March 31, 2003

Brief Hiatus

I'll be on a vacation away from phones, computers, and net access from tomorrow morning until Friday, April 4, so posting of new items will probably be somewhat lighter than it has been (though I've encouraged my co-authors to do what they can to pick up the slack). Anyway, see you in a few days!

Posted by jbc at 09:43 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Coulter Doctrine

I still remember, amid my shock and revulsion at the 9/11 attacks, the additional layer of shock and revulsion I felt when I read Ann Coulter's "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity" National Review column. Not only had we been confronted with racial and religious hate raised to the level of mass murder from outside our borders, but now we were facing the same thing from inside as well, since people like this thoroughly vile woman were willing to promote themselves through appeals to the worst in all of us.

Now, Counterspin Central has a link to the following story from Newhouse News: Plans under way for Christianizing the enemy.

So, with the help of a president who doesn't believe in thinking too hard about these sorts of things, Ann Coulter's prescription for our national response to 9/11 has become, quite literally, the actual policy we are pursuing.

It's a nightmare. And I can't wake up.

Posted by jbc at 08:17 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush Advisers Split on War

A really interesting piece from the Washington Post talks about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that has been going on at the White House in an effort to influence Bush's war policy: Advisers Split as War Unfolds. It focuses on Colin Powell's role, which naturally caught my attention. Lots of palace intrigue.

Posted by jbc at 07:35 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 30, 2003

Dowd Tells It Like It Is

Maureen Dowd has a nice op-ed piece in today's New York Times: Back off, Syria and Iran! Again, it's not that it mentions anything new, but it does a good job of connecting the dots on the war-plan upfuckery. "Ideology," observes Dowd, "should not shape facts when lives are at stake."

Posted by jbc at 06:30 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Marines Asked to Pray for President

I saw this story on The Agonist: US soldiers in Iraq asked to pray for Bush. It's really just too weird. According to an embedded journalist, marines have been given a prayer book from a group called In Touch Ministries; the book contains a form to be torn out and mailed to the White House, indicating that the marine in question has indeed been praying for the president. The book provides helpful suggestions on what sort of prayer for the president would be suitable on any given day; today's suggestion, for example, is: "Pray that the President and his advisers will seek God and his wisdom daily and not rely on their own understanding."

Hm. That particular prayer actually makes a lot of sense to me. But I confess that the whole idea is confusing. Aren't the marines already giving enough, what with that whole thing about sacrificing their freedom, their health, and in many cases, their lives? Now they're supposed to pray for the president, too?

I'm obviously missing something here.

Posted by jbc at 04:10 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Cook Blasts US War Planning, Calls for British Pullout

British Labour MP Robin Cook broke the silence he has maintained since resigning as foreign minister two weeks ago by writing a scathing attack on US war planning in the Sunday Mirror: Bring our lads home.

Personally I would like to volunteer Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz to be "embedded" alongside the journalists with the forward units.

That would give them a chance to hear what the troops fighting for every bridge over the Euphrates think about their promises.

It will be interesting to see what happens with British support for Tony Blair's war agenda. Last I heard it was riding high, but that was a few days ago. And the Colin Powell fanboy in me would love to see a resigned-foreign-minister-turned-war-critic doing well in the polls. I still think it could happen here. Would happen here, if Powell were willing to shoulder the burden.

Posted by jbc at 10:22 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kim Jong Il's LiveJournal

I'm not sure if this is only going to be funny to long-time computer-mediated-communication obsessives like me, but God, is this funny. From daypop: Kim Jong Il (the illmatic)'s LiveJournal.

Posted by jbc at 09:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Caputo: A Familiar Stench

From author Phillip Caputo's excellent piece in today's LA Times: The smell of war:

I wish it could be bottled and the bottles placed on desks in the White House, the Capitol, the Washington think tanks, the editorial board rooms of magazines and newspapers whose cheerleaders called for war with Iraq, and the studios of the talk-radio hosts fulminating about French quislings and unpatriotic antiwar protesters.

