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The Weekend Journal: January 12-14, 2007

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An old picture of denial [see the full Times article, from Aug. 7, 1970, here]

Iraq's Cambodia
Bush's Low-Grade War on Iran

Ah, the old denials. Remember the Nixon administration feigning Casablancan shock at the accusation that it was bombing Cambodia? This from August 1970: "Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird reiterated today the Nixcon Administration's contention that American planes were not giving close air support to Cambodian troops despite eyewitness press reports to the contrary." From the Times Saturday morning: “A recent series of American raids against Iranians in Iraq was authorized under an order that President Bush decided to issue several months ago to undertake a broad military offensive against Iranian operatives in the country, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday. “There has been a decision to go after these networks,” Ms. Rice said in an interview with The New York Times in her office on Friday afternoon, before leaving on a trip to the Middle East. Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush had acted “after a period of time in which we saw increasing activity” among Iranians in Iraq, “and increasing lethality in what they were producing.” She was referring to what American military officials say is evidence that many of the most sophisticated improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, being used against American troops were made in Iran. [...] The White House decision to authorize the aggressive steps against Iranians in Iraq appears to formalize the American effort to contain Iran’s ambitions as a new front in the Iraq war. Administration officials now describe Iran as the single greatest threat the United States faces in the Middle East, though some administration critics regard the talk about Iran as a diversion, one intended to shift attention away from the spiraling chaos in Iraq. [...] Mr. Bush’s public warning to Iran was accompanied by the deployment of an additional aircraft carrier off Iran’s coast and advanced Patriot antimissile defense systems in Persian Gulf countries near Iran’s borders. [...] The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, warned reporters away from “an urban legend that’s going around” that Mr. Bush was “trying to prepare the way for war” with Iran or Syria. Mr. Gates said that the United States did not intend to engage in hot pursuit of the operatives into Iran. [...] This week, American forces in Iraq conducted at least two raids against suspected Iranian operatives, including the raid in Erbil. The United States is currently detaining several individuals with Iranian passports who were picked up in those raids. The Iranians have said that they were in the process of establishing a consulate, but American officials said that the Erbil operation was a liaison office and that the workers there did not have diplomatic passports. A defense official said Friday that such raids would continue.”

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Bush's New Strategy
March of Folly

Robert Fisk in the UK Independent: "There will be timetables, deadlines, benchmarks, goals for both America and its Iraqi satraps. But the war against terror can still be won. We shall prevail. Victory or death. And it shall be death. President Bush's announcement early this morning tolled every bell. A billion dollars of extra aid for Iraq, a diary of future success as the Shia powers of Iraq ­ still to be referred to as the "democratically elected government" ­ march in lockstep with America's best men and women to restore order and strike fear into the hearts of al-Qa'ida. It will take time ­ oh, yes, it will take years, at least three in the words of Washington's top commander in the field, General Raymond Odierno this week ­ but the mission will be accomplished. Mission accomplished. Wasn't that the refrain almost four years ago, on that lonely aircraft carrier off California, Bush striding the deck in his flying suit? And only a few months later, the President had a message for Osama bin Laden and the insurgents of Iraq. "Bring 'em on!" he shouted. And on they came. Few paid attention late last year when the Islamist leadership of this most ferocious of Arab rebellions proclaimed Bush a war criminal but asked him not to withdraw his troops. "We haven't yet killed enough of them," their videotaped statement announced. Well, they will have their chance now. How ironic that it was the ghastly Saddam, dignified amid his lynch mob, who dared on the scaffold to tell the truth which Bush and Blair would not utter: that Iraq has become "hell" .

"It is de rigueur, these days, to recall Vietnam, the false victories, the body counts, the torture and the murders ­ but history is littered with powerful men who thought they could batter their way to victory against the odds. Napoleon comes to mind; not the emperor who retreated from Moscow, but the man who believed the wild guerrilleros of French-occupied Spain could be liquidated. He tortured them, he executed them, he propped up a local Spanish administration of what we would now call Quislings, al-Malikis to a man. He rightly accused his enemies ­ Moore and Wellington ­ of supporting the insurgents. And when faced with defeat, Napoleon took the personal decision "to relaunch the machine" and advanced to recapture Madrid, just as Bush intends to recapture Baghdad. Of course, it ended in disaster. And George Bush is no Napoleon Bonaparte." See the full column...

