Thursday, August 28, 2003

No Wonder The Washington Post Goes AWOL Most Of The Time

From a recent interview with Leonard Downie, editor of the Washington Post, courtesy of Cursor...
I don't know how much the American public is engaged in these questions of the rationale for the war. If you looked at the polling, the American public as always is I think more sophisticated than we in the media give it credit for, and you know they never put too much stock in a lot of the rationale for going to war in the first place except for the fact that they didn't like Saddam Hussein and they're glad that he's been defeated, and they're glad that it's happened at a relative low cost of American lives, and they seem to be watching the occupation in the same way by judging how long is this going to take, how much is it going to cost, how dangerous is it going to be for the troops that we have there and how long are their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives going to have to stay over there? My gut feeling -- since that's what you asked about -- is that those factors will matter more in how the public judges the administration's conduct of this war than the technicalities of how well the administration made its case.

Reeeaaaalllllyyy. Is this behavior by the American people really a sign of sophistication, or some combination of naivete, inattention, and cynicism? If one was to have been out on the battlegrounds, on the Internet, where people were arguing the merits of the war, of its justifications, you will find that there was a passion on both sides. That each side believed itself to be right. There was no insinuation at the time, in the heat of debate, by the defenders of the war, that the facts forwarded by the administration were just out of convenience, and without merit. They were defended rigorously, though always with the inevitable emotional fallbacks, since the case was so weak in terms of factual information.

As for the American people, the vast majority were not even involved in the debate. Why? Because there was no debate, and this is a direct result, and failing, of the American media, not to mention the political opposition. There seemingly were no doubts at the time, judging by the vast majority of reporting on the issue. For the most part, you got rehashes of the information coming from the top, from the President and the Pentagon, and little or no critical analysis, or investigative reporting, to consider the administration's, or alternative, claims. There was no reason for the American people to question the war, for the most part, except for the presence of millions of Americans on the streets protesting the war, which itself has become a rote exercise, in the media, of focusing on the spectacle of their being on the streets rather than examination of their substantive beliefs and passions.

So to call this sophistication is a tad mind-boggling, and all the explanation I need to grok why the Washington Post is seemingly so misguided, untimely, and spineless. Look at the editor. Somehow he confuses naivete, lack of concern, and emotional manipulation as sophistication. What a joke. Truly absurd. The real sophistication is in the methods and techniques by which this public opinion shaping is accomplished, by which these political Don Juans earn their keep, and in which the Washington Post is a just a piece in the process. How about a follow-up story on the 1/2 million people on the streets of New York, site of Ground Zero? Not likely, and not even very possible since the roots and means by which they were on the streets never was seriously considered and communicated.

In the end, the American people are victimized by the whole process, almost like a battered or betrayed lover. Led this way and that, all they come to realize is that all politicians are crooks, the system is rigged, and they are along for the ride. This is not a healthy vision of America. Nor of human relations. It's time the Washington Post, and other American media outlets, steps up to the plate and starts acting by its mandate, and in the vision of American freedom and justice. Nothing lasts forever, and without a fierce, independent media, it is too easy to slide from the esteemed position of being a country about and established for freedom, to a country hellbent on retaining dominance, wealth, and power over the rest of the world at any cost.

***

(further reflections)

"they didn't like Saddam Hussein and they're glad that he's been defeated”

This is sophistication? Equating foreign policy along the lines of the cult of personality? Is Saddam Hussein our problem now in Iraq? Does he have any impact on the success or length of our occupation?

Why do people dislike Saddam Hussein so? Why would this ever be characterized in any manner as a “sophisticated” belief or understanding? Quite to the contrary, this is clearly a simplified, na├»ve picture of the world-at-large. How is it that a major American newspaper editor defines this as the opposite, as sophistication? How is it that these over-simplified characterizations can drive irrationality and rampant emotionalism to the extremes of war and even to projected “defensive” use of WMD as a result of our own aggression?

