Politics: March 2003 Archives

And that's fine with me.

Sam, of Pedantry [via Alas, a Blog], has a great take on Barry Goldwater's most famous epigram, "Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

It can take angry extremists to draw public attention to a matter, and to serve as a rallying point for those might agree, in part or in whole, with the extremists goals. It can also make dealing with the moderates much more appealing for those who would rather ignore the whole issue.

. . . .

Fear - fear from the white upper and middle class - of a more violent response to the situation of blacks in America was a factor in advancing the cause of civil rights, and the lack of any such fear now is one of the reasons racial integration and equality has been set so far back in the last 20 years.

On the other hand, it does not do for a large public cause not to have its moderates. Civil rights were advanced in America in part because a large part of the white American public believed that many, perhaps the overwhelming majority, of blacks simply wanted equal treatment in society and nothing else. There was a group of moderates that white people could easily identify with as not asking for them to radically change themselves or their lives, and able to make the kinds of arguments able to appeal to them. This kind of good cop/bad cop approach has on the whole been wildly successful in producing actual progress in almost every kind of industrialised, mediated state in the world.

He follows his argument with compelling examples of the disastrous consequences which result when reactionaries clear the playing field of all moderates. The examples cited? Central America, the Middle East and the U.S. Surprised?
What has happened in America in recent years is that the moderates are under attack. The assault on "liberals" - mostly just moderate progressives who are hardly demanding radical changes to American society - has undermined the possibility of moderates driving institutional change. A radicalisation [more accurately, a polarization] of American politics is the inevitable consequence.
I didn't really need encouragement in my radicalism, but maybe others could use a bit. Say what you think, and say it as loudly as you wish. You know you won't get what is needed, but if moderates survive, we can at least see reaction brought down and avoid civil war.

This is just too good to resist borrowing a bit from Bloggy's more extensive commentary:

From Britannica Concise:

fascism: Philosophy of government that stresses the primacy and glory of the state, unquestioning obedience to its leader, subordination of the individual will to the state's authority, and harsh suppression of dissent. Martial virtues are celebrated, while liberal democratic values are denigrated. 20th-cent. fascism arose partly out of fear of the rising power of the lower classes and differed from contemporary communism (as practiced under J. Stalin) by its protection of the corporate and landowning powers and preservation of a class system.

Alright, so now is it ok to bring the word to America?

The U.S. is destroying New York City.

What wasn't accomplished on September 11, 2001 [and some day we may learn to what extent it was not just Washington's incompetence but even its design which was responsible for those blows] is now being finished by the same insane foreign and domestic policy which uses that date as its argument, by the destruction of our civil liberties and by the current military occupation of the City.

We are the primary target for the the anger of the world primed by the White House; we are the community most sensitive to Washinton's theft of our freedoms of speech, assembly and unreasonable search and seizure, among others; and we cannot long function as the capital of the world if our movements are slowed or restricted by an army of police, soldiers and every other form of military occupier.

Bush and his handlers will not mourn New York, and I won't dignify the mass of Americans who support Washington by suggesting they will miss this city when it is gone. The U.S. doesn't deserve New York. New York belongs to the world. I only hope that world will not soon find we only belong to the ages.

Bloggy has some good photos of the demonstrations responding to the first day of the Iraq massacre. including a couple of Barry's own New York scenes and others in links from around the world.

This is not a political statement. This is a hedge, this is a feelgood thing, this is a fashion statement, nothing more.

Thursday in the "Business Day" section of the NYTimes we learned that "Hollywood's decision to roll up the red carpet at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday will cost the fashion industry incalculable publicity."

But never fear, the actors themselves have now found a means to keep up the public's interest in costume.

Some stars have apparently chosen to make an antiwar statement through jewelry. Global Vision for Peace, a new group, said yesterday that 10 Oscar-night guests had agreed to wear a dove-shaped gold and diamond pin it had commissioned, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Adrien Brody, Pedro Almodóvar and Meryl Streep.

A spokesman for the group said on Tuesday that the actor Ben Affleck had tentatively agreed to wear one of the pins, but the final decision rested with the actor's stylist, who would decide which version of the pin — in white gold or 18 karat — would go best with his attire.

If we needed any more reassurance about the meaninglessness of this entire enterprise, we were told in February by one of its creators that the pins are not in protest of George W. Bush or the threat of war with Iraq.

But wait, "Business Day" has more "activist" news from the world of show business:

Yesterday there were other cancellations in keeping with Hollywood's desire not to be seen as indulging in frivolousness when American soldiers may be dying in battle. Vanity Fair magazine, which is host to an elaborate party after the Oscars every year, will bar all news media — including television camera crews, reporters and photographers — both inside the party and outside Morton's restaurant, the party site, a magazine spokeswoman, Beth Kseniak, said.
So, let's see we now have a pseudo-sophisticated celebrity photo and news magazine banning photographers and news reporters from its own very visual and news-y celebrity party, in the name of, uh, the American way?

We have a new blacklist. Right now it's only about a party, but sometimes party matters.

Certain film people known to be opposed to the massacre in Iraq have been forbidden any opportunity to air their views during the ceremonies sunday night.

The backlash against prominent stars opposing any attack on Iraq has impacted on this year’s Oscars, with organisers drawing up a blacklist of people who will not be allowed a platform to air anti-war views.

Meryl Streep, Sean Penn, Vanessa Redgrave, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman and Spike Lee are among those who will not be speaking, amid fears they could turn the ceremony into an anti-war rally.

In a move denounced by some as a return to McCarthyism, star presenters have been ordered to stick to scripts, while winners, who the producers have no control over, could find their acceptance speeches cut if they say anything much more than a brief thank you.

