War: April 2004 Archives

this is as sophisticated as it gets

Ray Sanchez knows what the city won't tell us: No one is really doing anything about subway security. But then, why should we be surprised? The subway isn't the politicians and bureaucrats' thing. They don't use it.

At the same time it hasn't escaped the notice of some of us that there's still talk about entirely shutting down Penn Station and the Main Post Office during the Republican Convention for the safety of hundreds or thousands of treasured Republican plutocrats.

The conductor stood in the cab of the subway car, her door ajar. People have a false sense of security on the subway, she said. "The politicians who never ride the trains are very reassuring, aren't they?"

The New York Police Department is rushing to train 10,000 officers in counter-terrorism in time for the summer's Republican National Convention, but there are transit workers without fire and evacuation training.

"I'm one of them," said the conductor, who has eight years on the job. "You hope common sense is enough to get you through an emergency, but, you know, common sense goes out the window."

And, in the event, the riders too, if there's going to be no direction from "security."

[image from Rachelle Bowden at rachelleb]

The Patriot Act is obviously a boon for homegrown tyrants. Only slightly less obvious is the fact that it won't be able to protect us from their bogeymen, even though that's the only excuse they can publicly offer for its existence.

Bloggy draws the properly scary conclusion from today's headlines.

(storyboard image for filing cabinet scene not included in the film)

I saw Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" in a movie theatre when it first came out, almost twenty years ago. I remember thinking it was exciting and pretty funny. B and I saw it again tonight at home. This time I thought it was terrifying. In 2004 it's no longer "retro future."

Another big surprise: Jonathan Pryce is really cute as Sam Lowry. I didn't remember that.


[image at the top from Trond Frittz lower image from MovieGoods]

serious street theatre: Rachel Corrie remembered on 5th Avenue, March 26, 2003

Barry and I slipped into Manhattan Criminal Court on Monday to show support for our friends and their friends, sixteen defendents caught up in the trial from mayhem (maybe the word "hell" should be reserved for even more horrendous judicial outrages likely still to come).

Thirteen months ago the group had been arrested for a totally peaceful street protest against the war in Iraq, against the continuing war on the Palestinians, and against the death of U.S. human rights activist Rachel Corrie. Ok, some traffic was disrupted on 5th Avenue. Now those arrested that day may be subject to restraint of their liberties during years of probation and, in the words of hanging judge Robert M. Stolz on Monday, they are "facing a possible sentence of up to a year in jail." A year in jail? For blocking cars? For trying to shake their country awake?

Stolz's mention of the serious stakes involved for the defendents followed immediately a thinly-veiled warning to their friends and familiy in the benches: "[This trial] is not for the benefit of Spectators." No, it certainly isn't, but can we know for whose benefit it is being staged?

This trial is an appalling abuse of the courts. We used to think that Giuliani's regime* was outrageous, but to experience an even more serious assault New Yorkers really had to wait until after the reactionary ascendancy which followed the 2000 election, after the misreading of September 11, after the terrorists won the war on terror the day it was announced, and after the totally political decision that New York City would be the site of the Republican Convention celebrating the arrival of the fundamentalists' brave new world.

Normally political protest which involves a police determination that the protestor
is somehow out of order results in a simple violation and the dismissal of all charges, assuming the person arrested does not run into the police again within a designated relatively short period of time, usually a few months.

I can't begin to go into the particulars here of how this judge and this district attorney (Morgenthau's lieutenant, Barry Glasser) have been mishandling the case of the "5th Avenue 16," but let me say that neither party is disinterested, and that the people's justice appears to be just about the last concern of both. Not incidently, aside from carrying an axe which will apparently never be ground enough, Judge Stolz has to be faulted for incredibly slovenly, unprofessional conduct. But then, these are also times which somehow accomodate a George W. Bush presiding over 300 million [or actually 6 billion] of his fellows.

Yesterday morning, for what was expected to be only the pronouncement of sentences, there were at all times a minimum of eight police officers in the courtroom on Monday (one for every ten people in the public seating area) and four of them wore bulletproof vests. I have been a defendent in civil rights cases, I have sat in courtrooms while others were tried for similar "offenses" and I have sat on the jury in one capital case. Never before have I have seen more than two officers in a courtroom, and none were ever wearing vests.

Clearly the City authorities and their directors in Washington are trying very hard to frighten us all into submission and to minimize the potential for the demonstrations and protest which are the only refuge for a people given no effective electoral choices. We can't let our self-appointed governors get away with this. The stakes are just too high. If we fail to stop these police state tactics now, we all will be paying for it for years, if not forever.

Clyde Haberman has written one of the very few media stories on this trial. He doesn't tell us enough, he provides no real context, and he may be trying to be too entertaining, but you'll at least learn that sentencing has been delayed contemplating the impact of new evidence. True justice's hope is that the defendents' lawyer will be successful in his motion for an appeal, but with this judge it must be a distant hope at best.

For more press and other information, including pictures, go to M26.org

Surprise! A former federal prosecutor, Stolz was originally appointed Judge by Giuliani, to the Civil Court in 1995. He was appointed to the Criminal Court by Bloomberg in 2003.

[image from Fred Askew]

For their replacement homeland it now looks like the Palestinians will just have to be content with a small rock somewhere south of the mythical Blessed Isles.

I don't know how to deal with such idiocy as this. [the original headline was more to the point: "Bush recognises Israel West Bank claims"]

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised to see this agreement between two governments which routinely defy international law, each recklessly asserting its absolute right to do whatever it pleases regardless of the impact on others. But actually there is something far more frightening about this agreement between two rogue states - its scary biblical element.