Is “bombing them back to the Stone Age” also considered sophisticated? How about the oft-heard water cooler throw-away remark, “ah, just nuke ‘em”? It’s time the editor of the Washington Post starts listening to what’s being discussed around ordinary American water coolers, rather than his own insulated one, and then make evaluations about the veracity of these beliefs and opinions. He’s in a for a big surprise.

Another Editorial Sent To The Wayward Washington Post On March 15, 2003 (Sophisticated Or Naive...You Make The Call)

It's a crucial time in American history. The incompetent, scandalous and crooked are becoming the norm. The latest incident involving the forgery of the Niger nuclear documents is a telling case-in-point. Confronted with this development, a key component of our case for war against Iraq, all we get from our leaders and these documents' former champions is a shrug. Oh well, we passed it along in "good faith". We are not incompetent, or criminal, it just managed to "slip through". Forget about it. And we couldn't have been responsible for it, because our people are competent, talented professionals who surely would have done a better job of forging these documents. And so on...

Only this information is, and was, unforgettably important. We expressed it at the highest levels of our power apparatus, as a justification for a very expensive, in both human lives and material cost, war against Iraq. A war in which we've articulated our possible use of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear and chemical, as a "defensive" measure "should it come to that". A war which has divided the world, invited enemies and derision, and which we have initiated. The people of Iraq, and Saddam Hussein himself, have not asked us to go to war with them. Mysteriously, it's not a priority for them.

Even more mysteriously, it's seemingly become our overriding purpose as a nation. You can't go anywhere and not hear about it. On TV, on the radio, in the newspaper, the non-stop onslaught of coverage of this possible war against a weakened tyrant and people is constantly in play. Forced to give an opinion by the pollsters, fastly becoming more tiresome and meddling in popular culture than the tax collector, Americans indicate a preference for action. An illusion. Most people don't know the facts, don't really care one way or the other, and would surely rather quit hearing about it. You'd think the mind-numbing coverage and escalating gas prices would have assured overwhelming support for war by now, just so we can "get on with our lives", but it hasn't. Most mysteriously of all, masses are gathering in the streets, not answering the call of obedience, irrationality and war, but demanding peace, rationality and sanity. The herd! Acting with compassion and reason, demanding information before consent! The elites must be trembling in their slippers...

Meanwhile, our young American men and women are strapping on their combat boots and chem-warfare suits, preparing to engage in a war of which they can't possibly be passionate about. Why do I say this? There's a difference in what you hear, and what you know. And only the most clueless of the clueless would believe we're sacrificing human lives for the cause of the common Iraqi. For his freedom. Or hers. So anyone who's looking for reasons, to engage their reason, to determine the right thing to do, the moral course of action, will find nothing but ideology and fiction, speculation and threats, forgeries and plagiarism emanating from our most competent war orators. The mere presence of a plagiarized, decade-old student thesis, and the aforementioned Niger document forgery, as key references for our case is more telling than anything else. The plagiarized student claiming to have been able to give more updated information if he had been consulted only adds insult to injury.

This war is a fraud. Essential questions have not been answered. Who is going to die, and why? Will our fighting men and women kill with certainty, or with doubts? When does being a patriot mean defending freedom, and when does it mean being a fool? We don't know. So to the perpetrators of this absurdity the American people should issue one last ultimatum. Stand down, or face the shame of a nation.

***

Alas, Leonard Downie must find me very naive.
A (Not Very) Sophisticated, Edited Version Of The Editorial Below (Sent To Wash Post 3/12/2003)

For someone who does happen to "give a damn about the truth", I'm disappointed in Richard Cohen's shallow dismissal of Dennis Kucinich on your editorial page.

Mr. Cohen, how do we determine the truth? The only effective, publicly proclaimed pro-war argument is that the case is top secret, and therefore can't be defended, and that we are to accept that the information and reasons for war really exist. To have faith amidst uncertainty. The only problem with this approach is that a powerful case has already been made for explaining our war path, thankfully freeing our minds of the demands of faith and towards the exercise of reason.

