Saturday, January 06, 2007

Bury my heart at Haditha

By Capt. Fogg

“After the taxi passengers were shot, the report found, the Marines raided nearby houses, firing indiscriminately, using both grenades and guns, in a bloody, door-to-door sweep, killing 14 unarmed inhabitants, in just 10 minutes.”

The notion that the Mainstream Media only reports bad news and does so only to make the administration look bad, may be more muted than it was several years ago, but it is still operative amongst the people who identify themselves as “conservative.”

“One 13-year-old girl was the lone survivor in the second house, losing five family members, including her mother and 3-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother. ‘He fired and killed everybody. The American fired and killed everybody,’ Safah Yunis Salem told investigators.”

Setting aside the notion that the press ought to stress the scanty examples of improvements in Iraqi life attributable to the American presence rather than the random acts of horrifying brutality because we need to maintain morale, we should ask ourselves what we would be most affected by were we in the shoes of the Iraqis. How would I weigh the news that my son’s school had reopened although it might be too dangerous for him to attend against the news that the Americans had raped my daughter, destroyed my brother’s car, killed my sister’s husband and ruined my livelihood?

I am not arguing that our troops are barbarians, but I cannot argue that some of them are not. Regardless of whether it is one percent or half of one percent that are committing humiliating acts, brutal acts and even murderous acts and regardless of whether we think we should take notice or ignore it, the Iraqis; the people we tell ourselves we conquered for their own good are going to remember each and every detail. They have little else to do sitting in the dark trying to cook something over a fire over scrap wood someone risked their life to obtain while bullets ricochet in the street.

How is it that our leadership was stupid enough to think we could demolish the infrastructure and institutions and resources of Iraq without plunging it into chaos and how is it that these idiots could believe we could do it without turning them against us? How is it that Americans who might otherwise seem sane can insist we need to ignore all this for the good of the troops and can still talk about “winning” when what we hoped to win has long since been destroyed?

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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On the surge

By Michael J.W. Stickings

John McCain, true to form, is calling for a "substantial" and "sustained" surge of troops in Iraq. (But will he take any of the blame when Bush's "new" strategy fails? Or will he be blamed at all? Likely not, but hopefully so. It's about time he was held accountable for his irresponsibly militaristic rhetoric.)

And, also true to form, Joe Lieberman's right there with him, kissing his ass with bipartisan fervour. Honestly, I wonder if holding on to a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate is enough of an incentive to allow Lieberman to remain a Democrat, and not least a Democrat with his seniority intact. I suppose it is, but, as they say, it's a tough pill to swallow.

Meanwhile, Democrats -- real Democrats, not Lieberman -- are calling on Bush to withdraw troops, not surge more into a war that has become such a lost cause. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi "sent Bush a letter suggesting that, instead of starting a short-term escalation, he begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces in the next four to six months". They are quite right to try "to preempt the president before he announces his new strategy," and they are right more substantively about withdrawal, but Bush isn't about to agree with them. If he didn't agree with Jim Baker, why would he agree with his enemies? (The full text of the Reid-Pelosi letter is here.)

It seems that "Bush is considering three main options to bolster U.S. forces in Iraq: a relatively modest deployment of fewer than 4,000 additional troops, a middle-ground alternative involving about 9,000 and, the most aggressive idea, flowing 20,000 more troops into the country." But the second option may be the most he can do. According to Think Progress, CBS News is reporting, from a State Department leak, that it'll be a "bump," not a "surge," with a maximum of 15,000 to 20,000 troops. But it is also being reported that there are only 9,000 troops available for a "surge" or a "bump" or whatever it'll be called. But it's pretty clear that an extra 9,000 troops won't make much of a difference, certainly not enough to pacify Baghdad. Indeed, the military is indicating that even an extra 20,000 troops wouldn't do much to "turn around the deteriorating situation" in Iraq.

And yet Bush will more than likely go ahead with some sort of surge, or at least spin it that way. His new strategy, which won't be new in substance, perhaps won't be as extreme as McCain would like it to be with respect to a surge, but Bush and his team seem to be leaning in that direction.

If only this were a parliamentary system and Bush could be booted from office. As it is, though, with Bush still calling the shots even after years of failure, the losing in Iraq will continue.

