Saturday, May 22, 2004

Missing the point

Nicholas Kristof just doesn't get it. His column today defends Donald Rumsfeld. Kristof's argument is that because it hasn't been proven that Rumsfeld was directly responsible for the torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, Rumsfeld shouldn't resign:

... fairness must govern our handling of American defense secretaries as well as Iraqi prisoners. The central point is that we have no proof that Mr. Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture.
Kristof misses the point. Actually, he misses two points. The first is that Rusmfeld found out about the goings-on in Abu Ghraib months ago, yet took no vigorous steps to stop it or even to inform Congress or the president. So because he knew about the torture and allowed it to continue, he is directly responsible.

The second point is that even ignoring my first point, Rumsfeld's actions after news of the torture broke is enough to merit his stepping down. Again, he's taken no real vigorous steps to make sure U.S. military personnel never again abuse prisoners of war. He's kept Abu Ghraib open, and he has kept the separate chains of command which enable intelligence agents to operate independently and encourage abuses. The American people deserve more from a secretary of defense.

So even though there's no "smoking gun," there are plenty of reasons for Rummy to resign.

Friday, May 21, 2004

It just gets worse

The Washington Post has an exclusive on new details of torture at Abu Ghraib prison:

Previously secret sworn statements by detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq describe in raw detail abuse that goes well beyond what has been made public, adding allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.


Some said they were pressed to denounce Islam or were force-fed pork and liquor. Many provided graphic details of how they were sexually humiliated and assaulted, threatened with rape, and forced to masturbate in front of female soldiers.

"They forced us to walk like dogs on our hands and knees," said Hiadar Sabar Abed Miktub al-Aboodi, detainee No. 13077. "And we had to bark like a dog, and if we didn't do that they started hitting us hard on our face and chest with no mercy. After that, they took us to our cells, took the mattresses out and dropped water on the floor and they made us sleep on our stomachs on the floor with the bags on our head and they took pictures of everything."
Will President Bush issue a strong denunciation and insist that everyone involved will be punished to the maximum extent of the law? Will he call for the resignation of Rumsfeld?

Or will he just ignore this horrifying new information?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Transfer, schmansfer

It hit me recently that the "transfer of sovereign power" from the U.S. to Iraqis which is to occur at the end of June will change exactly... nothing. Except possibly to make things worse. Think about it: What will be different? Iraqi isn't really being "governed" -- things are mostly chaos. The U.S. doesn't really have any "control" to hand over. No change there. American troop strength won't diminish at all; the Pentagon might even increase it a little. So that won't change.

My prediction: The transfer of power will make Iraqis more resentful of the U.S. The prevailing sentiment will be: "So you're letting us govern ourselves now -- why are you still here? Why are your troops still patroling the streets? Why do we still have to do what you tell us to do?" The U.S. military will go from being a quasi-legitimate occupying army to being an illegitimate occupying army.
Bush: Taking responsibility for oil prices

"The administration should be working to get our friends in OPEC to increase their oil production," Bush said Wednesday. "That's what diplomacy is all about. It's called earning capital in the foreign arena."
When asked about this apparent mistake, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan only expanded Bush's criticism. "But the governor's point is that we need a president to convince OPEC to open up their spigots and we need to reduce dependency on foreign crude," McClellan said. "Again, Al Gore is doing everything he can to mask his administration's failed leadership on this issue. He takes credit for the current economic prosperity, but refuses to shoulder any responsibility."

Bush and Big Oil June 23, 2000 Friday

Of course, if oil prices are higher after four years of Bush as President then they were before, then he will shoulder the responsibility, right Scott?

Have you ever heard about a President holding re-election fundraisers outside the country, where a former President campaigns for him? Can you imagine the Republican response if Bill Clinton held a fundraiser for Kerry, say in Toronto? Well, I find this a bit strange....

Anti-war protesters wore black hoods and chanted "Bush go home" outside a hotel where former President George Bush was attending a fund-raising dinner Tuesday for his son's re-election campaign.

About 200 demonstrators from the Stop the War Coalition action group took part in the protest at the Landmark Hotel in central London, which was heavily guarded by police.

Protesters chanted "Resist, resist, Daddy Bush is a terrorist" and held signs with slogans such as "End the torture" and "Iraq for Iraqis," as rush-hour commuters converged on nearby Marylebone subway station.

First of all, the actions of the protesters are to be commended, but I find it odd that the general tone of the article doesn't question the fact at all how London came to be a venue for the Bush campaign fundraising machine.

Purple haze...all in my brain.
Lately things just don't seem the same

Me and George launched an illegal pre-emptive war
Now my approval ratings have hit the floor

Purple haze, all around
But weapons of mass destruction simply can't be found
Am I happy or in misery
Whatever it is, George W. put an electoral spell on me

Help me
Help me
Oh, no, no

Purple haze all in my eyes
I see Iraqi's getting sodomized (by coalition troops)
My view's so hazy that I see...
Iraq, as a shining model of Democracy....

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Vote for Bush: He helps Americans, when Congress forces him to

Count me unsurprised. Bush has sunk to a new low in election politics: Trumpeting programs that he's cut and/or tried to eliminate.

Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million.


Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, announced recently that the administration was awarding $11.7 million in grants to help 30 states plan and provide coverage for people without health insurance. Mr. Bush had proposed ending the program in each of the last three years.

The administration also announced recently that it was providing $11.6 million to the states so they could buy defibrillators to save the lives of heart attack victims. But Mr. Bush had proposed cutting the budget for such devices by 82 percent, to $2 million from $10.9 million.
And this stuff is just a warm-up. I fully expect unprecedented levels of lying from Bush during the campaign. In 2000, of course, he was lying about being a moderate and a "compassionate conservative," and he got away with it in part because he didn't have a track record at the national level -- there wasn't hard evidence which showed how he would govern as president.

Now, of course, there's plenty of evidence. But Bush will try to run as a moderate again. He'll play down the extremist things he's done, and play up the moderate things -- even if they were done against his wishes. Just look how he's taken credit for the Department of Homeland Security. When Democrats first suggested it, Dubya was adamantly opposed. He was against it for a long time, caving only when the political pressure became too great. Now he acts like it was his idea all along. Expect more of the same.
John, got a great ad idea for you

Cut to image of Bush

"Pat Williams works right here for the Timken Company. She's a single mom. She's got the toughest job in America, being a single mom. (Laughter and applause.) She's got two children: Sheree is in college; Danielle is in high school. Under the plan I've just described and submitted to the United States Congress, her yearly tax bill would fall by nearly $1,000 – every year. (Applause.) It's not $1,000 just this year. It's $1,000 every year. It's a thousand more dollars of her own money in her pocket."

Freeze image in black and white

Actually, it was just $1,000. A year after President Bush visited the Timken factory in Canton, Ohio, it shut down, costing Ohio's economy another 1,300 jobs (swing state variation).

President Bush keeps saying his economic policies are working, but is America?

Accountability is on the ballot this November.

Monday, May 17, 2004

We got to do something about all these Arab-Americans being profiled...

And secondly, there is other forms of racial profiling that goes on in America. Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that. My friend, Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan, is pushing a law to make sure that, you know, Arab-Americans are treated with respect.

George W. Bush, October 12, 2000.

I was doing some research and started reading the second Presidential Debate from 2000, and found the above quote stunning. Here's another interesting one, this time Gore rebutting Bush's non-response to his point that Texas ranked at the bottom of the nation for providing health care to children, women and families.

GORE: Well, I don't know about the -- all these percentages that he throws out. But I do know that the -- I speculate that the reason why he didn't answer your question directly as to whether my numbers were right, the facts were right, about Texas ranking dead last in families with health insurance and 49th out of 50 for both children and women, is because those facts are correct.

And as for why it happened, I'm no expert on the Texas procedures. But what my friends there tell me is that the governor opposed a measure put forward by Democrats in the legislature to expand the number of children that would be covered, and instead directed the money toward a tax cut, a significant part of which went to wealthy interests. He declared the need for a new tax cut for the oil companies in Texas an emergency need. And so the money was taken away from the CHIP program.

Wow, that sounds exactly like what's been happening to our country for the last four years!

And the rhetoric shifts

The thing about the Bush administration which most fascinates me and repels me at the same time is its masterful use of language. The administration constantly twists and perverts language for the maximum possible advantage. Any criticism of the president's Iraq policy becomes "undermining the troops." Any criticism of domestic policy is "divisive" and "partisan." As someone who loves the English language, to see it warped so is sickening. But as a student of language and rhetoric, I can't help but be impressed. Bush really has some geniuses working for him.

Anyone even the slightest bit concerned about how the Bush administration is governing the country should read George Orwell's monumental 1946 essay Politics and the English Language. Orwell, of course, was an expert on how language is perverted for political ends. I often wonder if American society will end up a lot like Orwell's chilling vision. It's possible, especially if Bush gets four more years, and I think it's what the neoconservatives currently running the country would love to see.

Anyway, Orwell's essay isn't very long, and it's required reading for anyone who uses the English language. More to the point, it's uncannily prescient when you consider that it's almost 60 years old:

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.
Remind you of "enemy combatant"? "Evildoers"?

So to get to what brought all this on: The head of the Iraqi Governing Council was just assassinated. And here's what Paul Bremer had to say about it:

"The terrorists who are seeking to destroy Iraq have struck a cruel blow with this vile act today," Mr. Bremer said in a statement. "But they will be defeated." He added, "The Iraqi people will ensure that his vision of a democratic, free and prosperous Iraq will become a reality."
Pay attention: Bremer said this "in a statement," which means it came straight from the Ministry of Truth in the White House. But here's the rub: Note how the rhetoric has shifted.

The Iraqi people will ensure that Iraq becomes a democracy.

Brilliant. Bremer just shifted the entire responsibility for creating an Iraqi democracy onto the Iraqi people. Of course, for the past year the rhetoric has been all about how the United States will create a democracy in the Middle East. About how WE will help them and shepherd them and make sure that democracy becomes a reality. (Ignore for the moment the question of whether this was ever a possibility.) But now, if something bad happens, we ask: "What are the Iraqi people going to do about it?"