Should Michael Moore win an award for his "Bowling for Columbine," his acceptance speech will be scheduled for a commercial break, but we know he won't be allowed to win in the first place. This ain't Oz.

but how do we explain the success of the engineers of our own age of repression? Bloggy argues they're even beyond satire. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has banned the broadcast media from a ceremony in Cleveland today where he is to receive an award for supporting free speech. His hosts agreed to the censorship.

Metternich on the press: "The public cannot distinguish if news is true or false. False news has the air of being true if no one can he found to contradict it. . . ." The context of this quote was an 1808 argument for governments getting their message out through the press in order to counter the liberal pamphleteers, but our own leader doesn't have to worry. The government's message is basically the only one out there.

Last night, before Scalia's closed award ceremony in the same city, the Roman Catholic Supreme spoke at my own alma mater, John Carroll University, for which outrageous invitation that religious institution shall remain for me even more unmentionable than previously. There the little mind declared, with authority, that we're all acting like we have a lot more rights than we actually have, and he means to do something about it now that the war offers such wonderful opportunities for a correction.

I don't know why I bother. No one cares, and there's nothing anyone can do about it, but I still want to point out that the "diplomacy" of the White House has come to this: Bush has given Iraq an ultimatim, saying, "Saddam Hussein and his sons [and his sons?] must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing"

Two pages later, in the same NYTimes edition which prints the text of Bush's rambling mess of last night there is the following report:

Allies Will Move In, Even if Saddam Hussein Moves Out

CAMP DOHA, Tuesday, March 18 — Even if Saddam Hussein leaves Iraq within 48 hours, as President Bush demanded, allied forces plan to move north into Iraqi territory, American officials said today.

Leave or we'll blow your country to pieces, but don't leave and we'll blow your country to pieces. Sounds logical to me, and it certainly should attract overwhelming support all around the world. It will definitely attract the interest of war crime tribunals in the future.

Now about the sons of Hussein. Up to now I don't remember anyone making visiting upon the sons the sins of the father a part of the argument for immediately destroying Iraq, as Bush now does.

None of this is important, as I said at the beginning, but am I the only one who notices that in last night's statement we heard the ruling scion of one dynasty demanding that the scions of another ruler give up political power? It may take one to know one, but, historically, dynastic tyrants usually don't risk whatever legitimacy they may claim by wiping out the legitimacy of another country's own dynasty. But that was a rule observed at a time when it was still possible to talk about the balance of power in the world, rather than today, when we must talk about the power of the unbalanced.

This morning the Guardian printed four of Rachel Corrie's last letters. I no longer have the nerve to show just excerpts.

A dear Palestinian friend of ours who is now staying with his family in Jerusalem found the link and sent this message with it:

When I read what Rachel Corrie's friends and professors said about her, how intelligent she was, I wondered whether they were exaggerating in kindness to her memory. They were not, as shown by a sample of four moving letters to her family.

Her eloquent words are also the imagined, unverbalized expressions of the many nameless faceless people who are too impoverished and castrated to even know how to describe their reality in words. That is the saddest truth.


This is what the "major" media will make this war look like.

Included in Robert Fisk's prediction:

Weasel words to watch for

'Inevitable revenge' – for the executions of Saddam's Baath party officials which no one actually said were inevitable.

'Stubborn' or 'suicidal' – to be used when Iraqi forces fight rather than retreat.

'Allegedly' – for all carnage caused by Western forces.

'At last, the damning evidence' – used when reporters enter old torture chambers.

'Officials here are not giving us much access' – a clear sign that reporters in Baghdad are confined to their hotels.

'Life goes on' – for any pictures of Iraq's poor making tea.

'Remnants' – allegedly 'diehard' Iraqi troops still shooting at the Americans but actually the first signs of a resistance movement dedicated to the 'liberation' of Iraq from its new western occupiers.

'Newly liberated' – for territory and cities newly occupied by the Americans or British.

'What went wrong?' – to accompany pictures illustrating the growing anarchy in Iraq as if it were not predicted.

But we won't be fooled. The real war will be on the web.
A glance at US television makes it obvious why people are seeking an alternative. On Fox and CNN, reporters extol the hi-tech weapons in the US arsenal. Former generals lead the pundits, and anchors talk routinely of the ease with which the troops will sweep through Iraq. In the back rooms, executives rub their hands at the improved ratings that war (with pictures channelled from the front by the Pentagon) will bring. Network TV is little better: ABC showcased its latest reality TV series, Profiles From the Frontline, which looked like an hour-long recruitment ad for the US military.

. . . .

Not just geeks are logging on. A poll by the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) showed that more than 70 per cent of Americans regularly use the internet and regard it as their most important information source. "Incredible as it may seem, for the vast majority of America that uses online technology, the internet has surpassed all other major information sources in importance after only about eight years as a generally available communications tool," said Jeffrey Cole, the director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy.

Clare Short is so mid-Atlantic. The British Secretary of State for International Development first criticized her government's rush to war and threatened to resign from office (this definitely not the way of an American politician) and then she decided to stay, apparently convinced she needs the job and the job couldn't be done without her (definitely an American attitude). She was convinced that the war as planned was wrong, but now believes that only she can help reassemble the country upon which she is about to rain death and destruction.

In an interview for the BBC its political editor Andrew Marr suggested,

So the difference between you and Robin Cook, essentially is that you feel that you have an absolutely vital job in government still to do involving Iraq.
Robin Cook, Labor leader of the UK House of Commons, actually did quit yesterday.

