Friday, September 29, 2006

Letter to the Editor.

Dear Sir....

'Eugene Goodheart asks whether I am familiar with two statements he attributes to Hizbullah’s secretary-general, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah (Letters, 7 September). Goodheart uses the inflammatory quotations to accuse Nasrallah of being ‘an anti-semite with fantasies of genocide’. If I am unfamiliar with the statements, it is because they are in all likelihood fabrications. The first (‘If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide’) was circulated widely on neo-con websites, which give as its original source an article by Badih Chayban in Beirut’s English-language Daily Star on 23 October 2002. It seems that Chayban left the Star three years ago and moved to Washington. The Star’s managing editor writes of Chayban’s article on Nasrallah, that ‘I have faith in neither the accuracy of the translation [from Arabic to English] nor the agenda of the translator [Chayban].’ The editor-in-chief and publisher of the Star, Jamil Mrowe, adds that Chayban was ‘a reporter and briefly local desk sub and certainly did not interview Nasrallah or anyone else.’ The account of Nasrallah’s speech in the Lebanese daily As Safir for the same day makes no reference to any anti-semitic comments. Goodheart’s second quotation – ‘They [the Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment’ – comes from the Israeli government’s website at For the record, a Hizbullah spokeswoman, Wafa Hoteit, denies that Nasrallah made either statement.
Goodheart wonders whether, as a former captive of Hizbullah, I may have succumbed to Stockholm syndrome; may I ask in return whether he is succumbing to the disinformation that passes for scholarship and journalism in certain quarters in the United States?'

Alf Garnett for President

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."

Lott went on to say he has difficulty understanding the motivations behind the violence in Iraq.

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israeli's and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."

US legalises torture, disappearances. The populace yawns and reaches for the remote.

Gosh isn't this like anti-democratic or something?

'The Senate approved legislation this evening governing the interrogation and trials of terror suspects, establishing far-reaching new rules in the definition of who may be held and how they should be treated....The legislation sets up rules for the military commissions that will allow the government to prosecute high-level terrorists including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It strips detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court and broadly defines what kind of treatment of detainees is prosecutable as a war crime.' (note: the answer to the question 'what kind of treatment' seems to be 'any kind we goddamn want')

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Things can only get better....oh they just have.

Orwell wrote occasionally about the 'cognitive dissonance' he felt between his own subjective feelings that the world was going to hell in a handbasket, and the objective data you get from statistics which showed that the world is actually getting better. And I feel much the same. Despite the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan, the unctuous lies of New Labour and the terrifying fact that George Bush is not yet in jail (and might never be...gulp), we have to remember a few simple facts.

'Despite the daily headlines about violence and death in Iraq, Darfur and elsewhere, the statistics suggest that in many ways the world is a safer place now than in 1956. The number of conflicts around the globe has been dropping more or less steadily since the second world war.
According to the Human Security Report, an exhaustive round-up published by the Canadian-based Human Security Centre, even since 1992 the number of wars has dropped by more than 40%.
Still more dramatically, the average number of battle-deaths per conflict per year - a measure of the deadliness of warfare - has plummeted from 38,000 in 1950 to just 600 in 2002.'

What is interesting is that I am not alone in my believe that Oh Christ we're all going to die screaming.

'According to a new survey almost three-quarters of Britons think the world is a more dangerous, war-like place than it was 50 years ago.

Conducted to mark the UN Peace Day today, the poll found 74% of the public believes the globe is more violent now than it was in 1956 while 63% think the situation will get worse in the next 50 years.'

It is worth while having a sense of proportion and remembering who would benefit if it was widely believed that we live in a uniquely violent age (which is to say an age in which old fashioned things like freedom of speech and habeas corpus might have to be dispensed with).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The window period

Bush has a window period: well, actually, he has two. The first one is between now and the elections. The second is between now and when, finally, he leaves office. The question is: how much chaos can he cause in the remaining time left to him? It is no great secret that Bush is itching to invade Iran. The question is: will he succeed (does he have the 'political capital') in doing so? Up until about a week or so ago, I thought the answer was 'no'.
But then I read this. (via Atrios) Hey there's life in the old dog yet!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Memento mori and all that.

Because it will annoy people who deserve to be annoyed.