This case is what's known as The Project For The New American Century (TP), which very clearly supports military action in the Middle East, has aggressively done so for a number of years, and is grounded upon reasons very clearly different from those being forwarded by the current administration, the key planners of which for all intents and purposes are the same people.

Unfortunately, without going into the reasons in the TP, they're not being publicly acknowledged, or debated. Apparently they're not relevant anymore. Leaving a free American in a quandary. No longer is the question "who" do you believe, or "what" do you believe, but an altogether more bewildering, since we already know "who", "which what" do you believe? The merry-go-round argumentation for political expediency, or the more ideological case that hints of great political dangers?

The responsible belief is clear. Crystal. We are a free country, with freedom of speech, discourse and argumentation the lifeblood, so let's not throw it away defending ideologies and not arguments for war. An argument must be made with information, and the more accurate and less cynically manipulated the better. Human lives are at stake. The current mix of secrecy, innuendo, fear-mongering, fabrication, plagiarism, dirty tricks, reasons recycling, and little substance interpreted with great hyperbole is less than convincing to any free thinking, freedom loving, non-jingoist individual.

Power, and those who exercise it, should be accountable, as any moral actor would intend to be. The projection of American power in the world is, by founding definition, the projection of the "people" of America. We have a stake, a voice, a responsibility, and the vulnerability that accompanies them. The editorial page is one of the places for this gauntlet to be thrown down. Let's respectfully air and assess all of the valid, factually-based defensible arguments, of which Kucinich's is one, referee dueling interpretations, and lay bare the ground upon which we stand as a freely willing moral people defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Integrity should be our legacy. Communication, shared information, debate, and common understandings the keys to collective decision making and accountable moral action. Spread it around. Accountability, and a clear sense of direction, should be our paramount concern. We don't have that today, and we need to declare it. In this regard, the UN is not serving as an "irrelevant debating society", as some have described it, but a very relevant one, being the testing ground internationally for asserting values, making a case for action in their regard, and defending the case against rival cases.

Let's do the same back home. The editorial pages and writers should take heed, or face the fate of becoming "irrelevant". Remember, if it turns out your case just isn't any good, or you don't know how to play the really good hand you're keeping in your sleeve, you can always blame the French.

***

As we can see, there was no top secret case. No hidden information we couldn't reveal in fear of tipping our hand. This war was gratuitous, and history will inevitably detail it this way. No matter the future.
A Brief Return...My Fellow Sophisticated Americans

A recent interview with Leonard Downie, editor of the Washington Post, brought to my attention by Cursor this morning, has prompted a momentary respite from vacation.

I get into the Downie interview in a little more detail in the post above, but in the process of reacting to that, I went back to see the stuff I sent to the Washington Post about the war, around the time that Walter Pincus was struggling to get heard in regards to doubts and shoddy evidence in the case for war, and when undoubtedly countless others were also assailing the Washington Post with letters, diatribes, and pleas to "cover this more critically".

With that in mind, here is my first letter to the Washington Post, in regards to a "shaming" of Dennis Kucinich by Robert Cohen.

***

RE: Richard Cohen's denunciation of Kucinich's war arguments and the lack of invitation for Kucinich to respond...

"Civilization is threatened not only by terrorists but also by the means we use to fight them." Richard Cohen, March 6, 2003

Knowledge is threatened not only by ideologists but also by the haste in which we believe them.

We are told the case for war is top secret, and that we are to accept that the information justifying war really exists. To have faith amidst uncertainty. The only problem is a powerful case has already been made for explaining our course of action, freeing our minds of the demands of faith and towards the exercise of reason.

This case is what's known as The Project For A New Century, which very clearly supports military action in the Middle East, has aggressively done so for a number of years, and is grounded upon reasons very clearly different from those being forwarded by the current administration, the key planners of which for all intents and purposes ARE THE SAME PEOPLE.

Call me naive...I'll call you a fool.

