Saturday, October 20, 2007

The explanation: PTSD

By Carol Gee

On 9/11/2001 the United States was attacked by terrorists within our own territory. It was shocking and for its victims and the rest of us, and it was mostly unexpected. In my opinion, as a result the nation has experienced -- and is still experiencing -- the symptoms of PTSD.

A disclaimer to begin this post -- First, I in no way, want to minimize the trauma done to the nation by the terrible terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Almost three thousand people died that day and thereafter, and every one of those lost lives was precious. Second, I in no way want to minimize the current national security threat posed by al Qaeda and its offshoot adherents. It is serious.

When an individual experiences an unexpected traumatic event, or repeatedly experiences trauma, Post Traumatic Stress can develop into a Disorder. The symptoms of PTSD include: reaction to a precipitating event; withdrawal; apathy (lack of interest in life); difficulty concentrating; anger; sleeping problems; fatigue; irritability; fear/hyper-vigilence; recurrent intrusive thoughts/recollections; recurrent distressing dreams; rage; intense fear, helplessness, horror; intrusions; flashbacks; intense psychological reaction at exposure; intense physiological reaction at exposure; restricted affect; or exaggerated startle response.

After our nation experienced an unexpected traumatic series of events on that September day six years ago, a significant percentage of the population is still experiencing these symptoms (with my examples): over-reaction to that precipitating event (administration subversion of civil-liberties protections), our apathy (low voter turnout at elections or boycotting the news), difficulty concentrating (mainstream media's failure to investigate wrong-doing), anger (Bush attacking Iraq), our fatigue (blogger burnout), irritability (partisanship in Congress), fear/hyper-vigilence (extended "Yellow" official threat level), our recurrent intrusive recollections (precipitated by 9/11 anniversary news coverage or administration code phrases), rage (Bush threats of attack towards Iran), helplessness (Congress capitulation to administration demands), horror (administration officials capitulation to "blood on your hands" threats), restricted affect (Vice President Dick Cheney), or exaggerated startle response (Blackwater).

Better treatments for PTSD are being researched by the military, as traumatized soldiers, sailors, etc. come home from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. One would wish that the benefits of that research could be applied to our nation's recovery after trauma. One would wish that our leaders, who are supposed to provide healing, do not re-traumatize citizens with inappropriate interventions. One would wish that the Fourth Estate (the media) on our behalf would rigorously question those in charge of treatment choices (government actions). One would wish that our elected representatives would advocate for us as they negotiate with Leaders exhibiting the most obvious PTSD symptoms. One would wish that voters would ascertain which of the candidates for U.S. President has the fewest symptoms of PTSD.

A third disclaimer ends this post. I have compassion for all of us who are victims of PTSD, including the members of the Bush administration whose decisions continue to reflect lack of healing, caving Democrats, cowed members of the media, fearful voters, and apathetic judges. I also have compassion for my own obsessive tendencies towards an over-focus on the issues of civil liberties (the PTSD symptom is recurrent intrusions/recollections).

The thing is this. This national trauma seems to be similar to the same way that rape and incest victims, members of the military who have experienced the horrors of war over and over, or someone just fresh from a bad car accident, cannot help what symptoms they are having. But just like individuals with PTSD, leading groups in the nation need to go about getting some healing, regaining some perspective, fighting the actual enemies, and getting on with the business of the country.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The pressure on Burma

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, it isn't often (to say the least) that I have something nice to say about George W. Bush and his disastrous presidency, but, on Burma, he is at least saying and doing the right things (for now). The BBC has the latest (see also the AP):

US President George W Bush has announced further sanctions against Burma's ruling junta.

Mr Bush ordered a tightening of export controls, and urged India and China -- who have extensive trade ties with Burma -- to apply more pressure.

And he asked the Treasury Department to freeze the financial assets of members of the military regime not covered by previous measures.

The announcement follows the violent suppression of anti-government protest.

The country's leaders had continued to defy international demands to "stop their vicious persecution", Mr Bush said.

The US has already imposed substantial trade, investment and diplomatic sanctions on the regime, freezing assets and imposing visa bans on senior generals and their families.

"Monks have been beaten and killed. Thousands of pro-democracy protesters have been arrested," said Mr Bush in a White House statement on Friday.

"Burma's rulers continue to defy the world's just demand to stop their vicious persecution."

"We are confident that the day is coming when freedom's tide will reach the shores of Burma."

What else is he to do, short of military action? One hopes that the pressure on India and China is forceful. One hope that the sanctions will weaken the totalitarian regime in Burma.

And yet -- Will India and China give in to American pressure (given, among other things, Bush's weakness)? Will they back out of, and away from, a country in which they both have substantial investments? Japan and the EU are siding with the U.S., but, ultimately, China, India, and Burma's other regional neighbours are the ones who will have to step up if the regime is not just to cease its present round of brutality but to fall entirely. And will an enhanced sanctions regime even work?

Whatever the answers to those questions, this effort is at least something -- and, as I have said before, something (Bosnia) is better than nothing or not enough to make much of a difference (Rwanda).

For more, see our previous posts on the situation in Burma here -- including a post on what can be done to liberate the people of that oppressed country.

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Fore! The tale of Mohammad Afzal Abdul, Afghan golf pro

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You know, not nearly enough attention has been paid to the impact of the war on terror on the world of golf. Yes, golf. But not the golfing world of Tiger, Phil, and Ernie -- not that crowd of high-priced talent, the prima donnas of the PGA tour. Rather, the golfing world in, of all places, Afghanistan.

There is only one golf club in Afghanistan, the Kabul Golf Club, and Mohammad Afzal Abdul is its pro, a dedicated pro with a nightmarish past: "Abdul says he has been jailed twice for playing golf: once in the early 1980s after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and then again by the hardline Taliban government more than 10 years later," both times "accused of being a spy". And the difficult times continue:

"Even right now, I feel some danger," Abdul says in a dusty room, surrounded by donated clubs for hire and caps and t-shirts embroidered with the club logo for sale. "But I won't leave," he says.

"This is a place for fun and people need it. People always need to have a good time, even during war."

Abdul says he spent two months clearing the nine-hole course of military hardware that remained after the 1990s civil war between the commanders who had months earlier driven out the Soviet invaders.

"Everything was destroyed, there were tank tracks, guns and weapons," he says.