No matter how big the surge is.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Are you liberal or conservative?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Take this political quiz. As with all such quizzes, the accuracy of the outcome can and ought to be questioned, but it's still amusing. Given your answers, you'll be rated on a 0-40 scale (0 being 100% liberal and 40 being 100% conservative).

My score: 13. Which puts me right between Hillary Clinton at 10 and Bill Clinton at 15. Which may or may not be accurate. I consider myself a liberal, but I suppose my progressive tendencies are counter-balanced by classical liberal inclination that border on libertarianism and that could be perceived as conservatism according to current definitions.

By the way, Andrew Sullivan scored a 26, Glenn Reynolds a 21, and Jeralyn Merritt an 8.

But so what?


A much better test can be found at The Political Compass.

My scores:

Economic Left/Right: -4.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.36

Which puts me in the middle of the lower left quadrant, the libertarian left, near Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and the British and New Zealand Greens.

Of course, these are just my answers today. My scores would change according to slight variations in my answers, and on some questions I was indeed unsure of my answer.

Still, it seems about right to me.

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The Soviet States of America

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A truly "disturbing" story comes to us from Brad Plumer today. It seems that suspected (but never charged with anything) terrorist (er, "enemy combatant") Jose Padilla has "basically gone insane during his time in U.S. military custody, after four years of stress positions and 'total sensory deprivation.'"

Which apparently suits the U.S. government just fine. Although it denies mistreatment, it's defending its outrageous treatment of the poor man. Here's the NPR report quoted in Brad's post:

The government maintains that whatever happened to Padilla during his detention is irrelevant, since no information obtained during that time is being used in the criminal case against him.

Which is one of the stupidest and most reprehensible justifications for what amounts to torture I've ever heard. It was okay to mistreat him because nothing of value came out of it? Here's more:

[T]here are even some within the government who think it might be best if Padilla were declared incompetent and sent to a psychiatric prison facility. As one high-ranking official put it, "the objective of the government always has been to incapacitate this person."

This is truly reprehensible. On top of physical mistreatment, this amounts to mental torture -- indeed, to an execution of sorts. Padilla is still alive, but is he now other than a shell? Whatever was inside him has been destroyed. All that's left is dementia. And yet, this is what the government intended to do? Let no one ever say again that American intentions are noble and pure. At least not with this cadre of criminals in charge. Like Padilla, America too seems to be a shell. Bush and the warmongers and their allies have essentially spent the past six years destroying the American soul. And all that's left, at least at the top, is dementia.

Brad (from Digby) finds this remarkably similar to how the Soviet Union treated its prisoners. For such is what America has become.

[Creature's note: Michael's putting me to work today. These are his words, and my posting labor.]

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Kim Jong Nuke II

By Michael J.W. Stickings

North Korea's at it again. Or so it appears. It conducted its first ever nuclear test back in October, and ABC News is reporting that it "appears to have made preparations for another nuclear test, according to U.S. defense officials". One official "cautions that the intelligence is inconclusive," but "the preparations are similar to the steps taken by Pyongyang before it shocked the world by conducting its first nuclear test..."

Stay tuned. (And, for more, see Ed Morrissey.)

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By Creature

Congratulations, Nancy Pelosi. First. Female. Speaker. Ever. Well done, and now officially a heartbeat or two away.

Watch the gavel pass and be prepared to feel some pride.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Let there be Nancy Pelosi

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's official. The Democrats now have control of Congress. And Nancy Pelosi is the new Speaker of the House. Here she is:

Now, one of the truly satisfying aspects of the whole process was the fact that senators were sworn in by Dick Cheney. Which is to say, Cheney presided over the swearing in of the new Democratic majority. Here he is swearing in Jim Webb, the Virginia Democrat who defeated George Allen:

And here he is with the Clintons after Hillary's swearing in:

Gotta love it.

(Photos from The New York Times.)

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Khalilzad to the U.N.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

ABC News is reporting that current U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad will be Bush's nominee to replace John Bolton at the U.N. Current U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker will be nominated to replace Khalilzad.