Our dilemma is quite profound. No longer is the question "who do you believe", but an altogether more bewildering, since we already know the who we're dealing with, "what version of your truth do we believe"? The one that makes political sense, or the one that very clearly warns of its political dangers?

Hmmm...

America is a free country, with discourse and argumentation being its lifeblood. Let's not throw this away defending an ideology and not an argument for war. An argument must be made with information, and the more accurate and less (widely known to be) fabricated the better. The current mix of secrecy, innuendo, fear-mongering, fabrication, forgery, plagiarism, reason recycling, and little substance interpreted with great hyperbole is less than convincing to any free thinking and non-jingoist individual.

Let's lay it on the line. The projection of American power in the world is, by definition, the projection of the "people" of America. We have a stake, a voice, a responsibility, and the vulnerability that accompanies them. The editorial page is one of the places for this gauntlet to be thrown down. Don't hijack the debate, bring disrepute to your name, and sell out the "people" in favor of "focus groups". Air the arguments, referee the dueling interpretations, and lay bare the ground upon which we stand as a freely willing moral people defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Am I being unreasonable? Naive? To believe that communication, information, debate, and shared understanding are essential in decision making and accountable collective moral action? No way. Accountability, and a clear sense of direction, are paramount. We don't have that today, and we need to declare it. In this regard, the UN is not serving as an "irrelevant debating society", but a very relevant one, being the testing ground internationally for asserting values, making a case for action in their regard, and defending the case against rival cases.

The Washington Post editorial page should do the same, or face the fate of becoming "irrelevant".

***

an afterthought, having just searched the web on the postmodern after writing the above...

"Any meaning history has "we" shall have to give it by our actions. Yet the fact is, although we are all of us within history, we do not all possess equal powers to make history. To pretend that we do is sociological nonsense and political irresponsibility. It is nonsense because any group or any individual is limited, first of all, by the technical and institutional means of power at its command; we do not all have equal access to the means of power that now exist, nor equal influence over their use. To pretend that "we" are all history-makers is politically irresponsible because it obfuscates any attempt to LOCATE RESPONSIBILITY for the consequential decisions of men who have access to the means of power.

"From even the most superficial examination of the history of the western society we learn that the power of decison-makers is first of all limited by the level of technique, by the means of power and violence and organization that prevail in a given society. In this connection we learn that there is a fairly straight line running through the history of the West. That the means of oppression and exploitation, of violence and destruction, as well as the means of production and reconstruction, have been progressively enlarged and increasingly centralized.

"As the institutional means of power and the means of communication that tie them together have become steadily more efficient, those now in command of them have come into command of instruments of rule quite unsurpassed in the history of mankind. And we are not yet at the climax of that development. We can no longer lean upon or take soft comfort from the historical ups and downs of ruling groups of previous epochs. In that sense Hegel is correct: we learn from history that we cannot learn from it.

"America--a conservative country without a conservative ideology-- appears now before the world a naked and arbitrary power, as, in the name of realism, its men of decision enforce their *often crackpot definitions* upon world reality. The *second-rate mind* is in command of the ponderously spoken platitude. In the liberal rhetoric, vagueness, and in the conservative mood, irrationality, are raised to principle. Public relations and the *official secret*, the trivializing campaign and the *terrible fact clumsily accomplished*, are *replacing reasoned debate* of political ideas in the privately incorporated economy, the military ascendency, and the political vacuum of modern America.

"The men of the higher circles are not representative men; their high position is not the result of moral virtue; their fabulous success is not firmly connected with meritorious ability. Those who sit in the seats of the high and the mighty are selected and formed by the means of power, the sources of wealth, the mechanics of celebrity, which prevail in their society."

C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, 1956

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Thus Ends This Chapter Of The Project For A New Century Of Freedom

Peace is not easily experienced in this forum of the web. Especially when you're here for war. To oppose it. The reasoning behind it. That mission has run its course, and for every period of activity, there must be a period of rest. Otherwise, personal involvement may become too great, and insight, along with compassion, increasingly become lost.

