Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Rat Deserting a Sinking Ship of State

Here comes another George (Tenet), hawking his book about the build-up to the second Iraqi war when he was C.I.A. director in the 9/11 era, giving V.P. Cheney his most famous quotation, a claim that the consensus of the intelligence community of the potential for a successful invasion was, to quote Tenet, "a slam dunk." Tenet now claims that the words were taken out of context. (Hey, you're dealing with a Bushite: what else is new?) He now claims that all available intelligence at the time showed that there were no WMD's, there was no Saddam-al Qaida link, there was no nuclear threat, and that sanctions were, to an extent, working. So why the War?

Making the rounds of the talk shows to promote his book, Tenet is armed to the teeth with self-serving, face-saving recollections that are belied by video clips showing his behavior at the time. For example, he claims he had grave misgivings about accepting the Medal of Freedom from the President in a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance, but there he is on the dais, shit-eating grin from ear to ear, gobbling up the moment as if it were fine buluga on those tiny pumpernickel rounds only served at the finest festivities. Worse, who can forget Colin Powell, Bush's dupe, trying to sell the United Nations General Assembly on Saddam's threat to world peace, Tenet sitting right behind him all the while?

No, George, it simply won't do. Instead of doing the right thing -- speaking out to let the American people know that Bush's propaganda campaign about Saddam was a huge lie -- you kept your mouth shut. You accepted the Medal of Freedom in the spirit in which it was given: to buy your silence until the nation had turned 2/3rds against the administration and overwhelmingly demanded bringing home the troops. You sat by and said nothing while 3,400 troops died, to say nothing of the 30,000 or so Iraqi citizens.

If the Christers are right about Hell, Mr. Tenet, there is a very special corner of it waiting for you. With any luck you will first be tried for war crimes. You and Rove and Cheney and, yes, Bush. Move over Milosevic. You have new rivals for infamy.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tito and Hussein: A Useful Comparison

The year I was born, Josip Broz became Marshal of the confederation of Balkan countries we used to refer to as Yugoslavia. Known as "Tito," he was a Croatian by birth, but during World War II, he joined the Serbian-dominated, communist-allied Partisans. They were opposed to the Quisling-style traitorous state Croatia had become under the nominally Catholic government of Fascists known as the Ustasha. (Led by a bloodthirsty maniac, Anton Pavelic, Croatia welcomed Nazi invaders and engaged in a pogrom against Serbians, Jews, and gypsies. Some say the genocide that ensued claimed upward of a million lives.) After the war, Tito rose to power, first as premier, then as president, and although he was a dedicated communist himself, his defiance of the U.S.S.R. led, eventually, to Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Cominform. (It's entirely possible that Tito, unlike some die hard card-carriers in the West, knew that Stalinist Russia had more in common with Nazi Germany than with any utopia envisioned by Marx and Lenin.)

Tito ruled the confederated Balkan states with an iron hand. He was hardly a tyrant, though. Under his leadership, faithful followers of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Islam lived and worshiped side by side in peace and harmony. Although frequently critical of the United States, Tito kept the Soviets distracted and was an unexpected if only de facto ally during the Cold War. When Tito died in 1980, I knew Yugoslavia would disintegrate into chaos, and I was soon proved prescient. (In the 1970's, I had researched Serbo-Croatian relations extensively for a magazine article I did about a Croatian war criminal living in the U.S. with Justice Department complicity.) The rise of Serbian hegemony and subsequent "ethnic cleansing" (a euphemism for genocide) saw takeovers of Bosnia and Croatia, all-out warfare throughout most of the '80's, and the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of thousands, including untold numbers of Muslims. Yet today Milosevic is all but forgotten. We must repeat history when we fail to learn from it.

In some ways, the Second Iraqi War is a repetition of history. For all his evil and anti-democratic ways, Saddam was the only thing between civil war by the two major factions in the Islamic faith: the Sunnis and the Shiites. Saddam is said to have copied his personal Qu'ran from his own blood, but despite the claims of some Neo Con hard liners, the Butcher of Baghdad was a non-sectarian thug whose only allegiance was to the ruling minority party in Iraq, the Baathists. He was shrewd enough to know that imposition of Shari'a on his "subjects" was inimical to the illusion of democracy he wished to perpetuate, and his wars against Iran and Kuwait were not waged for ideological differences but for territorial and economic ambitions.