This is not unexpected. As I mentioned back in November, there have been reports that Khalilzad was going to leave Baghdad within the near future. But why was he going to leave? Why would he want to leave? I quoted Steve Clemons in my November post as suggesting that "Khalilzad [was] tired of being undermined by opponents in the White House and by elements of Iraq's unstable regime end-running him to influence rivals of his in the administration". But at least he knows Iraq extremely well, as Clemons argued, and he's done fairly well to try to work towards some sort of political compromise that would bridge the gulf between the Sunnis and Shiites. Surely the U.S. won't have the same diplomatic prowess in Iraq without him, and now he's off to the U.N., where he'll be required to do Bush's bidding on the world stage.

True, the U.S. needs a real diplomat at the U.N -- someone who can work with the international community, not alienate and irritate it -- and Khalilzad thankfully is no Bolton, but I do wonder what this means for Iraq. Bush's "new" strategy involves a troop surge, a military option motivated by politics. Perhaps it has no room for serious diplomacy. Once the surge is over, all that will remain is withdrawal. And Iraq -- Bush's disaster -- will be left to the Iraqis.

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Is Khamenei dead?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Pajamas Media is reporting that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader and former president, has died. You can find out more about Khamenei here. And check back with PJM for updates. It is still not clear what has happened.

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Miers resigns

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So long, Harriet Miers.

It's been fun.


Indeed, looking back, I see that Miers took up an awful lot of my blogging in October 2005, back when Bush tapped her to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. What a farce that was.

My posts included a five-part "Miers Withdrawal Watch" that culminated here. Prior to that, I called her the wrong choice for the Court (here), explained how she was the right's Yoko Ono (here), found in response to her nomination disharmony on the right and caution on the left (here), and later something more like demoralization on the right (here), noted her extremism on issues like abortion (here), addressed the debacle that was her nomination (here), and, well, so much else besides.

But that's all behind us now. Miers was a bad choice for the Court, but of course now we have Alito instead. Which doesn't make me any happier. And now she's resigning. And she'll be remembered largely as a Bush crony and a ridiculed SCOTUS nominee who had the good sense to step aside when all was already lost.

What more is there to say?

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Send in the yes men

By Capt. Fogg

George W. Bush shares yet another characteristic with Adolf Hitler -- he thinks he knows more about conducting military operations than his generals. As he has done countless times, George has now gotten rid of two more people who question his genius. The Raw Story reports the breaking news that Gen. John Abizaid, U.S. commander in the Middle East who was scheduled to retire in March, will leave now and be replaced by Adm. William J. Fallon and that Gen. David Petraeus will replace Gen. George Casey as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. Both men, Abizaid and Casey, have expressed concern about George Bush's "more of the same" strategy which so closely mirrors Lyndon B. Johnson's reliance on ever increasing troop levels in Vietnam.

Once again we are shown that Bush's only measure of his subordinates is blind loyalty to his crusade. Screw up and you get a medal, speak up and you get the back door.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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More on The Execution

By Michael J.W. Stickings

-- The AP is reporting that, in contrast to the State Department and the military, the White House is refusing to criticize the disgusting conduct of the execution. Yet more abdication of responsibility from the masters of it.

-- Meanwhile, according to the Post, the guard who recorded the execution on his cellphone has been arrested by Iraqi authorities. This is the gruesome video that has been circulating around the Internet in recent days. But the problem with the execution wasn't that it was recorded but that it was conducted as it was, as an act of sectarian vengeance with Shiite guards and taunting of the condemned.

-- AMERICAblog: "By now it's clear to everyone not living in a cave that the Saddam execution was a botched, amateurish debacle... Virtually everything that could have been screwed up, was. And now, against virtually all odds, Saddam managed to look good by dying and the Iraqi and U.S. governments are scrambling to do damage control in the face of massive Sunni demonstrations, international condemnation, and the general disgust of pretty much everyone who knows anything about Iraq."

-- Brokaw to Imus (from Crooks and Liars): It all went badly wrong. "And then to say that we are going to install in Iraq a judicial system and a democratic form of government and have something that resembled the worst kind of nightmare out of the old American West."