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L’Infâme: Egypt
Rudy Giuliani’s Police Pals

From Egyptian blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy: “Egyptian Justice….Unlike what lawyer Nasser Amin was expecting yesterday, Emad Kabeer was not aquitted today. Actually, Emad was sentenced to three months in prison by a Giza criminal court. Yes, I repeat again, Emad Kabeer, the victim of the sadist torture fiesta thrown by Boulaq al-Dakrour Police Station agents, will be locked up in prison… and why? For “resisting authorities”!!!! Resisting authorities? Ladies and Gentlemen, Emad is indeed guilty… He should not have been curious enough to enquire why a man in plainclothes was hitting his cousin in the street. Emad should have minded his own business, and continued driving. Enquiring about why your cousin is being brutalized falls under “resisting authorities.” Emad is guilty because he was trying to shield his body from the punches, kicks and whips he was receiving at the Boulaq el-Dakrour Police Station… while he should have just lied down and received the hits as any good citizen would do. How dare he tries to “resist the authorities”? Emad is guilty because he was screaming and trying to move his body away as Police Captain Islam Nabih was inserting a stick up his ass. Any good citizen would have just lied back and took it silently. How dare he tries to “resist the authorities”? […] Now, here is the most beautiful part of today’s story about justice in Egypt… According to Nasser Amin, Emad Kabeer may spend some prison time in the Boulaq el-Dakrour Police Station…” See Hossam’s courageous blog and his full posts…

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Israel's Latest Crackdown
Not Apartheid, You Say?

From B'tselem, the "Israeli information centyer for human rights in the Occupied Territories" (with thanks to Reclaiming Space): "On 19 November 2006, the commander of IDF forces in the West Bank, Major-General Yair Naveh, issued an order prohibiting Israelis and tourists from using their vehicles to transport Palestinians in the West Bank without a permit from the army. The order is to take effect on 19 January 2007. The order does not apply to Palestinians who hold a permit to enter Israel or the settlements, to Israeli bus drivers, Israel residents carrying Palestinians who are first-degree relatives, and soldiers and police officers on duty. Violation of the order is a criminal offense, for which both the Palestinian passenger and the Israeli driver are subject to punishment. The order further aggravates the already harsh restrictions on the freedom of movement of West Bank Palestinians. For some time, Israel has restricted, completely or partially, Palestinian travel on major roads in the West Bank , which have been set aside for use of Israelis, primarily settlers. Despite these restrictions, Palestinians have been able to travel along these roads by taxi or other vehicles bearing Israeli license plates. The new order will close this "loophole" and increase the discrimination between Israelis and Palestinians on certain roads. The order will also gravely impair family, social, trade, and political ties between West Bank Palestinians and Israelis, Arab and Jew. For example, a resident of Israel who drives a friend or a relative not of the first degree, such as a cousin or nephew, will be violating the order. The order also impedes the activity of humanitarian organizations, human rights organizations, and organizations providing assistance to the local population, whose work entails transporting Palestinians inside the West Bank." Read more here...

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Death of the Newspaper, Cont'd.
And After?

John Nichols in The Nation: " Newspapers may be the dinosaurs of America's new-media age, hulking behemoths that cost too much to prepare and distribute and that cannot seem to attract young--or even middle-aged--readers in the numbers needed to survive. They may well have entered the death spiral that Philip Meyer, in his recent book The Vanishing Newspaper, predicts will conclude one day in 2043 as the last reader throws aside the final copy of a newspaper. But, as the Tester win illustrates, the dinosaurs still have enough life in them to guide--and perhaps even define--our politics. Especially at the local and state levels, where the fundamental fights for control of a nation less red and blue than complexly purple play out, daily newspapers remain essential arbiters of what passes for news and what Americans think about it. For all the talk about television's dominant role in campaigns (less and less because of its importance as a source of news for most Americans, more and more because of campaign commercials) and all the new attention to the Internet, newspapers for the most part continue to establish the parameters of what gets covered and how. Moreover, neither broadcast nor digital media have developed the reporting infrastructure or the level of credibility that newspapers enjoy. So candidates for the House, the Senate and even the White House still troop into old gray buildings in Denver and Omaha, Louisville and Boston, Concord and Des Moines in search of a forum where they can talk with reporters and editors about issues and where those conversations will, they hope, be distilled into articles and editorials that set so much of the agenda for the political debate at the local, state and national levels. Thus, while George W. Bush may say he rarely reads newspapers, he sat down in 2000 and 2004 to talk with individual newspaper publishers and editors in hopes of winning the support of publications in such battleground states as Pennsylvania and Ohio. So did Al Gore and John Kerry. And Illinois Senator Barack Obama, a newspaper junkie, is busily making the rounds as he ponders a bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The attention on news pages and support on editorial pages that newspapers can provide is even more important for candidates trying to elbow their way into the competition by raising new issues." See the full piece...

