April 2003 Archives

Thursday night, tomorrow, our appointed President will tell us that the war on Iraq is virtually over. "And the threat to the United States has been removed, and he will address the nation just as he did at the beginning of the conflict," his press agent, Ari Fleischer, told reporters today.

But the threat to the United States has not been removed. The real threat is an internal threat, and it comes primarily from those who claim to be protecting us, and not from "the other," as we learn from this horrific story from AlterNet, excerpts from which, via Bloggy appear below, after Bloggy's own short introduction.

Alternet has a story by an American who was held for an hour and a half in a Times Square area restaurant when it was raided by the NYPD, INS, and Department of Homeland Security. I will quote some of it, but you should go read the whole thing.
That night, March 20th, my roommate Asher and I were on our way to see the Broadway show "Rent." We had an hour to spare before curtain time so we stopped into an Indian restaurant just off of Times Square in the heart of midtown. I have omitted the name of the restaurant so as not to subject the owners to any further harassment or humiliation.

We helped ourselves to the buffet and then sat down to begin eating our dinner. I was just about to tell Asher how I'd eaten there before and how delicious the vegetable curry was, but I never got a chance. All of a sudden, there was a terrible commotion and five NYPD in bulletproof vests stormed down the stairs. They had their guns drawn and were pointing them indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and at us.


The police placed their fingers on the triggers of their guns and kicked open the kitchen doors. Shouts emanated from the kitchen and a few seconds later five Hispanic men were made to crawl out on their hands and knees, guns pointed at them.

After patting us all down, the five officers seated us at two tables. As they continued to kick open doors to closets and bathrooms with their fingers glued to their triggers, no less than ten officers in suits emerged from the stairwell. Most of them sat in the back of the restaurant typing on their laptop computers. Two of them walked over to our table and identified themselves as officers of the INS and Homeland Security Department.

I explained that we were just eating dinner and asked why we were being held. We were told by the INS agent that we would be released once they had confirmation that we had no outstanding warrants and our immigration status was OK'd.


"You have no right to hold us," Asher insisted.

"Yes, we have every right," responded one of the agents. "You are being held under the Patriot Act following suspicion under an internal Homeland Security investigation."

When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."

We insisted that we had every right to leave and were going to do so. One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: "Go ahead and leave, just go ahead."


As I continued to press for legal counsel, a female officer who had been busy typing on her laptop in the front of the restaurant, walked over and put her finger in my face. "We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety," she exclaimed. As she walked away from the table, she continued to repeat it to herself? "We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this."


After an hour and a half the INS agent walked back over and handed Asher and me our licenses. A policeman took us by the arm and escorted us out of the building. Before stepping out to the street, the INS agent apologized. He explained, in a low voice, that they did not think the two of us were in the restaurant. Several of the other patrons, though of South Asian descent, were in fact U.S. citizens. There were four taxi drivers, two students, one newspaper salesman – unwitting customers, just like Asher and me. I doubt, though, they received any apologies from the INS or the Department of Homeland Security.

She had shouted, "We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this."

Some of us do understand it, but our war is not the war she was talking about.

Have any of us been asking the question? It seems obvious one. As of mid-April, 89 people have died of Severe Acute Respitory Syndrome, or SARS, yet you'd think the sky was falling. But, in the now classic formulation of our frustration, what about AIDS?

SARS may turn well out to be this century's equivalent of the 1918 influenza epidemic, which killed millions. It hasn't happened yet however, but the world is already on the verge of panic. Precautions are certainly in order, but we note that while tens of millions of people have now died of AIDS-related diseases, there is no concern, even today, equivalent to that attached to SARS. Twenty years ago almost no one really cared about AIDS, and until there were hundreds of thousands of cases and tens of thousands of deaths, and very loud and creative protests from members of the communities most affected, almost nothing was reported and almost nothing was done.

Sure, there are very significant differences in the epidemiology of the two diseases, but we can't help but suspect that there may be a more important, fatal distinction. One disease is perceived by most people in the West, even today, as a disease belonging to people who are thought expendable, and the other is regarded as a real threat to the kind of people who can make a difference in determining the course of an epidemic.

The current New York Blade has a cover story dealing with these issues. The article, by Winnie McCroy, really only begins to ask some important questions. There will be more questions, we hope, but there may never be good answers.

We're told the war is over. Well, we're told that at least this sub-war is over.

Regardless of whether this is the case, we should be asking ourselves certain questions we deferred in our unseemly haste to prove our faux manliness to the world and to distract ourselves from our shortcomings as a people and a state.

Paul Krugman writes a tight essay in today's NYTimes, in which he asks how we are going to deal with the fact that the Administration's original case for the war on Iraq, Saddam Hussein's posession and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, was defective, and in fact a cynical invention. No WMDs were used in Iraq, and none have been or will be found, at least none of the kind and threat described to us by the White House prior to its pre-emptive attack and invasion of an almost defenseless fourth-rate nation.

Supporters of the war will point to the elimination of a brutal dictator as sufficient justification, at least after the fact, for what we have done, but Krugman asks why we are so selective about freedom, or compassion, when there are so many people suffering around the world. Um, can we say the word, "Africa?"

Americans, apparently most Americans, still believe that Hussein was responsible for September 11, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and that we have found them. Each of these beliefs is totally without foundation, but we will never be told this by our government or by the corporate media. How could that happen?

The last question may be the most fundamental. It's certainly the darkest.

Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy — aren't we?

New Yorkers, by and large, live longer than the average American, according to figures in the latest study of the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The announcement probably surprised as many of us as it must everyone else. How could we actually be healthier than the rest of the country? The NYTimes story cites the factors of increased police numbers and better AIDS treatments.

But New Yorkers, being New Yorkers, also put their own spin on it. New York life is challenging, but eventually provides its reward in the twilight years, said Mitchell L. Moss, director of the Taub Urban Research Center at New York University.

He listed a trifecta of New York characteristics that contribute to a long life expectancy: density (you're surrounded by neighbors, and medical research proves that people with friends live longer), an elaborate system of public and private health care (your doctor is probably just down the block) and extensive mass transit (you're safer in a subway than in a car).

Personally, I've always been convinced that we must first thank our minimal dependence on cars and television for whatever advantages in health and longevity we might have over other Americans. Avoiding more rude adjectives, we can certainly say we're far skinnier overall.

They told him he had to go to "the free-speech zone."

The police had established a protest area a good half mile from the South Carolina airport hanger where Bush was supposed to speak last fall. Brett A. Bursey wanted to get closer than, in his words, "out there behind the coliseum by the dumpsters," so he and his friends approached the police.

"We attempted to dialogue for a while, them telling me to go to the free-speech zone, me saying I was in it: the United States of America," Mr. Bursey said. Finally, he said, an airport policeman told him he had to put down his sign ("No War for Oil") or leave.

"'You mean, it's the content of my sign?' I asked him," Mr. Bursey said. "He said, `Yes, sir, it's the content of your sign.' "

Mr. Bursey kept the sign and was arrested; he said he watched Air Force One land from the back of a patrol wagon and spent the night in the county jail.

As routine but no less disturbing as such events have become in this country, normally that would have just about been the end of the story. But while the charge against Bursey was soon dropped, news of his terrible crime against the state did not escape the attention of the true guardians of our liberties.
. . . last month, the local United States attorney, J. Strom Thurmond Jr., brought federal charges against Mr. Bursey under a seldom-used statute that allows the Secret Service to restrict access to areas the president is visiting. He faces six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

My friend Glenn and I went to the New York Auto Show yesterday. I go every year, I suppose just to keep tabs on what the selection will look like should I ever decide to own a car again. Besides, I grew up in Detroit, before it self-destructed, where I was actually a sucker for imports (MG TDs, Citroens, even NSUs and Fiat 500s) by the time I was ten. Also, the guys wandering around are cute, as are the smart women, of virtually all ages, hired to talk to the cute guys about the cars.

Well, Glenn and I had fun, and he was definitely keen on the fine VW Beetle cabriolet, but I confess I couldn't find anything at any price that would look good on me. Even the one possible exception of a beautiful, and surprisingly practical, Audi cabriolet was no real temptation, since I'm actually not willing to spend that "any price" on a car just now, especially one of $38,000. Maybe I could go for a Polo or Jetta cabriolet, if they ever send one over. Well, I do live in the rapidly disappearing land of public transportation, so I can still afford to be pure about car ownership.

To be honest, Barry and I would probably spring for some new wheels if anything truly worthy, exciting, and reasonably appropriate to our world were ever to be allowed into this country. The Smart would do it, although our friends would have to stay at home. Ok, the little Mercedes A-Class (a Smart with a back seat) would be my second choice.

But what is the selection Americans actually get to choose from? We see only dummed-down versions of the largest and most expensive products of Europe, uninspired, consumer-survey-designed bores from Asia, and the sad, unmemorable, bloated losers from our own drawing boards. I'm not even talking about the abominable insult to taste and conscience represented by the trucks, whether pickup or SUV!

What's the American auto show circuit news in these, the years of the imperial oil wars? The next big thing is the big, meaning bigger, and in fact the biggest gosh darn sedans and truck-tanks Detroit, even Maybach, has ever imagined. I mean, they're talking ten and sixteen cylinders and up to 1,000 horsepower. [My first car, a prize 1962 Beetle had 40hp, and my beloved previously-owned 1960 Porsche 356B had an entirely adequate 70.*]

A NYTimes "Editorial Observer" piece on the Auto Show begins with
a description of a "dream," or "concept," car which actually does try to relate to the planet we share with others. What does it say about industry priorities that yesterday I never noticed a car answering the very "green" description found in the editorial? I only saw what looked like another SUV, if somewhat downsized, and I passed it by.

At the New York auto show, Ford has an interesting little vehicle on display. It is sort of an ultimate green machine — fueled by hydrogen, lubricated by cornflower oil, rolling on tires made of corn, built with panels of soy. I can imagine waking up one morning to find my ride being devoured by groundhogs. Ford calls it the Model U, invoking a pioneering, back-to-basics machine. Fascinating but very lonely.

All around are vehicles that, in the absence of groundhogs, look intent on eating the Model U for breakfast. . . . This is what the folks are really here to see: fantasies, toys, nostalgia, horsepower and more horsepower.

