Saturday, September 24, 2005

Not Backing Down

The split between the Iraqi Shia in Basra and the British continues to widen:

BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - An Iraqi judge has issued arrest warrants for two British soldiers freed after a British raid in Basra, an Iraqi lawyer said on Saturday, and thousands rallied in the southern city in support of a new constitution.

Judge Raghib Hassan issued the warrants on Thursday, accusing the men of killing an Iraqi policeman and wounding another, carrying unlicensed weapons and holding false identification, Kassim al-Sabti, the head of the lawyers' syndicate in Basra told Reuters.

Britain's Ministry of Defense said on Saturday it had not received any arrest warrants for the soldiers in Basra, adding that in any case the warrants would have no legal basis.

"All British troops in Iraq come under the jurisdiction of Britain," a defense spokesman said in London.

Hearts and Minds

This is but one reason the war in Iraq has been an utter failure.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 - Three former members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division say soldiers in their battalion in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004 to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to amuse themselves.

[snip]

In one incident, the Human Rights Watch report states, an off-duty cook broke a detainee's leg with a metal baseball bat. Detainees were also stacked, fully clothed, in human pyramids and forced to hold five-gallon water jugs with arms outstretched or do jumping jacks until they passed out, the report says. "We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them," one sergeant told Human Rights Watch researchers during one of four interviews in July and August. "This happened every day." The sergeant continued: "Some days we would just get bored, so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did it for amusement."

He said he had acted under orders from military intelligence personnel to soften up detainees, whom the unit called persons under control, or PUC's, to make them more cooperative during formal interviews.

"They wanted intel," said the sergeant, an infantry fire-team leader who served as a guard when no military police soldiers were available. "As long as no PUC's came up
dead, it happened." He added, "We kept it to broken arms and legs."

[snip]

Interrogators pressed guards to beat up prisoners, and one sergeant recalled watching a particular interrogator who was a former Special Forces soldier beating the detainee himself. "He would always say to us, 'You didn't see anything, right?' " the sergeant said. "And we would always say, 'No, sergeant.' "

One of the sergeants told Human Rights Watch that he had seen a soldier break open a chemical light stick and beat the detainees with it. "That made them glow in the dark, which was real funny, but it burned their eyes, and their skin was irritated real bad," he said.

Sounds like a laugh riot. The video should have been submitted for an Emmy award for best comedy special.

Friday, September 23, 2005

What a Nightmare

A bus evacuating elderly from Houston exploded just south of Dallas. 20 or so are dead.

We still can't pull off a clean evacuation.

Disintegration

What have they done?

WASHINGTON - Saudi Arabia warned yesterday that the situation in Iraq is moving "toward disintegration," with a growing danger that the country will dissolve into a civil war that will draw its neighbors into a broader regional conflict.

During a visit to Washington, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Faisal told reporters that his government has also warned the Bush administration of the dangers of Iraq's unraveling because of tensions between rival ethnic and religious groups, which he said were never as bad during former President Saddam Hussein's rule as they are today.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Black Masochist

In his recent post, Robert George asks, rhetorically, why he continues to include himself among the small cadre of black Republicans:

First came House Speaker Dennis Hastert openly considering "bulldozing" parts of New Orleans -- at a point when the city was still 80 percent under water, bodies were still being fished out and people were still stranded in the convention center. As we've discussed, his spokesman's attempt at damage control were hardly successful.

Then, former First Lady Barbara Bush uttered words in a radio interview which will unfortunately haunt her remaining years: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Those that heard the contents state that she notably "chuckled" during the last phrase. Now, for some, Katrina may present new opportunity. But if poor children lost their parents and were adopted by a wealthy couple, would one chuckle that things were "working well for them"?

And then, to complete the hat trick, an actual Louisiana congressman pops up telling lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Baker claimed that he was misquoted or misheard or something... Honestly, I might be inclined to give Baker the benefit of the doubt, if it didn't seem like this disaster has given Republicans the opportunity to "share" how they really feel. Similarly, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't include Barbara Bush's comments. But, not this time.

It just happens to often to ignore them anymore.


The thing is, George never goes on to answer his titular question. Does he have no answer? Is he looking for someone to supply the answer? Is he afraid to admit that there is no good answer?

Yes Bobby. WHY?

Do We Need a Black FEMA?

