Saturday, May 01, 2004

Sunday Blog Outsourcing, Rally Round the Maypole Edition 

Corrente has one of the best write ups on the torture of Iraqi Prisoners. Amy has a round up of her own. So does Andante. And The Fulcrum documents the American Terrorists excuses for torturing prisoners: They weren't trained to know that they shouldn't hook a prisoner up to fake electrical wires and tell him he'd be electrocuted to death if he fell off the box. Easy mistake I guess. Otters has a similar point.

To balance out, Invisible Library is posting letters from Christian, a contractor working in Iraq. Interesting blog-within-a-blog sort of project, and definitely a good perspective to keep up with.

Edwardpig has got a good blog, always, but he's also launched Bush Campaign Lies which is a blog so good, I went ahead and redesigned the damn thing. (The template you see is done by yours truly. Awesome, yeah?)

Archy has got news on Irony and the Patriot Act: "The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed yesterday that it filed a lawsuit three weeks ago challenging the FBI's methods of obtaining many business records, but the group was barred from revealing even the existence of the case until now."

Speedkill is a year old. It's my birthday, too, on May 4th. Wish me a good one.

If you're in favor of women having rights and you're itching for a fight, go comment at Trish Wilson's blog, which has been overrun by mens-rights nazis. Poor, poor oppressed men. Tell they have girls names.

Rooks Rant is optimistic.

Subcontracting the Military 

Common Dreams has an article on the issue of hiring private companies to provide soldiers and mercenaries to the field in Iraq. International law does not apply to these individuals- so, for example, the guy in charge of organizing the prison where the torture and humiliation pictures were taken, cannot be put on trial for war crimes (no American can) but he also cannot be put on trial in the American Justice system. Essentially, what happens to him is decided by the corporation that hired him to run the prison.

"Rumsfeld has tried his utmost to privatize the US military. For him, following corporate strategy, downsizing means moving to "just in time" hiring, using private firms to provide what the military formerly did for itself. He has insisted that it makes no fiscal sense to keep and pay for a well-trained standing army, when the USA can purchase every sort of service on an "open market" whenever there is a need for military action. Why should soldiers, in Rumsfeld's view, cook for themselves, move their trash, provide supplies, run and maintain their technology - why not privatize these activities? Even in the case of actually military duty - guarding public officials from hostile attack, fighting guerrilla assaults - much of what soldiers traditionally do can be performed by the mercenaries hired by private firms. All of these services can be hired only when needed, and the army can be kept small, and hence inexpensive in terms of manpower. Weapons systems, produced at high profit by huge corporations, are another matter: cost efficiency here seems to be of little or no concern."

It's also interesting to note just who these companies are:

"The major subcontractor in Iraq is Halliburton; Halliburton provides extensive security and military support through its subsidiary, Brown & Root. Halliburton's former chief executive, of course, is the sitting Vice-President, Dick Cheney."

Looking to hire a small army of mercenaries yourself? No problem, now you can Do it Online, thanks to Erinys International, who "provide clients with a range of services and capabilities to reduce the impact of operating in volatile, uncertain or complex environments such as sub-saharan Africa and the Middle East."

There Are Worse Things We Could Be Than Victims. 

[I]n such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners. - Albert Camus

From BOP comes more pictures of Iraqi Torture by Americans. These photos include various gang rapes of Iraqi women by American Soldiers. I don't even recommend looking at them, unless you absolutely need to verify that they exist. They are censored, but they're still sickening. Even more so when you watch them with the idea that this, somehow, is supposed to be Liberating.

I learned, somewhere, that in some Islamic traditions, that the notion of Hell is not a fiery cauldron. It's cold, it's a landscape of ice. The idea is that Hell is a place devoid of the warmth that comes from God's love. And so when they tell you, the cliche, "War is Hell," War is a place where warmth gives way to nothing but the consumption of human spirit and the absorption of human life.

You think war is just a bunch of explosions and debris that you can run from, or you think that war doesn't have permanent psychological scars on the mental landscape, you can think that we're there to "help the Iraqi people", that we are "building schools", that we're "liberators," that we can "stay the course". Of course, non consenting liberation doesn't exist. When Fox News tells you about the good that we're doing over there, and you start to believe it, you can look at those photos. Or you can watch the videotape- out there as well- of American soldiers shooting a man on the ground and cheering, telling the cameraman, "I can't wait to do it again."

You think War operates somehow like American Life does. Or that it's like normal safe day to day life but without the "safe" part, in a scope that no American can really begin to fathom. You think that people can live day to day, being shot at, without losing the breath of humanity. You think that America has no capacity for evil. Even I wondered about its capacity for evil, always excusing America because of its pursuit of nobility, its torch of hope etc etc etc. But this country isn't a torch of hope. It's just another rapist superpower.

