Far From the Perfect World

Michael Moore on the death of Bin Laden and what it really means:

In a perfect world (yes, I would like to reside there someday, or at least next door to it, in Slightly Imperfect World), I would like the evildoers to be forced to stand trial in front of that world. I know a lot of people see no need for a trial for these bad guys (just hang ’em from the nearest tree!), and think trials are for sissies. “They’re guilty, off with their heads!” Well, you see, that is the exact description of the Taliban/al Qaeda/Nazi justice system. I don’t like their system. I like ours. And I don’t want to be like them. In fact, the reason I like a good trial is that I like to show these bastards this is how it’s done in a free country that believes in civilized justice. It’s good for the rest of the world to see that, too. Sets a good example.

The other thing a trial does is, it establishes a very public and permanent historic record of the crimes against humanity. This is why we put the Nazis on trial in Nuremberg. We didn’t do it for them. We did it for ourselves and for our grandchildren so that they would never forget these horrors and how they were committed. And we did it for the German people so they could see the evidence of what their elected leaders had done. Very helpful. Very necessary. Very powerful.

And for those who wanted blood back then – well, the majority of the Nazis all hanged in the end. So, it doesn’t mean the bad guys get away – they still swing from the highest tree.

My own spiritual beliefs do not allow for capital punishment, and I was raised in the state (Michigan) that in the 1840s was the first government in the English-speaking world to outlaw it. So, I’m just not inclined that way. I don’t believe in “an eye for an eye.” I know the old book said that, but I like its sequel better (a rare case in which the sequel – like Godfather II, Star Trek II, Terminator II – is better than the original). If you don’t believe the way I believe (it’s also the official position of the Catholic Church, for whatever that’s worth these days), then that’s your right, and I understand.

Perhaps there was no way to bring him back alive – I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be in that dark house trying to make that snap decision. But if the execution was ordered in advance, then I say we should be told that now, and we can like it or not like it.

For nine years I wrote and I said that Osama bin Laden was not hiding in a cave. I’m not a cave expert, I was just using my common sense. He was a multimillionaire crime boss (using religion as his cover), and those guys just don’t live in caves. He had people killed under the guise of religion, and not many in the media bothered to explain that every time Osama referenced Islam, he wasn’t really quoting Islam. Just because Osama said he was a “Muslim” didn’t make it so. Yet he was called a Muslim by everyone. If a crazy person started running around mass-killing people, and he did so while wearing a Wal-Mart blazer and praising Wal-Mart, we wouldn’t automatically call him a Wal-Mart leader or say that Wal-Mart was the philosophy behind his killings, would we?

But we live in the world far form the perfect one we can imagine. It’s sometimes so far away as to be almost out of sight.

Number Three is Going up Against a Sicilian When Death Is On The Line

It doesn’t help our claims that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq aren’t modern-day Crusades when the military is using firearms inscribed with Bible verses. In the great and infinite list of bad ideas, this one is pretty much number 2 (number 1: don’t start land wars in Asia).

Why don’t we just send clerics and wizards over there and be done with it.

I Called It! I’m So Sad…

This makes sense and that is the problem:

Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.

Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in attacking Iraq as a mission from God.

Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

This bizarre episode occurred while the White House was assembling its “coalition of the willing” to unleash the Iraq invasion. Chirac says he was boggled by Bush’s call and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”

Next time someone asks me why I’m an atheist, I’m just going to point them to this story. Atheists don’t start wars because of fairy tales.

Once we figured out that all the bogus excuses for the war were so much bullshit, it became pretty obvious that President Kill Again was an empty suit, listening ot the voices in his head. “No! Sadam’s gonna send the model planes of death to kill us all!” we were told by the wingnuts. Yeah. So, there you go. It was all about the Jeebus.

Can we leave now?

A New Approach to Iraqi Records Management

Remember all those Baathist records that were lost from the Iraqi National Library during the invasion? Well, funny story:

A lot worse things have happened in Iraq, but the removal of the Baath Party archives from the country — 7 million pages that undoubtedly document atrocities of the Saddam Hussein regime — is significant. The documents were seized shortly after the fall of Baghdad by Kanan Makiya, an Iraq-born emigre who teaches at Brandeis University and heads a private group called the Iraq Memory Foundation. Despite protests from the director of Iraq’s National Library and Archives, the documents were shipped to the U.S. in 2006 by Makiya’s foundation and in June deposited with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University under a deal struck with Makiya.