Yet, so long as he was in power, Saddam protected the Sunni population of Iraq -- and, by extension, the majority of Islam -- from the Shiite revolutionary goals of the Iranians. The latter deeply trouble not only the Saudis but many other countries in the region. The toppling of his regime may have freed the Kurds to live in peace in Northern Iraq and to extend to the majority Shiites rights they'd envied in their Sunni masters, but it provoked a civil war in Iraq that endangers stability in all of the Mideast.

This is precisely what Osama bin Laden wanted, and it has resulted in the Balkanization of Iraq. The stupidity and hard-headedness of the Bush administration has them emulating Cold War East Germany and modern-day Israel in the construction of barriers and walls in hopes of separating the U.S. from Mexico and Sunni Baghdad from their Shiite neighbors. Although the administration labels this "part of the new strategy in Iraq," as if the last-ditch efforts of the "surge" had envisioned it all along, it was only instituted after martyrs blew up part of the legislature's meeting hall within the Green Zone. This sent a double signal to anyone paying attention: not only is the zone of security in Baghdad vulnerable to attack, the surge has only exacerbated the many problems in Iraq. Now-minority Sunnis have already said that they prefer risking Shiite militiamen to being "imprisoned" in their own city -- in a word, ghetto-ized.

After religiously watching a full week of one-hour documentaries on Jihadism on PBS, titled America at a Crossroads, I've come to the conclusion that democracy and Islam are mutually exclusive, which perhaps explains the passivity of Iraq under Saddam, just as it mirrors the fatalistic attitude of the Muslim faith: 'Mshallah is more resignation than blessing. One by one, the Jihadists interviewed said pretty much the same thing, that while democracy emphasizes the freedom of the individual, Islam emphasizes individual submission to Allah. This is at the heart of Islamic fundamentalism, opposed to everything Western, everything "liberal" and democratic.

George Bush began lying to the American people long before the notorious "WMD" and "911-al Quaida" propaganda campaign. He lied during the televised debates when he told the electorate that he did not believe in "nation building." When the nuke and terrorist excuses were exposed, Bush switched to the very thing he had eschewed in the campaigning: imposing democracy on people who can't handle it.

What Bush and the Neo Cons don't seem capable of understanding is that Sen. Harry Reid is right: we really have lost the war in Iraq. Although Reid has backtracked in typical Demo fashion, his heart if not mind was in the right place; what he meant, I think, is that the loss is only military in nature. We may have lost the war, but we can still "win" the peace. The solution is entirely political in nature, and the Bush administration seems completely disinterested in finding a political solution. The Bushites now claim that the war in Iraq must be perpetuated to prevent Jihadists from fighting us on our own soil. This is a phoney line since, as intelligence experts already tell us, Jihadist cells including al Quaida and Hezbollah terrorists are already set up in the U.S., biding their time until a propitious time to strike.

What the Bush argument suggests is that the administration had ulterior motives for going to war in the first place. My wise older brother once told me, "America plans to deplete all the oil of foreign countries before we resume development of our own resources." Time has proved him right.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"My Name...ith Alberto Gonzales Gonzales Gonzales"

Yes, yes, I am using the old Bill Dana shtick as well as the B-movie stereotypical actor, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez to characterize the halfwit who currently occupies the office of Attorney-General. Events appear to occur "in unison" these days. Scheduled to go before a Senate subcommittee to answer questions about the politicization of the Justice Department, Alberto (VO-5) was said to be having trouble answering questions posed by a mock hearing team when, approximately 24 hours prior to his testimony before Congress, a campus shoot-out in Virginia provided him with the perfect excuse to bow out of the engagement.

Not only that, but just a few days earlier, another case of politicization of public office occurred in North Carolina when that state's highest prosecutor announced that all charges would be dropped against a trio of Duke lacross students charged with the kidnapping and rape of a mentally-imbalanced, drug addicted, topless dancer, a woman who really does merit the description of a "nappy headed ho."

Mike Nifong, the D.A. and Alberto (VO-5) appear to have much in common. Nifong was seeking re-election as D.A. of his county when the Duke fraternity incident went down. Instead of thoroughly investigating the claims of the ho, Nifong used her for his political purposes, taking a tough-on-crime-no-matter-who-the-criminal stance in order to sway the electorate, which may have been thinking the other candidate offered the better of two necessary evils.