The car has always been the ultimate American dream machine. We love to hate them, to love them and to analyze why we love or hate them. Yes, we drive them, too, but that is never really been a big deal in America. We do not really go for all that gear-shifting, twisting-road European stuff. We prefer to race around oval tracks or down a straight quarter-mile. Besides, there is just not that much you can do droning on an Interstate or crawling up the Henry Hudson, except listen to the radio. Our constant has always been the car as accessory, as image, as fantasy, as identity. It is a jet plane with fins, a fighting vehicle, a machine that is "sexy and powerful," a truck yearning for the wilderness.

Actually, I think the Times writer, Serge Schmemann, is being too gentle on us. America's attitude toward the automobile is more than superficial, from top to bottom, it's fundamentally unconscionable.


* For the two people out there who care about such things, the Porsche was replaced, when it needed a major valve job, with a delicate aluminum Lancia Fulvia Zagato, and that Italian exotic was joined (finally!) by a little blue FIAT Cinquecento paisan. Both were retired for an eccentric white South African (rhd) Citroen GS, which was itself succeeded by a delightful bouncy Renault 5 (not a "Le Car!") with a fold-back sunroof as big as all outdoors. My last little gasoline friend, a black fireplug of a 1984 Volkswagen GTI, was abandoned while still very young, when I moved to New York and began my long-term relationship with the subway system.

An excerpt from today's NYTimes review of the "Così fan tutte" I wrote about earlier this week:

But it's not the updating alone that makes Mr. Miller's production so comically sharp and penetrating. It's that with this staging concept Mr. Miller has inspired his winning cast, which includes four gifted young artists and two ageless veterans, to give such vibrant, natural and uninhibited characterizations. The conductor Robert Spano and 35 players from the Brooklyn Philharmonic deliver a buoyant, lithe yet unhurried account of the score, and the 900-seat auditorium provides an ideally intimate performance space. Mozart lovers should not miss the production, which has five more performances through May 4, including tonight.

In an irony which will escape many Americans ignorant of the status and character of the media both in Britain and the U.S., the General Director of the BBC says that the American media is basically an arm of the White House and the Pentagon.

Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, attacked American television and radio networks for their "shocking" and "gung-ho" coverage of the Iraq conflict yesterday. He also issued a warning against US companies being allowed greater ownership of British media.

Mr Dyke said that changes to legislation proposed by the Government would allow American media companies to take a greater share of British television and radio, which could lead to a loss of impartiality in news coverage.

"We must ensure that we don't become Americanised," he said. Mr Dyke also accused the Government of trying to "manage public opinion" and "apply pressure" on the BBC.

In his first public comments since the war, Mr Dyke said America had "no news operation strong enough or brave enough to stand up against" the White House and Pentagon. He said: "Personally, I was shocked while in the United States by how unquestioning the broadcast news media was during this war."

Mr Dyke said that since the 11 September terrorist attacks, many American networks had "wrapped themselves in the American flag and swapped impartiality for patriotism".

He said: "I think compared to the United States we see impartiality as giving a range of views, including those critical of our own Government's position. I think in the United States, particularly since 11 September, that would be seen as unpatriotic."

Could the breathtaking success within our shores of what is called "reality television" be the direct result of the disappearance of all reality in our news programming?

Time Out New York wants to sell magazines, so it's virtually impossible to find anything on their website, but the print copy reminded me today of the remarkable history of May 1 as a world holiday (except in the U.S., of course), so I owe them a credit even if they make me type the entire story myself. The piece is amazing for its Left-radical slant, although any other would hardly be possible in talking about the history of May Day.

It's nearly May 1, and America's least popular holiday next to National Boss Day is upon us. May day originally began as a pagan celebration, marking the arrival of spring. Toward the end of the 19th century, however, the holiday took on a serious socialist flavor. Maybe that's why May Day - popular in the rest of the world - never caught on here. (Hallmark doesn't print a single card for it, and the company makes a whopping 100 different designs for an obscure October "holiday" called Sweetest Day.) Following a strike by American workers for an eight-hour working day, the 1899 International Socialist Congress officially established May Day as the holiday of the workingman. The day was always marked by large military parades in Communist countries. (The American government, paranoid entity that it is, moved to counter in 1947 by designating May 1 "Loyalty Day." Hallmark doesn't make any cards for that, either.)

And for your further edification, "Mayday" - the distress cry of pilots - has nothing to do with spring, socialism or holidays. It's simply an English bastardization of the French m'aidez, which means "help me!" - Reed Tucker

The more-fabulous-than-ever people who run Cursor paraphrase the argument of a familiar, irreverent columnist in New York Press:

In speculating on why the terror alert was lowered, Michelangelo Signorile asks: "If there were 'indications' days before the war began that al-Qaeda was planning to use weapons of mass destruction—in 'multiple attacks,' no less—why would such elaborate, delicate, time-consuming plans suddenly become nonexistent, just two days after Bush decided the war in Iraq had finished?"
Signorile has much more to say in the piece subtitled, "Playing political games with the public mind."

New York City didn't buy into the Cold War "Duck and Cover" mindset of the fifties, and it's no sucker for the War on Terrorism "Code Orange" threats of the aughts.

A recent poll reveals that New Yorkers are the least prepared for an emergency among residents of America's 10 biggest cities. How can we account for this? Tom Vanderbilt says, in a NYTimes OP-ED piece, "City Without Fear," it's because of a "deep-dyed, venerable spirit, an inner civil defense."

In a city where one has to fight for everything, fighting for survival is second nature. We stock our symbolic survival kits with the enduring idea of New York, which is more resilient than any of its architecture.

I was wrong, or at least wanting, in my information on the general audience dates for the "Così fan tutte" I described last night. The corrected, more extended list of performance dates now appears in the post below.

A few days ago we accepted an invitation for this evening's full dress rehearsal of the Brooklyn Philharmonic's "Così fan tutte," in a co-production with BAM, directed by Jonathan Miller.

Mozart and Da Ponte got it right over 200 years ago, but this very modern staging (public performances are scheduled for April 24, 26, 28, 30 and May 2 at 7:30 pm, and May 4 at 3pm) is absolutely magnificent, enchanting, hysterical, beautiful, sexy, humanistic, enlightened. Highly recommended on every count. Under Robert Spano's direction, the orchestra was brilliant, perhaps beyond anything even lucky New Yorkers should ordinarily expect; Miller's direction incredibly credible and inspired at the same time; the singing extraordinary, both the four younger, new, and the two older, more familiar voices you may already have in your CD library; the acting superior to most straight theatre. The contemporary costumes worked, perhaps especially those of the two "Albanian" chums, one a white, dredlocked, Carribean bopper and the other a trashy, blond, 80's heavy metalist, but the creamy modern sets suffered from an excess of silly drapery, even if the couples' celebratory champagne looked irresistably real.

The theater is the Harvey, a converted Brooklyn cinema, and one of its greatest virtues is its intimacy, at least compared to the convention halls known as the Metropolitan Opera House and the New York State Theater. You actually get to hear and see the singer-actors, and you'll still be able to pay the rent after buying a ticket.

Opera really has become the classical music form of our time. It is once again absolutely the most vital outlet for both composers and audiences, for very good reasons not all related to our increasingly sad cultural circumstances. The elimination of educational facilities, diminishing subsidies and a dramatic decline in the number of venues have all forced a cutback in the number of music models generally available, but opera survives. It even flourishes, fortunately sometimes in innovative shapes which traditionalists would not recognize as opera.

This one however should please everyone. Check out this cozy "Così." If you're just now getting into opera, this really is the time, the place and the song.

I had heard months ago that the 150-year-old annual tradition of the White House Easter Egg Roll was cancelled this year, because of security concerns for the executive lawn.

But in the end we were not to be disappointed, at least not all of us. A solution was found which superbly suits the current regime occupying the mansion and the nation. The AP headline says it all:

White House Holds Egg Roll for Military
Can you say, "military occupation?"
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wide-eyed kids from military families scampered over the White House South Lawn on Monday, towing parents from egg pushing contests to close encounters with the Easter Bunny.

Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, hosted the scaled-down version of the annual Easter egg roll, which included about 12,000 parents and young children. The occasion normally draws a crowd of about 40,000, but because of security concerns this year's tickets were distributed through the Defense Department exclusively to military families.

"All of you have dads and moms who have been defending America,'' Mrs. Cheney told the children. "We think your moms and dads are terrific."

Even during World War II the event remained open to the nation, although it was moved from the White House lawn to the National Zoo.


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.

As the war on Iraq wound down last week the Pentagon celebrated the Christian Good Friday with a religious service and an invitation to the White House's favorite high priest in his repeating role as regular witness to our most solemm secular occasions.

This time the confusion of church and state got even more confusing, since recently the reverend one has dramatically elevated his status as enemy of reason, of the Constitution and of freedom from religion to that of enemy of all Americans who are not evangelical Christians. Muslims have particular reason for outrage.

WASHINGTON, April 17 — The Pentagon will proceed with a Good Friday religious service by the Rev. Franklin Graham, despite objections from some Muslim groups that he has called Islam "a very evil and wicked religion," officials said today.

Mr. Graham, a Christian evangelist, was invited to make an appearance at the Pentagon by some Defense Department employees. The son of the Rev. Billy Graham, Mr. Graham has spoken at the Pentagon on previous occasions and gave the invocation at President Bush's inauguration.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Graham denounced Islam as evil in an interview on the NBC "Nightly News." He later said Muslims failed to apologize adequately for the attacks and urged them to offer compensation to the victims.


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.

Bloggy says gays for Bush are like Jews for Hitler.

What ignited this righteous ire? It started with just one dumb Republican.

Rick Santorum, Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, and No. 3 in the GOP leadership.
If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.

All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family. And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution.

But there was lots of help from John Partain, president of the Pennsylvania Log Cabin Republicans.
The discriminatory remarks made by Sen. Santorum clearly do not reflect the compassionate conservatism promised by our president.
And before these two lackeys made fools of themselves there was one queer cultural memory, of the biggest little fool of all, that will never be erased.
"Compassionate conservative" George W. Bush supported the Texas sodomy law when it came under legal challenge, calling it a "symbol of traditional values".

UPDATE to a story I posted April 4:

The American software engineer arrested in mid-March, and being held without any charges, remains in federal prison in Oregon.