For who am I to accuse our president, George W. Bush, of being a liar or self-deceiver, as I did several days ago? Or on the eve of the war? Just as soon should I accuse myself. For these are trying times that we live in, and staying true to oneself, indeed being aware of this truth at all, is hard enough, without having the burden of your fellows, and the world, also upon your shoulders.

So, for my part, I'm leaving to take some time to reflect. To listen. To tend to the things closer to home. Closer to the heart. As the president is himself on such a leave, I can only hope that he takes the time to do the same. To evaluate, and to appreciate, and to enjoy some quiet. Some peace. As much as is possible. Before the inevitable return.

There is always the moment of return. Of reengagement. When we see with fresh eyes, and hear with fresh ears, the tumult of experience which at once we had taken leave.

With that, I bid my adieu.
On Objectivity, Reporting, And The Media

It's time that journalism gets real. Gives up this pretense of objectivity. Not for good. But for change. For the times always change, as does the people, their leaders, and the going zeitgist. To feign objectivity within this flow is a deception. Only in enduring, and unchanging, principles can journalism find an objectivity that will stand the test of time.

This standard should be the ideals of our nation. The understood, spoken ideals. Embodied in our Constitution, and in our hearts. Our culture. In America, we understand these to be freedom, liberty, justice, and community. Thus, these should be our journalistic standard bearers.

The measure of objectivity should be thus. American ideals, rather than the going reality. If you examine our history, it's not hard to see a steady movement towards the realization of these ideals. It would not be shameful, or unfair, for our media to adopt these as its basis for objectivity. To drop the pretenses, and actually embrace the mission and movement of our people.

By reporting through this lens, we will always have a standard for the journalistic profession, and a measure of just how far we are from reaching our deepest and most precious goals. As set down in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in our magnificent, enduring Constitution.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

What National Security Policy?

After we've spent $100 billion on the less-than-direct threat from Saddam, will we stop and do a cost-benefit analysis?

Well, let's see...our economy is in ruins, our states are going broke, our seaports are going unprotected, our borders are still not adequately monitored, our cities are still not prepared for an anomalous WMD event, Al Qaeda is still issuing threats and causing us to raise our alert level, but we got Saddam!

Well thanks, but no thanks. This has been a colossal waste and mismanagement of time, effort, and resources. We should have kept the Delta Forces on AQ and Bin Laden, and spent much less money on a Marshall Plan here at home, to prepare the Homeland. To secure America.

Not to mention that this money would have been better spent here in America, put into American workers' hands, who we could have hired by the bushel to help out with the security effort. Instead, most of the money we spend goes into the hands of military and arms merchants, to resupply our arsenal after we expend it all, and for various other war supporting efforts, not to mention rebuilding Iraq.

These companies are few in number, much fewer than able-bodied Americans out of work, and invariably in the majority connected to the wanderings and former clients of some of the Administration's key players.

Not to mention we've ruined the global consensus backing us up after 9/11 and during Afghanistan. But I don't want to go on and on and on.

Just remember...cost-benefit analysis. Utilization of resources, choices made in the face of the known threats. Which threats were imminent, and direct, and which were only falsely stated to be so, pretended to be so?

What national security policy?
Stream Of Commute - National Security And The War In Iraq

remember, this ongoing section of the blog is a stream-of-consciousness (as thought, then written) record of stuff I'm thinking about while on the daily commute. enjoy! and remember, it's largely unedited. in this particular case, totally so.

seaports and the rest

we should have

1) stayed focused on AQ and BL, kept the Deltas on them
2) spent our money wisely - not invading Iraq and spending $100 billion but assuring that 9/11 did not result in any adverse effects on our economy, their target in a lot of ways, and spending money to shore up our seaports and to assist our cities and airports in their efforts to gear up on security

if there is increasing danger of another terrorist attack, imminently, how has the war in Iraq helped us with that?

