim the biggest Republican victory in about a decade as his own, avoids the degrading spectacle of the race itself and is the only Republican left standing with any kind of chance in 2006. If he can just come up with some answers for some of his past problems, rewrite his bio so that it doesn’t include outright lies and maybe do a bangup job in Congress for a few years he could be the CA GOP’s top dog in 3-7 years. If the party can just keep stoking the public’s resentment and disapproval of the state government and find a way to channel that into anti-Democratic and pro-Republican sentiment Issa has a real chance for Governor or Senate down the road, as much as I hate to admit it.

So here’s the tally so far- Simon, McClintock and Schwarzenegger for the GOP; Arianna Huffington and Peter Camejo as independents; Garamendi and Bustamante for the Dems and Flynt and Coleman just for fun. Definitely out- Issa, Michael Huffington and Diane Feinstein. Maybe in, probably not- Loretta Sanchez for The Ds. She’d just split the vote more and there’s already a Latino in for the Democrats. I think that the advantage lies with the GOP right now and Schwarzenegger but if Gray can make him look as bad as we all know he can then Bustamante has a real shot. Line one I still think passes until I see polls that tell me otherwise. Seeing as less than 10% of respondents said they were “undecided” don’t expect the numbers to change.

Have fun folks, it’s going to be a hell of a ride!

Posted at 04:42 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 23, 2003

Fun "Fightin' Fashion" Trivia for Francophobes

By Jim Dallas

I've got a particularly interesting day-job this summer; I work in a military surplus store. Which exposes me to a lot of battle dress uniform designs from around the world.

Interestingly enough, I've discovered that the camouflage pattern used in the current-issue day- desert BDU (which is being worn in Iraq and Afghanistan right now) is very similar to the French desert BDU, which was introduced at about the same time.

The current day-desert pattern, which has three colors (tan, pale green, and brown) instead of the six colors used in the "chocolate chip" camo issued during the first Gulf War, dates to the early 1990s. The French F1 desert pattern came out around 1990.

The Netherlands also has a desert pattern which is identical - they adopted America's pattern.

Compare for yourself:

U.S. 3-color French F1 Netherlands

It's not unusual for countries - particularly NATO members - to collaborate on camouflage patterns. The British and Dutch disruptive patterns are essentially identical, for example.

Although I can neither confirm nor deny this, wouldn't it be ironic if Franco-American collaboration produced the battle uniform now being used by Americans in a war the French strongly opposed (as well as those peace-loving Dutch, whose uniforms are virtually clones of ours)?

In either case, let's not forget camouflage is a French word. I wonder if we should start calling it "freedom fashion" instead?

UPDATE: Since posting earlier this evening, I also remembered about the origins of the new Marine Corps "digital camo" pattern. Just entering service, it's probably the boldest and most controversial change made to any American uniform since the Army decided to make the black beret (French?) its standard headgear a few years ago. From Wired.Com:

They're the few, the proud, and soon to be the differently dressed.

Thanks to technological innovations and the desire to set themselves apart, the Marines are getting a new uniform.

Marine officials say the new camouflage uniforms, or "cammies," are designed to better hide soldiers in combat situations and differentiate them from other branches of the military.

However, the most interesting component of the cammies is perhaps the camouflage design itself, created by digitally generated pixels.


Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones, who's responsible for the new cammies, told USA Today recently that he didn't want the Marines to "be confused with anybody else."

The Marines' 21st century camouflage is not a new idea.

The updated pattern shows some similarities to the type developed by the German Waffen SS during World War II. In 1995, Canadian forces began field-testing their own pixel design, according to military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Like the Marines, the Canadian government has patented its digital pattern. The Marines' design includes tiny eagle, globe and anchor insignias.

The similarity to the Canadian design is a bit understated in this article; the digital camo pattern (also called MARPAT) was designed with technical assistance from the Canadian government and its contractors.

Why bring all of this up?

To many patriotic Americans, "French" and "Canadian" are supreme epithets, worse than any others. the recent incident in which ABC journalist Jeffrey Kofman was smeared as a "gay Canadian" only added fuel to the fire:

"When you take a job in the United States in the public eye, that goes with the territory," Mr. Kofman said. "I tried to hide the Canadian-ness. I guess the old O-U-T word caught up with me," he joked yesterday from the ABC News bureau in Baghdad, referring to the tell-tale pronunciation of words such as "about" that often give away Canadians in the United States, not the fact that he is out as a gay man.

"My darkest secret has been revealed," he said, chuckling.

And yet now the United States Marine Corps, America's tough guys, are going Canadian? There's obviously some cognitive dissonance out there, if we're to believe that Canadians and Europeans are merely wimpy America-haters.

It's important that we show some more appreciation the strong relationships we have with Canada, France, and our other NATO allies (word on the street is that even humble Iceland is now on Donald Rumsfeld's shit list).

Posted at 06:50 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 19, 2003

My Birthday Message to Nelson Mandela

By Byron LaMasters

One of my personal heroes is former South African President Nelson Mandela. Today is his 85th Birthday. Click Here to send him a birthday message. Here's what I said in my message:

Thank you for your leadership and work for civil rights throughout your career. I hope that next time that an American president visits your country, it will be someone that we can both be proud of. Please continue your great work, and being an inspiration to young activists like myself across the globe working for a more tolerant and progressive world.

Thanks to Tim Z. for this!

Posted at 01:53 AM to International | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 14, 2003

Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Byron LaMasters

I just found this, via the Dallas County Democratic Party. Very funny:


Someone on the Internet really has a sense of humor. And we sure could
use a laugh! Check this out from Google.

1) Go to Google.com

2) Type in (but don't hit return): "weapons of mass destruction"

3) Hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button, instead of the normal "Google
search" button

4) Read what appears to be a normal error message carefully.

Posted at 03:16 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2003

Africa: Then and Now

By Byron LaMasters

Africa: then and now. What a difference three years makes. What a shame.

Posted at 09:28 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 03, 2003

Coalition of the Billing

By Byron LaMasters

More on our coalition of the billing:

The United States is offering a $25 million reward for information that either leads to the capture of Saddam Hussein or confirms that the former Iraqi leader is dead, U.S. officials announced Thursday.

In addition, they offered a $15 million reward for similar information about Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay.

We all know how successful rewards have been in helping us find Osama Bin Laden. Of course, more people have been injured in violence in Iraq. What's the exit strategy, again?

At least 10 American soldiers were wounded in attacks on Thursday in Iraq, according to U.S. military officials.

Posted at 12:10 PM to International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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