The move was criticized in both countries. The Society of American Archivists said seizing and removing the documents was “an act of pillage” prohibited under the laws of war. Iraq’s acting minister of culture, Akram H. Hadi, issued a statement in late June expressing the Iraqi government’s “absolute rejection” of Makiya’s deal. The documents “are part of the national heritage of Iraq,” the statement declared, and must be returned to Iraq promptly.

Given the hundreds of thousands of deaths and the millions of refugees, why should anybody care about Iraq’s archives? It comes down to whether you care about what happens to Iraq. It’s part of its cultural patrimony. It’s part of its ability to hold the previous regime accountable.

About 100 million other pages of Iraqi government documents are still in the hands of the U.S. military after being seized during the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction. The documents now at the Hoover Institution were taken from the Baath Party Regional Command Headquarters in Baghdad and are particularly significant because they almost certainly reveal who secretly collaborated with Hussein — politically explosive information.

How did one man get possession of the entire Baath Party archives?

Makiya is best known not for his foundation or his 1989 book “Republic of Fear,” but rather for his crucial role in convincing Americans — particularly leading journalists — to support a war to overthrow Hussein. “More than any single figure,” Dexter Filkins wrote in the New York Times last October, Makiya “made the case for invading because it was the right thing to do.” Makiya was an ally of Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, and gained fame for a face-to-face meeting with President Bush two months before the U.S.-led invasion during which he said American troops “will be greeted with sweets and flowers.”

So, to review: the guy who wrote the book (literally) on why we should invade Iraq, who also filled the heads of our top decision makers with fantasies about how we would be received and has numerous close ties to every shady character in the Bush administration who stands to profit from the invasion, either directly or indirectly, has control over the documents that might show who in the US government was aiding and abetting Husein in previous decades (I’m looking at you, Cheney*). But I’m sure it’s all a coincidence. Why would you think there was some sort of corrupt, back patting scheme going on here?

If the Hoover Institution continues to refuse the Iraqi government’s demand for return of the archives, the U.S. government, which improperly gave Makiya permission to collect and remove the documents, ought to insist that those records belong to the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government. It’s up to the Iraqis to decide what to do with them.

And I’m sure we’ll just send them right over, just as soon as Bush and Chaney have redacted all the stuff that implicates them or their cronies in any wrong doing made them look pretty.

*Funny thing: I am in fact looking at Dick Cheney most of the day as there is a picture of him in my new office with a personalized greeting, welcoming me to my new job. And people say we librarians don’t have a sense of humor.

Robbing The Cradle Of Civilization

Like everyone and everything else in Iraq, the National Library and Archives have had a rough go of it since the Occupation:

The sacking of the library that began April 11, 2003, was a bad one. The current Director of Iraq’s National Library and Archive, Dr. Saad Eskander, estimates that over three days, as many as “60 percent of the Ottoman and Royal Hashemite era documents were lost as well as the bulk of the Ba’ath era documents…. [and] approximately 25 percent of the book collections were looted or burned.” Other Iraqi manuscript collections and university libraries suffered similar fates.

Since then, Iraqis have once again tried to rebuild their library. The occupying powers have played along, but like so much about the Iraq War, their effort has been marked by ineptitude, hypocrisy and a cruel disregard for Iraqi people and culture.

Early in the occupation, L. Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), demonstrated an unwillingness to provide the basic funds necessary for the reconstruction of Iraq’s educational and informational infrastructure. Dr. Rene Teijgeler, senior consultant for Culture for the Iraqi Reconstruction Management office at the American Embassy in Baghdad, left his position in February of 2005, not having “the supplies of ready cash that could be used to acquire something as simple as bookshelves.” His position was left empty.

When John Agresto, the education czar of the CPA, asked for $1.2 billion to make Iraqi universities viable centers of learning: he received $9 million. He asked USAID for 130,000 classroom desks, and received 8,000.

So the NLA staff have looked elsewhere, occasionally finding pieces of the old collection for sale there on Al Mutanabi street, home to Baghdad’s booksellers. In fact Al Mutanabi is the source of 95 percent of the books purchased to replace the looted collection of Iraq’s National Library and Archive. But Al Mutanabi was destroyed by a car bomb in March of 2007.