Eric Alterman again:

These are upsetting times. You can sense the nervy dejection in the emails and calls we get here at CounterPunch. True, testing times loom, though not in such measure as for the people of Iraq, or for Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza every day of the year. And how could one be entirely disheartened amid the amazing flowering of the anti-war movement, a movement that has produced the largest (almost entirely peaceful ) protests in the history of the world.

In my local northern California town of Eureka, there was a march over the weekend that brought out 3,500. Huge for Eureka. Only a handful of louts jeered from the courthouse at the marchers. There was a vigil here in tiny Petrolia, as there have been with growing numbers across the country. I wrote over the weekend here of Greenville, South Carolina, as being "not noted as a bastion of antiwar sentiment, at least when I was there a couple of months ago." Dumb, because I should have remembered what I written and said so often, that in every American town there are people of spirit and conscience. John Hanson, Secretary of the local Amnesty International chapter, promptly emailed me from Greenville, advising me that "You may be pleased to know we scheduled a small peace rally two weeks ago (@200 people) and a vigil just last night (@80). We also put on Lysistrata at Furman University March 3."

Multiply that a thousand times over, and you have a huge movement, a new generation of young people inducted into the fun, boredom, fear, exhilaration and experience of popular protest. It was that movement, here and across the world that frightened Bush out of the Security Council and into the lawless cliches of a Hollywood Western. That's something to exult over, as we brace for the next stage.

Tonight Eric Alterman sees Rachel Corrie in the stars.

So here we are at the festival of Purim. Back in 1994, on the eve of Purim, a son of Brooklyn, Baruch Goldstein, killed 29 Palestinian worshipers in the Ibrahimi Mosque ( Tomb of the Patriarchs) in Hebron. And if I recall rightly, Goldstein said or implied that the massacre was done for Purim. The larger context: the massacre was five months after the first Oslo accord, of Sept. '93, and Yitzhak Rabin was PM at the time. For Goldstein and his followers (who built a monument to his "martyrdom" and still go to his grave to heap praises on him), it was an act of protest against the "betrayal" of Oslo.

A decade later, on the Eve of Purim bulldozer crushes young Rachel Corrie of Seattle to death as she tries to defend Palestinians from having their homes destroyed in Gaza. America sends out fanatics like Goldstein and its wonderful, brave idealists like Rachel, whom I set in my mind beside the internationalist Ben Linder who gave his life in Nicaragua, or Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, the three civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

This is a statement from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) which Rachel Corrie loved and for whose noble purpose she gave her life yesterday.

Today, Rachel Corey, a 23 year old student from Olympia, USA was killed by the Israeli army when a bulldozer drove over her as she stood protesting a house demolition in Rafah, Gaza Strip. She was one of six International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers who have been staying in the city to provide international civilian protection to families at risk from the various forms of violence of the Israeli occupation.

Rachel (or ‘Racha’ as she was known to the many many Palestinians who had become her friends since she arrived in Rafah in late January) had spent most of the afternoon with the other ISM volunteers patrolling a small stretch of the border area where dozens of homes have been demolished in recent weeks and months. The group had been clearly, audibly and visibly following the tanks and bulldozers up and down this strip for three hours, using banners and megaphones to alert the soldiers to their presence, a strategy that has been employed uniformly since the start of the ISM presence in this region last December.

Occasionally the bulldozer drivers waved to the protesters.

At around 5pm the army bulldozers moved towards this house. Rachel was the first of the international group to arrive in front of the house. She stood on top of a mound of earth, wearing a bright orange jacket and waved to the bulldozer driver, shouting at him to stop. He didn’t. The group report that the driver tipped sand over her, at which point she fell down. He then drove the machine over her while the rest of the group screamed at him to stop. After crushing her body with the forward motion of the vehicle, he then reversed. During this time the group heard her scream. She didn’t die at the scene. With Rachel crying ‘My back is broken’, the other internationals waited at the scene for an ambulance to arrive. The owner of the house in question attempted to give Rachel first aid, but said that her skull was too damaged for it to be effective. She was dead on arrival to the hospital in Rafah, where her activist colleagues stood numbed with shock at the sight of her disfigured body.

The house that Rachel was killed defending is a house that internationals have been staying in frequently over the past three months. These houses are NOT homes of suspected militants. They are simply houses close to the Israeli controlled border with Egypt, the sight of a proposed concrete wall and ‘buffer zone’, similar to the Apartheid Wall now under construction around the West Bank.

Rachel Corey was the first International Solidarity Movement volunteer to be killed in this intifada. Over 2,200 Palestinians have been killed by the state of Israel since September 2000. Shot, bombed, crushed in their homes, left to die in ambulances at checkpoints. The instruments and policies of occupation and murder are numerous.

Random killings and house demolitions are part of the systematic violence that is an everyday reality for Palestinians. Today that violence became a reality for internationals.

The rationale of international protection rests upon the assumption that Israel cannot remain unaccountable for the killing of international civilians as it is unaccountable for the killing of Palestinians. Today this assumption has been challenged.

An activist for justice and for peace, Rachel joins the list of history’s martyrs, who through non-violent protest have been struck down by the forces of oppression and military power that we will continue to struggle against until Palestine is free.

This excerpt from a February 7 email Rachel Corrie wrote to her parents appears with their help and that of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, "Go! Go!" because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and "what's your name?". There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what's going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously, occasionally shouting-- and also occasionally waving--many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses as we wander away.
If you want to understand why the internationals are there, read the entire, very moving text on the ISM site. There's also a gentle introduction from Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel's parents.

I love the NYTimes lead headline early this morning in the print edition. And how much of it is editorial sarcasm?