Then the Taliban built bases in the area and the golf course and the dam -- now one of Kabul's favourite picnic spots -- were abandoned.

Today it has been cleared of landmines, but it is still a bit of a wreck.

It is difficult to tell the fairways from the rough, and litter is caught in the stubs of scraggy, dry grass that cover only some of the dusty and stony ground.

A ragged trough runs through the course from the dam wall -- Abdul hoped to could bring in some water but there is no money for pipes.

But there are red flags fluttering at the "greens" -- which are actually black being made of compacted sand and oil, as is normal at desert courses -- and Abdul says he has a steady stream of players and students.

It's a pretty amazing story, actually, one of those indomitable-human-spirit stories, evidence that however much things may have gone wrong in Afghanistan over the years, from one horrendous regime to another, to a U.S.-led invasion and current NATO operation that haven't quite been as successful as they were meant to be, to the ongoing Taliban threat, a "national" government limited to Kabul, and continuing chaos in the countryside, mass opium production, bloody terrorism, and brutal warlordism, evidence that for all that, and more, life goes on, with one courageous golfer leading the way on the only links in town.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Will the real Mort please stand up

By Libby Spencer

Whoa. Help me please. I'm stunned. I think I just fell into an alternate universe. Mort Kondracke said this on Fox News?

You have George Bush, who promised in 2004 at the Republican National Convention that he was going to cover millions of children who were not covered by SCHIP if he was reelected? And what does he do? He proposes a bill that would result in almost a million kids losing their coverage from the level it’s at. It’s no wonder Bush’s approval ratings is in the 30’s.

Video at the link. You have to watch it to believe it. I feel like asking who is this guy and what did they do with the real Mort Kondracke?

But credit given where is credit is due. Good for him. It's nice to hear some reality-based commentary from such a relentless Bush supporter. I hope it's not just a single moment of sanity.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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It's elementary Watson

By Capt. Fogg

"What I really meant to say was. . ." is a phrase we hear too often when there's campaigning going on, but of course politicians aren't the only ones putting their feet in their mouths. Nobel Prize-winning biologist Jim Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix DNA structure, has managed to get himself quoted on various occasions as saying that women should be allowed to abort gay fetuses if a genetic marker can be discovered, and that there may be a correlation between skin color and sexual prowess.

His recent comments seem clearly to state that the intelligence of Africans is "not the same" as that of non-Africans and that while he hoped everyone was equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true."

After the predictable furor and the cancellation of a lecture, the venerable Dr. Watson seems to have become aware of the multiple gaffe and has now told the Royal Society that "I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said." It's easy, Jim -- just open your mouth and the rest will come naturally to you.

"To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief."

Well I think that drawing an inference isn't the same as hearing an unequivocal statement, but OK, that's not what you meant and I'm sure that the explanation is elementary. Just don't tell us it had anything to do with a wide stance or a piece of toilet paper on the floor. That one's been used already.

Meanwhile, I'm going outside to work on my tan.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Things Michelle Malkin will do now on Friday evenings, since she's off The O'Reilly Factor

News Item: Malkin quits The O’Reilly Factor.

By J. Thomas Duffy

10. Touch up the replica Internment Camp she's built in her backyard.

9. Instead of taking straw polls, she'll be more productive and build more straw men.

8. Can now have the John Doe meetings at her house.

7. More time to stalk innocent American families, who may, or may not, be receiving government aid.

6. Prank call suicide hot-lines and just giggles ‘Boo-Freakin-Hoo’.

5. Try on different blonde wigs, so maybe the Conservatives will like her better than Ann Coulter.

4. Secretly go shopping at Crate & Barrel.

3. Sit with her Voodoo dolls of Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera -- and a box full of pins.

2. Rethink her slander of Sally Field, sit down with some popcorn and the Box DVD Collection of The Flying Nun.

1. Write "Thank You" notes to Mitch McConnell and his staff.

Bonus M-Squared Riffs

Crooks and Liars: Frost Parents Talk About The Right’s Jihad Against Their Son On Countdown

Sadly No: From Morn To Noon She Fell; From Noon To Dewy Eve…

When A Michelle Malkin Quits The O'Reilly Factor, And No One is Around To Hear it, Does It Make A Sound?

"The Conservatives ... They Like Me ... They Really Like Me ..."

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dodd delivers

By Libby Spencer

Wow. That was fast. Dodd will send a letter to Harry Reid this afternoon informing him he is placing a hold on the FISA bill to prevent retroactive immunity for the telcos. You can thank him for his speedy action and register your own opposition to the bill, here.

I have to say I'm really impressed by the good Senator's nearly instant response to our pleas. How gratifying to see a Democrat showing some spine for a change. More of this please.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Confusing and confounding a fragile Middle East

By Carol Gee

There will never be a decent chance at regional stability in the Middle East until the decades-old conflict between Israel and Palestine is settled. On the one hand our current president, (OCP) appears to be working to settle things down in the area, because today we learned that National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley is going to the Middle East next week. At the behest of OCP, Hadley will try to jump start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, according to the Associated Press:

President Bush is sending his national security adviser to the Middle East next week to keep up pressure on Israel and the Palestinians to reach agreement on launching formal peace talks, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

The announcement came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was encouraged by what she had heard from the two sides during four days of intense talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials and civic and business leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank.

But Rice also acknowledged tensions between the two sides as they try to craft a joint statement that will be presented at a U.S.-hosted conference in late November or December at Annapolis, Md., where the United States hopes to announce the start of new formal peace negotiations to create a Palestinian state.

Nor will there ever be a decent chance at regional stability in the Middle East unless OCP deals more rationally with Iran (and parenthetically, Russia). And on the other hand -- just yesterday -- "Bush warns of World War III if Iran goes nuclear," to quote The Raw Story. These remarks made at the news conference of OCP yesterday were irrationally out of sync with efforts to bring peace to the region. This post includes the news conference video, which makes one wonder if the man has taken leave of his senses, somehow. To quote:

President Bush warned of dire consequences if Iran acquires nuclear weapons during a press conference on Wednesday, saying that he had told world leaders the country must be prevented from achieving nuclear capability "if you're interested in avoiding World War III."

"We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel," Bush said, responding to Russia's stated cautioning against military action targeting Tehran's suspected atomic program.

"So I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," said Bush.

