June 12, 2003
Standing Behind the President in Times of War and....Sometimes you just gotta shake your head in wonder. After the deafening silence from Congressional Democrats regarding the blatantly illegal war of aggression and conquest still being carried out in Iraq, what causes some of them to suddenly find the temerity to criticize the White House's foreign policy? That's right, when he issues a milquetoast statement that worries that Israel's "security" might not be helped by Sharon's blatant attempts to derail the already bankrupt "peace process." Sharon's attempted assassination of Hamas political leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi was absolutely guaranteed to destroy any chances that Hamas and Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas to come to an agreement regarding a Hamas cease fire. Sharon wants the suicide bombings. It should be clear from Sharon's continuing pattern of provocations that he feels he needs the suicide bombings in order to continue to pointing to "Palestinian terror" as the reason for not conceding an inch on the occupied territories. In addition to all the Palestinians he's murdered over the decades, Sharon has the blood of the suicide bombing victims on his hands just as much as the suicide bombers and Hamas leaders. Bush, who only cares about the Middle East "peace process" to the extent that it promotes the wider agenda of U.S. hegemony, reacted to Sharon's disruption of his plans with muted criticism. Ha'aretz reports that:
Bush said he was "troubled" by the Israeli helicopter attack on Abdel Aziz Rantisi in Gaza. Such incidents don't promote Israel's security, he said, and may "make it more difficult for the Palestinian leadership to fight off terrorist attacks."This mealy-mouthed statement "drew fire from those saying that Israel had carried out the attacks to defend itself, just as the United States has done," according to the New York Times today. The Times goes on to report that Bush's worries provoked outrage from Congressional Democrats Lantos, Ackerman, and Wexler (Robert, not Henry). Whether this is simply political posturing and pandering or whether it is sincere is immaterial. The White House quickly got the message. Today, Ari Fleischer spent an inordinate amount of time insisting that "the issue is Hamas." and there was likely no irony in his voice as he stated that "I think that the history in the region is clear that whenever there are the brightest moments of hope, the terrorist work hardest to strike. What's important is that the terrorists be stopped so that progress toward peace can be resumed." Ackerman, for his part, also unintentionally dipped into the deep well of irony when he asked "How can we take certain actions in response to terrorism, and then tell others that when they do the same exact thing that it is not helpful?" Indeed, that's an interesting question.
June 11, 2003
A Personal Note
(Well, not really)For those who are reading this who don't know me personally (email me if you exist!), I write descriptions of books for a book catalogue in order to make my daily bread. This brings me into contact with a lot of books per week, from postmodern Derridean meanless meanderings; through tons of corporate management dreck hyping the latest "model" for corporate success ("Our five-step model for success: BRAIN. B-Be, R-React, A-Actualize, I-Interact, N-kNow how to rob people blind!"), endless prostrations before neoliberal orthodoxy, and detailed descriptions of the minutae of the actions of every soldier on some inconsequential (to us and not the soldier) battlefield; and ocassionally to some actually quite good stuff (I recently got Ted Rall's collection of essays and comics on his time in Afghanistan during the recent U.S. assault, which was whipsmart, witty, and human). I mention this because it's likely that various volumes are going to get me ranting about something (especially when I want to procrastinate) here on my relatively new blog. Such is the case with the book that's now sitting in front of me, The Global Public Relations Handbook (ed. by Sriramesh and Verčič, Lawrence Erlbaum, 2003). After the foreword presents effusive praise by UNESCO Director-General Matsuura, the editors preface the volume with the observation that the "twentieth century was undoubtedly the era of democratization and comcomitant development of more scientific and sophisticated forms of public relations..." While this should clue the reader in fairly immediately to the type of "democratization" they're talking about, they spell it out a little more clearly a few pages later when they report that globalization has placed "public relations practitioners at the forefront of managing the relationships among people of varied nations and cultures on behalf of organizations of all types." Got that? It's about managing the relationships among people on behalf of organizations. The inclusion of one chapter on UNESCO notwithstanding, the contents of the book make clear the organizations the editors are talking about are corporations and governments. It's these "multilateral" advocates of "democratization" that sometimes scare me more than the naked "unilateral" lurches towards fascism of the Bush administration (I said sometimes!). It should be obvious, despite the polls, that the guys in charge right now are hardly masters of public relations. We should realize that, in the fight to get rid of Bush, truly progressive forces are likely going to have to temporarily ally with these multilateral elites, but we should never forget that they don't truly see Bush and his coterie as the enemy. No, Bush is just a bad manager, we the people (of the world) are the enemy.
More names to be etched in the walls?New Delhi's India Gate: A memorial to the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died during World War I, fighting for the British in Europe, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli, Palestine, East Africa, and Egypt.
Now, Prime Minister Vajpayee, eager to hitch his wagon to the Axis of Empire, is looking to repeat history by sending more Indian troops into Mesopotamia in service to colonial power.