-- One of the best analyses of Saddam's execution comes from Nir Rosen (via Steve Clemons). Make sure to read Nir's post in full, but here's a key passage: "The unofficial video of the execution, filmed on the mobile cell phone of one of the officials present is sure to further inflame sectarianism, because it is clearly a Shia execution... Predictably, there were celebrations in Shia areas."

-- In addition, another of the best analyses comes from Christopher Hitchens at Slate, who calls Saddam's execution a lynching: "[F]ar from bringing anything like 'closure,' the hanging ensures that the poison of Saddamism will stay in the Iraqi bloodstream, mingling with other related infections such as confessional fanaticism and the sort of video sadism that has until now been the prerogative of al-Qaida's dehumanized ghouls. We have helped to officiate at a human sacrifice. For shame." For shame, indeed. It was a grotesque case of vengeance enabled by the U.S. More: "In spite of his mad invective against 'the Persians' and other traitors, the only character with a rag of dignity in the whole scene is the father of all hangmen, Saddam Hussein himself." Yes, this whole episode has only served to make Saddam, a brutal tyrant, look good. That's not easy to do, but the U.S. and its Iraqi puppets managed it quite well.

It was a gross act of injustice. And, like so much else in this horrible war, a bloody failure.

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Staying out of the fray...

By Grace

Interesting, interesting...

Surely I can't be the only one who noticed this, but while
a majority of Western countries (including England, Italy, France, and so forth) were actively speaking out in opposition to capital punishment, as per their national policies, both before and after Saddam Hussein's execution, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been noticeably silent on the subject.

While Foreign Affairs has stated that "Canada joins other nations in supporting the desire of Iraq's leaders and citizens for peaceful and prosperous future," there was no mention of Hussein's execution.

Sometimes, what is not said speaks volumes.

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Playing politics with life and death

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It seems that President Bush will announce his "new" strategy for Iraq next week. This strategy, however spun, will include as a key component a "surge" of troops into Baghdad in a last-ditch effort to provide security and quell the insurgency. Abizaid, Casey, and the other top generals in Iraq do not think that a surge of troops -- that is, a short-term troop increase -- will "add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq," in Abizaid's recent words to Congress. But no matter. Bush and the warmongers have consistently placed political considerations above military ones, and NBC's Jim Miklaszewski is reporting that an administration official has "admitted... that this surge option is more of a political decision than a military one". Which is entirely in keeping with how this disastrous war has been waged.

In the end -- and we may almost be there -- this war is all about the politics of George W. Bush. Explain that to the families who have lost loved ones in Iraq.

Think Progress has the video and transcript here.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The warmest year

By Michael J.W. Stickings

British meteorologists are predicting that 2007 will likely be "the warmest year on record," according to the BBC. The two leading causes? El Niño in the Pacific and -- you guessed it -- more general global warming as a result of "greenhouse gas emissions from human activity".

A warmer planet? How inconvenient. I'm sure it's all just part of the great big fucking hoax.

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Negroponte to State

By Michael J.W. Stickings

John Negroponte, former ambassador to the U.N. and Iraq, and elsewhere, will be leaving his position as director of national intelligence, the country's top intelligence official, to become deputy secretary of state, the #2 in the State Department, the Times is reporting. Which seems to make very little sense, given that his current position is more senior than his future one. Why is he willing to make the move? Is he unhappy as DNI? If so, why? What does his move say about the position of DNI? Is it an impotent one? Regardless, he'll now be deeply involved with Iraq, specifically with Bush's "new" Iraq strategy, soon to be announced. That may be the reason. Perhaps he thinks he can do more at State with respect to Iraq than as Bush's chief briefer on intelligence.

Good luck with that. (I don't think the "new" strategy, such as it is one, will work, but at least Negroponte knows more about Iraq, and about pretty much everything else, than the warmongers in and around Bush's bubble.)

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Pat Robertson is a dangerous idiot -- Part Quatre

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It really isn't news when Pat Robertson says something stupid, or stupidly idiotic, or idiotically stupid, or just plain insane, but with Parts Un, Deux, and Trois behind us it makes sense to keep the record going. (Of course, we've missed far more than we've included in this ongoing series, but at least we've recorded some of his dangerous idiocy.) And what is it now? A prophecy for 2007:

Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson said Tuesday that God has told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would cause a "mass killing" late in 2007.