Not only did Nifong neglect to interview the alleged victim, he went forward with prosecutorial plans with exculpatory evidence withheld from defense counsel and nothing more to go on than a police report. Nifong also held many press conferences with liberal sprinklings of references to the arrests, characterizing the actually innocent schoolboys as "thugs," &c. , putting them through what one would describe as "a living hell." Alberto (VO-5) may successfully delay the inevitable for a week or two, but Nifong will not escape almost certain disbarment and lawsuits, either civil or criminal or both. Would that we could put Alberto (VO-5) to trial as well!

Horns of the (Bush) Dilemma

A shooting rampage today at Virginia Tech saw a lone killer murder 30 students and wound some 21 others. Bush goes to the microphone for a press conference and tells the nation that we can take comfort in a "loving God." Quaere: If he exists and he's a "loving God," why does he allow such bad things to happen to good people. Balderdash and hocum! The current occupant of the White House is a dangerous lunatic, believing as he does in supernatural mumbo jumbo. This logical fallacy was thoroughly examined by J. L. Mackie in his essay in Mind, a University of Sydney journal (Vol. 64, No. 254, 1955), which you can read for yourself at:

Basically, what Mackie argued was that theism is logically (or internally) inconsistent. He posits that the premises that God is omnipotent, omniscent, and totally good and (or yet) evil (nevertheless) exists presents an affront to logic since the two are inconsistent and not capable of harmonization. A good analysis of Mackie's position is James Still's paper, "Argument Against God From Evil," found at

I won't delve into the matter so thoroughly as Still, but he says that Mackie's argument against God suggests two additional premises: (1) that good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good being always eliminates evil as far as possible, and that (2) there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. Again, if there is a God and He is omnipotent, he would have stopped the Korean student from murdering his fellow pupils at Virginia Tech. Each time I argue this position with a theologian, I am told that "God is omnipotent, but He gave Man the power of free will, and that explains the presence of evil."

Still examines this response in light of the writings of Alvin Plantinga, who argues that because we possess freedom of will, we are free to choose "morally significant actions," as Still puts it, and "[s]ome of us spoiled the party by freely choosing the evil rather than the good and these choices are the source of moral evil." Mackie would seem to counter by pointing out that God could just as easily "have chosen to create that one logically-possible world in which everyone who is created choose only the good." As you can see, Mackie, Plantinga, and Still have dived into the deep end of the pool.

So the thought remains: Who is this "loving God"? Due to health concerns, I have been confined to my home for about three weeks, with nothing to do but watch TV. I'd be wealthy if I had a dime for each time a TV reporter or pundit referred to what the Korean student did as "pure evil." The question keeps nagging me. If what he did was evil, why didn't George's "loving God" prevent his doing it?

POSTSCRIPT (04-18-07)

As the "manifesto" mailed to NBC by the Korean now shows, he suffered from paranoia and a persecution complex. What he did was objectively evil, but in his mind, "it was my only option." At that point he certainly fit the narrow definition of insanity in the legal sense, which allows a claim of innocent by reason of madness if it be shown that, because of mental illness or defect, he either did not know the difference between right and wrong, or he was incapable of conforming his behavior to what is required by the law. Pitiable, really.

After the Fox

Fox News continues to amaze -- and to discombobulate. Murdoch's fabulous wealth allows extraordinarily thorough coverage of world events, but the slant is so heavily right-wing it gives laugh to the cable network's claims of being "fair and balanced," and its political pundit programs are so blatantly rightist as to merit the claim they're crypto-fascist (a term I first heard from the lips of Gore Vidal in his famous live debate with William F. Buckley at a national party convention). As anyone familiar with the books, I Hate Ann Coulter and The Republican Noise Machine, and the documentary film, Out-Foxed can attest, Fox opinion programming is like a poker game with the cards stacked in favor of Murdoch's fundie-fascist convictions.

One need not consult such studies to reach this conclusion. I did so after spending some time viewing and analyzing three shows: the weeknightly Hannity and Colmes, the Saturday evening Beltway Boys, and the Sunday evening Fox News Sunday, featuring Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke, and a panel of "experts" made up of Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, William Kristol, and Juan Williams, respectively. David Brock's Noise Machine put the bee in my bonnet when the author suggested that the token "liberals" featured on such programs (Colmes, Kondracke, and Williams) are either dumb as posts, suckup sycophants, or less than fully palatable. That is, Colmes comes off as a myopic spoil-sport (the kind of guy Nixon V.P. Spiro Agnew once called "a pointy-headed intellectual"), while Kondracke simply sucks up to his more self-assured partner, and Williams is portrayed as a lone (and of color) dissenter pitted against three wise ones.