[…] Many dedicated people have offered important solidarity. In Florence, the city government underwrote construction of a conservation lab. The Czech government funded the training of Iraqi archivists. With the exception of invaluable training sessions organized by private educational institutions such as Harvard University, American support has been limited to a relatively small number of individual scholars, a few dedicated nonprofit agencies, nominal USAID support and the cooperation of a handful of private corporations. In 2005 the American Library Association issued a resolution on the connection between the Iraq war and libraries, calling for a full withdrawal of troops and a redistribution of funding but the conversation never extended much further than the bullet points.

The US State Department has created the Iraq Virtual Science Library, which provides access to a large number of health and science databases to institutions throughout the country. But Internet access, like electricity, is intermittent at best. Iraq is, after all, a largely collapsed society.

[…] It would be unfair and frankly absurd to blame American librarians and their shrinking budgets, rising legal costs and increasingly costly dependence on proprietary databases for the state of Iraq’s infrastructure. But the increasingly unstable position of American libraries is actually part of the same logic that produced that war. The disdain for cultural >institutions does not stop at the border–bombs there, budget cuts here.

This is a travesty, but one that was planned. New Orleans had problems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, due to incompetence and terminal feet dragging on the part of the Government. But five years on, the INLA is run by a skeleton staff with next to no money or resources. And in typical US fashion, we decided to give them a big shiny Internet Database and not much else. The fact they still don’t have electricity is just one of those little oversights. We’ll get right on that, I’m sure.

As R.H. Lossin points out in the article, there’s not much help coming form US libraries and while that’s not entirely the fault of the libraries, as they are mostly underfunded and generally shit upon form a great hight by the Bush Administration as well, there are things we could do but simply aren’t. And there’s no excuse for that. The INLA, like the library of Alexandria, is part of the literary, scholastic and cultural fabric of the world, not just some low level agency in a neglected part of the world that just happens to sit adjacent to a large oil reserve. Until we readjust our perspective and start acting in a humane way, the Iraqi National Library and Archive will continue, like the rest of Iraq and increasingly, the infrastructure of the US, to slide into irrelevance and decay.

Couldn’t We Have Spent The Money Better On Ponies?

Remember back in 2003 when Donald Rumsfeld (hereafter referred to as The Butcher of Baghdad) said the war would pay for itself in Iraqi oil revenue? Remember when the dunderheads at the DoD were tossing around figures like $200 Billion, as if it was pocket change we were scraping together to buy a pizza? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Baghdad. The war in Iraq has actually cost $3 trillion. for the number-inclined that looks like this:


And I wonder, what could this amount of money have been used for instead? According to my back of the post-it note math, quite a lot:

We could have bought 12 trillion gum balls.

A 30 inch plasma screen TV for every home in America with enough left over for a year’s subscription to Tivo.

We could buy a 100 foot yacht for every one of the 3,077 counties in the the Continental United States.

We could buy 3 ponies for every child in the US, and pay for their feed and upkeep for 5 years.

Every US citizen could have received $10,000 apiece. Talk about economic stimulus!

Any high school senior who graduated in the last five years could have gone to any Public University they wanted to, all tuition and books paid for.

It would also provide $2000 worth of Universal Health Care coverage a year for the last five years for every single American.


[…] in the best-case scenario in which the U.S. withdraws all combat troops by 2012 and fewer veterans need medical and disability pay, [estimates range] to more than $5 trillion. Add in the cost to the rest of the world, and the price tag could exceed $6 trillion.

You know what that means! More ponies for everyone!

He Also Thinks Saruman Was a Great Tactician

Salon has a great piece up on Sir Alistair Horne, who wrote numerous books on world history but one in particular, A Savage War of Peace, about the Algerian War of Independence that apparently is a favorite among the bush administration, though for all the wrong reasons:

Sir Alistair Horne may be the only author in the world whose books have been read and praised by George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon and  Robert Fisk. Not to mention by much of the senior military staff of the  U.S. Army,Middle East scholars, State Department policy wonks, and realpolitik statesmen. The distinguished British historian, author of 18 books, became the talk of the U.S. chattering classes when it was revealed that President Bush was reading his classic account of the 1954-1962Algerian War, “A Savage War of Peace.” Indeed, Bush was so impressed with “A Savage War of Peace” that he invited Horne to come to the White House for tea and a talk last Thursday.