Actually, as far as anyone seems to know, only Britain and Australia have dispatched troops to serve in a war with Iraq, so the headline should properly begin, "BUSH AND ALLY . . . ." Hey, yeah, why wasn't Australia with the other guys in their Canary Islands hideaway?

It doesn't bode well for Bush that the people of Spain are overwhelmingly opposed to the war [polls indicate 80% of Spain’s population is against it]. The Partido Popular, the party of Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar, has already lost the next election according to commentators. Moreover, Aznar's support of Bush is seriously jeopardizing Spain's carefully nourished special relationship with Spanish-speaking countries around the world, all of whose peoples, and governments as well, oppose the war and are taking great risks by offending the government of the powerful U.S. All of this is very bad for Spanish business, and for Spain's status in the world outside of Dubya's head. There is no future for this frail little gang of the willing.

Elsewhere among the "allies," the parliamentary leader of Tony Blair's government has resigned to protest the war, and there will be more defections, perhaps even the defection of an entire allied government.

But don't expect resignations in Washington. Americans don't maintain principles in government. It costs them too much to get there in the first place.

The headline refers to a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and it is not hyperbole. The policy of the Sharon government is to discourage foreign defenders of the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people it has reduced to the status of chattel. Today it simply escalated the means it employs and a young American woman, Rachel Corrie, was murdered by military bulldozer as she attempted to defend a Palestinian home. The half dozen photographs on this site are truly horrifying.

The Israeli Army are attempting to dishonour her memory by claiming
that Rachel was killed accidentally when she ran in front of the
bulldozer. Eye-witnesses to the murder insist that this is totally
untrue. Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it
advanced towards her. When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn
aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble being
gathered in front of it wearing a fluorescent jacket to look
directly at the driver who kept on advancing. The bulldozer
continued to advance so that she was pulled under the pile of dirt
and rubble. After she had disappeared from view the driver kept
advancing until the bulldozer was completely on top of her. The
driver did not lift the bulldozer blade and so she was crushed
beneath it. Then the driver backed off and the seven other ISM
activists taking part in the action rushed to dig out her body. An
ambulance rushed her to A-Najar hospital where she died.

. . . .

Rachel had been staying in Palestinian homes threatened with illegal demolition, and today Rachel was standing with other non-violent international activists in front of a home scheduled for illegal demolition. According to witnesses, Rachel was run over twice by the Israeli military bulldozer in its process of demolishing the Palestinian home. Witnesses say that Rachel was clearly visible to the bulldozer driver, and was doing nothing to provoke an attack.

This should, and just possibly might, seal the fate of the Sharon government and possible future imitators, but also its Washington partner in these murders.

This is one of several articles from Rachel Corrie's hometown newspaper.

For more on these incredible activists, see my posts from June to August last year here, just below this one.

I'm still trying to digest this news, so I ask you to stay with me for a minute while I try to sort it out myself.

The media reported yesterday that the administration has named nine senior Iraqi officials who it says would face a war crimes tribunal on charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

But we remember that this administration doesn't recognize the International Court, and the world doesn't recognize the administation's authority for such trials. Details.

That's not all. The White House originally planned to send the list to Baghdad with a delegation from the Arab League, but that trip was called off. If the people on the list left Iraq, turning the country over to the U.S., the idea was that the Iraqi people could escape our attack and their criminal leaders could escape prosecution.

The naiveite of such a plan is matched only by the cynicism of its authors. In exchange for U.S. control of the Middle East the administration was willing to overlook the prosecution of those it has repeatedly branded as criminals of the highest order. Looking at it in another way, the administration is saying that the senior Iraqi officials will be declared war criminals only if we have to declare war on Iraq. Huh?

Paul Krugman sees Bush as Captain Queeg. But unfortunately this isn't fiction, and there's more than one ship at risk.

Aboard the U.S.S. Caine, it was the business with the strawberries that finally convinced the doubters that something was amiss with the captain. Is foreign policy George W. Bush's quart of strawberries?

Over the past few weeks there has been an epidemic of epiphanies. There's a long list of pundits who previously supported Bush's policy on Iraq but have publicly changed their minds. None of them quarrel with the goal; who wouldn't want to see Saddam Hussein overthrown? But they are finally realizing that Mr. Bush is the wrong man to do the job. And more people than you would think — including a fair number of people in the Treasury Department, the State Department and, yes, the Pentagon — don't just question the competence of Mr. Bush and his inner circle; they believe that America's leadership has lost touch with reality.

A surprisingly mild-tongued Larry Kramer calls a plague a plague in the NYTimes today.

Why does no one have the courage to say loudly and unequivocally that 50 million people around the world are going to die in a matter of days or months or at the most a few years unless they are treated immediately with the life-saving drugs that are now available? I have arrived at this figure after conversations with many experts.

. . . .

When I first heard about what would become known as AIDS there were 41 cases of some strange occurrence. Almost 25 years later we have failed to mount a thoughtful, concerted effort to stop what is now this plague. We have failed to keep up any pressure. We have failed to outrage each other enough so that people in authority would have no choice but to do something.

For almost 25 years we had our chance to do something. Year after year, we blew it. AIDS tells us about the worst of America and the world. It tells us that people don't care about others. It shows us over and over and over again that people can be allowed to die. It should break everyone's heart. Why doesn't it?

Via Electrolite, a serious look by Michael Lind at what the Bushites have done to global security.