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him about the impending tragedy during a recent prayer retreat.

God also said, he claims, that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

Of course, something like this may happen this year. A major terrorist attack is likely, if not in 2007 then within the next few years. But that doesn't mean Robertson isn't full of shit. He is. In some way he's like a Red Sox fan who predicted a World Series win year after year. (Or like a Maple Leafs fan here in Toronto predicting a Stanley Cup win year after year.) At some point it was bound to happen. And it did. (Though not yet for the Leafs -- thankfully (I'm a Habs fan)). It's all quite laughable, but what distinguishes Robertson from that Red Sox fan is his influence. He may not be the evangelical leader he once was, but he still has his followers. Many of them. And they don't think he's full of shit. Probably because they're full of shit, too. Or because they just don't know any better, so deep are their delusion and desperation. And as long as he has his followers (including Tom DeLay and, indirectly, Mitt Romney), he's a dangerous idiot.

For more, see Steve Benen (one of the best at picking apart the idiocies of the religious right), Wonkette (which pulls no punches), and Sarah Posner (who looks at the ongoing influence of Robertson's "empire").

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Zawahiri writes for warbloggers

Guest post by Libby Spencer

(Ed. note: I'm very pleased to present our first guest post from Libby Spencer. Libby -- a New England native who marched against Vietnam, fought for civil and women's rights in the '60s and '70s, and worked on political campaigns for George McGovern and Robert Reich, among others -- is the North Carolina-based author of two excellent blogs, The Impolitic (which addresses a broad range of political issues from a liberal perspective) and Last One Speaks (which addresses the drug war and drug policy reform from a reasonable perspective). She is also a blogger at The Detroit News (link to her bio and recent posts). This post below was originally published at The Impolitic on December 23, but it is still timely. It looks at al Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri's recent claim that the Democratic victory in November's midterms was essentially a victory for the terrorists and the response to that claim from the warbloggers of the right. What Libby finds is that those warbloggers are very much like Zawahiri himself in their calls for violence against "perceived enemies". It's a provocative, thoughtful post, and I hope it's the first of many from Libby here at The Reaction. -- MJWS)


Zawahiri released an interminably long screed this week and our own warbloggers are jumping all over one sentence in it that claims the terrorists consider the midterm sweep by the Democratic Party as some kind of victory for themselves. I have to ask, so what? Didn't Bush also claim victory for the "forces of good" when Iraq and Afghanistan held free elections? If mere words had the power to make things so, I would be getting a hot air blimp under my Christmas tree this year.

But our warbloggers seize on Zawahiri's few words and hold it up as some kind of confused proof that validates their own call for the U.S. version of jihad against Islam and find it the culimation of their dire warnings that the terrorists would win if we elected Democrats. I don't get their logic myself when I read the same words. I think perhaps the most sense Zawahiri made was in this one paragraph:

The fourth thing I wish to talk about is a message to the American people. I say to them: you only realized the failure of the administration and toppled the Republicans' candidates after the Mujahideen slaughtered you, and you didn't listen to the voice of morality, justice, principles and intellect. And the Mujahideen's weapons continue to be raised and aimed, by the grace of Allah.

I mean, who can honestly deny that's true? The American people, in the goodness of their hearts, wanted to believe their president had their best interests at heart and so -- aided and abetted by the relentless cheerleading of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists who assured the masses that we were on the right track and only Republicans could save us from being overrun by terrorists -- bought into the fictions the White House sold and returned an incompetent president to office.

It wasn't until the ugly reality on the ground could no longer be disguised by the smokescreen of swaggering bluster that ordinary Americans finally saw the light and realized they had been sold out by greedy and arrogant neo-cons whose purpose and personal fortunes are served better by endless war than a lasting peace.

So also is Zawahiri's power founded on war and death. If we ordinary citizens of the planet could bypass the politicians and come to a peaceful accord on our own and learn to live with and accept each other in all our differences and our commonalities, who would listen to either Zawahiri or our own warmongers? But unlike our Warmonger-in-Chief, Zawahiri at least offers a defined solution:

The formula for your safety is "You shall never dream of security until we truly experience it in Palestine and all lands of Islam," and not the fallacious formula with which Bush deceives you when he says, "We strike the terrorists in their countries so that they don’t strike us in ours." On the contrary: if we are struck in our countries, we shall never stop striking you in your countries, with Allah's power and permission.