This occupation really serves no purpose besides showing off the size of America's cock. We can spill infinite amounts of blood in vengeance for 9/11, as with any crime, punishment never has appropriate limits when it's made by an emotional cripple. America is an emotional cripple, run by an emotional cripple, an impotent monster desperate for Viagra and blood. We could kill everyone on this planet out of rage for 9/11. We've killed 1300 Iraqi's this month- people, might I add, with no connection whatsoever to 9/11, where we lost 3000 in one fell swoop. Was it horrible? Yes, but what degree of horror must we strive for to unspill that blood?

I say that there are worse things to be than victims, and those are the things we are proving to ourselves tonight, today, with those pictures. We're a nation of brutal fists and dicks, a nation of Michael Jackson and endless, endless sports channels, nascar races and men who barbecue not because they like it but because sponsoring killing with your labor is now what makes them men, a nation with no boundary to its fury and no remorse for its execution.

I believe in the secret life of Americans, living behind the Texan Evangelicals and the frustrated business men, a secret life where laughter can be spontaneous and authentic, instead of programmed at precise moments (between commercials, or in them)- a secret life where "news" still comes in through your eyes and your experiences and not just a television screen, where the warmth of something akin to god can still turn the grass green. War is not like us.

"...there are a hundred ways of being on the side of power. There is only one way to be radical. The wall that must be knocked down is immense, but it has been cracked so many times that soon a single cry will be enough to bring it crashing to the ground." - Raoul Vaneigem

Winning The War On Terror 

Good news, America! According to the State Department, almost no one is getting killed by terrorists anymore! Numbers of international terrorist attacks are at their lowest point since 1969. So GW is winning the War on Terror after all!

Because, you see, only "Thirty-five American citizens died in 15 international terrorist attacks in 2003". Now, to be fair, it's not 2003, but 136 Americans died this month alone fighting terrorism, over 600 in Iraq total. Not to mention 1,361 Iraqis (just last month alone). Why the disparity? If we're over there fighting terrorists, but the terrorists aren't the ones killing us, then... I'm confused?

"Most of the attacks that have occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom do not meet the longstanding US definition of international terrorism because they were directed at combatants, that is, US and Coalition forces on duty. Attacks against noncombatants, that is, civilians and military personnel who at the time of the incident were unarmed and/or not on duty, are judged as terrorist attacks." By this standard, the attack on the USS Cole was not a terrorist attack.

I question why suicide bombers aren't considered "Terrorists", when GW always says "Terrorists" killed American Soldiers whenever he ventures out to acknowledge that anyone has actually died. So if Bush says they are terrorists when he alleges that we're fighting a war on Terror in Iraq, but then uses figures that discount the soldiers killed in Iraq to make the claim that we're winning the war on terror, well, that's a knife that just don't cut both ways.


The torture of Iraqi Soldiers- in the same palaces once used to torture other Iraqi Civilians- is appalling, but more appalling is the idea that anyone in this country might not care. The entire purpose of the liberation- once we worked through the "WMD" excuse, and the links to Al Qaeda Excuse- was to eliminate a dictator that used torture and rape rooms, "gassed his own people." To eliminate torture in that country and bring about a landscape of bountiful human rights and "friendly" oil reserves.

This is what humankind ended up getting instead.

Friday, April 30, 2004

A Lot Happening 

There's been a lot happening in the news this week that I haven't been able to get to, so here's a round up. Next week I'll be more on top of things.

1. Torture and Humiliation of Iraqi soldiers: "The photos, first broadcast Wednesday on CBS's "60 Minutes II," showed hooded prisoners piled in a human pyramid and simulating sex acts, as U.S. soldiers celebrated. One photo showed a hooded prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his hands; the prisoner was told, falsely, that he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box." The Tehran Times has got a pretty telling lead story out of it: "This is the logic and modus operandi of imperialist conquest and colonial occupation," the Tehran Times wrote. "The pictures of torture, brutality and sexual sadism are representative of the entire criminal operation being conducted in Iraq." Blogamy has some more coverage of this story from the blogosphere.

2. Ted Koppel: Ever since Disney tried to fire him to get David Letterman, Koppel has gotten pretty bad ass. He was in the tanks when we went through with the Iraqi Spectacle. He deliberately pissed everyone off at the Democratic Primary Debates. And now, Republicans are calling him biased for dedicating Friday's show for an entire hour of reading the names of Iraqi Soldiers over pictures, with no commentary. Some stations won't air this, because recognizing the war dead is somehow an act of bias (and ignoring the war dead, somehow, isn't.) One group of stations, including Springfield, Mass, won't air it because they are all owned by the same guy. Who says media consolidation is bad? That's right, pro-war Republicans. "Despite the denials by a spokeswoman for the show, the action appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq."