There will never be a decent chance at regional stability in the Middle East as long as OCP escalates the war of words between himself and the leaders in Iran and Russian. The resulting triangulated situation becomes more and more irrational as each man tries to out- "huff and puff" the others. OCP must steel himself against taking his adversaries' bait so easily. From Juan Cole's post titled "Putin and Ahmadinejad Pledge Cooperation" at Informed Comment, I quote:

Farideh Farhi weighs in on the significance of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Iran, and the frustrations his olive branch to Tehran produced in Bush (who went a little crazy, talking about World War III if Iran gained the knowledge of how to produce a nuclear weapon).

There will never be a decent chance at regional stability in the Middle East as long as OCP holds such a distorted perspective regarding the true danger from Iran. It seems to have clouded his thinking. It makes no sense. Steve Benen posted this blurb at The Carpetbagger Report; it echoes my sense of disbelief at the unfortunate choice of words. (I wonder which word Yglesias meant to use below -- "inane" or perhaps "insane"-- the way I first read it). To quote:

Much of the president’s press conference today was devoted to discussion of the administration’s policy towards Iran, which was not at all encouraging.

. . . I was going to explain why this is crazy, but I see that Matt Yglesias beat me to it. I hope he won’t mind too much if I (blatantly steal) borrow his observation.

This is inane. World War III? Against Iran? Really? Because Iran seems a lot like a medium-sized middle income country with few military capabilities rather than a near peer-competitor of the sort against which you might fight a world war.

There will never be a decent chance at regional stability in the Middle East as long as our own leadership is held in such low esteem by us here at home and also abroad. Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly elicited a number of outspoken reader comments when he asked, "A few wee questions. . . What did George Bush mean when he suggested that Iran's nuclear program might bring on World War III?" To quote a few that clearly questioned the sanity of OCP:

Isn't trying to cypher a motive for any of these insane freaks about as open to interpretation as dream analysis?
Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on October 18, 2007

Bush: I only have 15 more months to completely destroy civilization as we now know it. Then, they'll KNOW I am relevant!
Posted by: jcricket on October 18, 2007

Just a guess, but I think it means they're all nuts!
Posted by: Reddragyn on October 18, 2007

George Bush: Since no one takes me seriously on foreign policy any more I might as well ratchet up the stakes. How about the apocalypse, any takers?
Posted by: pj in jesusland on October 18, 2007

Fed Ex -- When you absolutely positively need to get to heaven over night...
Posted by: nutty little nut nut on October 18, 2007

I'm guessing it all means the Republican Party is inhabited by people who are severely mentally ill.
Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on October 18, 2007

Confusing and confounding a fragile Middle East may not be the goal of OCP at this point, or perhaps it is. In any event, the use of the words "if you're interesting in avoiding World War III," were clearly out of proportion. Such words ignore the universal meanings assigned to those words by rational people. Else they would not have been used. Or, perhaps OCP was serious. Then what are we to think?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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A dose of Doddmania would do it

By Libby Spencer

Now that I got my rant out of the way, it appears there is one small ray of hope to salvage the rule of law and any semblance of judicial relevance in our system. Jane Hamsher collects the links to those who didn't panic and came up with a brilliant solution to this untenable situation. The Senate bill hasn't been passed yet and all we need is one courageous Senator to step up and put a hold on it.

All eyes are on Chris Dodd who is clearly in the best position to do so. He's already made the issue of domestic surveillance a significant part of his campaign platform and as a candidate for the nomination has the best chance of being provided a soapbox by the media to make the case to the public for quashing this bill.

It's a win-win for Dodd. He could save the rule of law from becoming just another meaningless piece of paper and raise his profile in the race at the same time. I would urge everyone who cares about the future of our republic to either call and politely urge him to do so at (202)737-3633 or use this form to email him immediately. Needless to say, time is of the essence.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Money talks -- telcos walk

By Libby Spencer

It's official. We are now a government by the corporatocracy, of the corporatocracy and for the corporatocracy. Senate Dems and GOPers reviewed the "documents underlying the administration's post-Sept. 11 warrantless surveillance program" and checked their campaign donation spreadsheets and concluded the telcos acted in good faith when they knowingly broke the law in order to obtain enormously lucrative government contracts to illegally spy on innocent Americans.

In the House, the Democratic "leadership," fearful of being painted as weak on terror in future campaign ads, pulled a competing bill when they allowed the GOP to outmanuever them by introducing a boneheaded motion that effectively did nothing but muddy the intent of the legislation. In practical terms what just happened here is that the lawsuits brought by American citizens against the telcos for illegally comprising our privacy, have just been killed dead by a bi-partisan agreement to protect their future deep pocket campaign contributions.

The bottom line my fellow Americans, is, we've been had. We elected a Democratic majority to bring accountability back to our government. The joke is on us. There will be no accountability. The rule of law is dead.

There are no words sufficient to express my dismay and disgust. Our legislators engage in staged sham battles with predetermined outcomes for the sole purpose of protecting their political positions. They don't give a tinker's damn about protecting the constitution, much less our rights under it. At the moment, I don't see any solution other than to throw all the bums out.

See Glenn and Steve for the wonkery.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Larry Craig, liar

By Michael J.W. Stickings

No, not about not being gay, or bisexual, or bi-curious, or whatever, and, no, not about what he was really doing, or looking for, in that washroom stall in Minneapolis. (We know what he is and we know what he was looking for.) No, this time it's about using the Internet. In that NBC interview with Matt Lauer the other night, he said this:

Matt, you won’t believe this. But I don’t use the Internet. I don’t have a computer at my desk. I’ve never used the Internet. It’s just not what I do.

Oh, he uses his BlackBerry, but that's it. Incredible? Yes, without credibility. Via Think Progress, the Examiner exposes the lie.

For more, see Arlen Parsa at The Daily Background (and Shakesville).

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The coming war in Kurdistan

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the Times:

Turkey’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to authorize sending troops into northern Iraq to confront Kurdish rebels in hide-outs there, sending an angry message to the Baghdad government and its Washington sponsor. But Turkey, a member of NATO, made it clear that it would not immediately carry out the resolution.

The 507-to-19 vote was the culmination of months of frustration here with the United States, which has criticized Kurdish rebels who attack Turkey from Iraq but has failed to get its Kurdish allies in Iraq to act against them. President Bush on Wednesday reiterated American wishes for a diplomatic solution.