There is absolutely no way to defend the Sharon settlement policy, but hearing that the White House legitimized it today is very frightening news. Not only is this strange Washington crew's domestic policy about their god cult, but so also is its foreign policy where it's really fundamentally about crusading [see Bushie's fake news event last night]. The armageddon it's already inciting seems to be its real purpose, since there is obviously no logic to it.

Look around. These people have removed all joy from lives all over the planet since they seized power little over three years ago, but since there was obviously no pleasure in their dried-up Republican hearts anyway, they are oblivious to the cloud now hanging over the planet. In fact, for those little superstitious minds the next life just can't come soon enough; they're apparently willing to help their god-thing hurry it along.

NOTE: For a proper précis of the Bush thing last night see criticalviewer's "A Busy Person's Guide to the Bush Press Conference"

The Bushites and their handlers: Although somehow they hijacked command of the most powerful country on earth, they clearly don't know what they're doing and they're doing it for the wrong reasons.

I used to think that their stupidity is what would save the planet, but that was before the "war on terror," the war on Afghanistan, the war on Iraq and now the wars which will be visited upon the entire world in response to their stupidity and iniquity.

We also note that, even if he is remembered for Vietnam, LBJ at least managed to deliver on civil rights, a voting-rights bill, a Medicare program for the aged, and measures to improve education and conservation. What will Bushie be remembered for?

Reuters on Monday, via Atrios:

Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy on Monday accused President Bush of having created at home and abroad "the largest credibility gap" since the Watergate scandal forced Richard Nixon from the White House 30 years ago.

Kennedy, a key backer of fellow Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's campaign for the party's presidential nomination, also charged Iraq has become "George Bush's Vietnam," the war that divided the United States and helped drive Lyndon Johnson from the presidency.

In addition, Kennedy said, Iraq has "diverted attention from the administration's deceptions here at home -- especially on the economy, health care and education."


It may finally have come down to our millennialists against their millennialists.

Over the weekend a new war may have begun began in earnest in Iraq, a very visible, coordinated, religion-based uprising against the occupation. The Christian soldiers running the U.S. and Iraq these days are driven by visions of the second coming of Jesus. The Iraqi streets and basements are propelled by the appearance of the Mahdi. Unfortunately the two armies are talking about roughly the same thing - the end of the world - but they aren't going to make it easy for anyone.

The Mahdi Army is the name given to the militia responsible for the current outbreaks of violence. People who study British, african, middle-east and asian history know the enormous significance the name Mahdi assumed at the end of the 19th century when it was both bogeyman and a real terrorist threat for the last bible-thumping, English-speaking empire. At least the reportedly quite observant Blair should remember Gordon and Kitchener, especially this week.

[image originally from Wired]

Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, shown on Thursday protected by a security guard employed by Blackwater USA, even while in a heavily guarded military complex in the city of Mosul

Tom Moody writes about the Daily Kos teapot-tempest mercenary brouhaha.

Those deaths were terrible but I hate that saying "screw the mercenaries" is being framed as an issue of patriotism or "supporting the troops." These high-paid soldiers of fortune are essentially a private army dedicated to securing Middle East oil assets and protecting corporate interests abroad. And just a reminder: they're shooting Iraqis today; tomorrow they could be over here in the States breaking strikes and busting protester's heads. This isn't as farfetched as it sounds: the Bush campaign recently hired Vance International, notorious anti-labor thugs, for "private security." This privatization of military functions is a sick trend, and I actually think it's more patriotic to oppose it. Unfortunately the Kerry campaign seems to think we should "support the mercs." [Moody points out at the top of his post that the "unctious Kerry campaign de-linked Kos from its website" when the controversy began]

[image from the NYTimes, pool photo by Ceerwan Aziz]

Albrecht Dürer Death and the Landsknecht

The NYTimes calls them "four security consultants" in an editorial today. In fact, they were mercenaries, although no one seems to want to call them that.

In an article which begins on the paper's front page we do manage to learn quite a bit more about these soldiers of fortune, beginning with some figures:

As many as two dozen [security] companies, employing as many as 15,000 people, are working in Iraq.
The U.S. occupies Iraq, but apparently can't do it without paid mercenaries. Blackwater U.S.A., the company which employed the victims of the horrific attack in Fallujah Wednesday, guards Paul Bremer, the American administrator.
In the northern city of Mosul, where Mr. Bremer met with about 130 carefully vetted Iraqis on Thursday, Blackwater guards maintained a heavy presence, standing along the walls facing the Iraqi guests with their rifles cradled. More than once, Iraqis and Western reporters moving forward to take their seats in the hall were abruptly challenged by the guards, with warnings that they would be ejected if they resisted.

. . . .

The rapid growth of the private security industry has come about in part because of the shrinkage of the American military: there are simply fewer military personnel available to protect officials, diplomats and bases overseas, security experts say.

To meet the rising demand, the companies are offering yearly salaries ranging from $100,000 to nearly $200,000 to entice senior military Special Operations forces to switch careers. Assignments are paying from a few hundred dollars to as much as $1,000 a day, military officials said.

In the country I live in military base pay begins at a little over a thousand dollars a month for the lowliest recruit. "Imminent danger pay" for a battle area like Iraq adds $225 to a soldier's base, but last Fall even that pittance was threatened by the same administration which employs expensive mercenaries when it comes to its own protection.

Final note: Mercenaries belong in boys' fantasy fiction only; they are outlawed by the Geneva Convention for very good historic reasons.

[image from Web Gallery of Art]

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from April 2004.

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