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Candide’s Latest: Monday, September 25, 2006
Are You Less Terrorized Today Than 5 Years Ago?

Fear's bedfellows

Simple question, brutal answer: No. “A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks,” the Times reported on Sunday. Immediately, the likes of John McCain, crown prince to the war on terror, lobbed their apologias for Bush’s failed policies: “I would also argue that these people didn’t need any motivation to attack us on Sept. 11,” he said on Face the Nation: a rather meaningless response to the issue at hand. He continued along the same tired lines: “I think it would argue that we need to prevail in Iraq, and that if we fail, then our problems would be much more complicated. But if it wasn’t Iraq, it’d be Afghanistan; if it wasn’t Afghanistan, it would be others that they would use as a method of continuing their recruitment.” California? Oregon? Idaho? It’s a wonder he didn’t go domino on us. McCain used the same Face the Nation appearance to chest-pump his deal with the White House on allowing torture and secret prisons—just not calling it such. (See the full transcript here.) Bob Herbert has an example of Bush’s version of due process bulldozed in a column on Bilal Hussein, the AP photographer held for going on six months in an Iraqi prison, by Americans, without charges.


Losing Afghanistan: Speaking of a bad situation getting worse: Here’s John Kerry writing in today’s Wall Street Journal: “If Washington seems to have forgotten Afghanistan, it is clear the Taliban and al Qaeda have not. Less than five years after American troops masterfully toppled the Taliban, the disastrous diversion in Iraq has allowed these radicals the chance to rise again. Time is running out to reverse an unfolding disaster in the war we were right to fight after 9/11. […]When did denying al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan cease to be an urgent American priority? Somehow, we ended up with seven times more troops in Iraq -- which even the administration now admits had nothing to do with 9/11 -- than in Afghanistan, where the killers still roam free. Even as the president claimed we are on the offensive against terrorists, Gen. James Jones, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, made an urgent plea for more troops to fight the Taliban. President Karzai has also appealed for more troops and support, and on my trip to Afghanistan this year, he stressed to me the importance of a robust American troop presence. And on Sept. 11 this year, U.S. Col. Michael Harrison noted "more troops would be welcome" in the hunt for bin Laden and his henchmen. Quite simply, we must change course -- starting with the immediate deployment of at least 5,000 additional U.S. troops. That includes more special forces to defeat the Taliban, more civil affairs troops to bolster the promising Provisional Reconstruction Teams, more infantry to prevent Taliban infiltration from Pakistan, and more clandestine intelligence units to hunt al Qaeda on both sides of the border. That also means more predator drones to provide real-time intelligence, more helicopters and transport aircraft to allow rapid deployment, and more heavy combat equipment to overpower enemy forces.” See the full piece…

Israel Radio is reporting that a full withdrawal from Lebanon is days away. Meanwhile, French troops suffered their first casualty when a soldier was killed Sunday in a road accident near Beirut ,” the Jerusalem Post reports: omen of an unfun deployment. “One month after a United Nations Security Council resolution ended a 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, members of the international force sent to help keep the peace say their mission is defined more by what they cannot do than by what they can,” the Times reports. “They say they cannot set up checkpoints, search cars, homes or businesses or detain suspects. If they see a truck transporting missiles, for example, they say they can not stop it. They cannot do any of this, they say, because under their interpretation of the Security Council resolution that deployed them, they must first be authorized to take such action by the Lebanese Army.” In other words, we’re back to the days of UNIFIL at its incapable worst.

Battle of the fawning features: On Sunday the New York Times ran a flatterish portrait of Donald Rumsfeld as a squash court swashbuckler, using his ways and means on the court as a prism that illustrates his ways and means on the job he has so effectively corrupted at the expense of a few thousand lives. The feature read like one of those Nixonian rehab jobs, with a few editors’ right hands. (This morning the LATimes reports on a cold shower greeting Rumsfeld: “The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding.”) Now comes the Washington Post, Praetorian Guard to the Bush White House’s image, with a similarly flatterish, fawnish portrait of Bush as an “anguished” president in wartime, with just a touch of morbid titillation thrown in: “They sat on two frayed chairs in a teacher's lounge, the president and the widow, just the two of them so close that their knees were almost touching. She was talking about her husband, the soldier who died in a far-off war zone. Tears rolled down her face as she mentioned two children left fatherless. His eyes welled up, too. He hugged her, held her face, kissed her cheek. "I am so sorry for your loss," he kept repeating.” Bullshit.

In Other Worlds

Get ready for another bogus election, thanks to the whims and manipulations of paperless electronic voting machines. Why is Diebold refusing to let its machines be inspected by academics who say they’re the easiest machines to hack? “Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton, and his student collaborators conducted a demonstration with an AccuVote TS and noticed that the key to the machine’s memory card slot appeared to be similar to one that a staff member had at home,” a Sunday Times report related. When he brought the key into the office and tried it, the door protecting the AccuVote’s memory card slot swung open obligingly. Upon examination, the key turned out to be a standard industrial part used in simple locks for office furniture, computer cases, jukeboxes — and hotel minibars. Once the memory card slot was accessible, how difficult would it be to introduce malicious software that could manipulate vote tallies? […]The researchers demonstrated the machine’s vulnerability to an attack by means of code that can be introduced with a memory card. The program they devised does not tamper with the voting process. The machine records each vote as it should, and makes a backup copy, too. Every 15 seconds or so, however, the rogue program checks the internal vote tallies, then adds and subtracts votes, as needed, to reach programmed targets; it also makes identical changes in the backup file. The alterations cannot be detected later because the total number of votes perfectly matches the total number of voters. At the end of the election day, the rogue program erases itself, leaving no trace.” Election officials across the country are getting weary of electronic machines. But it’s too late, once again.

The bills are coming due: This isn’t the sexiest story around, but it’s the one that bites most. Watch your dollars disappear—faster than when gas prices rise: Over the past several years, Americans and their government enjoyed one of the best deals in international finance: They borrowed trillions of dollars from abroad to buy flat-panel TVs, build homes and fight wars, but as those borrowings mounted, the nation's payments on its net foreign debt barely budged,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Now, however, the easy money is coming to an end. As interest rates rise, America's debt payments are starting to climb -- so much so that for the first time in at least 90 years, the U.S. is paying noticeably more to its foreign creditors than it receives from its investments abroad. The gap reached $2.5 billion in the second quarter of 2006. In effect, the U.S. made a quarterly debt payment of about $22 for each American household, a turnaround from the $31 in net investment income per household it received a year earlier. […]Since the end of 2001, when the current economic expansion began, the nation's consumption, investment and other outlays have exceeded income by a cumulative $2.9 trillion -- the largest gap on record. That current-account deficit contributes directly to the nation's total foreign debt, the value of all the U.S. stocks, bonds, real estate, businesses and other assets owned by non-U.S. residents. As of the end of 2005, total U.S. foreign debt stood at $13.6 trillion -- or about $119,000 per household. Net foreign debt, which excluded the $11.1 trillion value of U.S.-owned foreign assets, was $2.5 trillion.”

Many reporters now forced to act like CIA operatives.

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