The vote to authorize sending troops, which Turkish officials say gives them up to a year to take action, was, in essence, a blunt request for the United States to acknowledge Turkey’s status as an important ally in a troubled and complex region.

Some will argue that this is precisely why Congress shouldn't proceed with the Armenian Genocide resolution -- that is, to maintain good relations with Turkey -- but this was going to happen anyway, tension and conflict in the region dating back to well before the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.

A diplomatic solution is, of course, desirable, but that would likely require the U.S. to put pressure both on friendly Kurds in the north of Iraq and on the inept Maliki government in Baghdad, as well as for Maliki to work closely both with Turkey and with his own Kurdish allies. Even then, though, one wonders if a peaceful resolution is possible, given the strident communist-nationalist aims (and violent means) of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The establishment of an independent and sovereign Kurdistan could blunt those aims, and could be the main component of a peaceful resolution, but it seems unlikely that the PKK would agree to the terms of such an arrangement.

Regardless, although Turkey may take no immediate military action, the situation in Iraq could soon get a lot messier -- and a lot more bloody.

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China's Syndrome

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's called Dalai Lama Derangement Syndrome. The Mahablog's Barbara O'Brien explains here. It's an thoughtful post that goes on to address the relationship between religion and politics.

President Bush ought to be credited for defying China and meeting with the Dalai Lama -- and also for attending the ceremony at which he was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal.

At his press conference yesterday, Bush said this:

I told the Chinese President, President Hu that I was going to go to the ceremony. In other words, I brought it up. And I said I'm going because I want to honor this man. I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation's interest. I've also told them that I think it's in their interest to meet with the Dalai Lama, and will say so at the ceremony today in Congress. If they were to sit down with the Dalai Lama they would find him to be a man of peace and reconciliation. And I think it's in the country's interest to allow him to come to China and meet with him.

He is right about the Dalai Lama, of course, but he is overly optimistic about the Chinese. Meet the Dalai Lama and talk? How would that go? The U.S. should be pressing China to embrace liberal and democratic principles (human and civil rights, the rule of law, free and fair elections, etc.), but China is not about to embrace the Dalai Lama or to soften its fierce and brutal positions on Tibet just because he's "a man of peace and reconciliation," or just because Bush thinks it's in their "interest" to do so.

Besides, Bush can say what he wants about "religious freedom," his positions on China are soft and self-interested. And although he defied the Chinese here, he is not about to defy them when it really matters:

The White House softened the slight to Beijing by keeping today's meeting between the Dalai Lama and Mr Bush a distinctly private affair, and by previously assuring the president's attendance at the 2008 summer Olympics in China.

And he is not about to apply serious pressure on China to reform, either unilaterally or through international organizations like the U.N.

As always, the gulf between Bush's words and actions is immense.

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Aung San Suu Kyi, Canadian

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't much care for the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but it's here to stay, for the time being, and its first post-Throne Speech action was a good one:

Aung San Suu Kyi will be granted honorary Canadian citizenship to recognize her efforts to promote peace and democracy in [Burma].

Sure, it's symbolic, and largely meaningless (meaning: nothing will come of it -- concrete international action is needed), but it's a nonetheless a noble and worthy gesture of support both for a great woman and for the pro-democracy movement of which she is a leading figure.

Many of Harper's other actions have been manipulative and cynical, notably everything he's done on the environment file, and whenever he's played the support-the-troops patriotism card (flag-waving doesn't go over as well here in Canada as it does in, say, the U.S.). This one, however, should be applauded.

As long as, however symbolic, it is not empty.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Irrelevance and injustice: The sorry state of the Bush presidency

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So it has come to this, almost seven years into the Bush presidency, one of the most pathetic and appalling, one of the most damaging, one of the most profoundly destructive to the country and to the world. At a press conference this morning, Bush said that "one way to ensure" he is "relevant" is to use his veto.

Yes, that's right. Bush has hardly used his veto at all during his presidency, but now, facing irrelevance, he has decided to use it to strike down a bill, a bipartisan bill, to provide health insurance for children.

Once more, we are offered a glimpse into the ugly soul of George W. Bush.


This exchange was also telling:

Q What's your definition of the word "torture"?


Q The word "torture." What's your definition?

THE PRESIDENT: That's defined in U.S. law, and we don't torture.

Q Can you give me your version of it, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever the law says.

Uh-huh. Sure.

Given Bush's disrespect for the rule of law, not to mention his manipulation of the law, I think we all know what this means.


On a rather more positive note, Bush expressed admiration for the Dalai Lama and support for religious freedom.


For more, see:

-- Steve Benen: "Bush was not only trying to defend his relevance, he was arguing that his veto pen alone made him significant in the process. He’s not helping establish an agenda; he’s just the guy at the other end, waiting to say what he doesn’t like."

And Melissa McEwan and Matthew Yglesias.

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PAA & FISA -- civil liberties boiling in alphabet soup

By Carol Gee

The prospects for correctly fixing the Protect America Act seem to be dimming this week. There is a lot going on in Congress, according to Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake. Her excellent piece on Monday, "FISA Update," gives the likely schedule of what will be happening right now to pending intelligence legislation in and out of committee. It contains a very useful contact list of legislators whose votes my or may not be going the right way to protect our civil liberties.

Far too many Members of the House and Senators are leaning the wrong ways in these matters, according to "Scarecrow" at Firedoglake, who says "they need some encouragement" in a couple of areas:

  1. There is a risk that blanket retroactive immunity may be given to the telecommunications companies who so happily cooperated with the Bush administration to illegally spy on Americans from the beginning of the administration. Glenn Greenwald at has done a magnificent piece of writing recently about the harm this amnesty would do to our country.
  2. The law may allow "basket warrants" from the FISA court for domestic surveillance, rather than individual warrants to wiretap U.S. citizens. This practice would not provide adequate protections; the ACLU has an excellent exploration of why. (See Scarecrow's post above for the most recent ACLU statement on pending legislation).

Administration supporters are "searching for excuses" to weaken our civil liberties protections, says "Siun" at FDL. This writer explores in depth the unsupported allegation by DNI Mike McConnell that it was the unwieldy FISA law that kept the government from saving the lives of three kidnapped soldiers in Iraq. See also my previous post about this House Judiciary Committee hearing, in which I paraphrased McConnell's testimony:

We asked that the law be changed because the FISA court orders were such that we had to get a warrant to surveil the terrorists who kidnapped the soldiers in Iraq. Could we have used the (72-hour) Emergency Provisions? That is not the point - we would have been required to show probable cause, a lot of work and trouble. The whole process slowed us down. The point is that there should be no 4th amendment right at all for foreigners. The reason a warrant was required before it was just changed, was the mode of communication, and where the signal picked up - in the U.S. The law did not keep pace with technology.