or has the war actually just diverted attention and money away from where it should have been - hunting down those terrorists who are an immediate and direct threat to us, and investing in security here at home, in all the likely and poorly secured places, to make us safer against those immediate and direct threats.

we just heard another threat. we are still very insecure. saddam was not an immediate, or direct, threat to the U.S., or to our allies. we exaggerated that, and in the process lost sight of what we all know is a definite and immediate threat. to do that, at a time when we were closing in on them and had unprecedented global support, is incompetence and bungling of the highest magnitude, and nearly criminal. especially should we get hit again, in the near future, through a means which we could have anticipated and secured against, through a hole which we could have plugged, or at least greatly filled in order to add risk to any operation to strike us through it.

***

so you have to ask yourself, "what could we have done with the money we spent invading Iraq unnecessarily?"

how much to get the seaports secured? the cities? the airlines and airports?

how much to keep the pressure on in afghanistan, to bribe pakistan with enough money to help us, or allow us into their country?

also, all of this money that was being spent would be going to domestic spending, investment and infrastructure, rather than going into the hands of private corporations who will need to rearm us, and rebuild Iraq, and who help with the overall war effort.

sort of like a Marshall Plan, a security plan, for us. The Bush Plan. And bush would have been remembered into posterity for such far-sighted and crucial effort, while also likely defeating our enemies in Afghanistan.

the world would still be with us, and Saddam would be so contained it would be ridiculous.

invading Iraq was a gambit. a risk of investing resources here rather than there. and the peculiar thing, in this instance, is that we moved the resources, and attention, to something that clearly seemed like less of a threat, an immediate threat, than AQ, and securing our borders, seaports, airports, food and water supplies, and cities.

there has to be accountability. there has to be a process, at some point, and hopefully not after another incident here in the homeland, or a failure abroad in Iraq, where we review the decisions that were made, with the available resources, and the results, along with the status, and risks, that remains from those things that were not addressed, those paths that were known but not taken with the available resources, including time.

the economy must be a part of this. our enemies hit us where it hurt, and have expressed hopes of dragging us down by our economy. thus, we should have always had an eye on this. instead of cutting taxes, perhaps.

ultimately, we must look at and review the whole strategy, step back and take in the big picture of the past few years, and ask ourselves if we could have done better, if we could have expected better, if we have done everything we could, if we have missed things we should have done, if we have really taken a wise and enlightened course. a prudent course. that ensures our security while at the same time protecting the very things that make us America, and the home of the brave, land of the free.
Stream Of Commute - Puncturing The Groupthink

puncturing the groupthink - if guys like larry king start seeing the arguments, listening, seeing the evidence, and start talking about it, in their circles, will this puncture the groupthink? even the top demos seem to be drawn into the groupthink at least with the "iraq is a just war meme".

is this possibly because of potential ramnifications, either political or larger in the world at large. if the war would be found unjust, unjustified, and based upon lies and deception. it wouldn't just be an american political issue, but a global one. a serious one. is this why the top demo politicos are defending the action?

does this endanger us in a different way though? the final crossover into hubris and official fiction? lies? in order not to expose oneself for a crime committed, forever to embrace the flight from reality, the unconcern with the obvious facts in front of you, in favor of the politically correct. safe.

only it's not safe. it's very dangerous.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Blazing The Trail

John, over at Hellblazer, has posted a dazzling collection of posts and links today. I encourage anyone to go check him out. A bakers dozen. Posts. With great material.
I just saw Bay Buchanan say "It doesn't matter what the reality is, because perception is reality" on CrossFire. She was saying this as a response to the statement that "The reality is Dean is strong on National defense, he is questioning the notion of preemptive war."

(fast-forward)

Hiding weak information caged in persuasive arguments is one thing. Completely distorting reality to confuse the judges is simply another.

Winning any particular game isn't everything. Because sometimes how you play the game is what wins in the long run - in the real game.

But then an Administration which has admittedly "inflated" or "mis-emphasized" (love that word) the whole WMD argument - while hiding the "real" reasons - simply to get us whipped up to go to war might not understand that distinction.