[…] That “A Savage War of Peace” is on the Bush administration’s must-read list is one of the more remarkable intellectual ironies in recent years. Horne’s book recounts the inevitable defeat of a colonialist power at the hands of as mall but determined group of insurgents, the National Liberation Front, who effectively used terrorism to win their nation’s freedom –not exactly the sort of book you would expect Bush and his inner circle to curl up with. As Horne notes, the Algerian War “remains on the statute books as a prototype of the modern war of national liberation.” Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress guerrillas and Palestinian leaders both studied it, Horne points out. So did al-Qaida. And now, so has George W. Bush.

What the Bush administration is hoping to learn from Horne’s book,of course, is exactly the opposite of what Mandela and Arafat were looking for. The latter were searching for information that would lead to victory over occupying powers; Bush officials are looking for clues that will allow them to prevail over a stubborn insurgency, or failing that, find a viable exit strategy. But there do not appear to be many useful lessons in Horne’s book for Bush except “don’t.”

This touches on something that had occured to me a while ago, that Bush and the Neocons have deluded themselves into thinking that they are the perpetual underdogs. No matter that they wield world spanning power and the most advanced army in the history of mankind, they are the dark horse. The Dirty Dozen, fighting the whole Islamo-Nazi army with just a rusty bayonet and a hundred miles of concertina wire strung between their teeth. They redefine everything from this perspective, until the American puppet government in Iraq is a cadre of native-born freedom fighters, forged from the same mold as the Sons of Liberty while the “Insurgents” (implying that they surged in from somewhere outside Iraq) are the hegemonic occupying power, rather than the citizens of Iraq, fighting each other and the US for control of their homeland.

Given that “A Savage War of Peace” is being read as a mirror of the current war, what does Horne think are the parallels between Algeria and Iraq? “The first one is the difficulty of combating insurgents with a regular army,” he said. “Too heavy forces, too much collateral damage. The second is porous frontiers. In Algeria, they had Morocco and Tunisia on either side, so the FLN could stage raids and then go back across the border so the French couldn’t get them. Now you’ve got a similar situation in Iraq, with Syria and Iran. The third is the tactic of targeting local police. In Algeria, the insurgents were just a handful compared to what you’ve got in Iraq. They realized that they couldn’t beat the French army, so they attacked the local police who were loyal to the  French.This was enormously successful. The French had to take the army back from search and destroy missions to protect the police. So both the police and the army were neutralized. The insurgents in Iraq have copied the Algerian experience to great effect.”

And Bush seems to be reading between the lines, looking for coded instructions on how to win a war that, before it even started, could only at best, ever result in stalemate. Horne goes on to assert that withdrawal from Iraq will embolden the terrorists. The terrorists, meanwhile, are saying they’d like us to stay so they can kill more of us, so I’m not sure where that little nugget comes form, other than as a side effect from Stiff Upper Lip syndrome.

The whole argument against leaving, lest the situation in Iraq descend into Chaos is absurd. We already passed that floor and have crashed that elevator into the sub basement of dreaded anarchy and civil war. at this point, mere chaos would be an improvement.

What, No Children To Coerce Into a Life of Military Servitude?

This BBC headline is brilliant: Gay Sex Immoral Says US General

And war, of course, is family values, good as apple pie and kittens. Please General Pace, Sir, lecture me some on what is Right and Honorable:

“As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behaviour] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else’s wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behaviour,” he said.

Just to clarify: your job, sir, is to fucking kill people. And seeing as how you’ve attained the lofty rank of General in these, our armed forces, you’re pretty well versed in the methods and tactics of your butchery. But, oh, the thought of two men in passionate embrace turns your delicate stomach. In what twisted version of reality did I wake up in to find a fucking hired killer lecturing the world at large on what is and is not moral? General Pace claims to be a Christian, though he receives a paycheck for violating a major commandment of his religion, while simultaneously arguing for the enforcement of some obscure prohibition, one concocted in the dim mists of antiquity, when the wise men of the day declared that the sun turned about the Earth and shrimp were an abomination in the eyes if their imaginary friend.