It's not just that FEMA was slow and disorganized in responding to Katrina. It's that they were completely oblivious to the existence of black neighborhoods in the same vicinity as white neighborhoods that they did manage to get to:

FEMA never demanded that Red Cross officials leaders expand their personal network of contacts across the tracks into Black Biloxi, Black Mobile, Black Gulfport and Black Pascagoula. So well stocked and well-supplied Red Cross operations sat in white churches only a short distance from predominantly black areas which had not been reached by any private or government relief agency before black churches and black ex-offenders and black grassroots organizations took matters into their own hands.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Who's the Snake?

Blogger affirmative action: if you're a black conservative, you will be will hailed to heavens, no matter how weak your arguments are. Case in point:

In a recent post, La Shawn Barber makes a pathetic attempt to analogize Bush's use of Clinton to help raise money for Katrina victims -- and Clinton's subsequent criticism of Bush's leadership -- with the famous "scorpion and frog" tale. In so doing she makes a complete fool of herself.

First of all, as many people have already pointed out to her, it was Bush, the alleged "victim," who asked for help, unlike in the allegory, where the victim is the one who gives the aid. Her reponse is basically: I know I screwed up the story. But I like it, so I'm sticking with it.

Secondly, by changing the protagonists in the story into a snake and a man, she erases the key point of the tale: that the venomous traitor is so driven by nature to attack, that even certain death by drowning is not enough to stop him. Last we checked, Clinton -- the alleged venomous traitor -- has suffered nothing from his dead-on attack of Bush.

As long as Barber is rewriting classic allegories, might we suggest a more apt retelling of the story:

Ignoring a string of warnings about flying too close to the the shoreline, a do-do bird gets swept out to sea by a huge wave. Unable to swim, the bird begins to drown.

Suddenly, he spots a dolphin. He cries out to the dolphin for help.

Despite thinking to himself -- everybody told you not to swim so close to the shoreline you $%^&*#! idiot -- the dolphin agrees to ferry the do-do to shore.

Without saying thank you, the do-do flies off. He flies directly into the mouth of a volcano and is incinerated.

Well, This Is Not a Positive Sign

Among Iraqi towns, Basra used to be famous for getting along rather well with their (British) occupiers. But after Monday's stunt -- where the occupiers shot Iraqi cops, then pulled a destructive jailbreak -- the locals ain't too cool with the Brits:

“We condemn the illegal acts of British troops,” read a banner carried by the demonstrators, who numbered around 300, gathered outside Basra’s main police headquarters.

“No, no to the occupier,” they chanted, carrying banners which called for the return of the two soldiers to face Iraqi justice, while British troops who patrol the port city kept out of sight. US-led coalition troops are not subject to Iraqi law.

The demonstrators handed in a list of demands to the police headquarters, including the resignation of the provincial police chief, accusing him of being “an agent” of the
British.

“The British promised us sovereignty. So where is this sovereignty if they destroy a police station?” asked one demonstrator.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Black Clergy

I agree with Steve's main point about Bush and black clergy. An excerpt:

These ministers have large congregations but very little political power. They have to tread carefully when dealing with Bush and the GOP, because their parishioners are deeply mistrustful of the GOP. If Rivers got up in his church and said support Mitt Romney, he'd be stared at. What people don't get is that political power in the church doesn't come from the pulpit, but is reflected by the pulpit. If the minister is to the right of the congregation, his words may be listened to, but then ignored.

I put it this way: Bush's outreach is not going to work in any substantial way because most black clergy have divested themselves of the role of political activist that was so much more prominent in the 60's. They don't step up in any prominent way when the ish really goes down -- when the cops brutalize a black kid, it's Al Sharpton you see on TV whoopin' and hollerin' on the kid's behalf, not TD Jakes -- so they lack the foundation on which to base a political mobilization effort. A fund-raising effort, yes. A volunteering effort, yes. These are classic "Christian" modes of self expression. But influencing political attitudes of black Americans takes more than a visible moral grounding. It takes a visible political/activist grounding, which too few black religious leaders seem to have these days.

Can You Go Home Again?

The author makes a key point about the future of New Orleans:

Suppose, with heroic effort, an evacuee does come back to his or her partially-ruined house, does find a new job - no thanks to the government - and starts, as best he or she can, to put a life back together. Even this hard-working evacuee may see the home taken literally out from under his or her feet - and legally so.

Based on the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year in Kelo, New Orleans private homes can now be officially designated as blighted, torn down, and turned over to private developers - who seek to replace them with buildings in which the old residents cannot afford to live, or malls in which they cannot afford to shop.