Just when they were at their saber-rattling worst, I would uncork the bottles and make them sit there and inhale that hideous perfume. As a combat veteran of Vietnam and a war correspondent who covered the fall of Saigon, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the October War in the Middle East, the Eritrean rebellion in Ethiopia, the Sudanese civil war and the Lebanese civil war (in which I was wounded in both legs), I have been appalled to see such zest for war exhibited by people who don't know the first thing about it. If they did know, they wouldn't be so enthusiastic.

Posted by jbc at 09:39 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Bush Obsessing About War

According to an article in today's New York Times, Bush is giving the Iraq war his full attention: President keeps the battlefield close at hand. I liked the following story:

George W. Bush was standing three feet from his television screen in his cabin at Camp David last weekend, absorbed in every detail of the news from Iraq, when a correspondent came on to report that the president of the United States, according to White House officials, was not glued to the TV.

Mr. Bush started laughing, said his close friend Roland Betts, who was with the president at the time.

"He is just totally immersed," Mr. Betts said in an interview.

Like his daddy before him, the famously disengaged president who nonetheless was visibly vibrating with excitement when he announced that "the liberation of Kuwait has begun," the current Bush really seems to get off on going to war (or, to be more precise, sending others to war -- though see this recent Onion piece for a delicious alternate reality: Bush bravely leads 3rd Infantry into battle).

Digging deeper into the relationship between the two presidents' penchant for waging war on Iraq, Kevin Phillips has an interesting piece in today's LA Times: A family's path to war. It talks about something biographers have noticed about Dubya: a deep-rooted psychological need he seems to have to follow in his father's footsteps, to prove himself, or something. The article talks about the eery parallels in the timelines leading up to the two presidents' wars (initially floated in the second year of office, then launched in the spring of the third, helping to distract the country from naggingly persistent troubles with the domestic economy). Phillips continues:

Yet, these parallels would not count for much if they did not reflect a larger pattern that has fascinated Bush biographers -- the way in which the 43rd president, from the time he was a schoolboy, has tried to imitate his father's mannerisms and follow his career path. He went to his father's schools, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Yale University; played his father's sport (baseball); and joined his father's secret society (Skull and Bones) at Yale. Thereafter, he became a military flier like his father and then went into the oil business in Midland, Texas, where he set up his little company in the same office building where his father had his business.

Two biographers, Elizabeth Mitchell and Bill Minutaglio, note that, like his father, George W. wanted to get married, while at Yale, to a girl who had attended his mother's college. The fiancee, however, broke off the engagement in part because she worried about the psychologies driving the footsteps pattern.

To be sure, the career paths of No. 41 and No. 43 have not been exactly parallel: George W. had no experience as a diplomat and his father none as governor of Texas. However, since the United States is again at war in the Persian Gulf, the footsteps enigma that has fascinated biographers should interest a larger audience, as well.

Posted by jbc at 09:25 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Hecht on DU Warheads

I haven't talked here about the depleted uranium munitions the US is using throughout the Iraq war, but it's worth learning something about them, and the article in today's LA Times by Susanna Hecht, a professor in the School of Public Policy and Social Research at UCLA, is a good place to start: Uranium warheads may leave both sides a legacy of death for decades.

Posted by jbc at 08:55 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 29, 2003

Bush, Rumsfeld, and Franks, Oh My!

I'm trying to make sense of a trio of articles I just read from Sunday's Washington Post. The first one I read, from page A29, describes the pissed-offed-ness among military brass at civilian overseer Rumsfeld for screwing up their war plan: Rumsfeld targetted for troop dilution. (Update: See also the earlier Reuters article: Rumsfeld ignored Pentagon advice on Iraq.) The Post article goes into lots of interesting detail, including the following:

Responding to criticism, Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference Friday that U.S. forces were following a war plan that was developed by Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of Central Command, and agreed to by leaders of all the military services. Myers called it "brilliant."

Aides close to Rumsfeld said any changes made were for the better. "The original war plan for Iraq was really awful," a senior official said yesterday. "It was basically Cold War planning, and we're not in the Cold War anymore. Rumsfeld, like a lot of people, asked a lot of questions designed to produce the best, most flexible plan."