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Mephistopheles’s Sophistry
If We’re Going to Torture, He Wants Proof It Works

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, in Australia's The Age: "Lately I've moved from "pretty certain" to "doubtful" about the effectiveness of torture. Today I'm addressing only whether torture sometimes works better than conventional interrogation. If torture doesn't work better than the alternatives, not ever, then you don't need to discuss morality or world opinion because torture doesn't even pass the first filter. I'm not saying that morality and world opinion aren't important — you just don't need to worry about them unless torture at least produces good results. But in all the news about interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay and other US prisons in the fight against terrorism, there has never been any offer of proof that torture is the way to go. Even the latest FBI report, released last week, just lists the extreme methods interrogators used on their subjects. It never says whether they produced anything. I used to think that torture probably worked well, at least in selective cases, based on the fact that it is so often the method of choice. All those law-enforcement professionals around the world couldn't be wrong, could they? Plus, I imagine that if someone attached electrodes to my scrotum, I'd be talking plenty compared with the "let's be friends" interrogation method. So torture certainly passes the sniff test. Yet the media have trotted out expert after expert to say that regular non-torture interrogation is more effective than torture. I discounted those experts as selectively chosen by the liberal media. One thing that all the experts seemed to have in common was that none of them had actually used torture. So how would they know that torture didn't work as well as an alternative? But much time has passed since this debate began. You'd think that the proponents of torture would have produced one credible torturer to say: "Torture works great! I get all of my information in minutes and I'm home by 5 to help the kids with homework!" Or perhaps the media could find one torture victim who would say: "I wasn't going to tell them anything until they started waterboarding me. Man, that stuff works!" Now, granted, it may be hard to find someone who will confess to being a torturer. And it may be even harder to find someone who was tortured and then is willing to endorse it. But it seems that with all the torturing going on, you could at least find a friend of a friend who saw it work. Read the rest...

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Founding Dialogue
The Whorehouse of Independence

Charles Purcell in the Sydney Morning Herald: IN 1776, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Livingston and Roger Sherman meet in a bawdy house to discuss the United States Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson: Gentlemen, I have drafted the first version of the declaration, which will lead to the creation of the greatest country the world has ever seen. [ Jefferson puts the document down on a table. A half-naked woman throws a corset on top of it.] Washington, will you remove that garment please?
Washington: With pleasure.
Jefferson: Gentlemen, I draw you to this sentence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created 'equal', that they are endowed, by their creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of babes."
Washington: I think we should replace "babes" with "happiness". It sounds classier.
Jefferson: Agreed.
Livingston: This "all men are created equal" nonsense bothers me. Are you implying that my manservant is my equal? That he has the same rights as a Freemason?
Jefferson: Can't you see that "equal" is in inverted commas to denote ironic language? I'm just kidding.
Adams: You don't mention women anywhere.
Jefferson: OK. How many virgins a year do you want, Adams? Two? [ Adams nods.] Let's hope the subeditors don't cut that line out. How does everyone feel about including every citizen's right to bear arms? Washington objects to it.
Sherman: What are you worried about, Washington? That one day the musket lobby will become too powerful? Preposterous!
Adams: That's about as likely as a simpleton becoming president.
Franklin: What is our position on slavery?
Jefferson: It's called WorkChoices. [All the men except for Washington laugh.]
Washington: That joke won't be funny for 200 years.
Livingston: Gentlemen, I think we're missing the point of this document.
Adams: Which is?
Livingston: To gratuitously insult the British.
Jefferson[writes and reads aloud]: "The British are a villainous breed with terrible teeth … and the Australian colonials will beat them 5-0 at the Ashes. [Everyone laughs except Washington.]
Washington: That won't be funny for 200 years, either.

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Girlie Man Goes Stateside
Beckham Joining U.S. Football Club

Full disclosure: I've never liked David Beckham particularly. I have nothing against him mparticularly, either. He merely seems to me a bit of a sissy and vastly overrated, which is what English football tends to do to its minor stars for traditionally lacking big ones. England's Premiere League is a showcase of talent only because it's football's pluralist dream. A sort of United Nations of the sport. But when six hundred percent of a team's roster is made up of, technically, foreigners, it's difficult to make the case for English football proper. Beckham at any rate has been plying his tricks at Real Madrid for the last few years, the team that stocked its roster with the very best (Zidane, Ronaldo, Carlos, Beckham) only to fall quite short of expectations but for one glorious year (or was it two?). Zidane is gone off to play the role of eventual mayor of Marseilles. Ronaldo is working hard at becoming professional football's most famous obese player. Roberto Carlos on the Real Madrid pitch is like Bush on the lonely road to war. And Beckham... welll, Beckham is coming to America. To join the so-called Galaxy in Los Angeles. The sport's girliest figure will be down the road from Arnold Shwarzenegger, whose fetish for girlie men is of course well known. Oh, and this little aside from the Associated Press story announcing the deal: “The Galaxy, citing industry experts, said the LA deal is worth more than $250 million in salary and commercial endorsements -- about $1 million a week -- and is "thought to be the biggest in sporting history."” Ohdave, the ball is in your court.

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Cat's Paws
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