That's just a taste, and you'll have to scroll down for that one. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Blair Gets Biblical On Government

Events just keep getting stranger over in Great Britain.
Tony Blair knows it is one of the most delicate of subjects. When asked about it he squirms and tries to change to a more comfortable line of inquiry. But quietly the Prime Minister is putting religion at the centre of the New Labour project, reflecting his own deeply felt beliefs that answers to most questions can be found in the Bible.

The Observer can reveal that Blair is to allow Christian organisations and other 'faith groups' a central role in policy-making in a decisive break with British traditions that religion and government should not mix.

Let me state this pretty clearly. Answers to most of the problems we face in the modern world cannot be answered by the Bible. There is no definitive answer to a lot of questions in the Bible anyway. Do you examine the Old Testament, the New Testament, and how do you deal with conflicting answers, of which there are many?

Further, it is exactly individuals like Tony Blair, immersed in politics, who are the worst to advocate biblical rules. How about the golden rule? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Since when has the West, America, or Great Britain followed such a policy? We don't. We act in our interests, irrespective of the interests of the oppressed peoples of the world. For instance, we prop up elites in the Middle East, so we can get our oil, and care little of the fate, or the conditions, of the vast majority of the people in these regions who see little of the benefits or wealth.

Blair is turning into the village idiot. He should be the first to go. Just resign. This madness is going too far. About Iraq. And war.

And this false claim of righteousness is even worse. Start obeying the golden rule, and at the very least the 1st commandment, and perhaps such aims may begin to be legitimate. Otherwise, they're just foolishness. And cynical realism clothed in idealistic righteousness.

Friday, August 01, 2003

What Is The Basis Of President Bush's Strong Belief?

As I was perusing over at Billmon, I couldn't help meditating on this George W. Bush quote.
"I'm confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe, that Saddam had a weapons program."

What is the basis of this confidence? Is it based on facts at all? If he was so confident before the war, what were the facts then that formed and sustained it? Hasn't it shaken his confidence at all that he is in a mad scramble to find such evidence now? After the fact? So much so that they are putting a tight lid on any information until such time a solid case can actually be made?

In other words, there never was a case. A solid one. As we've been saying all along, many of us here in the blogosphere, the case was a fraud. A bait and switch. The mainstream media has finally latched on to this, even though all the evidence was there to figure this out before the war. It's nice to have the mainstream media actually noticing the obvious again, but what took them so long? What was the nature of the mass denial and repression that took place before the war? The trauma of 9/11? Anthrax? The continuing scares related to the constant and highly publicized color-code terrorist watch system?

I still want to know what the basis of President Bush's faith, and confidence, was and is. Before the war and now. It doesn't make sense. Is this a religious kind of faith, which needs no facts and only revelation? How can President Bush possibly be so assured? So confident? The guy was the first to tell you a few years back he was no foreign policy guru, and in fact was quite ignorant about the in's and out's of the world, and now he's got crystal vision on events and conspiracies for which he has no evidence?

He's lying. Or he's a self-deceiver. Neither is honest, or prudent in a president and leader of a chaotic and dynamic nation and world. It's time the administration comes clean, and at least acknowledges some doubts. Self-doubts. Because there is no reason for absolute confidence. None. No certainty whatsoever. Otherwise, there would be no mad scramble now to find the evidence. And no effort to keep everything under wraps, in order to temper criticism, in the meantime.

The critical moments are ahead of us. Will our leadership come clean, and admit the obvious? Or will this farce continue, steadily eroding our good name and real faith in the defense of deception?

In The Name Of Security, Israel Institutionalizes Racism Against Palestinians

Israel has a lot of explaining to do. Why? They are leading us down a dark alley. A crumbling plank. We keep defending Israel, and supporting them, while the rest of the world refuses to do the same. So we ask for some concessions from the Israelis, to grease the wheels of the peace process. Sharon tells Bush to forget it, they're going to build their wall, and then they go and pass a law that disallows any Palestinian who marries an Israeli to become a citizen. Or even to live in Israel. Why? For security reasons, and to preserve the Jewish character of the state. You can almost hear the footsteps of the world continuing to distance themselves from us and the Israelis. Who can blame them?