An analysis from the same issue's front page puts this in context: War's military, political goals begin to diverge. There's some cheerleading for the awesome advance that has been made in the first week of the war (including from Paul Van Riper, the retired Marine general who blew the whistle on the bogus war games), but also this:

Top Army officers in Iraq say they now believe that they effectively need to restart the war. Before launching a major ground attack on Iraq's Republican Guard, they want to secure their supply lines and build up their own combat power. Some timelines for the likely duration of the war now extend well into the summer, they say.

So far so good. But then there comes this mishmash of conflicting information, also from Sunday's front page: Push toward Baghdad is reaffirmed. It talks about the teleconference Bush did with his "war council" from Camp David today:

In that session, as one senior official described it, Bush supported Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's desire to press ahead with the plans embraced by Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of the Iraq effort. These plans call for continuing to prepare for a ground offensive against the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's most fearsome troops, while awaiting the arrival of additional forces -- some of which are weeks, even months, from being ready to fight.

This is where I get confused. It sounds like they're saying yes, we're going to need to pause while we build up our forces. But then we have administration officials denying that:

Field commanders this past week have spoken openly of a "pause" in the allied campaign to rest, regroup and reinforce, while securing supply lines by pacifying southern Iraq. But yesterday's session of the War Council reaffirmed a battle plan that was crafted in Washington, and reminded any dissenters what the commander in chief wants.

"When we say we're on the plan, we're on the plan," an administration official said. "There is no pause."

Someone's not on the same page here. If there isn't going to be a pause, someone needs to tell the field commanders. I think it's pretty obvious there is going to be a pause, which means this probably is just about giving Rumsfeld (and by extension, Bush) political cover by pretending that there isn't actually any difference between "proceeding quickly to Baghdad" and "pausing to restart the war." In other words, it's just spin doctoring over the use or non-use of the word "pause" to describe what's going to happen, about which there actually isn't any lack of clarity between the civilian and military planners and the people in the field.

I'm not surprised that the administration would lie to put the best face possible on the events of the past week. But I'm scared that it might not just be a lie. That is, I'm scared that the differences in what people are saying at different levels of the civilian/military command-and-control structure might reflect actual fuzzy thinking and miscommunication -- which don't sound like the kinds of things you want when so many lives are at stake.

Posted by jbc at 10:39 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Firsthand Account of Home Searches in Nasiriyah

Again from the Washington Post, an interesting embedded-reporter account of Marines in Nasiriyah performing a house search: U.S. mounts house-to-house sweeps. This sounds so not-fun.

Posted by jbc at 09:48 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

SARS Discoverer Dies of Disease

From the Washington Post: Epidemic kills scientist who helped discover it. I think I've been trying not to learn anything about this epidemic, in part because I've got this nasty cough that won't go away. I guess it's slightly reassuring to think that if I had SARS, I'd be dead by now. Or I mean it would be reassuring, if it weren't scary.

Posted by jbc at 09:37 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The AWOL Dolphin Story

People keep submitting this story, and I guess it does seem like the sort of thing I would run, even though I chose to pass over it initially. Anyway, by popular demand, here you go: Takoma the dolphin is AWOL. Reader immy2g also helpfully supplied a link to the earlier story: U.S. enlists dolphins to aid war effort.

Posted by jbc at 08:49 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

More Detail on Rigged War Games

I'd previously seen the discussion of "Red Force" commander Paul Van Riper having quit in protest midway through the Millenium Challenge 02 war games when the people running the test kept rigging it so that "Blue Force" (the US player) would win. Now there's a story from Slate that puts the story in context with the recent statement by Tommy Franks about the enemy being different than the one we war-gamed against: War-Gamed. The article includes a link to the article in Army Times where the story originally broke, after a copy of Van Riper's scathing email was leaked to them: War games rigged?

The Army Times piece has a lot more detail on what actually happened at the games than I'd previously seen.

Posted by jbc at 08:27 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thayer's Exit from Baghdad

Slate's Nate Thayer has a fascinating account of his drive from Baghdad to (I think) Jordan on Friday, after Iraqi authorities found a clandestine sat phone in his room and ordered him out of the country.

That would be one freaky drive.