The grand strategy of the Bush administration rests on three axioms: American global hegemony; preventive war; and the so-called "war on terror." All three axioms are fallacies that inevitably produce counterproductive and misguided policies. What the great French diplomat Talleyrand said of Napoleon’s execution of the Duc d’Enghien applies with equal force to Bush’s grand strategy: "It is worse than a crime; it is a mistake."

no kristallnacht yet, but we are warned

An alert from Adam Greenfield, via Kottke.org, that the U.S. may face a brain drain not unlike that which accompanied the Nazi consolidation of power in the 30's. Ironically, 65 years ago, in spite of its own nativist immigration policies, it was the U.S. which was benefitting from repression.

America hasn't had its Kristallnacht - yet - but even so the buzz around New Zealand in a few circles of my acquaintance is enough to put one in mind of the brain drain Germany bought itself in the mid- to late 1930's. And as Florida might have it, if I were a smart politician just about anywhere on the planet - one interested in economic vitality and quality of life - I might be egging the Ashcrofts on. All those smart Americans will be looking to settle somewhere that supports and encourages them in who they are, and they'll bring their truest assets, their creative minds, right along with 'em.

This is not a news story. It's not even an interesting feature story. We all know this already and it's definitely not entertaining. In fact, I'm convinced the only reason the White House and the NYTimes got together today on this one was to give me an excuse to post this item.

WASHINGTON, March 13 — Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge joined federal law enforcement officials today in warning that suicide bombings like those that have killed hundreds in Israel are inevitable in the United States and will be difficult to prevent.

His warning, in a television interview, came as Mr. Ridge and his department stepped up preparations to raise the nation's terrorism alert level to "high risk" out of concern over the possibility of terrorist attacks linked to an invasion of Iraq.

In his interview with Fox News, Mr. Ridge said, "we have to prepare for the inevitability" of suicide bombings in the United States.

How can a war against Iraq be essential to American security, as the Bush crowd argues, if a war against Iraq will destroy American security? Is anyone in Washington thinking about this? Just ask yourself, whether you live in New York or, say, Tom Ridge's home, Erie, Pennsylvania, do you have more to fear from Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" or the neighborhood suicide bomber?

On another note, let us all remember that, when the alert is raised to "orange" once again next week, a few days before a major national antiwar demonstration, as was done a few days before the February 15 rallies around the country, this will be only a coincidence.

U.N. resolution or not, this war violates international law. So argues Rahul Mahajan in an excerpt from a book on the U.S. war against Iraq.

The majority of the antiwar movement has made a mistake in emphasizing the unilateral nature of the war on Iraq and the need for United Nations approval, and we may well reap the consequences of that mistake.
Mahajan imagines the time may still come when the White House will have been able to "strong-arm and browbeat enough members of the Security Council to acquiesce" in its war, but there would still be no legitimacy for premeditated aggression.
It surely is unprecedented in world history that a country is under escalating attack; told repeatedly that it will be subjected to a full-scale war; required to disarm itself before that war; and then castigated by the "international community" for significant but partial compliance.

They're in hiding in the middle of the Atlantic, because they know they wouldn't be safe from the ridicule and fury of millions anywhere on the continent of Europe.

President Bush will travel to Portugal's Azores islands, about 900 miles west of the European mainland, to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in a "final pursuit" of a U.N. resolution on disarming Iraq, the White House said on Friday.

Ted Rall argues that "supporting our troops while they're fighting an immoral and illegal war is misguided and wrong."

We find ourselves facing the paradox of the "good German" of the '30s. We're ruled by an evil, non-elected warlord who ignores both domestic opposition and international condemnation. We don't want the soldiers fighting his unjustified wars of expansion to win--but we don't want them to lose either.

. . . .

I want our troops to return home safely. I want them to live. Like a good German watching my countrymen march into Poland and Belgium and Luxembourg and France, I don't want them to win and I don't want them to lose.

For visuals, see, SUPPORT OUR TROOPS bring them home now

Most thinking folks know there really is no independent mainstream press left in the U.S.

Molly Ivins is more generous, but even she's paid by the commercial media. While she thinks it could still profit from some soul-searching to see why it has completely failed in its role, her own outline of the extent of that failure is a clear indictment of its alliance with the establishment.

According to a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS, 42 percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center, something that has never even been claimed by the Bush administration. According to a poll conducted by ABC, 55 percent believes Saddam Hussein gives direct support to al-Qaida, a claim that has been made by the administration but for which no evidence has ever been presented. President Bush has lately modified the claim to "al-Qaida-type" organizations. This is how well journalism has done its job in the months leading up to this war. A disgraceful performance.
These beliefs are not found in any numbers anywhere else in the world. Either Americans are uniquely stupid or we're getting the wrong information.

And then there is Matt Taibbi in the New York Press. Taibbi uses the story of Bush's recent staged showing in the East Room to show how the White House press corps "politely grabs its ankles" in Dubya's awesome presence.

The Bush press conference to me was like a mini-Alamo for American journalism, a final announcement that the press no longer performs anything akin to a real function. Particularly revolting was the spectacle of the cream of the national press corps submitting politely to the indignity of obviously pre-approved questions, with Bush not even bothering to conceal that the affair was scripted.

. . . .

Even Bush couldn’t ignore the absurdity of it all. In a remarkable exchange that somehow managed to avoid being commented upon in news accounts the next day, Bush chided CNN political correspondent John King when the latter overacted his part, too enthusiastically waving his hand when it apparently was, according to the script, his turn anyway.

KING: "Mr. President."

BUSH: "We’ll be there in a minute. King, John King. This is a scripted..."

A ripple of nervous laughter shot through the East Room.

. . . .