Three pieces of mainstream media journalism on the issues have the blogosphere boiling. "The Beltway Establishment's contempt for the rule of law," another Glenn Greenwald post (10/14/07), points to Fred Hiatt and David Ignatius at The Washington Post and Joe Klein at Time. (I include references after the Greenwald quote). To quote:

The corruption and sleaze here is so transparent and extreme. We're just sitting by watching as telecoms right in front of our faces purchase from government officials the right to be exempt from lawsuits currently pending in our court system. Government officials, more or less on a bipartisan basis, are about to intervene in these lawsuits and prevent them from proceeding to a determination of whether telcoms violated numerous, long-standing laws. And Fred Hiatt and David Ignatius and Joe Klein and virtually all Beltway "journalistic" opinion-makers think that is the right thing to do, just as they insisted that the President and his aides should never be subjected to consequences for their lawbreaking either.


Also: -- Blogs about Protect America Act

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Rice in the house of bread

By Capt. Fogg

Being here at the birthplace of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has been a very special and moving experience,

said Condoleezza Rice the other day in Bethlehem. Beit Lechem or the House of Bread, is of course attributed by most Christians as the place in which Jesus was born, although historians tend to discount the story as a contrivance to make his history seem more in line with the ancient predictions that some young woman would give birth to a male continuation of the line of Ahaz that has been fixed up and resold as a prediction of a soul-saving messiah.

But Condoleezza with all of her academic degrees simply accepts the story about the census and the flight to Egypt even though the census of Quirinius occurred in 6 AD when Herod was 10 years dead and didn't require anyone to return to their birthplace to register. I won't get into all the historical evidence that makes this incredible story incredible, but when Condy says,

It is also, I think, a personal reminder that the prince of peace is still with us,

and calls on Islam, Judaism and Christianity to make religion a "power of healing," I have to wonder about her grasp on reality. Has there ever been a more divisive and violent influence on humankind than the insistence that one myth be taken as axiom and all the other fact and fiction as heresy? How can there be peace when my prince of peace is tougher than your prince of peace?

I could detect no trace of allowance for differences of opinion about what happened or didn't happen in Bethlehem, no hint of respect for the historical record or the myths of others; no phrasing like "here by Christian tradition, Jesus, whom I hold to be God was born" but only this is the way it really is, damn the facts, you heretics and damn your religion.

Is there really any hope for peace, for tolerance, for mutual respect amongst people who confuse belief with entitlement?

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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All in the Cheney-Obama-Bush Family

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So this is, uh, weird: Lynne Cheney is claiming that her husband (that would be Dick) and Barack Obama are... related? Cousins or something. Goes back eight generations.

And I'd forgotten this: Obama and Bush are related, 11th cousins.

Not to be outdone, Bill Clinton is claiming that his wife (that would be Hillary) is a direct descendant of Jesus Christ, the living embodiment of the Holy Grail.

In related news, The Da Vinci Code sucked.

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Honesty on Leno: "It's much worse than the picture, the image we even have of Iraq."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you missed it on Monday, a brutally honest answer from CBS News's Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan to a blunt question from Jay Leno:

Leno: How are we doing?

Logan: We're doing extremely badly, from my point of view. I was asked if I felt any guilt for the fact that the world has an impression of the war in Iraq as being very bad and going very wrong. And I said I really don't because I can't imagine the last time anyone saw a dead American soldier. We've hidden that from view. Nobody knows what that looks like, and I've seen plenty of it. It's much worse than the picture, the image we even have of Iraq.

I'm sure Logan will be -- if she isn't already -- a key target of the right-wing smear machine,

(Via Think Progress.)

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On the scourge of mercenary arms (in Iraq)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

They may not get it in Washington, but they seem to be getting it in Baghdad, more or less, at least with respect to the nature of many of those currently tasked with waging the Iraq War and Occupation:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asked the U.S. State Department to "pull Blackwater out of Iraq," after an Iraqi probe concluded that the private contractors committed unprovoked and random killings in a September 16 shooting, an adviser to al-Maliki told CNN.

The State Department is claiming that it hasn't received a "special request" for Blackwater to leave the country, but, of course, denial has been the name of the game all along.

Much has been written about Blackwater and other mercenary outfits in Iraq, fighting the war alongside the U.S. military, or at least taking part in the war to a significant degree, the outsourcing of war to the largely unaccountable, and I don't have much to add here.

What I did want to do, though, was to look back to what one of history's greatest military strategists, Machiavelli, had to say about mercenary armies/arms. In Chapter 12 of The Prince (Mansfield translation), Machiavelli asserts that "the present ruin of Italy" -- and this was very much his concern, the founder of modernity but also an Italian nationalist -- "is caused by nothing other than its having relied for a period of many years on mercenary arms":

I want to demonstrate better the failure of these arms. Mercenary captains are either excellent men of arms or not: if they are, you cannot trust them because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their patron, or by oppressing others contrary to your intention; but if the captain is not virtuous, he ruins you in the ordinary way. And if one responds that whoever has arms in hand will do this, mercenary or not, I would reply that arms have to be employed either by a prince or by a republic. The prince should go in person, and perform himself the office of captain. The republic has to send its citizens, and when it sends one who does not turn out to be a worthy man, it must change him; and if he is, it must check him with laws so that he does not step out of bounds. And by experience one sees that only princes and armed republics make very great progress; nothing but harm ever comes from mercenary arms.

Of course, the U.S. hasn't made much in the way of progress in Iraq and has rather caused a good deal of harm. And, to be fair, the use of mercenary arms, outfits like Blackwater, likely won't cause the ruin of America -- there are many other causes for that seemingly inevitable eventuality. But the Iraqis -- remember them? remember all that talk of liberation, of freedom on the march? -- hardly could have expected, now almost five years into the war, that the U.S., their occupier, would come to rely so heavily on unaccountable private military units. It is hardly any wonder that there has been such trouble, the killing of civilians, given that unaccountability -- given the advice Machiavelli offered to his readers almost 500 years ago, advice we would, these days, be well-advised to take seriously.