Posted by jbc at 08:04 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ferraro on World Saving

Vincent Ferraro, a professor of international politics at Mount Holyoke College, gave the following convocation address at Pomfret School, a Connecticut prep school, this past September: Saving the world. Seemed appropriate.

Posted by jbc at 07:02 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Powell: War Is the Scourge of God

Excerpted from Colin Powell's US Forces: The Challenges Ahead, Foreign Affairs, Winter 1992:

Military men and women recognize more than most people that not every situation will be crystal clear. We can and do operate in murky, unpredictable circumstances. But we also recognize that military force is not always the right answer. If force is used imprecisely or out of frustration rather than clear analysis, the situation can be made worse.

Decisive means and results are always to be preferred, even if they are not always possible. We should always be skeptical when so-called experts suggest that all a particular crisis calls for is a little surgical bombing or a limited attack. When the "surgery" is over and the desired result is not obtained, a new set of experts then comes forward with talk of just a little escalation--more bombs, more men and women, more force. History has not been kind to this approach to war-making. In fact this approach has been tragic -- both for the men and women who are called upon to implement it and for the nation. This is not to argue that the use of force is restricted to only those occasions where the victory of American arms will be resounding, swift and overwhelming. It is simply to argue that the use of force should be restricted to occasions where it can do some good and where the good will outweigh the loss of lives and other costs that will surely ensue. Wars kill people. That is what makes them different from all other forms of human enterprise.

When President Lincoln gave his second inaugural address he compared the Civil War to the scourge of God, visited upon the nation to compensate for what the nation had visited upon its slaves. Lincoln perceived war correctly. It is the scourge of God. We should be very careful how we use it. When we do use it, we should not be equivocal: we should win and win decisively. If our objective is something short of winning--as in our air strikes into Libya in 1986--we should see our objective clearly, then achieve it swiftly and efficiently.

I am preaching to the choir. Every reasonable American deplores the resort to war. We wish it would never come again. If we felt differently, we could lay no claim whatsoever to being the last, best hope of earth. At the same time I believe every American realizes that in the challenging days ahead, our wishes are not likely to be fulfilled. In those circumstances where we must use military force, we have to be ready, willing and able. Where we should not use force we have to be wise enough to exercise restraint. I have finite faith in the American people's ability to sense when and where we should draw the line.

Update: More on the application of this article to the current situation can be found in Nicholas Johnson's War in Iraq: The military objections. Johnson observes that military commanders frequently are more rational about the use of military force than are their civilian overseers. That certainly seems to be the case here. A quotation:

By the time an officer reaches the top of today's U.S. military you can bet that he or she is bright, extremely well educated in the liberal arts as well as military history and other matters, and possessed of a good analytical mind.

As you know, a central principle of American government is what we call "civilian control of the military." Of course, I support that principle. Few would deliberately choose life under a military dictatorship.

But when I compare the approach to war of some civilian politicians with that of the military's leadership I have occasionally commented that what we really need is "military control of the civilians" - at least the civilians' decisions about war.

When evaluating a sophisticated issue involving politics, foreign relations, and the global economy, it is usually the politicians, not the military officers, who are the first to forgo thoughtful analysis for expressions like "send in the Marines," "let's kick some butt," and "nuke 'em."

It is the military that modestly suggests the need for prior application of rational thought.

I love that quote about macho politician-speak for going to war. Especially in light of the recent Time article revealing that the course for war upon Iraq was laid in March of 2002, when Bush told a group of Senators, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out." It doesn't really square with the President of the United States' job description to be quoted using the F-word, especially when the President in question likes to claim moral authority as a born-again Christian, but I suppose the White House thinks it's the kind of thing that will actually boost his popularity. But regardless of how it plays with the electorate in terms of making the commander in chief seem like an ordinary guy, the willingness to talk that way about going to war, and what's more, to actually follow through on it without carefully considering the costs and benefits beforehand, reveals a profound unsuitability for the task of wielding US military power.

Posted by jbc at 05:54 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Apple: Increasing Risk for Bush

Here's one more link from the Saturday New York Times. R. W. Apple, Jr., has an analysis of some of the potential worst-case scenarios for the Iraq war, and their likely impact on Bush's political fortunes: Bush's peril: Shifting sand and fickle opinion.