But, in spite of moans from the softy liberals, it's really ok to round up citizens and hold them in secret detention as witnesses without any of the evidence needed to charge or prosecute them, according to the "Department of Justice."

Legal analysts at the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties group, said they feared that the government was using the material witness statute as a form of preventive detention to buy time while officials searched for evidence, a practice that is illegal in the United States. The material witness statute is normally used to detain witnesses deemed to be flight risks.

"Jailing people who are simply under investigation is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime," said Kate Martin, who runs the center in Washington.

Justice Department officials say their detention of material witnesses has been lawful, and critical to the battle against terrorism. "It is difficult for a person in jail or under detention to murder innocent people or to aid or abet in terrorism," Attorney General John Ashcroft said.

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of captivity.

After more than twenty years, we still can't talk or write in a straight-forward manner in this country about a disease which has taken the lives of millions around the world. Why? Because we still can't relate to sex or drugs as adults, and because we still think the disease belongs to the other.

But the people who compose the fundamentalist base of the administration in Washington now are taking seriously their mission to recreate the dark ages, or worse, and their impact will be disastrous. Ironically, considering the stright American world's continued indifference to the threat of the disease, it seems that AIDS is now supposed to be treated by scientists as if it had nothing to do with anything but non-reproductive, heterosexual, marrried, abstemious couples (or possibly singles who remain perfectly chaste and drug-free all their lives).

Scientists who study AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases say they have been warned by federal health officials that their research may come under unusual scrutiny by the Department of Health and Human Services or by members of Congress, because the topics are politically controversial.

The scientists, who spoke on condition they not be identified, say they have been advised they can avoid unfavorable attention by keeping certain "key words" out of their applications for grants from the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those words include "sex workers," "men who sleep with men," "anal sex" and "needle exchange," the scientists said.

Following so many other threats originating in the Bush White House, this is just another augury for the virtually certain decline of American science under a repressive, brainless, xenophobic regime.

The pernicious effect of the political scrutiny of science and medicine will be to discourage certain projects altogether and to distory or adulturate those that somehow survive.

[Dr. Alfred Sommer, the dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University] said that if researchers feared that federal support for their work might be affected by politics, whether it was true or untrue, it could take a toll. "If people feel intimidated and start clouding the language they use, then your mind starts to get cloudy and the science gets cloudy," he said, adding that the federal financing of medical research had traditionally been free from political influence.

We've thrown Baghdad back at least 100 years.

We can't even find the government which we claimed was the objective for the death and destruction we have visited upon Iraq, and I won't mention our failure to track down the weapons of mass destruction we claimed were the major immediate threat to U.S. security, but we have been remarkably successful in destroying the entire infrastructure of the capital city of five million people.

Baghdad's public facilities once were of first world standard. Today the city has no electicity, no water, no sewage or trash collection, no police, no telephones. Thirty-five of the city's thirty-eight hospitals are closed because of looting or arson.

Eleven days after US forces occupied the city and four days after their engineers were supposed to have begun working around the clock at the power plants, the lack of amenities is fueling the anti-American feeling in the streets. "They did the destroying, why can't they repair them?" is the most common question.
Why? Our guys have been too busy securing the oil production facilities which are going to pay the big U.S. corporations to whom the White House is awarding lucrative post-war construction contracts.

The country is well rid of a dictator, but it was done in a way and at a cost whose legitimacy and worth is arguable at best. But for Iraquis, more important going forward is the identity of the forces which authored the change and the fact of their continued presence as occupiers. We have robbed Iraqis of their pride and they may not forgive us.

For more on the pulse of Iraq, see another commentary in today's Independent, "A DANGEROUS GROUNDSWELL OF RESENTMENT IS BUILDING UP ON THE STREETS OF BAGHDAD."

Then came one of those moments that you live through with every nerve of your body vibrating. I saw young men breaking away from the main crowd and running toward a street corner. There was some shouting. Then I spotted American helmets bobbing above the crowd. "Look, buddy, I've got the gun – now back off," a voice shouted. An Iraqi man was confronting an American soldier. "Go ahead and shoot me. Go ahead," the man said. A woman shouted into my face: "It's about our pride. Its just about our pride."

He and she are not supposed to even be there, but they are. Moreover, like their comrades, most queers on duty in the Persian Gulf have lovers and partners at home anxious about their welfare, yet neither these soldiers and sailors nor those who most love them and now wait for them here can show that they care for each other.

The NYTimes yesterday:

At a time when thousands of Americans are planning for the return of their loved ones from the Middle East, there is a subset that remains largely invisible. The government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which forbids gays in the military to be open about their sexual orientation, has caused an unknown number of couples to have their farewells behind closed doors, to plan similarly discreet homecomings and, in the time between, to resort to sterile or anonymous messages as a way of staying in touch.

With their hearts and lives in upheaval, the gay partners of troops in the gulf voice frustration that they have not received the benefits that married couples get, or the same level of emotional support.

What follows are excerpts from the stories of two couples. The first:
A woman in the Northeast, whose lesbian partner of eight years is an officer on a ship that has been at war, does not have access to family briefings offered at the nearby base on the status of the ship's crew. But even if she did, "I wouldn't be comfortable going there: I'd be worried about what questions would be asked of me."

She is also troubled by the thought that if her partner was incapacitated, she would not be the first person contacted by the military. "We've got to navigate through this crazy system virtually alone," she said.

The second story is that of a Washington lawyer, partner for five years of a soldier now deployed in the gulf, who describes the difficulties which cannot be overcome by their planning, their wills and mutual powers of attorney.
"It wasn't a goodbye kiss at the base like I saw on TV for so many other people," the lawyer said. "We've learned to make adjustments."
Since the soldier departed for his current duty, his partner has felt left out, even among professional colleagues whose spouses are overseas, because he has to remain protective of his partner's anonimity.
The lawyer was plainly eager to tell his story, but spent several minutes making sure that any account he gave a reporter would be scrubbed of details that could identify the partner.

In daily e-mail messages, the lawyer said, he must choose his words carefully, and avoid gender references. He does not end those messages with his name.

"I write it and I censor it as I go along," he said. "But I say 'I love you.'"

We came as conquerors, and the conquered know it. Now they are asking questions, tomorrow they may want to do more.

Robert Fisk has been in Iraq, in Baghdad itself, since well before the war began, and what he sees is not the success being reported by the American media. He asks the righteous new overlords in Mesopotamia, if America was campaigning for human rights in Iraq, and if America insisted that the guilty, the war criminals, would be brought to trial, where are those rights being defended, and why haven't we apprehended the felons?

17 April 2003

It's going wrong, faster than anyone could have imagined. The army of "liberation" has already turned into the army of occupation. The Shias are threatening to fight the Americans, to create their own war of "liberation".

At night on every one of the Shia Muslim barricades in Sadr City, there are 14 men with automatic rifles. Even the US Marines in Baghdad are talking of the insults being flung at them. "Go away! Get out of my face!" an American soldier screamed at an Iraqi trying to push towards the wire surrounding an infantry unit in the capital yesterday. I watched the man's face suffuse with rage. "God is Great! God is Great!" the Iraqi retorted.

"Fuck you!"

The people of Baghdad have been ordered to stay in their homes from dusk to dawn.
Lockdown. It's a form of imprisonment. In their own country. Written by the command of the 1st US Marine Division, it's a curfew in all but name.

If I was an Iraqi and I read that," an Arab woman shouted at me, "I would become a suicide bomber." And all across Baghdad you hear the same thing, from Shia Muslim clerics to Sunni businessmen, that the Americans have come only for oil, and that soon – very soon – a guerrilla resistance must start. No doubt the Americans will claim that these attacks are "remnants" of Saddam's regime or "criminal elements". But that will not be the case.

But the main thrust of Fisk's argument is the observation that the coalition has done virtually nothing to apprehend the leaders of Sadaam Hussein's regime, or its agents of terror, and very little to protect the country's infrastrucure at any level, with the single, all-too-telling exception of the oil sector.
Why, Iraqis are asking, did the United States allow the entire Iraqi cabinet to escape? And they're right. Not just the Beast of Baghdad and his two sons, Qusay and Uday, but the Vice-President, Taha Yassin Ramadan, the Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, Saddam's personal adviser, Dr A K Hashimi, the ministers of defence, health, the economy, trade, even Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the Minister of Information . . . .

. . . .

So the people of Baghdad are asking who is behind the destruction of their cultural heritage: the looting of the archaeological treasures from the national museum; the burning of the entire Ottoman, Royal and State archives; the Koranic library; and the vast infrastructure of the nation we claim we are going to create for them.

Why, they ask, do they still have no electricity and no water? In whose interest is it for Iraq to be deconstructed, divided, burnt, de-historied, destroyed? Why are they issued with orders for a curfew by their so-called liberators?

The answer isn't in the text of his essay. Instead, Fisk ends with a warning which has other thoughtful authors these days.
So I'll make an awful prediction. That America's war of "liberation" is over. Iraq's war of liberation from the Americans is about to begin. In other words, the real and frightening story starts now.

For a taste of what people will be talking about and, yes, singing, twenty years from now, not unlike the way that the music of Donizetti or Verdi was popularly enjoyed in nineteenth-century Italy, head for The Kitchen tomorrow evening (Saturday). Robert Ashley is the prophet of modern opera, even if he is still not properly honored in his own country.

We sat in the front row this evening, next to his wonderful colleague, Mikel Rouse, for a performance of Ashley's latest work, "Celestial Excursions," an extraordinarily fresh music-theater take on those we usually try to avoid calling "the old."

From The Village Voice "Choices" section:

Old people--a community so marginalized it doesn't even have a future to look forward to--are the subject of Ashley's "Celestial Excursions," which has its domestic premiere tonight. America's most inventive and ambitious opera composer seamlessly interweaves several natural-language recitatives (performed by Thomas Buckner, Sam Ashley, and Joan La Barbara, among others), pop-song nostalgia, pre-recorded electronics, and "Blue" Gene Tyranny's homey piano playing into what should be a witty, moving, and densely textured meditation on aging, memory, and the great unknown.
From the review by the almost-impossible-to-please Anne Midgette, in the NYTimes:
His five central characters (including himself), seated at card tables with microphones, speak or sing fragments or long episodes of meaningful past, out of context: pieces of story like tiles fallen from their mosaic, lovely and broken.