The Iraq War and Occupation has been a disaster -- and would have been with or without the presence of mercenaries. But the war and occupation have been worse than they otherwise would have been because of their presence, because of their abuses. I'm sure some of the mercenaries are good people doing good work, even in the middle of a bad war, and perhaps not all of the mercenary outfits are like Blackwater. The problem is, there's Blackwater, and Blackwater has made the whole problem worse.

Machiavelli, it is safe to say, was right. You just can't trust mercenary armies.

The U.S., a republic, has its own citizens in Iraq, to be sure, not just mercenaries. However, Bush has weakened the America's republican institutions by enhancing the powers of the executive branch, that is, by ruling as an authoritarian without regard either for checks and balances or for the rule of law. Following Machiavelli's advice, there is only one possible conclusion to draw:

Bush should go to Iraq in person, not just for a photo-op visit but to take over as "captain," the warmonger at war, up close and personal with the disaster he unleashed upon the Iraqi people.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Homeland Security and the CIA -- what in the world is going on?

By Carol Gee

Operation Vigilant Shield 2008 is going on today, about which I posted not long ago, asking "What do we do?" This is not the first time such a significant exercise has been deployed. Oregon is the lucky (?) state that gets to go thought this training. Louisiana was the lucky (?) state that became the original laboratory for today's exercise. Global also has the story, from which I quote:

US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) has just announced plans for an anti-terrorism exercise called Vigilant Shield 2008. The series of exercises is mandated by the US government to prepare, prevent and respond to any number of national crises that would call for the use of the military inside the United States.

At the same time the new National Applications Office has not gone into business. This is the first really good news we have had in a while about the Bush administration's ubiquitous domestic spying efforts. I wrote of my very dubious assessment of the proposed spy in the sky program in a past post - "Like an ubiquitous spook - Part II." TechNewsWorld headlined, "Domestic Spy Satellite Program Halted on Privacy Fears." This is terrific news! To quote:

A program designed to provide emergency response, border control and law enforcement organizations with information gleaned from spy satellites has been put on hold due to questions concerning privacy. Proponents of the program say it could help save lives, but some critics have a lot of questions they want answered before spy satellites are pointed at Americans.

The Department of Homeland Security Latest News about Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has opted to postpone the planned opening of its new National Applications Office (NAO) that would oversee the expanded use of spy satellite imagery of American territories, the agency announced Monday. The NAO had been scheduled to start operations on Oct. 1.

The decision came after the agency received several requests from the Homeland Security Committee to delay the start of the program until questions concerning its impact on privacy and civil liberties as well as the legal basis for the program have been addressed.

"While we are pleased by the Department's decision to go back to the drawing board and get it right, we are troubled by its silence on the second part of our request: that Congress also be provided 'a full opportunity to review the NAO's written legal framework, offer comments and help shape appropriate procedures and protocols,'" said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security.

The CIA Inspector General is perhaps not going on right now. This is bad news again. Former CIA agent Larry Johnson is a longtime blogger. Remember his great posts about his colleague Valerie Plame? On 10/14/07, Johnson wrote a very interesting post on a CIA internal fight at TPM Cafe:

IG means Inspector General. Normally, the IG operates outside the boundaries of political influence and cronyism. This week we learned that CIA Director Michael Hayden has launched an investigation of the IG. This comes in the wake of the IG–a man named John Helgerson–investigating torture and other abuses by CIA officers. Sure looks like an effort to shut down Mr. Helgerson. So what the hell is going on?

In the civil liberties business in the 21st Century, we win some and we lose some, but it is a fight every time, unfortunately.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The year of voting Democratically

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I don't want to get ahead of myself, and I certainly don't want to get prematurely excited about the 2008 elections, but, well, things are looking good for the good guys. You've likely heard much of this already, but the L.A. Times sums it up nicely:

For members of Congress, this is the time to get serious about seeking re-election next year or leaving office for something new. So far, only one party is heading for the exits.

While 17 Republicans already have decided to throw in the towel on their Capitol Hill careers, only two Democrats so far are calling it quits -- and both of them are seeking higher congressional office. The disparity underscores the different moods prevailing in the two parties: Democrats, still heady from winning control of Congress 2006, are enjoying the fruits of power. Republicans, their party reduced to minority status in the House and Senate, see more allure in retirement or private life.


The wave of retirements compounds the political challenge facing the GOP in the 2008 congressional elections, because the party is significantly trailing its Democratic counterparts in fundraising. That means Republicans will be defending more House and Senate seats with less money and will be fighting battles in places that otherwise would have been secure.

And there's this: Of the 34 Senate seats being contested next year, 22 are currently held by Republicans. There are many more seats for the GOP to defend -- and therefore many more to lose. Several Republican incumbents in blue or bluish states -- Collins (Maine), Coleman (Minnesota), Sununu (New Hampshire), and Smith (Oregon) -- will face serious and credible challenges from Democratic opponents. As well, a few Republican retirements -- Allard (Colorado), Domenici (New Mexico), and Warner (Virginia) -- open up races for possible Democratic gains.

There is nothing like this on the Democratic side, where most of the incumbents should be able to hold on to their seats.

Again, caution.

There is still a long way to go before the elections -- almost 13 months. Much could change. The Republicans could somehow recover much of what they have lost. The Democrats could falter. Much will hinge on how the presidential race plays out. And, as always, much will depend on external factors (as well as on the partisan manipulation of such factors by the outgoing president): Iraq, terrorism, the economy, etc. And then, of course, there's voter turnout: Will the religious right come out for Republicans? Will Democrats be able to build off their successful get-out-the-vote efforts in recent elections? And will independents turn to (or stay with) the Democrats?

As of right now, the Democrats seem to have a great deal going for them. And, as long as we can keep our focus, there's nothing wrong with being excited about their prospects.

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Ménage à Wingnut

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is from my C&L blog round-up for today. I'll get a jump on it and post the main items here.


Memeorandum is one of the indispensable sites for bloggers. At least it's indispensable to me.

The top item (with four main links) right now -- and I'm writing this at 10:58 pm ET, Monday evening, two minutes to Jon Stewart [updated here, after midnight] -- concerns Michelle Malkin's press-stopping announcement that she will no longer be frequenting Bill O'Reilly's folk-ridden funhouse of fearmongering fascism. Apparently there's nothing more important going on in the world, but, hey, at least this headline from New York magazine is amusing: "Michelle Malkin Quits O'Reilly After Nasty Three-Way."