There's nothing really new in the story, but it ties things together in a good way. Choice quote:

"Saddam won't win," said Richard C. Holbrooke, the former United States representative at the United Nations. "Unlike L.B.J. in Vietnam, Bush won't quit. He's a different kind of Texan. He'll escalate and keep escalating. In the end his military strategy will probably succeed in destroying Saddam.

"But it may result in a Muslim jihad against us and our friends. Achieving our narrow objective of regime change may take so long and trigger so many consequences that it's no victory at all. Our ultimate goal, which is promoting stability in the Middle East, may well prove elusive."

Posted by jbc at 01:47 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Webb: Welcome to Hell

James Webb, who was Secretary of the Navy under Reagan and a Marine company commander in Vietnam, has a good piece running in the New York Times today: The war in Iraq turns ugly. That's what wars do. He sees lots of parallels to Vietnam. His concluding quote: "Welcome to hell. Many of us lived it in another era. And don't expect it to get any better for a while."

Posted by jbc at 01:31 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

NYT on the Evolving Antiwar Movement

Some interesting detail in this article from today's New York Times: Antiwar effort emphasizes civility over confrontation. It goes into the nature of the organizations behind many of the recent antiwar protests, and the shifting of the movement's emphasis from violent confrontation to more peaceful protest designed to appeal to mainstream opinion.

Posted by jbc at 01:28 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Robb on the Bush Doctrine

John Robb has a no-bull analysis of Bush's strategy for safeguarding the US from terrorists wielding nuclear weapons: Is the Bush doctrine the right doctrine? He actually posted the piece before the outset of the war, but it still seems relevant. Unfortunately.

Posted by jbc at 10:55 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Plaid Adder: Baghdad as Harfleur

The Plaid Adder has a thought-provoking piece at Guilty in defense. It uses Shakespeare's Henry V to discuss the morality of war, and more specifically, the morality of blaming a war on those resisting invasion, since they could, after all, make the whole thing unnecessary simply by surrendering to their attackers.

Posted by jbc at 10:31 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Weiner: The Stench of Vietnam

Bernard Weiner, writing at, has some harsh criticism of the war: A familiar odor in the air: The Vietnam connection.

Posted by jbc at 10:25 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Iraq-O-Meter

Again from daypop: the Iraq-O-Meter.

Posted by jbc at 03:10 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iraq War Rationale in a Nutshell

Hey. I just realized something: is the most-prominent war-obsessed weblog that is authored by an actual O'Reilly author. Yay for me!

In honor of that, here's a nice little Nutshell guide to our reasons for going to war with Iraq. It's from, courtesy of daypop: A warmonger explains war to a peacenik.

Posted by jbc at 02:25 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Guardian on War Strategy

The Guardian is running a long, but really good, analysis of where we stand in terms of military strategy in Iraq: How the Pentagon's promise of a quick war ran into the desert sand. It describes Rumsfeld as being inclined to continue pushing for a quick assault on the defenses of Baghdad, rather than waiting for the arrival of the reinforcements that the Army is saying it needs.

I get a bad feeling about this. It's way too Vietnam-esque. You have a civilian leadership that feels invested in an overly optimistic plan, and a military feeling like it is being denied what it needs in order to win.

The easy victory is not going to happen. The Army is going to say the only way they can win this is by killing a buttload of civilians, and Rumsfeld, Cheyney and Bush are then going to have an ugly choice: personal political failure, or mass murder of the Iraqi population. They will reliably choose the latter. And even having made that choice, and having chosen to ignore that part of the war's cost, there will still be a terrible price to pay.

With Vietnam, it took 60,000 dead Americans, a million dead Vietnamese, and an uncountable number of additional shattered lives before the fighting stopped.

Excuse me: Can I have my Powell Doctrine back now?

Posted by jbc at 01:27 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fisk: The Evolving Baghdad Bombing Campaign

Robert Fisk, in the New Zealand News: Bombs destroying Baghdad's essential services. Also, a profile of Fisk from the same paper: Herald correspondent a scourge of US foreign policy.