And as our commander, Shaykh Usama bin Ladin (may Allah preserve him) told you, "As you bomb, you will be bombed, and as you kill, you will be killed."

Granted it's not that useful, but heck, that last sentence could almost have come from the Old Testament of the Bible. And one has to give the Islamic extremists this much credit: They have been consistent in their rationale for jihad. They haven't changed it from week to week and month and month and year to year according to the fortunes of battle, as our own president has. They took a position and they stuck with it for decades now. But again, it's all just so many words.

In the final analysis, who is Zawahiri? He's just another warblogger calling for his followers to take up arms to acheive his aims against his perceived enemies -- not that he's likely to found on the front lines of the battle any more so than our own warbloggers in the U.S. He urges his people to make the ultimate sacrifice to fight the infidels -- and includes even the people of his own faith that would seek diplomacy over war in that category, calling them the Muslim equivalent of surrender monkeys. Frankly, I don't see much difference between this Islamic wingnut and our own 101 Fighting Keyboardists. Change a few a words and the rhetoric is exactly the same. And so is the human suffering that their policies promote.

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After Saddam: Investigating the execution

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You may recall that I called the execution of Saddam Hussein an act of sectarian vengeance. What with the taunting from his Shiite executioners and the references to Shiite warlord Moqtada al-Sadr from his guards. And the fact that the "new" Iraq that condemned him is largely Shiite and out for blood.

Well, even the "new" Iraq -- or parts of it anyway -- has found the conduct of the execution (if not the execution itself) to have been poorly executed:

As thousands of Saddam Hussein's supporters protested in Sunni Arab enclaves across Iraq, the Shiite-led government said it had launched an investigation into the chaotic scene at his execution, captured on video, which has deepened the nation's sectarian rift and sparked condemnation around the world.

Iraqi officials said a committee from the Interior Ministry would likely question everyone, including senior Iraqi officials, who was present at the hanging, where witnesses mocked and jeered the ousted president as he stood at the gallows. Hours later, grainy video of the event, taken with a cellphone camera, was broadcast around the world, bringing more pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take action.

The video triggered outrage, in Iraq and abroad, at Hussein's undignified and disorderly end. Iraq's Sunnis declared the execution an act of Shiite revenge. The Vatican, in its official newspaper, called the images from the hanging "a spectacle" that violated human rights and could harm Iraq's process of reconciliation. The Italian government, which like all members of the European Union opposes the death penalty, said after the appearance of the video that it would push at the United Nations for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment.

U.S. officials have declined to comment publicly, but have privately expressed concern at the hastiness of the execution, which came just four days after an appeals court upheld Hussein's death sentence.

This could turn out to be a show investigation to rival the show trial that sent Saddam to his death. After all, it was Maliki who wanted Saddam dead so soon. But at this point an investigation, any investigation, is better than no investigation, and it seems to me that the "new" Iraq must examine this appalling episode of its brief history if it is ever to move beyond sectarian violence and vengeance towards the rule of law and the protection of individual rights.

Saddam was a brutal tyrant, of course, but his execution and everything that led up to it are a stain on the fledgling state of post-Saddam Iraq.


What should have happened to Saddam?

He should have been tried at the International Criminal Court at The Hague for all his crimes against humanity, and not just for a specific event targeting Shiites, then sentenced to life imprisonment.

And although I say this with cautious trepidation -- given my lack of confidence in Bush, the warmongers, and the war effort -- what better punishment would there have been than for Saddam to witness the emergence of a democratic Iraq upon the ashes of his tyranny? Or even the partition of Iraq and the establishment of three separate states within a loose federal arrangement? The transformation of Iraq, whatever form that transformation takes, will take time. All the more reason, beyond the injustice of the death penalty, for life imprisonment.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Osama, Obama, whatever

By Michael J.W. Stickings

CNN (Wolf Blitzer) may have apologized, but this sort of mistake is inexcusable:

There's already been more than enough focus from the bigoted right on Obama's middle name. Now he has to contend with this? From CNN? The so-called "most trusted name in news"? I realize the typo was likely just an innocent "mistake" without "malicious intent," as Obama's press secretary put it, but it would behoove CNN to be a bit more careful in future. Sometimes one consonent can make all the difference. And, given the state of public discourse and understanding today, a mistake like this can feed all sorts of preconceived biases.