Terror Threat From Orange to Green:
Biological and Chemical Weapons in Iraq, Vietnam, Colombia, Afghanistan, and the United States.Bush continued his climbdown on Iraq's massive arsenal of WMDs yesterday with the statement that "I am absolutely convinced with time we'll find out they did have a weapons program." Even Reuters noted the switch in emphasis from massive arsenals to "weapons programs". But I haven't seen any discussion of the slip in language that crept into Bush's statement. Just what does he mean when he says "we'll find out?" Is that an admission that "we" don't know?
Bush's moment of oops aside, this statement represents a significant switch from from his assertion a week and a half ago that the two trailers found in Iraq were proof of banned weapons. To quote: "And we'll find more weapons as time goes on," Bush said. "But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them." Bush's reluctance to continue to rely on the trailers is probably due to reports in The New York Times and The Guardian that "senior analysts" "with direct access to the evidence" are beginning to dispute the biowar claims, instead finding that the evidence from the trailers is entirely consistent with Iraqi claims that they were used to fill artillery balloons. Such balloons were used to guage wind speed and the like in order to judge artillery accuracy. Needless to say, such facilities would have to be mobile to be of any use. The Guardian actually found that such systems were sold to Iraq by the British company Marconi (now called AMS). As an aside, its well worth comparing the two reports to see the unintentially amusing contortions the NYT article (co-authored by that paragon of journalistic integrity, Judith Miller) goes through to discredit the story while reporting on it.
But as evidence of Iraqi WMDs once again begins to vanish into the air like, say, a receding artillery balloon, much more concrete evidence of biological and chemical weapons development and use, past and present, is out there for anyone to find. And, just as there are different standards for who develops and uses WMDs, there are different standards as to the treatment of victims of such weapons. Vietnam veterans suffering from the effects of Agent Orange were surely cheered yesterday by the inability of the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling in the case of Dow Chemical vs. Stephenson. Because of a rare 4-4 tie vote, a previous ruling that Vietnam Veterans who became sick after a 1984 settlement are allowed to continue with suits against the chemical manufacturers of Agent Orange, including Dow and Monsanto, remains as it was before the Supreme Courts deliberations. The tie was made possible by the fact that Justice Stevens recused himself from the case. According to USA Today, he gave no reasons for his recusal, but "his only son was a Vietnam veteran who apparently suffered from cancer before his death in 1996."
While the veterans merely face an uphill climb and an obstructionist government here at home, over in Vietnam there is even less chance of justice for the three generations of Vietnamese suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. Nearly 20 millions gallons of the stuff was dumped on Vietnam during the American war there. According to a report in The Guardian:
"Teams of international scientists working in Vietnam have now discovered that Agent Orange contains one of the most virulent poisons known to man, a strain of dioxin called TCCD which, 28 years after the fighting ended, remains in the soil, continuing to destroy the lives of those exposed to it. Evidence has also emerged that the US government not only knew that Agent Orange was contaminated, but was fully aware of the killing power of its contaminant dioxin, and yet still continued to use the herbicide in Vietnam for 10 years of the war and in concentrations that exceeded its own guidelines by 25 times. As well as spraying the North Vietnamese, the US doused its own troops stationed in the jungle, rather than lose tactical advantage by having them withdraw."The article further states that the dioxin TCCD can cause "almost every cancer known to man - in addition to chronic skin disorders, birth defects, gastrointestinal diseases and neurological defects." Nearly 650,000 are estimated to suffer from the effects of Agent Orange and an additional 500,000 are already dead. What's more, there is no foreseeable end to the suffering. While WMD experts like Colin Powell and Judith Miller continue to ignore the issue, the poison is not dispersing (contrary to U.S. claims). One area of the country is characterized by a group of Canadian environmental scientists as a microcosm of the country. In this area:
"...the dioxin has remained in the ground in concentrations 100 times above the safety levels for agricultural land in Canada. It has spread into Aluoi's ponds, rivers and irrigation supplies, from where it has passed into the food chain, through fish and freshwater shellfish, chicken and ducks that store TCCD in fatty tissue. Samples of human blood and breast milk reveal that villagers have ingested the invisible toxin and that pregnant women pass it through the placenta to the foetus and then through their breast milk, doubly infecting newborn babies."The Vietnamese government has pleaded with the U.S. government to recognize the problem and provide some form of redress, but instead they blithely carry on with the creation of new environmental and human tragedies in other countries.