That's Malkin, O'Reilly, and Geraldo -- and I'm sure to have nightmares the rest of the week.

John Amato posted on this yesterday, but, if you just can't get enough of all this inside-the-right mayhem, see Sadly, No! and Comments from Left Field.


Elsewhere on the right, Rush is miffed about the whole Gore-Nobel thing. Seems he was nominated, or nominated himself, and thinks he should have won. Yeah, sure. See Pensito Review and Liberal Values for more.

It's getting uglier and uglier over in wingnut territory, is it not?

For more on Gore, our own Capt. Fogg discusses Gore Derangement Syndrome (via NYT's Krugman) over at Human Voices.

(Yes, I know I have a crush on Gore. I am aware.)

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By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm filling in for Mike and doing the blog round-up over at Crooks and Liars this week. It's quite an honour, a genuine pleasure, and a lot of fun. I've done two already, for Sunday and Monday, and my third will be out later this morning, with links to some great posts at some great blogs (including those of our great Reaction co-bloggers, to which I'm linking all week), on a wide range of topics and issues.

I don't need to tell you to check out C&L (do I?) -- it's one of the genuine must-reads in the blogosphere -- but, well, check it out!

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Monday, October 15, 2007

If we're done fighting them over there...

By Edward Copeland

The big Dubyaland argument for perpetuating the quagmire in Iraq is that we are fighting them over there, so we don't fight them here. According to Thomas Ricks and Karen de Young in today's Washington Post, their Pentagon sources are telling them that al-Qaida in Iraq is "basically crippled."

The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq.

In a rare instance of learning from past mistakes, the Bush administration is reluctant to declare victory prematurely (or is it they are reluctant to have their main argument for staying gone and have the U.S. military be purely baby sitters to a civil war?)

"I think it would be premature at this point," a senior intelligence official said of a victory declaration over AQI, as the group is known. Despite recent U.S. gains, he said, AQI retains "the ability for surprise and for catastrophic attacks." Earlier periods of optimism, such as immediately following the June 2006 death of AQI founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. air raid, not only proved unfounded but were followed by expanded operations by the militant organization.

Apparently, military leaders are torn over what to do and arguing about the best course of action. Of course, that's probably irrelevant, since Bush and Cheney will do whatever the hell they want anyway. Maybe the GOP talking points are all wrong: It's not Democrats who want to "lose" in Iraq, it's Republicans.

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Oct. 15 -- Blog Action Day

By Carol Gee

(NASA Photo -- "On the Way to Mercury" #5 of the Top Ten Views of Earth from Space*). Caption quote:

MESSENGER's Earth flyby on Aug. 2, 2005, not only adjusted the spacecraft's path to Mercury but allowed the spacecraft team to test several of the onboard instruments by taking some shots of its home planet. The camera, designed to characterize minerals that may have formed in Mercury's crust, took this three band composite image on the left using multiple wavelength imaging, giving the continental areas their red color - a result of the high reflectance of vegetation in the near-infrared part of the spectrum.

Harmony is necessary for space cooperation. Harmony is necessary if the people of the earth are to get ahead of the dangers posed by global warming threats. S/SW is posting today about the environment because not long ago I got a suggestion from betmo about the idea. Today, if all goes well, millions of us will be writing about this crucial subject. This is my contribution to the broader blogosphere's environmental effort:

Today we learned that the recent financial award from Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize will go to "a year-old Palo Alto nonprofit that will receive the $750,000 former Vice President Al Gore received along with his Nobel Prize." The alliance has gotten other support from Gore in the past. It works to provide climate change education. Quoting further from the San Jose Business Journal:

"The Alliance for Climate Protection, which was once lauded by Gore as the planet's "PR agent," is a think tank focused on letting people know about the effects of global warming and helping them become activists against it.

From we get this story: "STS-120 Bringing Space Station ‘Harmony.’" What does this have to do with the environment? Plenty! I quote from the story:

Think of the next component set for delivery to the International Space Station as an international crossroads in space. That's the major function of the Italian-built U.S. module that will be ferried to the station aboard space shuttle Discovery during mission STS-120.

The pressurized component was named "Harmony" by U.S. students in a nationwide contest. "This module will allow all international partner pieces of the station to connect together, so it's really wonderful that kids recognize that harmony is necessary for space cooperation," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, when the six winning schools who submitted the name were announced.

The module will be the connecting point between the U.S. Destiny lab, the European Space Agency's Columbus module and the Japanese Kibo module. Harmony's delivery to the station sets the stage for the following two space shuttle flights that will carry the Columbus and Kibo components to the station.

We will need to find new ways to achieve harmony as humans deplete our precious resources. This chilling (4/17/07) headline gives a sneak peek at what may be to come in the near future. "U.S. and Global Water Wars Loom." To quote,

As the world warms, water -- either too little or too much of it -- is going to be the major problem for the United States, scientists and military experts said Monday. It will be a domestic problem, with states clashing over controls of rivers, and a national security problem as water shortages and floods worsen conflicts and terrorism elsewhere in the world, they said.

At home, especially in the Southwest, regions will need to find new sources of drinking water, the Great Lakes will shrink, fish and other species will be left high and dry, and coastal areas will on occasion be inundated because of sea-level rises and souped-up storms, U.S. scientists said.

The scientists released a 67-page chapter on North American climate effects, which is part of an international report on climate change impact.

Meanwhile, global-warming water problems will make poor, unstable parts of the world -- the Middle East, Africa and South Asia -- even more prone to wars, terrorism and the need for international intervention, a panel of retired military leaders said in a separate report.

Blog Action Day will give us all a chance to find out more about what the blogosphere thinks of environmental issues. My own take on today's news is that there is much about which to be hopeful. The International Space Station and NASA already know how nations can work together. The Nobel awards to Al Gore and the UN's group of scientists give sanction to good works. And the water fight can be deferred because I still have a good stream coming from my own tap.

A good place to start today's further reading might be at "life is a journey." My blog friend "betmo" is a very good blogging activist who maintains that website. I recommend you visit her blog regularly for the latest on environmental activism. I will.