What he creates is a dream state that's brought into relation to the outside world only through structural conventions. The characters, for example, come together in a meeting at an assisted-living center, with Mr. Ashley as the group leader trying to impose some kind of meaningful order out of the waves of feeling welling around him.

Their monologues are also grouped into episodes that have the appearance of traditional musical forms, if not their sound: a deft, intricate quartet juxtaposing speech and song; a big ballad-aria, "Lonely Lady," which is spoken by Mr. Ashley. But there's never a resolution; the music intensifies, climaxes, ebbs, while Joan Jonas, a performance artist, enacts a sequence of dreamlike images at the back of the stage. Imposing form on feeling is every artist's task; in this piece, age is the threat to this difficult act, and attempts at structure seem like thin walls seeking to hold back shifting sands.

Ashley himself is now in his early seventies, but his music, his texts and his entire conception belongs to all the ages.

Tim Robbins' credentials as a baseball fan are impeccable, but it appears that at least part of the baseball establishment is no fan of Tim Robbins.

Ok, most of us know the facts already, but now we've "Nuke" Laloosh's own account. He didn't just speak softly and he wasn't carrying a big bat, but Robbins got his own bully pulpit a couple of days ago when he delivered a fiery speech before the National Press Club in Washington.

For all of the ugliness and tragedy of 9-11, there was a brief period afterward where I held a great hope, in the midst of the tears and shocked faces of New Yorkers, in the midst of the lethal air we breathed as we worked at Ground Zero, in the midst of my children's terror at being so close to this crime against humanity, in the midst of all this, I held on to a glimmer of hope in the naive assumption that something good could come out of it.

I imagined our leaders seizing upon this moment of unity in America, this moment when no one wanted to talk about Democrat versus Republican, white versus black, or any of the other ridiculous divisions that dominate our public discourse. I imagined our leaders going on television telling the citizens that although we all want to be at Ground Zero, we can't, but there is work that is needed to be done all over America. Our help is needed at community centers to tutor children, to teach them to read. Our work is needed at old-age homes to visit the lonely and infirmed; in gutted neighborhoods to rebuild housing and clean up parks, and convert abandoned lots to baseball fields. I imagined leadership that would take this incredible energy, this generosity of spirit and create a new unity in America born out of the chaos and tragedy of 9/11, a new unity that would send a message to terrorists everywhere: If you attack us, we will become stronger, cleaner, better educated, and more unified. You will strengthen our commitment to justice and democracy by your inhumane attacks on us. Like a Phoenix out of the fire, we will be reborn.

And then came the speech: You are either with us or against us. And the bombing began. And the old paradigm was restored as our leader encouraged us to show our patriotism by shopping and by volunteering to join groups that would turn in their neighbor for any suspicious behavior.

In the 19 months since 9-11, we have seen our democracy compromised by fear and hatred. Basic inalienable rights, due process, the sanctity of the home have been quickly compromised in a climate of fear. A unified American public has grown bitterly divided, and a world population that had profound sympathy and support for us has grown contemptuous and distrustful, viewing us as we once viewed the Soviet Union, as a rogue state.

And this was just his warm-up.

Leave it to the British to make us laugh about the war. If we're all real good, maybe we'll even wind up seeing this delicious lampoon, inspired by our real life little kingy and the fictional Stanley Kubrick movie, "Dr. Strangelove."

"[The Madness of George] Dubya" — part vaudeville, part farce, part cabaret — has become the newest emblem of the frustration and ambivalence felt by some Britons at being drawn into a war as the principal allies of an American administration that provokes incredulity and resentment rather than loyalty among many of them.

"It's undoubtedly anti-Bush," Mr. Butcher said, "but to understand it as an anti-American diatribe is to miss the point." To describe it as topical might be an understatement, too. From its conception to its first production took less than three weeks, he said.

The United States, Mr. Butcher said, justified a war on Iraq by "a series of palpable hoaxes" that left him "increasingly flabbergasted by the shameless, manipulative cynicism of the whole approach." He was so incensed that starting late in December he resolved to cast, write and stage his revue, which opened just over two weeks later, on Jan. 14, in the Theatro Technis fringe theater in north London. It opened in the West End last Monday.

. . . .

Some characters seem to be caricatures of American politicians whose own words have already made them seem like caricatures to some of their critics. "All you have to do is transcribe their utterances, and it needs very little embellishment," Mr. Butcher said. "You couldn't invent it."

The British characters, by contrast, are more or less bumblers dragged along in the powerful American wake. Prime Minister Tony Blear is preoccupied by a real estate deal — a real-life scandal that swirled around Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife, Cherie, last year. Group Captain Windbreak is the very model of British deference as he seeks to dissuade General Kipper from ordering a nuclear strike. "Quite so," he murmurs, as the American officer demurs. "See your point."

The NYTimes account concludes with the revelation that the very fresh review necessarily incorporates an element of news, because of the speed of events in Iraq. Each day's performance is updated with new jokes.

We just returned home from an art opening at the Whitney at Altria, across the street from Grand Central Station on Park Avenue.

As we left the reception at 9 pm we were shocked to see several NYC police vans disgorging a number of SWAT cops (with flack jackets and huge automatic rifles). Moments later we were inside the subway station where we found "camouflaged" national guardsmen on alert throughout the concorse, stationed rigidly at ten foot intervals from each other, also handling automatic rifles and looking anything but relaxed. I mean, there was a lot of armor on the east end of 42nd Street tonight! Thousands of people passed these warriors on their way to the trains, and no one seemed to notice the honor guard.

As I write this no information is available on the internet which would suggest anything out of the ordinary was happening tonight. No one but Barry and I ever seem to see these creatures, these horrific scenes, and no one but Barry and I ever seem to be disturbed by their significance.

Why is it that we as New Yorkers, if not just as Americans, can be made to pay every cent of the cost of our own military occupation while we have no say about its necessity or its nature? This is a subjugation which exists at the whim of some vague higher authority not accountable even to the citizenry of the nation. Whether as New Yorkers or as Americans, we are not given an adequate reason either for its presence or for the fluctuating burden of its insult. In fact we are not even told it is there, as is attested by the otherwise inexplicable ignorance of my neighbors on the subject.

In the case of the specific shock and awe of this evening's "alert," could it be simply the consequence of our once again becoming too relaxed for the good of those at the helm of the state, too inadequate to the need of the fascists in Washington to continually remind us of the absolute necessity of their regime?

Apparently we will never know. No one is really asking the question, and the American media least of all.

And yet. As we passed by the huge windows of the gallery we had just left, on our way to the subway, a large number of the young artists and friends of artists who were still inside the space were literally pressing their noses to the glass in their astonishment at the horrible paramilitary scene outside to which they found themselves witness. Are we finally paying attention? Maybe we will wake up in time.

A quote, à propos the events of the past week in Iraq, from the Polish Holocaust survivor and satirist Stanislaw Lec, supplied by David Remnick in his "The Talk of the Town" notes this week in The New Yorker:

"When smashing monuments, save the pedestals — they always come in handy."

The bodies aren't warm yet in Iraq, and in fact many on both sides don't even know yet that they are about to be dead, yet White House political necessity is about to create another war, the Bush regime arguing now that it's absolutely sure that this time it is Syria which is the real threat to the security of the United States.

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, but our boys in Washington say that those notorious Iraqi WMDs have been spirited away to Damascas.

Before the war, American intelligence officials said that they had a list of 14,000 sites where, they suspected, chemical or biological agents had been harbored, as well as the delivery systems to deploy them. A substantial number of those sites have been inspected by the invading troops. Evidence to date of a "grave and gathering" threat: precisely zero.

. . . .

The latest theory being touted in Washington by the usual unnamed government sources is that the Iraqis have moved their weapons out of the country, very possibly into Syria. This claim appears to have originated with Israeli intelligence – which has every motivation for stirring up trouble for its hostile Arab neighbors– and has been bolstered by reports of fighting between Iraqi Special Republican Guard units and US special forces near the Syrian border.

Disarmament experts do not give the claim much credence. After all, any suspicious convoy or mobile laboratory would almost certainly be spotted by US planes or spy satellites and bombed long before it reached Syria.

But the notion does provide the hawks in Washington with a compelling plot device not unlike the McGuffin factor in Alfred Hitchcock's films – a catalyst that may or may not have significance in itself but that gets the suspense going and keeps the story rolling.

If the Bush administration should ever seek to turn its military wrath on Damascus, the weapons of mass destruction it is failing to find in Iraq might just provide the excuse once again.

Ron English borrows billboards to advertise his politics.

Ron English puts up illegal billboards, so he has only one way of knowing if it has been a good day.

"I consider it a success if I don't go to jail," he explained. He should know. He has had two very unsuccessful days in the past.

You may have seen Mr. English, a 43-year-old father of two, wandering around the streets of Manhattan or New Jersey with a bucket of glue, a set of rollers and a crew of accomplices. He plasters his original paintings in broad daylight on billboards he does not own. This is a conscious decision, because billboarding in the dark would only look more suspicious. "If you're out at night," he said, "it's obvious that you're not supposed to be there."

. . . .

"Ron's kind of a one-man billboard hurricane," said Jack Napier, the founder of the Billboard Liberation Front, a San Francisco-based movement considered one of the first to alter such advertising. "He's done some brilliant stuff."

Two weeks ago, Mr. English pasted up three works in Jersey City, where he lives and paints. One reads: "Saddam's SUV's. Oil Dependence Day Sale." It ends with the Chevy logo and the tag "Like Iraq."

He frankly admits, in his own words, "I guess I'm a criminal. But I don't think I'm a nuisance to society."

We are going to be paying for our stupidity for generations.

[The Americans] pulled up in a tank and are Westerners, the same people who promised all last century that the Arab world would be able to throw off the yoke of colonialism yet never let them.

Proof? Look at Israel, they say here, a Western colonial outpost planted on Arab soil in 1948. The United States has for decades been promising the Palestinians a state with freedom and self-determination. What have they delivered? Nothing.

There, in that sense of historical impotence and betrayal, is the root of the frustration, sadness and rage that shot through the Arab world on Wednesday when an American armored vehicle toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein in the heart of Baghdad.