'You trip over one fundamental idiocy of the 9/11 conspiracy nuts -- -- the ones who say Bush and Cheney masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- in the first paragraph of the opening page of the book by one of their high priests, David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor. “In many respects,” Griffin writes, “the strongest evidence provided by critics of the official account involves the events of 9/11 itself… In light of standard procedures for dealing with hijacked airplanes… not one of these planes should have reached its target, let alone all three of them.”
The operative word here is “should”. One characteristic of the nuts is that they have a devout, albeit preposterous belief in American efficiency, thus many of them start with the racist premise that “Arabs in caves” weren’t capable of the mission. They believe that military systems work the way Pentagon press flacks and aerospace salesmen say they should work. They believe that at 8.14 am, when AA flight 11 switched off its radio and transponder, an FAA flight controller should have called the National Military Command center and NORAD. They believe, citing reverently (this is from high priest Griffin) “the US Air Force’s own website”, that an F-15 could have intercepted AA flight 11 “by 8.24, and certainly no later than 8.30”.
They appear to have read no military history, which is too bad because if they did they’d know that minutely planned operations – let alone responses to an unprecedented emergency -- screw up with monotonous regularity, by reason of stupidity, cowardice, venality, weather and all the other whims of providence.
According to the minutely prepared plans of the Strategic Air Command, an impending Soviet attack would have prompted the missile silos in North Dakota to open, and the ICBMs to arc towards Moscow and kindred targets. The tiny number of test launches actually attempted all failed, whereupon SAC gave up testing. Was it badly designed equipment, human incompetence, defense contractor venality or… CONSPIRACY? (In that case, presumably, a Communist conspiracy, as outlined by ancestors of the present nuts, ever intent on identifying those who would stab America in the back.) ...

As discussed in Wayne Barrett and Dan Collin’s excellent book Grand Illusion, about Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, helicopter pilots radioed warnings nine minutes before the final collapse that the South Tower might well go down and, repeatedly, as much as 25 minutes before the North Tower’s fall.
What Barrett and Collins brilliantly show are the actual corrupt conspiracies on Giuliani’s watch: the favoritism to Motorola which saddled the firemen with radios that didn’t work; the ability of the Port Authority to skimp on fire protection, the mayor’s catastrophic failure in the years before 9/11/2001 to organize an effective unified emergency command that would have meant that cops and firemen could have communicated; that many firemen wouldn’t have unnecessarily entered the Towers; that people in the Towers wouldn’t have been told by 911 emergency operators to stay in place; and that firemen could have heard the helicopter warnings and the final Mayday messages that prompted most of the NYPD men to flee the Towers.
That’s the real political world, in which Giuliani and others have never been held accountable. The nuts disdain the real world because, like much of the left and liberal sectors, they have promoted Bush, Cheney and the Neo-Cons to an elevated status as the Arch Demons of American history, instead of being just one more team running the American empire, a team of more than usual stupidity and incompetence (characteristics I personally favor in imperial leaders.) The Conspiracy Nuts have combined to produce a huge distraction, just as Danny Sheehan did with his Complaint, that mesmerized and distracted much of the Nicaraguan Solidarity Movement in the 1980s, and which finally collapsed in a Florida courtroom almost as quickly as the Towers. '

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Turning and Turning in the Widening Gyre.....

THE future of Iraq as a sovereign nation has been jeopardised with the introduction to parliament of a new law that would enable the country to break up into semi-autonomous regions.
If passed, a self-ruling Shiite state is likely to emerge in the south, based on the autonomous region that Kurds have established in the north.
The Shiite state would not only be able to levy its own taxes and govern itself but, Shiite politicians say, it would have its own armed guards along its borders. Iraq's Sunnis, most of who bitterly oppose the law, have warned it would mark the first step in the break-up of the country and could lead to the south of Iraq becoming a satellite of Iran.
The introduction of the law was marked by a plea from the Speaker of parliament that delegates must compromise and find agreement on the prospect of federalism, otherwise the country risked not only collapsing but descending into anarchy.
"We have three to four months to reconcile with each other," said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni. "If the country does not survive this it will go under."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mea Culpa

Yeah I know I haven't posted for ages, but I have been planning a long ish post about why my predictions about the Israel-Lebanon situation were so catastrophically inaccurate, and yet, (in typical dishonest blogger stylee) basically right after all. So again, apologies.

Meanwhile mull over this:

'THREATENED by a potentially nuclear-armed Tehran, Israel is preparing for a possible war with both Iran and Syria, according to Israeli political and military sources.
The conflict with Hezbollah has led to a strategic rethink in Israel. A key conclusion is that too much attention has been paid to Palestinian militants in Gaza and the West Bank instead of the two biggest state sponsors of terrorism in the region, who pose a far greater danger to Israel’s existence, defence insiders say...Advocates of political engagement believe a war with Syria could unleash Islamic fundamentalist terror in what has hitherto been a stable dictatorship. Some voices in the Pentagon are not impressed by that argument.
“If Syria spirals into chaos, at least they’ll be taking on each other rather than heading for Jerusalem,” said one insider. '

Yes Mr Insider, you are clearly a strategic genius. Why on earth would you not want to put your name to that insightful analysis? Stupid bastard.