  1. "Looking back at 50 Years of Space Flight" - multimedia presentation from
  2. *"The Top Ten Views of Earth from Space" - Countdown list from
  3. "Experts Pick: Top 10 Space Science Photos" - again from
  4. "The Environment" - seen on Live

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Genocidal denial: Bush, Turkey, and the Armenian Holocaust

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What happened to Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1917 was genocide -- an estimated 1.5 million killed, a brutal and systematic process of deportation and slaughter aimed at wiping out the Armenian population -- but you wouldn't know it if you got your history from the Turks, who committed the genocide (now known as the Armenian Genocide, or Holocaust), or from their present-day apologists in the Bush Administration, from Bush and Rice and Gates, the Holocaust deniers who sit at the top of the U.S. government. The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution last week, calling what happened to the Armenians what it was, genocide, but the deniers wanted none of it:

A House committee voted late this afternoon to condemn the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in World War I as an act of genocide, rebuffing an intense campaign by the White House and warnings from Turkey’s government that the vote would gravely strain relations with the United States.

The vote by the House Foreign Relations Committee was nonbinding and so largely symbolic, but its consequences could reach far beyond bilateral relations and spill into the war in Iraq.

Turkish officials and lawmakers warned that if the resolution is approved by the full House, they would reconsider supporting the American war effort, which includes permission to ship essential supplies through Turkey and northern Iraq.

Mr. Bush appeared on the South Lawn of the White House before the vote and implored the House not to take up the issue, only to have the majority of the committee disregard his warning at the end of the day, by a vote of 27 to 21.

"We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915," Mr. Bush said in remarks that, reflecting official American policy, carefully avoided the use of the word genocide. "This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror."

How about being honest about that "tragic suffering," then? Why avoid the truth? Why deny it? Why show such cowardice? Because Bush needs Turkey -- because of the Iraq War and Occupation and the War on Terror. And, to secure that support, it seems, he is willing (as his chief Cabinet secretaries are willing, as many in his party are willing) to help prop up Turkey's long-standing campaign of denial (of accountability, of responsibility, of the truth -- truth it finds so unpleasant as to warrant such decades-long propaganda).

Bush himself referred to "these historic mass killings," but is that not genocide? Apparently not. It seems it's only genocide if it's called genocide, if the label is formally applied, even in a non-binding House resolution. I may call it genocide, you may call it genocide, historians may call it genocide, certainly the Armenians call it genocide, but it's apparently not genocide if nothing formal is declared. So Bush refuses to call it genocide, and tries to persuade the House not to call it genocide, even though he describes it as genocide and probably knows it was genocide. And why? Again, because Turkey doesn't want him to -- and, it seems, because, kowtowing to Turkey is the name of the game if you want its support, the support of "a key ally," kowtowing meaning playing along with Turkey's revisionism, accepting a role as an organ of Turkish propaganda.

This is what George W. Bush has become -- an organ of Turkish propaganda, a denier of genocide.

With all else that Bush has done that has been reprehensible, far too much to list here, this must stand as one of the lowlights of an appalling presidency.


Writing in the L.A. Times today, historian Niall Ferguson (who leans right) argues that, based on the evidence, what the Turks did to the Armenians was, in fact, genocide. Yet, realpolitik triumphant, he finds fault with the resolution -- given the possible weakening of American relations with Turkey.

His concerns are very much Bush's: Most American supplies to Iraq pass through Turkey, Turkey is a good friend (an Islamic one, at that), an unfriendly Turkey will be more likely to strike Kurdish separatist bases in northern Iraq.

And so, again, the proper response is to support Turkey's lie? I understand the realities of the situation, but it seems to me that the U.S. would do better to engage with Turkey from a position of strength: We are your friend, but we condemn what you did to the Armenians 80 years ago, and we're calling it genocide.

Yes -- 80 years ago. The genocide was certainly not committed by the present-day Turkey. And so the point is not to say that you did it but that they did it. Germans have mostly taken responsibility for what they did, other Germans, just a generation or two back -- why can't the Turks, for whom is was not so much a previous generation as a different regime?

Ferguson may be right that calling it genocide won't change things: "My sense is that all the resolutions in the world about past genocides will do precisely nothing to stop the next one." No, but language matters -- words matter, labels matter. And being honest about the past, being truthful about the darkest periods of human history, is important as we struggle with the same sort of horrors today, in North Korea and Darfur and Burma and elsewhere, and the same sort of horrors tomorrow.


The pressure from Turkey continues in the wake of the House committee's vote:

The chief of the Turkish armed forces has warned that military relations with the United States would take a negative turn if Congress approved the Armenian genocide resolution that was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, the armed forces chief, was quoted by the Turkish newspaper Milliyet on Sunday as saying that the resolution, which condemns the killings of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks beginning in 1915 as an act of genocide, has caused considerable disappointment in Turkey.

General Buyukanit called the passage of the resolution by the committee "sad and sorrowful," in light of the strong links the two NATO allies have shared.

Further, if it were to be passed by the full House of Representatives, "Our military relations with the U.S. would never be as they were in the past," he said.

"We could not explain this to our public," he said. "The U.S., in that respect, has shot itself in the foot."

How about explaining to your public what you did to the Armenians?

You call what the House committee did "sad and sorrowful," but what about what you did to the Armenians? What words do you use to describe that?

As far as I'm concerned, the U.S. should be strong enough, and so committed to the truth, to tell Turkey to fuck off. And yet, from Bush and the deniers of genocide, all we get is acquiescence. So desperate are they for support, they are willing to agree to spread the lies that the Turkish government has been telling for decades. It's like calling black slavery in the U.S. a "human resources plan," or the Nazi extermination of Jews a "population-control project". It's bullshit.

And so top Turkish officials like Gen. Buyukanit issue their threats and all Bush and Rice and Gates can say is yes, Turkey, of course, whatever you want, Turkey, feed us the lines, we're good friends, tell us what to do.

It's called extortion. Which seems to be how Bush is conducting his foreign policy these days -- giving or receiving, whatever, it's all so much corruption.


Also -- The U.S. has "shot itself in the foot"? How repugnant a way to put it.

Turkey killed a million and a half Armenians!


Thankfully, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has committed to push ahead with the resolution. It deserves a full vote on the floor of the House, as well as a full vote in the Senate.

History cannot be changed, but the truth about what happened even so long ago can allow us to come to terms with the past even as we deal with the present and prepare for the future. In this case, that truth must win out over Turkish propaganda.

No matter the timidity and cowardice of Bush and the other deniers of genocide.

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