"Saddam Hussein fomented a miracle: he took history backwards many generations," Talal Salman, the publisher of the respected Al-Safir newspaper in Beirut, wrote in a bitter front page editorial, grieving the loss of the richest Arab civilization to what he described as a colonial power.

"What a tragedy again plaguing the great people of Iraq," he wrote. "They have to chose between the night of tyranny and the night of humiliation stemming from foreign occupation."

Toward the end, even when they knew the game was lost, many Arabs were rooting for the idea that even Iraqis who despised Mr. Hussein would take up arms along side his troops. A little more of him seemed preferable to a lot of Americans.

"They know that the Saddam Hussein regime will eventually end one day, he will die," said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor of social sciences at the Lebanese American University. "With America you have a whole system, an entirely different system. The threat from America is far greater than the threat from a government that will disappear one day."

There is a small constituency of writers, editors and intellectuals that believes the United States will in fact create a better Iraq, a civil society run by Iraqis. They argue that the rapid collapse of Mr. Hussein's government should serve as a slap in the face, a warning that Arabs need to jettison their dictators and their socialist police states and learn to compete in the modern world.

But many, perhaps most, suspect the war is just to grab oil and to castrate the one country that remained a potential threat to Israel. Democracy delivered at gunpoint appears a dubious proposition.

See Bloggy today for a sense of what is really happening in Baghdad, Washington and New York.

Sample, straight from the Department of Defense itself:

Rumsfeld: Let me say one other thing. The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, "My goodness, were there that many vases?" (Laughter.) "Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?"
Those who are now making the effort to look outside the country for news are having an experience similar to that which was common in occupied Europe when a shortwave radio in the attic was the only source of real information - and hope. And yet for today's true patriot there seems to be little cause for hope (no sign of a liberating army, as in the 40's), and our current effective media blackout may be even more demoralizing than that of sixty years ago. The Bush regime hasn't even had to physically take over the dissemination of news or ban the radios. Americans have simply decided neither to report nor seek the truth.

watching the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it. So, for now, I think you should go to Bloggy for culture blogs. We dig up the stuff together, but just now I'm not able to focus enough on the art-which-keeps-me-mostly-sane in order to actually write about it, but B seems to manage.

The Israeli government has killed another young International, as he tried to shield children from a tank-mounted machine gun in Gaza.

About a dozen members of the peace movement had been trying to set up a protest tent on a road in an attempt to block Israeli army incursions into a Gaza refugee camp.

Along the way, the protesters were joined by several children, the witnesses said. When the group was about 200 yards away from three tanks, soldiers opened fire from a tank-mounted machine gun, the witnesses said.

Hurndall and another foreign activist tried to get two children out of the line of fire, [the witnesses] said. "Thomas (Hurndall) grabbed one of their hands and as soon as he did that a tank fired at him, hitting him in the head," [AP photographer] Hamra said.

The photographer said the children were not throwing rocks at the troops and that he saw nothing that would have provoked the troops.

The incident occurred yesterday, friday. Today the beautiful 21-year-old Manchester, England, photographer has been declared brain dead. As I am writing this, there is a report that he has been removed from life support. On the scale of decades of Israeli and American crimes in Palestine and throughout the Middle East, this news would be unlikely to shock a world inured to news about the mad policies which have already removed so many others from our support for their very lives.

In today's anniversary memorial to both the pragmatism and the idealism of the 1930's the NYTimes seems to say it's the latter.

On April 6, 1933, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would have made the standard work week 30 hours. Anything more would be overtime.

The bill passed by the Senate was an effort to reduce a national unemployment rate that stood at 25 percent. It had strong support from labor and religious leaders who argued that working people needed time for family, education, recreation and spirituality as much as they needed higher wages. But the bill failed in the House. The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed five years later, gave Americans a statutory 40-hour workweek.

The report goes on to say that while American productivity is now several times what it was 70 years ago, most of us still find it hard to get our work done in 40 hours, and millions are without work altogether.
What happened? In effect, the United States as a society took all of its increases in labor productivity in the form of money and stuff instead of time. Of course, we didn't all get the money; the very poor earn even less in real terms than they did then, and the largest share of the increase went to the richest Americans.

The harmful effects of working more hours are being felt in many areas of society. Stress is a leading cause of heart disease and weakened immune systems. Consumption of fast foods and lack of time for exercise has led to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Many parents complain that they do not have enough time to spend with their children, much less become involved in their community. Worker productivity declines during the latter part of long work shifts.

To put this in perspective, we could look at the picture in Europe. Because of differences in workweek hours and vacation time, Americans now labor a full nine weeks more each year than Western Europeans.
. . . over the past 30 years, Europeans have made a different choice — to live simpler, more balanced lives and work fewer hours. The average Norwegian, for instance, works 29 percent less than the average American — 14 weeks per year — yet his average income is only 16 percent less. Western Europeans average five to six weeks of paid vacation a year; we average two.

Work and consumption are not necessarily bad. But producing and consuming can become the focus of a person's life — at the expense of other values.

And now with fears fanned by a radical nationalist regime since September 11, the freedoms which have always been the most worthy blessings of American society are being traded for an illusory security. What can we offer ourselves, or anyone outside who might manage to make it through the walls surrounding the new fortress America, but more stuff we never have time to appreciate? In the end is that all that will remain of the idea of America?

Alnajar's father, Bassam, declares himnself "100 percent against the war," but he says he told his son: "You must do the best you can. You are an American soldier."

The story is familiar, almost trite. But the Alnajjar family lives with complicated layers of feelings because its members are Muslims and Arabs and Palestinians.

While a son, a Navy airman aboard the Abraham Lincoln, has just ended his duty in the Persian Gulf, the family feels keenly the horror suffered by Iraqi civilians. First it was images of civilian carnage via Al Jazeera television, which they receive on satellite, and lately it is scenes of looting and chaos.

"I'm really scared now, more than I was scared before," Suad Abuhasna said yesterday. "God only knows what is going on with all these killings, the burning of the buildings."

Yet she said she is proud that her son, Airman Bashar Alnajjar, 22, took part in the war. "He did his duty to help the people liberate themselves from the Iraqi regime," Ms. Abuhasna said. "I'm very happy he's not there anymore. But what about the people?" Asked whether the regime's removal was worth the military effort, she said, "I'm not Iraqi."

Her husband, Bassam Alnajjar, declares himself "100 percent against the war," but says he supports in equal measure his son's "fighting for democracy."

"I have 250,000 sons and friends and brothers there," he said of the American forces. "I have 26 million Iraqi brothers dying. I hate what's going on."

Today there's another report from Robert Fisk describing the hell that we have made of a Baghdad hospital.

A small child with a drip-feed in its nose lay on a blanket. It had had to wait four days for an operation. Its eyes looked dead. I didn't have the heart to ask its mother if this was a boy or a girl.

There was an air strike perhaps half a mile away and the hospital corridors echoed with the blast, long and low and powerful, and it was followed by a rising chorus of moans and cries from the children outside the wards. Below them, in that worst of all emergency rooms, they had brought in three men who had been burned across their faces and arms and chests and legs; naked men with a skin of blood and tissues whom the doctors pasted with white cream, who sat on their beds with their skinless arms held upwards, each beseeching a non-existing savior to rescue him from his pain.

"No! No! No!" another young man screamed as doctors tried to cut open his pants. He shrieked and cried and whinnied like a horse. I thought he was a soldier. He looked tough and strong and well fed but now he was a child again and he cried: "Umma, Umma [Mummy, mummy]".

Bloggy calls for "A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE PLEASE" as he shows three photographs which belie representations by the American media that "Baghdad" celebrated the fall of a statue of Hussein in Firdos Square yesterday.

There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.

-- Howard Zinn

It ain't over yet, as this headline reminds us: Bush Pleased but W.House Says U.S. Still at War. "They" intend to keep us in a state of perpetual war, since it works so well for them, so order your t-shirts, including the stunning Zinn number, as well as lots of other counter-weaponry, from the good people at Donnelly/Colt.

We told ourselves and the world that we had to hurl death and destruction on a country the other side of the planet primarily because its alleged posession of weapons of mass destruction was an imminent threat to us. Where are those weapons?

I don't know the answer, but, because of the enormous global stakes involved, it's not an idle game if we choose to speculate, or read the speculations of others.

If and when any weapons of mass destruction are discovered, those who supported the war in Iraq can be expected to use the find to justify the U.S.-led intervention. But if such weapons are located based on solid U.S. intelligence information, it raises other questions. If the U.S. knew where such weapons were, why was the information not given to UN inspectors? If inspectors could have been used to find such weapons, why was war necessary?

If the discovery of weapons of mass destruction happens by chance, it will suggest that the inspectors might have been just as likely as the U.S. military to have found those weapons, given the time they requested to search. Moreover, unless the weapons found are of the most potent kind - VX nerve gas or weaponized anthrax - and in vast amounts, there will be many questions about why they posed the imminent threat alleged by the administration. So finding such weapons does not in itself mean that the U.S. action against Iraq was required or that war was the only way to uncover and eliminate those weapons.

Even worse for the U.S. case against Saddam, however, is that as each day passes, conspiracy theories grow that any chemical or biological weapons found might well be planted by U.S. forces. With anti-American sentiment and suspicion of U.S. information and motives growing, especially in the Middle East and Europe, the international public relations battle to convince other countries that any weapons found are of Saddam's own making will be an uphill battle.

Paul Krugman observes that the war on Iraq is but a skirmish when compared to the Second World War.

Yet self-styled patriots are trying to impose constraints on political speech never contemplated during World War II, accusing anyone who criticizes the president of undermining the war effort.

Last week John Kerry told an audience that "what we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." Republicans immediately sought to portray this remark as little short of treason. "Senator Kerry crossed a grave line when he dared to suggest the replacement of America's commander in chief at a time when America is at war," declared Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Notice that Mr. Racicot wasn't criticizing Mr. Kerry's choice of words. Instead, he denounced Mr. Kerry because he "dared to suggest the replacement of America's commander in chief" — knowing full well that Mr. Kerry was simply talking about the next election. Mr. Racicot, not Mr. Kerry, is the one who crossed a grave line; never in our nation's history has it been considered unpatriotic to oppose an incumbent's re-election.