It's pathetic! If it weren't so transparent, one might actually swallow the "fair and balanced" bit. Sean Hannity's tack when interviewing anyone with centrist/liberal views is to interrupt them the moment they indicate having an opinion at odds with his extreme right wing philosophy, and the producer and director allow him much longer dialogues with such guests than they afford the mealy-mouthed Alan Colmes. The result is this: Colmes comes off as ineffectual and, by comparison, less worthy of belief. One is sometimes led to the conclusion that Hannity would defend Hitler if he were a 21st century Neo-Con. But he's not only blindly allied with the Right, he's completely humorless and so smug he reeks of self-righteousness.

Kondracke plays the Colmes role on Beltway Boys, only less effectively, he seems so enamoured of the more self-righteous Barnes. Although Kondracke once stuck his neck out for gay rights in one show, he almost always quickly backtracks and shifts position when he encounters opposing views from Barnes, who plays an avuncular mentor role. Kondracke is even more insipid than Colmes because he comes off as spineless, and the producer and director see to it that he is never allowed to stray too far from the Neo-Con point of view. Again, pathetic! The technique might be called "seeing to it that the liberal debates with half his mouth tied behind him."

It took me a while to figure out that the presentation of views on Chris Wallace's Fox News Sunday is much more devious than the simple three-against one lineup (actually four to one considering Wallace's own pro-Neo-Con stance). As Brock and others have noted, Juan Williams is racially handicapped. At the risk of sounding like a cracker bigot, I must say that Williams will be subjected to audience turn-off among those who cannot yet accept the fact that an African-American has sufficient intelligent to warrant hearing. Many viewers if not the whole of the Archie Bunker bunch, will look at the Wallace panel like a crime victim at a police lineup, so amusingly illustrated by an old cartoon familiar to defense attorneys, depicting a dog surveying a sextet of domestic animals: five other dogs and one cat. The victim dog, pointing at the miscreant cat says, "That's the one, officer! That's the one!"

Hume is just as intractably, blindly rightist as Hannity, and he sometimes gets so impatient with the lone liberal (Williams), he loses his cool, as when he lashed out against Rep. John Murtha with a torrent of blatantly ageist ejaculations, the Neo Con anti-elder equivalent of Don Imus's "nappy headed ho's." Mara Liasson might, considering her background at Public Radio, seem a balancing factor on the panel, someone to compliment Williams, but she appears to have been tainted by the attempted takeover of Public Broadcasting by Paul Gigot et al., or perhaps, being the only female on the panel, she suffers from some form of penis envy. In any case, the moment she departs from the right wing line, she is corrected by Kristol, and this nifty technique is a clue to the producer-director secret that I didn't quite grasp until a short time ago.

The modus operandi is deceptively simple. Wallace stacks the deck by going "down the row" from left to right, with Hume always in the first chair, Liasson in the second, Kristol in the third, and Williams last, sitting next to Wallace himself. The first question is almost always, if not always (I miss the show now and then) addressed to Hume, who is the Arch Crypto-Fascist of Fox. He gives his familiar extremist views, leaving an intimidated Liasson to more or less agree, Kristol to take a similar position (sometimes even more extreme), and Williams to half-heartedly disagree. When the next question is addressed to Liasson, she's caught between two extremists and she usually tows the line in answering, with, again, only Williams to voice moderate dissent. By the time a question is addressed to Williams, Brit takes over like a master inquisitor, backed up to an extent by Liasson, and a more sceptical Kristol. Watch it if you don't believe me.

Worse, when Williams says something even marginally liberal, the cameraman is told to cut to Hume, revealing a scowling, scoffing countenance, intermixed with two-shots of Kristol and Williams during the latter's comments. Pay particular attention to the expressions of Kristol at all times. If he is in agreement with someone, he smiles or dead-pans, but when Williams is talking, he smirks as if he thinks the statements unbelievable or unworthy of an intelligent person's consideration. His smirk outdoes that of Bush! (Kristol is also the worst-dressed of the lot. Some of his neckties look as if he bought them in 1960, a sure indication he's a thorough- going anal retentive, he's so tight with his shekels. But, hey, that's an ad hominem remark, isn't it?) It's the smirk that disgusts me.