One of those countries is Colombia. Under the cover of the "War on Drugs," a similar campaign is being hatched, one that if carried out will have devastating consequences that probably won't be fully known for years. Jeffrey St. Clair has reported on portions of this campaign last December. In an article titled"The Drug War According to Dr. Mengele: Agent Green Over the Andes" he recounts how administration officials and Congressmen are pushing for the use of a genetically engineered pathogenic fungi ostensibly to eradicate drug crops. But even a cursory examination of past policies reveals the excuses of the "drug war" to be the most grievous mendacity. Colombia has for years had tons of herbicides, such as glycosophate mixed with Roundup (owned by Monsanto of Agent Orange infamy), dumped on her countryside. There has been a revealing disparity in whose drug crops get sprayed. This 1997 briefing of the Washington Office on Latin America is very informative:
"Coca eradication is concentrated in the Guaviare department, which is estimated to have the second largest production of coca in Colombia, or approximately 40,000 hectares of the approximately 165,000 hectares in production nationwide...Just as U.S. assertions about only targeting large plantations turn out to be a lie, so do their claims about health effects. Augusto Fernando C. reports in a recent NarcoNews piece that:
...the Guaviare and other coca growing regions of Colombia were the scene of widespread social protest in July, August and September of 1996, when an estimated 241,000 people participated in massive marches -- one of the largest peasant mobilizations in Colombian history -- to protest aerial eradication, lack of government support for economic development and the increasing presence of the Colombian military. In the violence that ensued, 12 individuals were victims of extrajudicial executions and seven disappeared. A number of protest leaders subsequently received death threats and seven were killed, apparently for their involvement in the protests, including Victor Julio Garzon, a trade unionist who met with WOLA staff in November 1996...
Both U.S. and local officials claim that they strike a balance between fumigation of areas closer to San José, where small farmers with mixed crops are concentrated, and more remote regions characterized by large expanses of coca financed by drug traffickers; however, the latter is harder to reach because of the difficulties just described. All of the local civilian authorities we spoke to complained that aerial eradication is concentrated closer to San José...
The Guaviare is considered to be a stronghold of the FARC guerrillas, which have grown in strength considerably in this part of the country. In stark contrast to other regions of Colombia -- including the Caquet coca growing region to its north -- paramilitary groups do not operate in the Guaviare."
while U.S. Government agencies - supported by the "studies" by entities like the World Health Organization - say that "glyphosate is less damaging than common table salt, aspirin, caffeine, nicotine, and even vitamin A" - and while the ex-Ambassador of the United States in Colombia, Anne Patterson, sends letters to the editor in response to newspaper editorials that speak about the complaints by indigenous organizations against the fumigations, arguing that "the use of glyphosate in Colombia for eradication of illicit crops does not represent any risk for human or animal health, nor does it cause environmental damage" - other scientific investigations - like those published by biologist and Narco News Contributing Writer Jeremy Bigwood - signal that the problem is not just the fumigations with glyphosate, but that it is mixed with other chemicals still that guarantee the definitive eradication of plants - due to its highly toxic contents - substances like Roundup, Paraquat and Spike (Tebethurion) that can remain in the soil a year or more."He further notes that "in the community many accusations of destruction of legal crops as well as root crops and health problems of people and animals are known." Nearly all of the above details could applied to the more recent sprayings in the Putumayo area with no change whatsoever. Given the far greater health dangers posed by "Agent Green," thoroughly discussed in a Sunshine Project briefing paper, it should be clear what the utilization of Agent Green would be: A classic counterinsurgency tactic that uses biological weapons to target what's perceived to be the political base of the FARC guerillas, the poor peasant civilians. Similar tactics, sometimes using WMDs like Agent Orange and sometimes relying on plain old death squads, were a backbone of the U.S. war on Vietnam and were as as unsuccessful as the recent spraying campaigns in Colombia. The Colombian "drug eradication" campaigns have had the synergistic effect of simultaneously weakening the economic basis of living for the poorest of the poor and creating even greater amounts of civilian hostility towards the government. The FARC, which can feed its cadres off of the taxes it collects (including on coca leaf) has naturally taken advantage of this in their recruiting efforts. There is absolutely no reason to believe the application of "Agent Green" would be any different.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, there are reports published in the Guardian that the U.S. has been conducting secret helicopter missions spraying unknown herbicides on poppy fields. According to a Pakistani paper, these sprayings may be responsible for the deaths of five people, including four children. Has the U.S. decided to test out some of its newest weapons of mass destruction somewhere they thought noone was paying much attention? It's a question the media should be asking.
They might start their education beyond U.S. Government briefings and handouts at the Web site of The Sunshine Project, which contains a wealth of information on biological weapons, including this report on a U.S. patent granted to a "rifle launched nonlethal cargo dispenser" that, according to the patent application itself, is designed to deliver "crowd control agents," "biological agents," and "chemical agents."