For almost a year and a half I've written that I fear we may never have another presidential election, but Krugman, who has editorial responsibilities far more constraining than my own, doesn't go quite that far in his NYTimes Op-Ed piece today.
Some timid souls will suggest that critics of the Bush administration hold off until the war is over. But that's not the American tradition — and anyway, when will this war be over? Baghdad will fall, but during the occupation that follows American soldiers will still be in harm's way. Also, a strong faction within the administration wants to go on to Syria, to Iran and beyond. And Al Qaeda is still out there.

For years to come, then, this country may be, in some sense, at war. And all that time, if Mr. Racicot and his party are allowed to set the ground rules, nobody will be allowed to criticize the president or call for his electoral defeat. You know what? If that happens, we will have lost the war, whatever happens on the battlefield.

In a visit to the city's al-Kindi Hospital, Robert Fisk walks among the civilians of Baghdad, confronting what he calls the real, immoral face of war.

It looks very neat on television, the American marines on the banks of the Tigris, the oh-so-funny visit to the presidential palace, the videotape of Saddam Hussein's golden loo. But the innocent are bleeding and screaming with pain to bring us our exciting television pictures and to provide Messrs Bush and Blair with their boastful talk of victory.

. . . .

It's becoming harder to visit these places of pain, grief and anger. The International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday reported civilian victims of America's three-day offensive against Baghdad arriving at the hospitals now by the hundred. Yesterday, the Kindi alone had taken 50 civilian wounded and three dead in the previous 24 hours. Most of the dead – the little boy's family, the family of six torn to pieces by an aerial bomb in front of Ali Abdulrazek, the car salesman, the next-door neighbors of Safa Karim – were simply buried within hours of their being torn to bits.

. . . .

Yes, I know the lines. President Saddam would have killed more Iraqis than us if we hadn't invaded – not a very smart argument in the Kindi hospital – and that we're doing all this for them. Didn't Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defense Secretary, tell us all a few days ago that he was praying for the American troops and for the Iraqi people? Aren't we coming here to save them – let's not mention their oil – and isn't President Saddam a cruel and brutal man? But amid these people, such words are an obscenity.

This is not going well. See Bloggy for a picture of what war fanaticism and paramilitary violence looks like - here at home. There are more images and news stories linked on his post.

Reuters' statement doesn't inspire much confidence, should any of us want to believe that the police assault in Oakland will remain an exceptional occurrence.

The action is believed to be the first police use of anti-crowd munitions against U.S. demonstrators since President Bush launched an invasion aimed at toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Remember, this is not just overkill. It's not just incompetence. This is being done deliberately, whether in Oakland, New York or any other town in America, to intimidate anyone who might even think of expressing an opinion other than that approved by superstate Oceana's thought police.


Update: The San Francisco Bay area paper, The Mercury News, now has the story.

The demonstrations at the port were planned with the quiet support of the ILWU, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Many rank-and-file members of ILWU Local 10 oppose the war with Iraq, and the local has its own Anti-War Action Committee.

Police fired into the crowd after some protesters failed to clear the street in front of the terminals.

. . . .

"I was there from 5 a.m. on, and the only violence that I saw was from the police," said Joel Tena, the constituent liason for Vice Mayor Nancy Nadel. "What happened today was very surprising. It seemed the police were operating under the assumption that they were not going to let any kind of protest happen."

We are all effectively under arrest now.

Over a hundred people were penned in, attacked, handcuffed and arrested by riot police outside The Carlyle Group offices in Manhattan early this morning.

A certain number of protestors had blocked the entrance to the building and were arrested, as they expected, in an organized civil disobedience. But at the same time police also surrounded the legal protesters gathered on a sidewalk across the street and refused to let them leave. There was no order to disperse, and those who tried to leave were stopped. The police then began arresting people whose only "crime" was to hold a sign protesting the war on Iraq. About 50 people, most of whom have had no CD training whatsoever, were arrested and are now being held at One Police Plaza.

Carlyle had been chosen as the primary target location for protest this morning, because the organizers of the direct action, the M27 Coalition, see it as epitomizing the corrupting influence of powerful profit-seeking corporations on decision making in Washington. [For more on Carlyle, see an essay on the late, lamented Red Herring site, "Carlyle's way - Making a mint inside 'the iron triangle' of defense, government, and industry," by Dan Briody.]

At least up to the moment this item is being posted, there has been a total news blackout on the demonstration, the police drama in the streets, the unlawful arrests and continuing detainment of dozens of peaceful legal protestors. The only media record available has been posted by nyc indymedia

Proving what we all know to be true--that the NYPD is a private paramilitary security force that exists to protect the interests of capital above all else--cops this morning disrupted a legal picket against war profiteers the Carlyle Group. Protestors on both sides of the street were penned in by dozens and dozens of cops in full riot gear, given no order to disperse, and rounded up. When protestors shouted out that they had a right to be assembled there, one officer responded, "You have no rights as far as I'm concerned." We thank the NYPD for clearing up the confusion around that once and for all.

Though the protest was more or less dispersed, the cops themselves did a brilliant job of shutting down traffic and generating a general level of disruption and chaos that many a direct action aspires to. We should take some lessons from them. For example, abandoning empty cars in the middle of the street seems a particularly useful strategy. The cops also showed what can be accomplished with large numbers, as there was probably a 3 to 1 ratio of pigs to protestors.

This is an excerpt from a press release posted on the M27 Coalition site linked above:
Attorney Karen Moulding, an attorney with the group Glamericans for Peace, observed the arrests. "Pedestrians were able to get by without any impediment. Police gave no warnings to disperse. I've been a legal observer for many demonstrations for years and I've never seen anything like it. Police behavior seemed calculated to silence or deters peaceful demonstration. Police should be proud to protect the First Amendment right to demonstrate peacefully, rather than use scare tactics to pre-empt it."

One protestor, Jennifer Jaeger who witnessed the arrests of bystanders, said, "I noticed one man thrown to the ground and another bystander was cuffed so tightly that she started to cry. The police were brutal and its obvious their actions were meant to stifle protests."

There will be a demonstration in support of those people at One Police Plaza tonight (Monday) beginning 5-6pm.

Yes, it looks like I'm only arguing from the particular to the general, and yes, it is has the elements of an argument from sentiment, but there is is, and it started with Reuters.

The United States says it is taking precautions to avoid civilian casualties, but Baghdad's hospitals are packed to overflowing with wounded residents of the capital.

One of them is Ali Ismaeel Abbas, 12, who was fast asleep when a missile obliterated his home and most of his family, leaving him orphaned, badly burned and missing both his arms.

"Can you help get my arms back? Do you think the doctors can get me another pair of hands?" Abbas asked. "If I don't get a pair of hands I will commit suicide," he said with tears spilling down his cheeks.

Yes, there is a picture of Ali Ismael.

Many thanks to daily Kos, and to warblogs:cc, where I first saw this item.

Another milestone for the land of the free!

An estimated 12 percent of African-American men ages 20 to 34 are in jail or prison, according to a report released yesterday by the Justice Department.

The proportion of young black men who are incarcerated has been rising in recent years, and this is the highest rate ever measured, said Allen J. Beck, the chief prison demographer for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the statistical arm of the Justice Department.

By comparison, 1.6 percent of white men in the same age group are incarcerated.

Even the NYTimes is finally reporting that we just might not have the representative citizen army we like to think we have.

Does the United States military have to be representative of American society? The question has hung heavy since war with Iraq first seemed inevitable, and with it the possibility of heavy casualties. Now, with that war at a climax, a small band of critics continues to maintain that the all-volunteer force — which is 30 years old this year — is all-volunteer in name only.

They argue that relative economic disadvantage has replaced local draft boards in determining who enters the military, especially the enlisted ranks, and that it is un-American to have an affluent nation being defended by working-class young people, heavily layered with minorities.

The pattern would be familiar to a citizen in late Rome. Should we be concerned?

In spite of the more specific focus of its title, "The Press and the Myths of War," this short essay by Chris Hedges in The Nation this week may be the best thing you'll ever read on the larger subject of mankind's horrible fetish of war.

. . . .

The narrative we are fed about war by the state, the entertainment industry and the press is a myth. And this myth is seductive. It empowers and ennobles us. It boosts rating and sells newspapers--William Randolph Hearst owed his fortune to it. It allows us to suspend individual conscience, maybe even consciousness, for the cause. And few of us are immune. Indeed, social critics who normally excoriate the established order, and who also long for acceptance and acclaim, are some of the most susceptible. It is what led a mind as great as Freud's to back, at least at its inception, the folly of World War I. The contagion of war, of the siren call of the nation, is so strong that most cannot resist.

. . . .

War itself is venal, dirty, confusing and perhaps the most potent narcotic invented by humankind. Modern industrial warfare means that most of those who are killed never see their attackers. There is nothing glorious or gallant about it. If we saw what wounds did to bodies, how killing is far more like butchering an animal than the clean and neat Hollywood deaths on the screen, it would turn our stomachs. If we saw how war turns young people into intoxicated killers, how it gives soldiers a license to destroy not only things but other human beings, and if we saw the perverse thrill such destruction brings, we would be horrified and frightened. If we understood that combat is often a constant battle with a consuming fear we have perhaps never known, a battle that we often lose, we would find the abstract words of war--glory, honor and patriotism--not only hollow but obscene. If we saw the deep psychological scars of slaughter, the way it maims and stunts those who participate in war for the rest of their lives, we would keep our children away. Indeed, it would be hard to wage war.

. . . .

The war party in Washington had predicted terrorist strikes in the U.S. would accompany a war on Iraq, but now that it's gotten the war it longed for, it admits there is little evidence Al Qaeda or any other groups plan to attack us, and this may not be making the party members happy. What they really want is a red alert, since that would mean the real martial law with which we have only been threatened up up now.

I don't think it's just my cynicism, but a piece in the regular "A Nation at War" section of the NYTimes this Sunday morning suggests that our very nutty and very scary secret-society, basement-clubhouse war-mongers seems to have a plan for turning around this unexpected and almost certainly disappointing development.

WASHINGTON, April 5 — After Bush administration officials and many American lawmakers predicted that terrorist attacks were nearly inevitable because of the war in Iraq, there has been little evidence that Al Qaeda or other networks are preparing to strike against the United States, senior government officials say.