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The culture of Republican victimhood

By Michael J.W. Stickings

They like to think they're the party of responsibility, the party that believes in pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps, the party that opposes government handouts, the party that rewards initiative and entrepreneurship, but Republicans play the role of the persecuted victim awfully well, so well in fact that victimhood seems to be their default mode. And -- guess what? -- it's starting up all over again now that they're in the minority in Congress. As if it's not enough to have the country's elites against them -- the elites of New York, Washington, and Hollywood -- now they have the Democrats to contend with. Again.

Justin Rood: "Republicans aren't yet an official minority in the House, but they're already beginning a campaign to portray themselves as victims of a heartless Democratic majority." Three Republican Congressman are even pushing -- I kid you not -- a so-called "Minority Bill of Rights".

Imaginary victimhood. It's the Republican way.

And we'll be hearing a lot more about it over the next couple of years.

(For more, see Steve and Shakes.)

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Your life is an open book

By Capt. Fogg

British travelers to the U.S. will soon have another American style indignity to suffer; something I doubt that U.S. citizens would tolerate from a foreign government. According to The Telegraph, their credit card records can be inspected and their e-mails read if they purchase airline tickets to the U.S. Information released under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that even a traveler’s special food choices will be revealed which can be a clue as to their religious background.

A British Department for Transport spokesman is quoted as saying: "Every airline is obliged to conform with these rules if they wish to continue flying.”

That the European Union has acquiesced in this is astonishing, that the Bush government wants to know everything about everyone is not. When Ronald Reagan told us that “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” was a scary thing to hear, America agreed. Perhaps that’s why we seldom hear anything when the government of George W. Bush shows up, proctoscope and magnifying glass in hand.

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Just another year in the life and death of Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We mostly focus on days and months here, but, well, how about a look back at the entirety of 2006? It wasn't good:

As enraged crowds protested the hanging of Saddam Hussein across Iraq's Sunni heartland Monday, government officials reported that 16,273 Iraqi civilians, soldiers and police died violent deaths in 2006, a figure larger than an independent Associated Press count for the year by more than 2,500.

The tabulation by the Iraqi ministries of Health, Defense and Interior, showed that 14,298 civilians, 1,348 police and 627 soldiers were killed in the violence that raged in the country last year.

Remember, this is three years after the invasion. And it'll soon be four years after the invasion. And then four years after the end of "major combat operations". And all this -- or most of it -- because Bush's war has been so badly botched, so grossly mismanaged. True, much of this violence is sectarian in nature, but it seems to me that the Iraqi blood is on the hands of the warmongers, including the president, as well as on the hands of the perpetrators of the sectarian violence.

They should have seen it coming. They should have planned for it. They should have had a strategy to deal with it. But they didn't.

And now -- what now? It's too late to make up for all the mismanagement.

The war is lost. And the blood still flows.

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Monday, January 01, 2007


By Michael J.W. Stickings

Happy New Year from all of us at The Reaction.

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Images of the New Year

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(From the BBC.)


Kuala Lumpur:




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Three thousand

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What a way to end the year:

The Pentagon announced the death of a Texas soldier on Sunday, raising the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq to at least 3,000 since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

The milestone was crossed on the final day of 2006 and at the end of the deadliest month for the American military in Iraq in the past 12 months. At least 111 U.S. service members were reported to have died in December.

No matter what form Bush's new strategy for "victory" in Iraq takes -- and he is likely to present it soon -- there is no winning this war. Three thousand American troops have been killed, many thousands of Iraqis have been killed, and there is now civil war.

The focus should be on getting out, not on prolonging the madness.

But the madness will continue. And more milestones will be crossed.

For such is what Bush's great failure has become.