3. Bush Plays the Race Card Again: With Canada's Prime Minister: "There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern." Who the fuck is he talking about? He did the same thing at the prime time press conference. But why?

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Something 'Bout The Way Dick Cheney Moves 

I just find the following exchange at a Bush Press Conference to be a little interesting:

QUESTION: Mr. President, as you know, a lot of critics suggested that you wanted to appear jointly with the vice president so that you two could keep your stories straight or something. Could you tell us what you think of the value of appearing together and how you would answer those critics?

BUSH: First of all, look, if we had something to hide, we wouldn't have met with them in the first place. We answered all their questions. As I say, I came away good about the session, because I wanted them to know, you know, how I set strategy, how we run the White House, how we deal with threats. The vice president answered a lot of their questions-- answered all their questions. And I think it was important for them to see our body language as well, how we work together.

Seriously, though, why does the 9/11 commission need to know about the Hydra-like Buscheney Monster's Body Language? It seems like something that wouldn't get mentioned unless the Buscheney was focusing on it beforehand. It could just be the Bush head's usual bumbling verbal idiocy and addiction to non-answers, but it might signal that Bush was worried about his body language, enough to be "relieved" afterward (and therefore, disclose it).

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Nevermind that Slow News Day 

Violence in Iraq. Looks really, really bad. As always, I defer the analysis to Juan Cole.

Those Wacky Autocrats! 

Greed, Abuses of Power and Human Rights? Find it in the "wacky news" section of Reuters:

ASHGABAT (Reuters) - Turkmenistan's autocratic president opened a gleaming new leisure center Monday, equipped with a swimming pool, air conditioning and even medical facilities -- all of it for horses. President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov showed foreign diplomats around the vast $15 million complex which includes an operating theater, a hippodrome and stables kept cool from the desert heat.

The new equine center, shown on state television, proved something of a contrast to conditions for many people in the gas-rich yet impoverished Central Asian state. Niyazov, officially known as Turkmenbashi or Father of the Turkmen, last week fired several ministers for failing to bridge huge salary arrears, which average little more than the official minimum wage of $70 a month and are regularly paid late.

Earlier this year he fired 15,000 nurses and medical staff -- likely to be replaced by conscripted soldiers -- in an unexpected shock reform of the national health system. But the horse complex, named Turkmenbashi after him, is equipped with modern X-ray and ultrasonic scanning machines in its state of the art equine operating theater.

Totally Radical Cheerleaders 

Today's a slow news day and I am giddy, so here's The Radical Cheerleaders:

dubya dubya dubya DOT
who the fuck do you think you are?
you've taken this game a little too far
seized control like a theif in the night
BUSH, it's YOU we'll fight fight fight!!
dubya dubya dubya DOT
won't stand no patriarchal sleaze
my body my choice i'll do as i please
bush you better run, you better run fast
cause the cheerleaders are comin

Adventure Tubs 

Indirectly via Mr. Pants comes this "Venture-Go-Round" Kiddie Ride. The name of the ride is "Adventure Tubs", but I can't help but notice how Patriotic the Adventure Tub is, and why, somehow, there is no mention of this in the name of the ride. "The Mouse", "The Worm"- these are straightforward, where you drive in a little mouse or worm, around a big chunk of cheese, or an apple. In this ride, you just kind of ride in giant ashtrays around a tower sporting American Flags.

I don't know, I don't think I'd like that ride.

New Iraq Flag "Looks Jewish", Roundly Despised 

Sorry, fellas, that's not a joke. The new Iraq flag was designed by an Iraqi at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council. It looks like this:

Personally, I like it, but then, I don't hate the Jews.

"When I saw it in the newspaper, I felt very sad," said Muthana Khalil, 50, a supermarket owner in Saadoun, a commercial area in central Baghdad. "The flags of other Arab countries are red and green and black. Why did they put in these colors that are the same as Israel? Why was the public opinion not consulted?" -WaPo

But rejection of the flag might not be entirely based on it looking Jewish. The article gives way pretty quickly from the "Jewish Looking Flag" argument to this, which I assume is the real story: "In commenting on the new flag, some Baghdad residents quickly shifted to criticism of the council, saying it had no independent authority -- even to introduce a national emblem -- and was too deferential to American wishes." Well, just wait till they see the second draft, designed by Chalabi himself:

(Yeah, that one is a joke- I'm trying to be the Dave Barry of Iraqi-centric Political Satire).