As a result, intelligence analysts are turning their attention to a new potential threat, the likelihood that a protracted American presence in Iraq after the war could stir violence both in Iraq, the rest of the Middle East, in the United States and against American interests around the globe.

"I can't believe that they are going to do nothing after Iraq," said one senior counterterrorism official. "I've been frankly astonished at how quiet it's been. I've got to believe that somehow, some way they are going to try to hit us. It's just a matter of time."

We've learned nothing since September 11. We're going to continue to do whatever we can to stir the embers and fan the flames of an enemy about which we understand nothing and which is currently to be found nowhere, this time by an extended ocupation of the proud heart of ancient araby.

But we aren't going to restrict our mischief to the overlordship of Mesopotamia. The news story immediately to the left of the one cited above tells us that our modern destroyer of civilization has cast his eyes beyond the ancient cradle of civilization, and now openly covets Persia and Syria.

Shortly after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stark warning to Iran and Syria last week, declaring that any "hostile acts" they committed on behalf of Iraq might prompt severe consequences, one of President Bush's closest aides stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that his unpredictable defense secretary had just raised the specter of a broader confrontation.

Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work.

It was a small but telling moment on the sidelines of the war.

"[Colin] Powell was taken aback," says the Times, but he remains only window dressing for the den of criminals and fools in the White House. The paper later quotes someone described as "a senior administation official:"
"Iraq is not just about Iraq"
There's also a trigger-happy cheering section outside the White House, and they're not being discreet these days.
Several of the hawks outside the administration who pressed for war with Iraq are already moving on to the next step, and perhaps further than the president is ready to go. [my italics, and I have to say, huh?] R. James Woolsey, the former director of central intelligence, said on Wednesday that Iraq was the opening of a "fourth world war," after World War I, World War II and the cold war, and that America's enemies included the religious rulers in Iran, states like Syria and Islamic extremist terrorist groups.
For more fun (or nightmares) with speculation about the extent of the White House gang's stupidity or devilry, see the excellent Daily Kos.

My fellow citizens are now so pumped-up about the unique genius, virtue and power that permits, indeed calls, them to destroy and kill masses of people on the other side of the world (while Americans themselves can remain in family rooms watching entertainment "news" or roar down the asphalt in 10 mpg "SUVs"), that, according to a new Los Angeles Times poll, they are already anxious to take on Iran, probably Syria as well, and perhaps tomorrow the rest of the world, unless those foreigners quickly shed whatever makes them so foreign.

For at least one aging, fat plutocrat in Marin County, California, a Hummer H2 seems to work better than viagra, even if it's not nearly as monstrous as the vehicle he'd really like to strap on. A NYTimes "Business Day" article on April 5 says that sales remain strong for America's favorite 4-wheel-drive penile enlargements during these dark days of war.

But some Hummer drivers, inundated like the rest of America by war news, feel especially patriotic behind the wheel now.

"When I turn on the TV, I see wall-to-wall Humvees, and I'm proud," said Sam Bernstein, a 51-year-old antiquities dealer who lives in Marin County, Calif., and drives a Hummer H2, an S.U.V. sibling of the military Humvee.

"They're not out there in Audi A4's," he said of the troops. "I'm proud of my country, and I'm proud to be driving a product that is making a significant contribution."

"If I could get an A1 Abrams [it weighs 60 tons], I would," he added with a smile, referring to the tank, "but I don't know if California would allow it."

I suspect that when we go off to Iran Boom Boom Bernstein will be right there with the rest of the stay-at-home-patriot war mongers, pushing our boys and girls into real Humvees and A1 Abrams tanks, but staying high and dry in Marin County in his shiny boulevard version. The LATimes article suggests just how eager so many of us are for more real action, at least if we don't have to risk our own lives:
. . . substantial portions of the public are willing to consider military action against other potential threats in the area. "I just think that the Middle East itself will never fall into a peaceful solution unless some of the people who are supporting terror are finally rooted out," said Don Seward, who runs a small real estate business in Western Springs, Ill.

Americans are divided almost in half when asked whether the United States should take military action against Syria, which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has accused of providing Iraq with military supplies. Syria has denied the accusation. But 42% said the United States should take action if Syria, in fact, provides aid to Iraq, while 46% said no.

More Americans take a hard line on Iran, which recently disclosed an advanced program to develop the enriched uranium that could be used in nuclear weapons.

Exactly half said the United States should take military action against Iran if it continues to move toward nuclear-weapon development; 36% disagreed.

So, is an Audi A4 un-American? And if I were able to buy something as small as the very grown-up, 80 mpg Smart coupe in this brave country of ours, would I be stoned at the wheel by my neighbors?

"Rumsfeld and his coterie now dare to complain that Saddam is violating the laws of war and does not fight fare," according to the editorial in the April 21 print edition of The Nation .

"We are invading their country," Chief Warrant Officer Glen Woodard observes. "I'd be by my window with a shotgun too." Similarly, Rumsfeld, who rejected concerns about U.S. treatment of Afghan and Al Queda prisoners, now invokes the Geneva conventions on the lawful treatment of prisoners of war. Has he forgotten the pictures of Afghan prisoners, their beards shorn against their religious beliefs, displayed in Guantánamo, held in a legal limbo without the protection of POW status? Or the two homicides in a US Army prison in Afghanistan, where an Army pathologist described the cause of death as "blunt force injuries?"

American leaders would be wise to avoid invoking the Geneva conventions - or better still to observe them. The central question in the minds of many millions around the world is whether the United States, in violation of the UN Charter and long-established terms of international law, is waging an illegal war


They're just lucky they haven't yet had to deal with the bombs and the sabotage which can certainly be expected some time soon.

The NYTimes Business day" section on friday included an article in its "Advertising" column about U.S. companies re-arranging their marketing abroad in the wake of the enormous increase in anti-American sentiment which has accompanied the disaster of the Bush administration's foreign policy.

With the recent surge in petition drives, demonstrations, even physical attacks that equate brands born in the United States with imperialism or militarism, advertisers are confronting perhaps the most sustained anti-American feelings abroad since the Vietnam War.
The article presents the problem as just another challenge for American advertising ["marketers are scrutinizing everything that represents them internationally, from ads to package designs to promotions"], but there is at least a hint of the real disasters which may follow.
Until now, American brands have reaped the benefits of being associated with America," [said professor Christie Nordheim of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University]. "Now, they're suffering the consequences."
Well. yeah, corporate America has paid for and finally gotten exactly the government it always wanted. It now has a regime totally accomodating to the wants and needs of Big Business and totally indifferent to the wants and needs of Americans and people throughout the world, but it was bought on the cheap, and the shoddy political product of small minds is about to explode in their faces. Stuart Elliott, the author of the article, doesn't seem to have a much of a clue about the horrors ahead for American corporations which have a presence overseas, but the professor he quotes may be more savvy.
Clearly, those most closely associated with the American way of life "are going to suffer the greatest harm," Ms. Nordheim said.
We may have to swallow their damn junk here, and Americans don't fight corporations very well, but people outside the U.S. still have market choices and they're not always afraid of attacking Big Business, even physically.

Any more.

Are we going to swallow this one too?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Friday it would consider military action in Iraq a success even if U.S. forces failed to find President Saddam Hussein, whose appearance on Iraqi television could prove he survived a U.S. bombing raid on the first night of the war.
Or this, from the Washington Post:
One marker [of victory in Iraq] explicitly rejected by the White House is the capture or confirmed death of Hussein. The administration does not want its ambitious postwar plans to be held hostage by a search for the Iraqi leader. Opinion polls have suggested that a public perception of success would be reduced if Hussein's whereabouts remain unknown.

During early preparations for war, one official said, some U.S. thinkers "operated on the assumption that it was going to be a relatively clean break, that the end of the regime would be clear for all to see. That may not be the case. I think we're seeing a rolling end."

For the past two and a half years, since planes crashed into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, virtually everything this junta has done at home and around the world it alleges to have done in the name of destroying, first, Osama Bin Laden, and then, when he escaped our might, his alleged buddy and co-conspirator, Saddam Hussein, who now may also have escaped. But we definitely never hear about Bin Laden any more, and as of today Hussein has apparently also been relegated to the dustpin. Their usefullness to the grander political purposes of our occupiers in Washington is finished, but new monsters are already being manufactured in Washington and we will be hearing about them soon.

We can at least try to remember that by their accusations about the authors of September 11, the Bushies have failed in the assignment they announced they had set for themselves and for which they gambled, and lost, the world.

The incredibly embarassing admission that it has abandoned its quest for accountability and revenge may serve at least one positive purpose for the administration: Any talk of, or actual moves toward, holding Saddam and his regime accountable far war crimes could not help but provoke discussion of the war crimes of the American and British governments themselves.

We've lost the "war against terrorism."

An American citizen, a 38-year-old software engineer and author, has been held in solitary confinement in a federal prison in Portland, Oregon, for the last two weeks. He has not been charged with a crime, he has not been interrogated and he has not been brought before a judge. The government will not tell anyone why he is being held in prison. His file has been sealed by a federal court at the request of the Department of Justice.

Mike Hawash was arrested in a parking lot by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force when he arrived for work at the Intel Corporation's suburban Portland offices. Simultaneously, FBI agents in bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles awoke his wife Lisa and their three young children in their home, which they proceeded to search.

Federal officials will not comment on Mr. Hawash, though they have been pressed by Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and by a group of supporters led by a former Intel vice president, for basic information about why he is being detained.

In a statement after his arrest, the F.B.I. said he was being held as a material witness in an "ongoing investigation" by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Federal search warrants in the case are sealed.

The case has drawn the attention of civil liberties groups nationwide, who say Mr. Hawash's case is an example of how the Bush administration is holding a handful of American citizens without offering them normal legal protection.

Although at least two American citizens are being held without normal legal rights as "enemy combatants," Mr. Hawash has not been categorized as such. As a material witness, he is being held to compel testimony. But supporters say he has not been told anything about what the government may want from him.

The facts are sufficiently eloquent and do not need much embellishment here. It suffices to say that we are no longer a nation of laws.
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the courts have made conflicting rulings on the legality of holding material witnesses without charging them. A federal judge in Manhattan, Shira A. Scheindlin, said such detentions were "an illegitimate use of the statute," but another ruling in the same court, by Chief Judge Michael B. Mukasey, said detaining witnesses to compel testimony was a legitimate investigative tool.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has defended the tactic, saying it is "vital to preventing, disrupting or delaying new attacks."