These are but three of the Fox lineup of unfair and unbalanced bullshit pundit programs. I do not have time to analyze all of them, but I recommend highly the two books and documentary DVD mentioned above. After the Fox, give me Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC, or Real Time with Bill Maher. They don't even pretend to be fair and balanced, but at least they're honest about it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Jihadists and Bush: Common Ground Redux"

A new documentary on PBS, *America at a Crossroads,* dealing with the origins of Jihadism and especially bin Laden and al Quaeda, features extensive interviews with Lawrence Wright and others, including the remarkably well-informed, extremely articulate former CIA bin Laden unit member Michael Scheuer. It is Scheuer who answers the question I asked in an earlier blog about the commonality of motive and/or unintended consequences of our misguided invasion of Iraq, confirming all my worst suspicions.

Scheuer says that by invading one of the Mideast's secular Islamic states, the U.S. played right into the hands of bin Laden and his Jihadist ideologues. From Zawahairi, bin Laden gleaned that the equivalent of a third world war "ranging from China to Iran to North Africa" would be brought about no later than 2020 c.e., and although our first taste of the bait in Afghanistan "did not go as bin Laden had expected," our misadventure in its southern neighbor -- first on bogus warnings of WMD'S, then on the excuse that without Saddam the world is a better place -- gave bin Laden exactly what he wanted.

In speeches even today, the Neo Cons, led by Cheney, continue to insist that by taking war to the terrorists, we trap terrorism in the lands they're known to occupy. This betrays blatant ignorance (or obfuscation) of the obvious fact that Saddam did not tolerate or encourage terrorists at any time, seeing them as potential enemies by proxy. Terrorists, Saddam believed, would only "bring on the heat." Apparently Cheney takes to heart his predecessor Goebels's advice that a lie told often enough will eventually be clothed as Truth. (Earlier, on one of the Sunday pundit shows, one of the architects of the War, Richard Perle, reiterated that even if the invasion was not carried out as well as hoped, it was worth it. There is a marvelous irony in the news that his "twin," Wolfie, has been exposed as a cronyist looter of the World Bank, apparently employing a personal secretary at a grossly inflated salary because it was the only way the ugly motherfucker could get laid!)

It's a myth that waging the Iraq War will keep terrorists at bay in Muslim nations. Scheuer -- who just happens to identify himself as "a Republican" -- says that it is just a matter of time before al Quaeda strikes again in the U.S. The worst development of all is the nativity of home-grown, al Quaeda-identified cells having no direct links to bin Laden but learning by his example. My prediction is that the next attack on our own soil will be in the nature of a dirty bomb, probably a nuclear device (or devices, set to go off simultaneously in several major cities) that release chemical agents or epidemic diseases into our waters or the air. It is just a matter of time. It may not have been ordered directly by al Quaeda, as was the 9/11 attack, but it will have that group's earmarks all the same. There are copycat cells all over the world.

The PBS documentary resumes next Sunday. It is a harrowing thing to see. It's to be hoped that the Right people watch it, but then they only place value of what they see and hear on Fox.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Nuthatch vs. Leahy re: Alberto VO-5

On Meet the Press this morning, Senators Orin Nuthatch and Patrick Leahy debated the current flap about Attorney-General Alberto (VO-5) Gonzales. The subject of political-vs.-performance reasons for the firing of eight U. S. Attorneys came up, Nuthatch so defensive on the topic he almost seemed to go temporarily looney. It's hard to put spin on something as blatantly wrong. At one point, Nuthatch, claiming that none of the firings was politically motivated, insisted that one of the axed lawyers "was a law school professor who had no prosecutorial experience." I expected Leahy to respond with what I was thinking, but he didn't. Alberto VO-5 had -- and still has -- no prosecutorial experience. In fact, some wags point out hes's never tried a case!

I also expected Leahy to bring up the Dominici affair, but the program host had to do that. When Sen. Pete Dominici complained about one of the attorneys who wasn't doing what the senator wanted, Rove and VO-5 sent the lawyer packing. Nuthatch kept insisting that nothing illegal could be proved, and he reiterated the by-now wearisome GOP line, "The U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president." Yes, but the Justice Department is not supposed to be a political organization. I doubt VO-5 is long for this administration now that the Demo attack dogs are on the prowl. The only difference between Pelosi, Conyers, and Leahy and a pack of pit bulls is that sometimes the pit bulls turn loose.