University Lecture 

I'll be doing a Public Lecture about internet art (and will probably slip some blog-theory in there) on Wednesday and Thursday at the University of Maine at Orono, if anyone is in the area and wants to stop by (I'm Eryk Salvaggio, by the way). Also on the bill will be world famous and browser-crashing net.artists,

Monday, April 26, 2004

Pick A Number 

Take a stab at it: How long would the sentence be if a terrorist was found in this country with "several hundred rounds of ammunition, components for pipe bombs, shotguns, more than 700 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, a cannon fuse and a recipe for dynamite", a list of federal officials, political and public figures with the word "marked," next to the names, and "a note that reads: "I will die for my cause, for it is just. I won't put my hands up and surrender -- I will not rest till I purge these United States from the treasonist (sic) parasites." Now keep in mind that he was only targeting liberals.

Is your answer "20 years"? Yeah, me neither.

The Flowers of Negev 

Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli Scientist who wrote an editorial in London's Sunday Times that revealed Israel's development of Nuclear Weapons in 1983, was freed today after 18 years in an Israeli prison. His first statement- in English, as he now refuses to speak Hebrew- was to call, again, for inspections of the Dimona Nuclear plant in Israel. Supposedly, it is used to power desalinization for the Negev desert's water supply.

"The time has come to end this silence and secret cooperation by the West, the United States, Canada and all Europe helping Israel and co-operating with Israel's secrets. Israel doesn't need nuclear arms, especially now that all the Middle East is free from nuclear arms. My message today, to all the world, is open the Dimona reactor for inspections."

You might not be aware, but Israel has a policy of "nuclear ambiguity" in which it will neither confirm nor deny if it has nuclear weapons. The idea gets the thumbs up from most European-derived allies, which allows Israel to stay independent of nuclear treaties but also maintain the image of being a nuclear power- which is used to intimidate countries, as numerous as they are, that want Israel destroyed. Vanunu made the claim- which, as far as I can tell, has never been confirmed or denied- that Israel had enough material to make 20 Hydrogen Bombs and 200 Fission Bombs.

At Vanunu's Parole hearing in 2003, he was denied an early release: "The prosecutor said that if Vanunu were released, the Americans would probably leave Iraq and go after Israel and Israel's nuclear weapons..." Yeah, think about that one for a minute.

A commentator in the Israeli Newspaper Ha'aretz writes, in a chorus of anti-Mordechai editorials that seem to be coming out in Israel today, that he's failed. If his mission was to raise international awareness about Israel's Nukes, well, "As he walks out of Shikma prison today, Israel's nuclear programme enjoys an unprecedented level of international legitimacy, leaders in the West openly justify Israel's nuclear programme as an insurance policy taken out by a small, vulnerable country whose hostile neighbours constantly threaten to destroy it." So you know, they're bragging.

But it isn't just about the nuclear weapons. This ambiguity also keeps the entire accountability thing out of the hands of Israeli Citizens, who ostensibly live in a Democracy. "Nothing illustrates this better than the sensitive issue of Dimona's cancer victims. In an Israeli documentary in 2002, Dimona workers said accidents had been routine. They spoke of explosions, fires and liquid and toxic gas leaks that they had to clean, often without protection. The authorities denied they had worked with radioactive materials. They have refused to compensate them or their families for their years of loyal service. Because of the strict secrecy rules they were even unable to fight for their rights."

Nothing goes over very well when anyone criticizes Israel, but as a matter of Democracy, this is appalling. If Israel has nuclear weapons, that's fine, I mean, for as much as I can think nuclear weapons are "fine". I don't understand why we should let them operate outside of the system of nuclear treaties. I don't know why America and Europe has to sissy pants around the issue and pretend we don't know Israel has Nukes. They're a Democracy, for christ's sakes, let them come out of the shadows and be accountable to their own goddamned people and to the world at large.

Think Inside the Box 

CNN reports that three Italian civilians have been taken hostage in Iraq. Their captors are demanding one thing: Mass Protests to be organized in Italy.

It reminds me, in no small way, of Robert DeNiro's character in "The King of Comedy", Rupert Pupkin, a failed stand up comic who kidnaps a late night talk show host, and won't release him until the show's producers make Pupkin the guest host of the show for the evening. In the film, the scenario plays out as a mixture of horror and farce, about the extent that media has damaged people's sense of identity. In the end, everyone in the (unaware) audience laughs at Pupkin not because he's funny, but because he has to be funny if he's on TV. Which is precisely the power that Pupkin wanted.