"I think this bill is simply a disgrace to the state of Israel," said Michael Melchior, a rabbi who heads a liberal religious parliamentary faction. "This will tear families apart. . . ."

Yuri Stern, who heads the parliamentary panel that pushed the measure forward, described it as a contingency made necessary by the brutality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"This is merely a law that for one year restricts the right of Palestinians to settle in our midst," he said. "We are at war. I hope the war will end during this year, but I am not optimistic."

What goes unmentioned is that the Israeli government has been denying this recognition of marriages between Israelis and Palestinians, along with residency and/or citizenship, for years. Long before the latest intifada.

The bill enshrines in law years of foot-dragging by the Interior Ministry which has systematically denied requests from Israeli citizens, most of them from the country's Arab minority, to grant citizenship or residency for their Palestinian spouses.

The most disturbing aspect is that this has solely been focused on Israeli marriages to Palestinians. Solely. Any other race or ethnicity is not treated in the same way. This is unacceptable in the age of enlightened democracy, and creates a true conundrum for the die-hard supporters of Israel. What great principle sustains you, and Israel, that anyone else in the world should care about? It's not freedom. Not democracy. If the state of Israel is only about being Jewish, above and beyond everything else, what example does that set?

"This law takes away constitutionally protected rights explicitly on the basis of ethnic or national affiliation," said Hassan Jabareen, the director-general Adalah, a human rights group active on behalf of Israeli Arabs. "That is not only discriminatory, it is racist."

Israel does not ban any other nationality from joining spouses in the country and seeking citizenship.

No other nationality. Just the Palestinians. Imagine such a policy here in America, initiated by whites in reaction to increasing minority population numbers. Imagine.

"You have an Israeli citizen who is an Arab, and you won't allow him to live with his spouse?" she said. "If this is not racism, then perhaps we need to have a new definition."

In reality, there is no justifiable, enlightened defense for this action. It is clearly racist, and against the values and vision of the free world.

"This bill blatantly discriminates against Israelis of Palestinian origin and their Palestinian spouses," said Hanny Megally of Human Rights Watch. "It's scandalous that the Government has presented this bill, and it's shocking that the Knesset is rushing it through."

Human rights groups plan to petition the Supreme Court to overturn the law, which they contend violates Israel's unofficial constitution protecting ''human dignity and liberty'' and a gamut of international conventions the country has signed.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch sent a joint letter to the Knesset, Israel's parliament, urging members to reject the bill. "The draft law barring family reunification for Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens is profoundly discriminatory," Amnesty said in a statement. "A law permitting such blatant racial discrimination, on grounds of ethnicity or nationality, would clearly violate international human rights law and treaties which Israel has ratified and pledged to uphold."

B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, joined in the criticism of the law. Yael Stein, a spokesman, said: "This is a racist law that decides who can live here according to racist criteria."

Some Israelis believe they are sitting on a demographic time bomb, with an Israeli Arab community, already 20 per cent of the population, growing faster than the Jewish population.

I am not an anti-Semite, but an American, and a lover of freedom. This is not just about Israel. It would be wrong for anyone to do this. Any country.

And going beyond the issue of racism, this is also about the disturbing trend of citing security as a reason to suspend our most cherished ideals. Of this trend gaining too much traction in the post-9/11 world, and probably just making things worse.

Perhaps we all should become more comfortable with the idea of living with some risk for awhile, as a condition for freedom and democracy. These calls for security are becoming tiresome, and the overall conditions of such security, as a result of such focus and policy, never seems to get any better.

It's time we implement something that works, and that is reflective of our stated ideals and beliefs. Freedom and respect. Equal rights and dignity. Who would the terrorists appeal to then? A shrinking congregation.