Reporters argue that they have no choice. They’ll say they can’t protest or boycott the staged format, because they risk being stripped of their seat in the press pool. For the same reason, they say they can’t write anything too negative. They can’t write, for instance, "President Bush, looking like a demented retard on the eve of war…" That leaves them with the sole option of "working within the system" and, as they like to say, "trying to take our shots when we can."

Like I said, the independent press really is as dead as a dodo.

From Not In Our Name:

In the event that the worst happens, and the U.S. does launch its vicious "Shock and Awe" bombing of the people of Iraq, go immediately to www.notinourname.net for the latest information on resistance plans.
While you're there, note that their statement of conscience is almost unique in that it exposes and repudiates the whole political program behind this war, and we need more of that. The enemy is not this war. The war is only a tool of the enemy.

There may be more of a relationship than we already knew between this White House and the destruction of the town of Guernica, where the Nazis first tested the weapons of modern warfare.

Military analyst Vladimir Slipchenko's description is probably our best idea of what the Iraq "war" will look like, but this expert's account is introduced by a statement about the "purpose" of this massacre that none of us has seen in the U.S. media.

The main purpose of the war is indeed being left out of the picture and nobody is saying anything about it. I see the main purpose of the war as being the large-scale real-life testing by the United States of sophisticated models of precision weapons. That is the objective that they place first All the other aims are either incidental, or outright disinformation.

For more than 10 years now the United States has conducted exclusively no-contact wars. In May 2001 George Bush Jr., delivering his first presidential speech to students at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, spoke of the need for accelerated preparation of the US Armed Forces for future wars. He emphasized that they should be high-tech Armed Forces capable of conducting hostilities throughout the world by the no-contact method. This task is now being carried out very consistently.

It should be observed that the Pentagon buys from the military-industrial complex only those weapons that have been tested in conditions of real warfare and received a certificate of quality on the battlefield. After a series of live experiments -- the wars in Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan -- many corporations in the US military-industrial complex have been granted the right to sell their precision weapons to the Pentagon. They include Martin Lockheed, General Electric, and Loral. But many other well-known companies are as yet without orders from the military department. The bottom line is $50-60 billion a year. Who would want to miss out on that kind of money? But the present suppliers of precision weapons to the Pentagon are also constantly developing new types of arms and they must also be tested The US military-industrial complex demands testbed wars from its country's political leadership. And it gets them.

And that is the main aim of the new war in Iraq.

Early this morning in a BBC news radio report, I first heard about U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfield's press briefing statement yesterday that the U.S. might invade Iraq without Britain.

Question: Would the United States go to war without Great Britain?

Mr Rumsfeld: "This is a matter that most of the senior officials in the government discuss with the UK on a daily or every-other-day basis. And I had a good visit with the Minister of Defence of the UK about an hour ago.

Their situation is distinctive to their country, and they have a government that deals with a parliament in their way, a distinctive way.

And what will ultimately be decided is unclear as to their role; that is to say, their role in the event that a decision is made to use force.

There's the second issue of their role in a post-Saddam Hussein reconstruction process or stabilisation process, which would be a different matter.

And I think until we know what the resolution is, we won't know the answer as to what their role will be and to the extent they're able to participate in the event the president decides to use force, that would obviously be welcomed.

To the extent they're not, there are workarounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it."

Question: We would consider going to war without our closest ally, then?

Mr Rumsfeld: "That is an issue that the president will be addressing in the days ahead, one would assume."

I was shocked, but also, I'll admit, perversely delighted to have my estimate of the administration's incompetence further confirmed, even though my immediate thought was of the classic, distressing kindergarten grade, "does not play well with others." This junta has already made it clear that it holds in contempt any need for cooperation at home, and for two years it has been perfectly content to thumb its nose at the entire world. Yesterday it decided to do without its only remaining serious ally, Tony Blair.

Later in the morning I found that Maureen Dowd was also thinking of the White House in terms more appropriate to dysfunctional toddlers.

The Bush bullies, having driven off all the other kids in the international schoolyard, are now resorting to imaginary friends.

Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars here yesterday and reassured the group that America would have "a formidable coalition" to attack Iraq. "The number of countries involved will be in the substantial double digits," he boasted. Unfortunately, he could not actually name one of the supposed allies. "Some of them would prefer not to be named now," he said coyly, "but they will be known with pride in due time."

Perhaps the hawks' fixation on being the messiahs of the Middle East has unhinged them. I could just picture Wolfy sauntering down the road to Baghdad with our new ally Harvey, his very own pooka, a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit that the U.S. wants to put on the U.N. Security Council.

Ari Fleischer upped the ante, conjuring up an entire international forum filled with imaginary allies.

He suggested that if the U.N. remained recalcitrant, we would replace it with "another international body" to disarm Saddam Hussein. It wasn't clear what he was talking about. What other international body? Salma Hayek? The World Bank? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association?

We need more heroes to match this one! Daniel Ellsberg asks for leaks of information which would discredit a maniacal and immoral policy.

Ellsberg, an ex-Marine and military analyst, said he held out hope that exposing alleged lies by the Bush administration could still avert an unjust war. He warned that whistleblowers may face ruin of their careers and marriages and be incarcerated.

"Don't wait until the bombs start falling," Ellsberg said at a Tuesday press conference in Washington. "If you know the public is being lied to and you have documents to prove it, go to Congress and go to the press."

Ellsberg did not leak the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times until 1971, although he says he had information in the mid-1960s that he now wishes he had leaked then.

"Do what I wish I had done before the bombs started falling" in Vietnam, Ellsberg said. "I think there is some chance that the truth could avert war."

You know the stuff's out there.

Reza K. Baluchi is free at last. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has decided not to appeal a judge's decision eleven days ago which officially granted him political asylum. During the interim Baluchi has been kept in the Arizona jail which has been his cage since November.