We're no longer just fighting a war in front of a live television audience, we're literally fighting it inside the television. Italians have already organized authentic protests against this war, some of the largest numbers in history were in Italian Protests. What is outrageous is the notion of terrorists blackmailing an entire nation into going through the motions of protesting a war they are already against in massive numbers, just so that several hostage taking guerrillas can place an image in the cap of the American Resistance.

It's like watching how a five year old changes when he knows the video camera is looking at him. In that same way, terrorists are now "pretending" to be Religious Freedom Fighters in a war that America is "pretending" to wage for Democratic Liberation. We're looking at a war that is being fought exclusively for the benefit of television, where even the authenticity of protest is being manipulated for the sake of obtaining power through the staged image of protest. What we are looking at is not a war of ideas or cultures or Democracy vs Theocratic Fundamentalism. It's a ratings battle.

Rashomon and the Media War 

The New York Times has a story on the aggregating impossibility of western media to report the truth in Iraq, based almost exclusively on the fear reporters have of the place as well as the constantly varied reports from any given incident, depending on the interest of the witness.

The reality, though, is that the only thing we can treat as reality is the Al Jazeera version. Not because it "isn't biased" (I assume it is), and not because it isn't or is "true", but precisely because the truth doesn't matter anymore. You can't report the "truth" in Iraq, as the above article suggests, because the events of reality are so removed from the events that get reported. But Al Jazeera is the reality that Iraqi's are seeing and treating as their own. The American Propa-journalism Project won't matter much unless it starts looking at what Iraqi's see as the "truth" and start there. We're an occupying force- if we can't control the media space, we'd damn well better be in the same version of reality as the people we're occupying. Otherwise, we are talking about two completely different countries- if we are telling different stories, we are walking on different soil.

The damage has been exponential and it will continue to be. When we lost the story of the Liberation to the story of the Occupation, we lost the war- you can't regain that territory in the media. The problem was that Bush never actually had the story of the "Liberation" on his side. That is why the UN was vital then and is vital now. It is also why a new President would make a difference: it would create a momentary gap in the "story" where the direction could change.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Meet The Press 

You know how the President usually sends out small dogs to defend his name? For example, you'll see Cheney, or Rumsfeld, or Powell, or Condi, go on the Sunday talk shows or Larry King or whatever to take the hit for Bush and spin things in his favor.

Has anyone noticed- and found it really weird- that Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan is now taking on the role of Bush defense man?

I like that Russert, today, had Bandar on to defend Bush for the first half of the interview, and the second half was Russert asking Bandar about all the anti-Semitic, pro-Islamic Militant stuff he's in favor of. Works out great. For example:


MR. RUSSERT: But, Prince, here's the question. This is a photograph of you with the president down at his Crawford ranch. He brought his family. Alison Walsh of The New Yorker wrote you are almost a member of the Bush family. That was her interpretation after doing an enormous amount of research.

No More Than Five Minutes Later:

MR. RUSSERT: Prince, the former general consul to the Department of Treasury, David Aufhauser...


MR. RUSSERT: ...a professional, a lawyer, testifying under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Question: "With regard to the trail of money ... and whether it leads in some cases to Saudi Arabia?" Aufhauser: "In many cases it is the epicenter." Question: "And does that trail of money also show money going to al Qaeda?" Aufhauser: "Yes." "Is the money from Saudi Arabia a significant source of funding for terrorism generally?" Aufhauser: "Yes. Principally al Qaeda but many other recipients as well."

This was the scene in April 2002, when your king [had] a state-sponsored telethon--and look at these pictures--raised over $92 million and the money was "for Palestinian martyrs"...


MR. RUSSERT: ...suicide bombers who blew up Israeli children, school buses, restaurants. Here's the Treasury Department of the United States saying that Saudi money is funding al-Qaeda. You're having telethons raising money for Palestine suicide bombers, and you sit here and say, "How could people say these terrible things about us?"

PRINCE BANDAR: Yes, I say that very easily because nothing stands still. If you are saying before 9/11 we didn't have our thing together, yes, but nor did you. Look what 9/11 is showing. However, since...

MR. RUSSERT: This was April of 2003.


For whatever reason, people still plan to vote for George W Bush.

NRO Sunday 

The National Review Online is covering the Woman's March on Washington today. You know it has to be fucking great.

After saying that women are worried that Bush will take their credit cards away, comes this gem: "World Trade Center? Huh? The war is Bush vs. women. I don't know what I've been thinking since 9/11/01." Yes, yes, you read it right: They just evoked 9/11 in an attempt to undermine women's rights. And if you call them on it, you know for a fact they will feign that they were sincere.

The NRO is the real voice of Right Wing America, people. They aren't, like, satirists.

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