The Supreme Court just this summer gave the thumbs up to eminent domain, the policy of governments seizing private property for "public benefit" that often amounts to nothing more than building a shopping mall and/or luxury housing for wealthy people.

Given that New Orleans is a coastal city with considerable waterfront property, better-constructed defenses against the water would make it an ideal location for the kind of high-end building that the city has seen little of outside of the famous Garden District. And the pressures to follow such a path will be enormous for a city and state desperate to recover all of that tax revenue lost to the storm and its aftermath.

All of which means the poor, black population of the 9th Ward and other such neighborhoods may find that (assuming they wish to return) there will be nothing affordable for them to return to when the time comes.

The Biggest Theft In World History

That's apparently what took place during this glorious adventure we call the Iraq War:

Iraqi authorities are preparing an arrest warrant for the country's former defence minister in connection with a massive fraud case involving the "disappearance" of more than $1bn from ministry coffers.Judge Raid al-Radhi, who is head of Iraq's commission on public integrity, said yesterday that he had given Iraq's central criminal court a dossier of evidence against Hazim Shaalan, who was minister of defence under the former government of Ayed Allawi.

"What Shaalan and his ministry were responsible for is possibly the largest robbery n the world. Our estimates begin at $1.3bn [£720m] and go up to $2.3bn," Judge Radhi, who is Iraq's senior anti-corruption official, told Reuters.


Those are your tax dollars hard at work, folks.

What the Hell?

In Basra, Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A British armored vehicle escorted by a tank crashed into a detention center Monday in Basra and rescued two undercover troops held by police, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official told CNN.

[snip]

The official said two unknown gunmen in full Arabic dress began firing on civilians in central Basra, wounding several, including a traffic police officer. There were no fatalities, the official said.

The two gunmen fled the scene but were captured and taken in for questioning, admitting they were British marines carrying out a "special security task," the official said.

This raises a few questions:

  1. What kind of security task requires British soldiers to fire on civilians?
  2. If you are "undercover" troops, what faster way is there to blow your cover than shooting civilians?
  3. Is Iraq a sovereign nation or not? This business about not be able to arrest any members of the occupying forces makes a mockery of this so-called freedom the Anglo/Americans allege to be delivering?
  4. Were these guys agents provocateurs? Or are agents like these responsible for actually carrying out some of the violence regularly taking place in Iraq?
  5. What's the difference between a "rescue" and a jailbreak?
Whatever the story is, there is clearly some weird ish going on over there.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Worth One Thousand Words



A sign against US President George W. Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is hung in front of a house in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, three weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the city. Top federal and local relief officials were to hold a summit in a bid to iron out their dispute over whether it is safe for thousands of New Orleans residents to return to their hurricane-battered city(AFP/Omar Torres)

Black Republicans

All but extinct. The phrase even sounds funny.

The Twilight Zone

Surely this is the definition of quagmire -- or self-delusion:

Using enemy body counts as a benchmark, the U.S. military claimed gains against Abu Musab Zarqawi's foreign-led fighters last week even as they mounted their deadliest attacks on Iraq's capital.

But by many standards, including increasingly high death tolls in insurgent strikes, Zarqawi's group, al Qaeda in Iraq, could claim to be the side that's gaining after 2 1/2 years of war. August was the third-deadliest month of the war for U.S. troops.



Check out the graphic which explains it all.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Matt Damon For President?

I was watching the movie "Good Will Hunting" the other night. I'd seen it before, but there was one scene which, upon this most recent viewing, absolutely shocked me with its fortelling of future events.

In this scene, Matt Damon's character, Will, launches into a soliloquy by way of explaining to his psychiatrist (played by Robin Williams) why he rejected a job working for the National Security Agency as a code-breaker.

Remember, Damon and his buddy Ben Affleck wrote this in 1997:

Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. So I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never had a problem with get killed. Now the politicians are sayin' "send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some guy from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes home to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile my buddy from Southie realizes the only reason he was over there was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the skirmish to scare up oil prices so they could turn a quick buck. A cute, little ancillary benefit for them but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And naturally they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink seven and sevens and play slalom with the icebergs and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil, and kills all the sea-life in the North Atlantic. So my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive so he's got to walk to the job interviews which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin' 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue-plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what'd I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure I'll eliminate the middle man. Why not just shoot my buddy, take his job and give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? Christ, I could be elected President.

These guys were way ahead of their time.