Even the I.N.S. could not have been indifferent to the appeal of a pure soul and what must have been an enormous outpouring of support from those who had heard of his plight.

Our hero was to be picked up today by his lawyer, Suzannah Maclay.

Mr. Baluchi intends to pick up his bicycle and camping equipment from storage in Yuma, Ariz., and head for Los Angeles. When is ready, he said, he will run from there across the country, his peace mission resumed.

The C.I.A. has kidnapped, and is now interrogating and holding hostage to the full cooperation of their father, the 7 and 9 year-old sons of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

TalkLeft, which identifies itself as an "online source of liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news," writes,

We didn't realize that enemy combatant status was hereditary. A lawyer and a guardian ad litem should be appointed for these kids immediately. The kids should be returned home without delay to whatever family they have left. This is taking "sins of the father" to an unprecedented and unconscionable level.

This is what we did not see. And these images do not even include the corpses and mutiliations of civilians.

The photographs and the statement which accompanies them are from a new book by war-correspondent Peter Turnley:

This past war and any one looming, have often been treated as something akin to a 'Nintendo game'. This view conveniently obscures the vivid and often grotesque realities apparent to those directly involved in war. As a witness to the results of this past Gulf War, this televised, aerial, and technological version of the conflict is not what I saw and I'd like to present some images that I made that represent a more complete picture of what this conflict looked like.
Thanks to the "photo-eye newsletter."

See Barry's post for Mark Morford's latest, "THE LIE OF THE U.S. MILITARY
Tough gritty American soldiers protect freedom of liberal SF columnist?
Or the other way around?

I understand and value the need for a strong military. I appreciate the necessity. But the war in Iraq does nothing but denigrate the value and integrity of our military. Note to conservatives: Those soldiers aren't out there dying for you, they're dying for strategic political power, for some oil exec's portfolio. They're protecting the Americanoligarchy. Does that make you feel proud?

At a moment when truth and intelligence seem to count for nothing in our government, it may hardly be worth pointing out that Bush repeatedly lied last night when describing U.N. Resolution 1441 (not one reporter called him on them). But of course I'm going to do the pointing anyway.

Even in Colin Powell's description the resolution passed on November 8 last year only required Iraq to disarm itself of its weapons of mass destruction and to disclose all of its nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs. It did not require Iraq to totally disarm, although that is what Bush repeated over and over again last night.

The world needs him to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed, as required by resolution 1441, or has it not?

. . .

Token gestures are not acceptable. The only acceptable outcome is the one already defined by a unanimous vote of the security council -- total disarmament.

And for 50 minutes, and 30 times over, he hurled the word at the world in total disregard for the truth, and our intelligence.

He is abetted this morning by the lies in the NYTimes account of his appearance in the East Room last night.

Calmly, and at times solemnly, Mr. Bush repeated his arguments that Saddam Hussein has failed to disarm after 12 years of United Nations demands, and that he has failed to obey the explicit language of the last-chance resolution passed unanimously by the Security Council on Nov. 8, demanding total, complete and unconditional disarmament.
Can't anybody read anymore?

The interests which placed the Bush administration in power have always wanted to destroy the U.N.

Last night in Bush's statements they made clear that they would bring what would effectively be a resolution for war before the Security Council even though it is now certain that it would fail. In the past the U.S., when it could not get its way in the U.N., just went ahead and did what it wanted, including going to war. This time our government is determined to make the U.N. look impotent and irrelevant, if not actually evil.

And it certainly goes that far. Bush has told the world, "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror." Last night and in the next days he intends to make France, Germany, Russia, China and virtually the entire world, all of which oppose his war, look like they are on the side of the terrorists.

Watching that stupid little fool, inarguably the most powerful man on the planet, propped up in the white House behind a podium with its modern speaking tube mumbling, and as if sedated, the same phrases over and over again may have been the scariest experience of my life. I have always tried to avoid watching him, and with great success until tonight. This time the prospect had something of the attraction of a choice seat for the proverbial train wreck, and I just had to be there, since it bode well to be a doozy. It was.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtains!"

When do Dorothy and Toto show up?

"How am I doing?" Ed Koch used to ask continually as he walked about a New York City smothered by his outsized personality.

George W. Bush doesn't ask this question, and now he has a very good reason not to. A new poll by Quinnipiac University indicates that if an election were held now he would lose to anyone fielded against him, in other words, candidate Fill-in-the-blank is doing better than the man some call the incumbent president.

Polls are mostly useful for those who find their results agreeable, so this one will be ignored by the White House, especially since this is a regime which knows it is not going to have to depend on a free election to stay in power.

Too many are shutting it down.

The creator of a satirical Web site that took aim at Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, said he felt a chill when the letter on White House stationery arrived.
The website, www.whitehouse.org, is overloaded right now because of its sudden celebrity.

Most of us hardly need to hear much more argument or even more real eloquence on the subject of an Iraq war and the murderous political cynicism behind it, but career diplomat John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation is exceptionally representative of both. An excerpt:

. . . this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?
Later in the body of this letter to his superior, Colin Powell, Kiesling asks, referring to our reckless swaggering before the world, "Has 'oderint dum metuant' really become our motto?" A translation of Caligula's words would be "Let them hate so long as they fear."

Is Reuters making a cynical editorial comment, or just reflecting the reality of the fascist coup, by describing Bush as "taking power" in this report on tonight's press conference?

Reflecting the seriousness of the situation, the 8 p.m. EST news conference will be only the president's second such solo event in the White House East Room since taking power more than two years ago. The first was in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Also, two news conferences in two years? Hardly sounds like responsible government to me.