June 10, 2003
Two from CounterPunchTwo pieces of note from the consistently excellent CounterPunch site (link to your right): In this darkly hilarious satire, Richard Lichtman uses "logico-empirical" arguments of neoliberal orthodoxy to prove that the U.S.'s "comparative advantage" lies in value-free murder and mayhem. Also worth a read is Wayne Madsen's optimistic take on "Weaponsgate." Madsen argues that Blair is, "barring a miracle," politically cooked, an assessment I agree completely with. Madsen goes beyond what I would being willing to predict in stating, "One day the names Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Woolsey, and Chalabi will become as familiar to students of "Weaponsgate" as the names Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Liddy, Mitchell, and Stans are familiar to those who study Watergate." While his evidence is compelling (the growing media uproar, the inability to fill the position of Army Chief of Staff, the growing list of ship-abandoning administration rats resigning for "health" or "family" reasons, and the amazing amount of discrediting leaks coming from within the intelligence agencies), I don't think I'm quite as optimistic as Madsen. I think, given the extremely short "news cycle" in the United States and the related short attention span of the American public, that Madsen might be underestimating the ability of the Democrats to ignore the fundamentals of the issue while obfuscating matters with worries about "intellegence failures" and the like. In fact it is well in the short-term political interests of the Democrats (especially those who voted for giving Bush a blank war check) to avoid the question of the obvious lies of the administration, because, as the lies become more evident, the question arises: "What the hell were you yahoos doing before the war?" Of the current Democratic contenders, only Dean, Kucinich, and Sharpton don't have to answer this question. This might explain Dean's comment, characterized as a "back-handed compliment" or an "oblique swipe" at Senator Graham in this MSNBC story, that Graham, the former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was "well-equipped to know" about Bush's lies. Indeed Graham's position on the Intelligence Committee puts him in an uncomfortable position, but the questions don't go away for the rest of them. That said, I hope I'm wrong and Madsen is right.
No Child Left Behind... Except For All Those Unsaved[note (June 12, 03): this entry is has been substantially excised due to concerns raised by Steve Perry over at Bush Wars regarding wholesale "sampling" of his work by a couple of other Web sites. Frankly, I don't really know my own position on the matter and I've got absolutely no clue about the law, but being completely new to being an "Internet content provider," I figure I should err on the safe side. Plus, whatever the law, Perry makes a good case that it is unfair, which is more important than the law, although it would be nice if the two fit together.] Well, I was planning on discussing biowarfare in Iraq, the United States, Colombia, and Vietnam today, but as I'm still getting my bearings on how to format things here and spent too much time unsuccessfully experimenting with HTML, that will have to wait until tomorrow. As a consolation I bring you a commentary by the same folks that brought you the Left Behind series, found as I accessed my Hotmail account. [Sorry, no link] If you feel like you don't understand Middle East politics any better after you read it, then you must not be one of the saved. [OK, here's excerpts of an excerpt from:]
Oil, Iraq, and Babylon The third in a series of excerpts from Mark Hitchcock's new book "The Second Coming of Babylon" by Mark Hitchcock It all fits into God’s blueprint for the end times. It's no accident that Babylon is in Iraq, a nation with such staggering oil reserves. God said that Babylon will be rebuilt as a great commercial center in the end times. The oil is what is drawing the world back to Babylon. Eighty years ago it seemed totally ludicrous and far-fetched that world power could return to the Middle East. To Iraq. But something incredible happened in 1927 with the discovery of oil there, complemented by the rise of oil-dependent machines and technology. It's not difficult today to see why a world leader like Antichrist would build a capital there. The wealth of the world is moving to that part of the planet.... The Rise of Babylon Iraq has become—and continues to be—the major focal point in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. It's interesting to me that Iraq has seemingly sprung up out of nowhere in the past 10 to 15 years to play a key role on the world’s stage. Iraq did not even become a sovereign nation until 1932... Again, this is no accident. Sixteen years after Iraq's independence, Israel became a nation in 1948. Nine years later, in 1957, the European Common Market was founded. The Common Market has evolved into the current EU. The rise of Babylon is lining up with other key signs of the times. Knowing what the Bible says about Babylon in the end times, the meteoric rise of Iraq in recent years shouldn't surprise us. In fact, it is a perfect prelude for the building of Babylon in the near future. While we don't know exactly how Babylon will be rebuilt, or what will motivate men to carry out this task, I believe that the Bible says it will occur. And current events seem to indicate that it could be soon....And in the cover my ass department, I'm going to blatantly rip this fair-use notice off of Common Dreams: [This I'm leaving in full. 1.) because I don't think they'd mind and 2.) because I'm curious about how people feel about this. Are Steve Perry's objections in conflict with Common Dreams' understanding of "fair use?" If so, who do you think is right? email me and let me know what you think!.] This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
June 09, 2003
Another Newspeak Lesson From the U.S. MilitaryWhat do you call people born and raised in Iraq attacking a foreign military that invaded and occupied their country or their "homeland," as one might say? Why, "anti-Iraqi elements" of course! Thanks for the lesson General McKiernan!
June 08, 2003