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They're selling postcards of the hanging

By Capt. Fogg

Cell phone video is providing us with many things the media find too repulsive or dangerous to put on public view, so it is not surprising that the Execution of Saddam in all it's horror can be seen on the web.

The actual drop, the grotesquely broken neck, and the swinging body, heart no doubt still fluttering, are accompanied by stills of the purpling corpse in a blood stained shroud, but what is perhaps more disturbing is the audio -- at least to those who speak Arabic. According to Bob Murphy, Senior Vice President of ABC News, the official recording did not have the hostile taunts revealed on the "pirate" video: "It's clearly a hostile environment."

Will the Passion of Saddam going to his ignominious death while being taunted by his enemies play well in Sunni Iraq and elsewhere? Will The Shroud of Baghdad become a sacred object? Stranger things have happened and I expect that the civil war -- or "sectarian violence," if you prefer -- will not be lessened in intensity by the killing of Saddam, nor will it change attidudes toward the U.S. for the better.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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The more things stay the same

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Just another day in the life and death of Iraq XXX.)

And so it goes:

At least 80 Iraqis died in bombings and other attacks Saturday as they prepared to celebrate Islam's biggest holiday, their first without Saddam Hussein...

The military reported the deaths of six more American troops, making December the deadliest month this year for U.S. forces in Iraq. At least 2,998 members of the U.S. military have been killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

On and on and on.

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Enabling Saddam

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In an important post, a must-read, Juan Cole presents the top ten ways the U.S. enabled Saddam throughout his tyrannical rule of Iraq. Make sure to read it in full, but here's a key passage:

The tendency to treat Saddam and Iraq in a historical vacuum, and in isolation from the superpowers,... has hidden from Americans their own culpability in the horror show that has been Iraq for the past few decades. Initially, the US used the Baath Party as a nationalist foil to the Communists. Then Washington used it against Iran. The welfare of Iraqis themselves appears to have been on no one's mind, either in Washington or in Baghdad.

But when it suited the U.S. to to war against Saddam, both in 1991 and in 2003, all that culpability was conveniently ignored. And when it suited the U.S. to allow Saddam to be executed following a farce of a trial that conveniently did not address that culpability, well, you know what happened.

How convenient.

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Vengeance, not justice

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't have much more to say about Saddam Hussein's execution.

I wrote about it extensively before it took place -- see here -- and Creature wrote the words I was searching for in a subsequent post -- see here: "I feel sad, not for Saddam, but for what we have become."

This was America's doing, and America should not have allowed it to happen. To the extent that Iraq was involved, I argued at the time, it was vengeance, not justice. The video of the execution is out there -- I won't link to a site that has posted it, but you can find it easily -- and what we see is that Saddam was taunted by his executioners. And those executioners were Shiite. They did not represent any sort of "new" Iraq. And two of the guards shouted "Moqtada," referring to Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose militia is very much at the center of the sectarian violence that has thrown post-Saddam Iraq into civil war. And one of the guards shouted that Saddam had "destroyed us" and "killed us". Us. Saddam was executed not just by those linked by sectarian attachment to his victims but by Iraqi sectarianism itself. He was a tyrant, to be sure, but he was also from the other side, a Sunni. Would these executioners have behaved the same way towards a condemned Shiite tyrant? Surely not.

Saddam was convicted specifically of a crime against Shiites, but, to repeat, this was not justice, it was vengeance. What Iraq needs is justice, not vengeance, but perhaps this execution of vengeance reflects the state of Iraq today. There is no justice in Iraq.

The Times has a recount of the execution here.

I had no compassion for Saddam, just as I had no compassion for Milosevic or Pinochet, just as I have no compassion for Kim Jong-il or any of the other tyrants who still commit crimes against humanity, but compassion has nothing to do with this. What matters is justice. What matters is the rule of law as some sort of imperfect reflection of justice.

There was no justice in Iraq under Saddam, but nor was there any justice for Saddam himself. Did he deserve justice? There are many who say no. There are many who say that, justice or no, Saddam got what he deserved, or that he deserved far worse.

But are we not better than Saddam? Should not the "new" Iraq be better than Saddam? Should there not be justice in the "new" Iraq?

Or is this what we have become?

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