General Pace, Sir, get a fucking grip. Homosexuals were loving one another long before you came about and will be doing so, in and out of uniform, far after your delicate sensibilities have turned to dust. I know you have a lot of free time on your hands, now that you’re no longer in charge of torturing people in Iraq, but can’t you maybe find something slightly more constructive to do unto King George calls on you to take your professional services to Iran? Maybe there’s a baby somewhere itching to inspect your bayonet.

Is There A Draft In Here?

Senator Headuphisass thinks that reinstating the draft will stop the Republicans from waging any more illegal wars. That’s a hell of a fucking gamble with other people’s lives, I must say. This is all based on the preposterous assumption that the rich and powerful won’t find a way to get their kids out of the draft. We’re talking about an administration filled with people form the top down who did just that to avoid service in Vietnam.

We instate a draft, Jenna and Babs will be not showing up for duty at the Texas Air National Guard, just like daddy. Joining the army isn’t the way to end the war. You do that by stopping the fighting. By bringing the troops home.

Anyone who thinks that reinstating the draft will take the wind out of the Neocons’ sails is smoking crack. They haven’t let reality stop them yet, what makes you think they’re going to start with a draft? All that will do is give them the extra bodies to throw around without care that they’ve been wanting for the last year.

Sheehan and Chavez and Citgo

This little piece of GOP Astroturf has been circulating through people’s email inboxes for a few weeks now and my father-in-law sent it on to my wife:

Cindy & Chavez
Venezuela Dictator Vows To Bring Down U.S. Government

Venezuela government is sole owner of Citgo gasoline company

Venezuela Dictator Hugo Chavez has vowed to bring down the U.S. government. Chavez, president of Venezuela, told a TV audience: “Enough of imperialist aggression; we must tell the world: down with the U.S. empire. We have to bury imperialism this century.”

The guest on his television program, beamed across Venezuela, was Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar activist. Chavez recently had as his guest Harry Belafonte, who called President Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world.”

Chavez is pushing a socialist revolution and has a close alliance with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Regardless of your feelings about the war in Iraq, the issue here is that we have a socialist dictator vowing to bring down the government of the U.S And he is using our money to achieve his goal!

The Venezuela government, run by dictator Chavez, is the sole owner of Citgo gas company.

Sales of products at Citgo stations send money back to Chavez to help him in his vow to bring down our government.

Take Action

Please decide that you will not be shopping at a Citgo station. Why should U.S. citizens who love freedom be financing a dictator who has vowed to take down our government?

Very important. Please forward this to your friends and family. Most of them don’t know that Citgo is owned by the Venezuela government.

To which my wife replied:

Ummm, dictator?
He was elected by a landslide by the people of the Democratic republic of Venezuela. He has angered a lot of US private companies and politicans in the government by taking away their profit from the oil they were exporting out of the country only giving back 10%. He may say stupid things, but so has Bush. But he is trying to do what is best for his country in keeping the money to create social reform which is so badly needed. He isn’t hurting our country by doing this, he’s hurting the private companies run by CEO’s who are making huge profits from his country and who have the US government giving them tax breaks because of the “oil crisis”, eventhough, they released reports showing a 30% profit this year.

Of course there are a lot of people in the US who want us to believe that he is a crazed lunatic. Of course he is, he is thinking of the social welfare of his people who have been taken advantage by their government and ours for years. This is not a capitalistic way of thinking, which is profit for profit sakes. Lay off your workers, but hire new CEOs. I would rather buy from CITGO than from BP, who knew about the problem in the pipeline in Alaska for years, but never addressed it until it cracked.

Don’t believe everything on the internet…there is always two sides to everything.

Chavez has, like most people of power, a strange and sometimes bewildering mixture of good intentions and completely absurd rhetoric. Calling Bush the Devil at the UN was a little over the top. Bush is mendacious, despicable, and a god damned liar but the devil he is not and we don’t need overheated religious imagery to make this point clear. But Chavez is very religious and that sort of hyperbole is innate to the religious mindset. But he is not trying to undermine the US government, just point out that Bush is bad for our country, something he and Sheehan (and myself and thousands of others) have in common. So yeah, if you think that US oil companies should pad their own wallets at the expense of the welfare of both US and Venezuelan people, than sure, boycot Citgo. But realize that your doing so, not as a patriot or a Christian but as a tool of Big Oil and the Bush Administration’s greed.