Mark Morford has a vision. No, it's a nightmare. It's our future.

These are the final days of peace in America. Please remember to turn off the lights and lock up when you leave.

These are the last days of relative calm before we start bombing and massacring hundreds of thousands of people and in so doing enter into what many believe will a very long, drawn-out, insanely expensive, volatile, destabilizing, completely unwinnable war against a cheap thug of an opponent who has negligible military might and zero capacity to actually
harm the U.S. in any substantive way. U-S-A! U-S-A!

. . .

War is at hand. America is about to turn a corner, sharp to the right. These are the last days of peace in America as you know it. And we will never be the same.

Doesn't this say just about everything we need to know about democracy in the U.K., the U.S., or indeed, the world?

Until now, Blair has said he reserved the right to go to war without U.N. authorization in case a singular "unreasonable veto" was wielded.

But in a debate on music television channel MTV he appeared to extend that proviso to include multiple vetoes.

"If there was a veto applied by one of the countries with a veto or by countries that I [my italic] thought were applying the veto unreasonably then in those circumstances I [my italic] would," Blair said when asked if he would go to war without a new U.N. mandate.

Baby Bush [who himself routinely speaks in terms of "I" will do this or that] and toady Blair each see war and peace as their personal decisions and do not even pretend to be representing a constituancy.

There are all kinds of reasons to question the various plans for the site of the World Trade Center, but one of them is not an argument about aesthetics.

The entire former WTC area was extraterritorial, meaning not subject to the laws of New York City or New York State. Significantly, the Port Authority buildings were the last New York City commercial or office spaces to regulate or prohibit smoking, and in the end that was done independent of New York laws. More significant for civil rights was the fact that demonstrations or protests of any kind, and the behavior or even the very presence of the public was subject to the whims of the Port Authority and could not be challenged by law. I have personal experience with the burden of arrogant Port Authority power. These were not the streets of the city. Private property!--we can keep you out.

The World Trade Center was Supermall, and those planning its replacement now are repeating this affront to New York freedoms and sensibilities. Private property!--we can keep you out.

All of this brings me to my latest story about the outrageous violation of civil liberties in the name of public order. Stephen Downs was arrested in an Albany area mall on monday night for wearing a pro-peace t-shirt.

One shirt simply said "Let Inspections Work" on one side and "No War With Iraq" on the other. The other shirt said "Give Peace A Chance" on the front and "Peace On Earth" on the back.

. . .

Signs posted at entrances to the mall say that "wearing of apparel... likely to provoke disturbances... is prohibited" at the mall.

When security approached Downs and his 31-year-old son in a food court, they were asked to remove their shirts. The son did so, but the father refused and was arrested for trespasssing when he declined to leave the mall as requested by mall security. Today Newsday reports, "The men had had the T-shirts made at a mall store and wore them while they shopped."

The malls of America, they're not just an assault on our aesthetic and social sensibilities anymore. They are an assault on our freedoms as well. Private property!--we can keep you out.

Some of us know that there was a fascist coup two years ago, but some of us refuse to give up. John Bonifaz probably expects to take his case to the Supreme Court, although he can hardly have any illusions about its chances.

Newsday's Ellis Henican says that Bonifaz believes that war should never be a one-man choice, and that, like many of us, he believes that under the U.S. Constitution it must be the decision of Congress.

The "legendary creative legal stratgist" and MacArthur "genius grant" recipient argues that the Constitution does not permit Congress to delegate its unique power to declare war [even to an elected president, and even when we have such, I might add], according to Article 1, Section 8.

As he drew up his court papers, some legal strategists - even some of Bonifaz's friends - were openly dubious. "Forget about this," they told him.

Congress hasn't passed a formal declaration of war since World War II. Somehow or another, the U.S. had found its way into Korea and Vietnam and the first Persian Gulf War - plus nearly six decades' worth of smaller conflicts - without a single formal declaration of war, whatever Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution might seem to say.

Good point.

But the more he studied the law, the more this young lawyer became convinced. This time was different.

In Vietnam, the legal challenges hadn't been brought until the war was underway for years. By then, Congress had already approved major war expenditures and even extended the draft - actions that were arguably the equivalent of a formal declaration of war.

None of that applied here.

"This case deals with an extraordinary moment in American history," Bonifaz said. "Never before has the United States premeditated a first-strike invasion of another country and the conquering and occupation of that country. This is not about repelling a sudden attack."

No and this is about much more than a tyranny replacing a republic. It's about world dictatorship, and it has to be stopped.

I think we have hardly seen the beginning of a powerful antiwar movement without precedent.

LONDON, March 2 -- The people who helped organize the largest worldwide peace demonstration in history last month say they are not through yet.

More than 120 activists from 28 countries emerged from an all-day strategy session here this weekend with plans not just to protest a prospective U.S.-led war against Iraq but to prevent it from happening. They want to intensify political pressure on the Bush administration's closest allies -- the leaders of Britain, Italy and Spain -- and force them to withdraw their support, leaving the United States, if it chooses to fight, to go it alone. And they intend to further disrupt war plans with acts of civil disobedience against U.S. military bases, supply depots and transports throughout Europe.

And I also think that the movement will not disappear even if the war does.
Organizers say they would like to find a way to channel the newfound enthusiasm and activism into a worldwide political movement. But they say the disparate nature of those participating would make such a movement difficult if not impossible.

"This was caused by social forces, and it's not something that organizations produced," said Andrew Burgin, a member of the coalition's British steering committee. "They're not in our control. . . . You don't lead a movement like this, the movement leads you."

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