The Justice Department has not said how many Americans have been held without charges in terrorism investigations since Sept. 11. Civil liberties groups say they believe the number is about 20, though most are not American citizens.

There is of course tons of stuff on this story on the internet. One site is Warblogging.com.

When they went after people who were not citizens, sadly we hardly raised a collective eyebrow. They have now been putting away "certified" Americans as well, and we cannot claim ignorance of their disappearances.

Are we interested yet?

I actually thought that I had arrived at an epiphany the other day. In total frustration, and unable to understand how the country had bought into this regime with its message and reign of terror, I told myself only half seriously that it was plainly the successful outcome of a deliberate long-term right-wing plan to sabotage the entire education system. We have been rendered morons in a deliberate campaign.

Today I found that I am not alone with these thoughts. On a visit to his website which was encouraged by a very interesting article in the NYTimes thursday about music industry blacklisting, Paris - the self-described "politically conscious artist best known for the incendiary song 'Bush Killa'" - reminded me that Ted Rall had said it already.

The Moron Majority
By Ted Rall, March 21, 2003

Now it's official: most Americans are idiots.

Decades of budget cuts in education are finally yielding results, a fact confirmed by CNN's poll of March 16, which shows that an astonishing 51 percent of the public believe that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

. . . .

For a totally painless argument about why the Bush administration must be resisted, go to the site of that excellent bunch of social humorists who call themselves The Onion.

I Should Not Be Allowed To Say The Following Things About America

As Americans, we have a right to question our government and its actions. However, while there is a time to criticize, there is also a time to follow in complacent silence. And that time is now.

[Here follows, in seven paragraphs, their columnist's modest list of the things which should not now be said about America.]

True patriots know that a price of freedom is periodic submission to the will of our leaders—especially when the liberties granted us by the Constitution are at stake. What good is our right to free speech if our soldiers are too demoralized to defend that right, thanks to disparaging remarks made about their commander-in-chief by the Dixie Chicks?

When the Founding Fathers authored the Constitution that sets forth our nation's guiding principles, they made certain to guarantee us individual rights and freedoms. How dare we selfishly lay claim to those liberties at the very moment when our nation is in crisis, when it needs us to be our most selfless? We shame the memory of Thomas Jefferson by daring to mention Bush's outright lies about satellite photos that supposedly prove Iraq is developing nuclear weapons.

At this difficult time, President Bush needs my support. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld needs my support. General Tommy Franks needs my support. It is not my function as a citizen in a participatory democracy to question our leaders. And to exercise my constitutional right—nay, duty—to do so would be un-American.

In an interview with the brilliant and gloriously political playwright Tony Kushner, Cleveland Plain Dealer theater critic Tony Brown quotes him on the subject of our unelected one:

"We're seeing this sort of grotesque, illegitimate recrudescence of the Reagan political agenda that was solidly rejected in three straight presidential elections," Kushner said. "Bush started with no political clout after the electoral college fluke and the political theft of the elections process by the Supreme Court. He'd be in the toilet now if he had not benefited tremendously from 9/11."
And there's more:
"He wants to secure oil markets by unilateral military action and give back as much as possible to the very rich. If he didn't start this war and if Congress hadn't given up its war powers, what would we be doing but watching Wall Street swooning, unemployment going up and the economy tanking. This guy is a catastrophe. He's given away the goodwill of the world and turned America into a rogue nation."
Oh yes, we can soon expect to be hearing more from Kushner. One of his latest works-in-progress, titled "Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy," is described in the Plain Dealer article as a play about Laura Bush and the nature of evil.
The first scene, excerpted in the March 24 edition of The Nation, features first lady Laura Bush reading from Dostoevsky's voluminous "The Brothers Karamazov" to a group of dead Iraqi children.

Our good friend Bill Dobbs writes us that there may be something in the old slogan, "Gay is Good," coined by Dr. Frank Kameny in the summer of 1968.

A 20-year-old marine corps reservist in California is seeking conscientious objector status.

"My moral development has also been largely effected by the fact that I'm homosexual," Funk said in his application.

"I believe that as a gay man, someone who is misunderstood by much of the general population, I have a great deal of experience with hatred and oppression. When someone is thrust into a situation of hate and oppression because of factors they have no control over, I believe they either react with hatred back, because they've experienced it, or they learn not to be that way towards others. I have adopted the latter reaction and stand with the oppressed people of the world who know that hate and oppression do not solve any problems."

Dobbs email continues,
Funk's pursuit of conscientious objector status has garnered a fair amount of ink in major newspapers; the coverage I've seen, including the New York Times, has failed to report that Funk is a same-sexer - missing not only a most important facet of his life but a major angle of the story.

Michelangelo Signorile reports that, in the midst of the real business of the military, its peak period, actual war, once again the Pentagon has decided that gays are too useful to be thrown out.

Rather than speedily drumming out gays based on rumors or overheard declarations - the essence of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy - the military in some cases even appears intent on proving service people aren't gay, even after the individuals claim to be.

It's official. It's impossible for Americans to get real news. Our "news" sources have actually become, almost sui generis, government propaganda.

The Peter Arnett story is the latest, and perhaps the most dramatic, evidence of the sad development which has left us so ignorant of the world and vulnerable to its threats. Writing in New York Newsday, University of Austin professor of journalism Robert Jensen argues,

Peter Arnett has an overblown sense of his own importance and lousy political judgment. That's been true ever since he became a television "personality," and he's hardly the only one with those traits.

But Arnett's pomposity and hubris are not what got him fired by NBC and National Geographic this week after giving a short interview to Iraqi state television. When the controversy first emerged, NBC issued a statement of support, which evaporated as soon as the political heat was turned up and questions about Arnett's patriotism got tossed around. In short: Arnett was canned because he took seriously the notion that, even in war, journalists should be neutral.

. . . .

If . . . criticism of Arnett [for being obliging or disingenuous in his relations with the Iraqi regime] is appropriate, we should also ask whether American journalists are overly deferential to U.S. officials. Consider George W. Bush's March 6 news conference, when journalists played along in a scripted television event and asked such softball questions as "How is your faith guiding you?" Journalists that night were about as critical as Arnett was with the Iraqis.

Such performances leave the rest of the world with the impression that American journalists - especially those on television - are sycophants, and Arnett's firing only reinforces that impression. That's why before the end of the day he had a new job with the British tabloid The Mirror, which described him as "the reporter sacked by American TV for telling the truth about the war."

Arnett certainly hasn't cornered the market on truth, and many U.S. reporters and photographers are doing fine work under dangerous conditions.

But many other American journalists have abandoned any pretense of neutrality and become de facto war boosters. All over the world, viewers are seeing images of the effects of the war on the Iraqi population that are largely absent from U.S. television. We shouldn't mistake the limited critique of strategy and tactics - should the United States have unleashed a harsher attack from the beginning, and should the invasion have waited until more troops were in place? - for a serious challenge to the Bush administration's spin on the war.

It was assembled in love and anger thirty years ago in a world most of us could hardly have imagined, safe in our enlightened beds, until now.

In 1973, at the height of the Apartheid regime, the playwright Athol Fugard collaborated with John Kani and Winson Ntsona to develop the wonderful South African play, "The Island," being staged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Harvey Theater this week and the next.

Barry and I were lucky to be in the theatre last night to see the original artists bring their work back to New York, to a society very different from that which originally inspired the work, yet one suffering its own new dark age.

The Brooklyn production demonstrates that the play has lost none of its power, and amazingly Kani and Ntsona have actually enhanced its profundity, without sacrificing its art, through tweaking and expanding the original lines of the final scene, a dramatization of Sophocles' "Antigone," with its magnificent theme of civil disobedience, by two convicts in the penal colony of the play's title. The play now clearly relates to a new authoritarian regime, and it pulls no punches.

Even without the changes in the script, the production would have been a triumph. As it was, virtually the entire audience, having audibly gasped at some of the last lines delivered by the two artists, stood in an astounding ovation to their accomplishment. Kani and Ntsona were nowhere to be seen however. It was clear that they wanted it understood that the evening and the work was not about them, and that it was no longer just about South Africa.

An extraordinary bit of theater and an awesome statement for all times. Don't miss it.

A personal note: In 1974 and 1975, when the play was first produced, outside South Africa of course, I myself was living an extraordinary privileged existence in that frightening and beautiful country. My only exculpation is the fact that I was more than aware of my unnatural status and that I was there basically hoping to learn more about the extremes of both human good and evil, in which I think I succeeded somewhat. Unfortunately South Africans didn't have to travel so far for their own lessons. In reality, of course, neither did I, and today none of us do.

[For a follow-up, on the morning after I originally posted this, see Bruce Weber's review in the NYTimes.]

Iraqis have just arrested Saddam Hussein, formed a secular democratic government of unity and demanded the U.S. and Britain leave the country immediately and pay reparations for 12 years of damages and loss of lives.

April fool.

Jimmy Breslin continues to cover the war from the subways of New York.

This subway is my base for this war, the subways of the city, a battlefield that could be the most important action in the war. Because you can lose through enemy action, an attack on the subway now, and 10 and 20 years from now, or by your own people snatching freedom from you on the grubby pretext of security.
Yesterday afternoon Breslin sat at the counter of a coffee shop at the Port Authority Bus Terminal while on the wall CNN enjoyed a coffee counter exclusive on showing the war.
Now on television was a story about Peter Arnett, a correspondent in Baghdad for NBC, who was fired for saying something on Arab television in Baghdad. His words were about the same as what is reported on television and newspapers here.

It was silly for Arnett to go on the Arab television because they were only going to steal it from Arnett's NBC anyway.

However, if Arnett said this on Arab television because NBC wouldn't let him say it to America, then there is deep trouble.

Newsday's intrepid reporter ends his column today with an anecdote culled from years of professional duties sitting with New York's most quotable bar and cafe denizens.
Perched on a barstool [years ago] in the old Costello's on 44th Street, visitor I.I. Rabi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for the CAT scan and MRI, and who also was a consulting engineer on the first atom bomb, told us:

"It is a fact in this country that you have free speech. But everybody is afraid to use it."

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