Posted by jbc at 12:38 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fox Taunts Protesters

From words mean things, word of a story on a Rockefeller Center anti-war protest: 'Die-ins' target war and news media. The good part is this:

Fox News had its own response to the demonstrators. The news ticker rimming Fox's headquarters on Sixth Avenue wasn't carrying war updates as the protest began. Instead, it poked fun at the demonstrators, chiding them.

"War protester auditions here today ... thanks for coming!" read one message. "Who won your right to show up here today?" another questioned. "Protesters or soldiers?"

Said a third: "How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them."

Still another read: "Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street" - a reference to the film maker who denounced the war while accepting an Oscar on Sunday night for his documentary "Bowling for Columbine."

Posted by jbc at 12:20 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 28, 2003

The Short-War Bait-and-Switch

The Washington Post is running a nice analysis that looks at the Bush administration's nimble now-you-see-it, now-you-don't behavior on the short, easy Iraq war.

Posted by jbc at 09:11 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Another Market Blast Kills 50+ Iraqi Civilians

From the BBC, word of another horrific blast in another northern Baghdad marketplace that again seems unlikely to get the gruesome-pictures coverage on US TV: 'Many dead' in Baghdad blast.

Here's a quote that hit home with me: "One man sobbed for his five-year-old son killed while playing near the vegetable market. 'After this crime, I wish I could see [US President George W] Bush in order to cut him to pieces with my teeth,' he said."

My son is five.

Update: I think it's completely possible that either or both of these market explosions have been cases of Saddam blowing things up himself to generate favorable propaganda. If true, that would be another item to add to a long list of reasons why Saddam is a Very Bad Man. But I still place ultimate responsibility for this war, and the carnage it is generating, squarely on George Bush.

Posted by jbc at 03:57 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Army Names Forward Bases "Exxon" and "Shell"

The New York Times ran a piece on Wednesday (I think) by Jim Dwyer, who I gather is embedded with a unit of the 101st Airborne Division, the folks on the left side of the US forces south of Baghdad: Troops endure blowing sand and mud rain. It's a pretty standard piece, I guess; talks about Biblical-scale sandstorms and such. But the cute part, which I didn't notice until Janus pointed it out to me, was this: "By day, the soldiers from the 101st were kept busy reinforcing the camp they have set up here in central Iraq, primarily a base for the helicopter gunships flown by the division. The official name is Forward Operating Base Shell; another similar base is called Exxon."

Maybe I've just been assimilated into the military hive mind, what with all the war coverage I've been consuming, but I can't help appreciating the cynical humor reflected in those names.

Posted by jbc at 03:43 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Parrish on the Domestic Protest Movement

Geov Parrish's Dresden-esque Shock and Awe firestorm hasn't come to pass so far, but I still find him a credible voice when he talks about something he has more direct experience with, like the next steps for the domestic protest movement. Like the earlier link I posted from Bernard Weiner, Parrish points out that those opposed to what's happening in Iraq have better things to do now than block traffic and piss people off. Like, thinking about the presidential election of 2004.

Posted by jbc at 12:25 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Fisk on Basra

Robert Fisk has a piece in Arab News describing an unedited videotape he watched that came from "Mohamed Al-Abdullah, Al-Djazaira’s correspondent in Basra."

Posted by jbc at 12:13 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2003

Doctored (and Non-Doctored) 1940s Propaganda Posters

A lot of you are not going to like these. But seriously, they're really funny, from a certain point of view: 1940s propaganda posters remixed. Thanks to Bravo for the link.

And now, thanks to Hiro and Yserbius, here are a bunch more cool posters for those who prefer their propaganda straight, not doctored: From EBay: This is the enemy and The United Nations fight for freedom. From Snapshots of the Past: Jap... you're next!, Loaded?, and Don't Drop the Ball! And finally, from, Cruel Aviator.

Posted by jbc at 11:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rumsfeld: Crisis? What Crisis?

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers testified about the war before the House and Senate today; here's coverage from the Washington Post and a slightly different emphasis from the State Department's Office of International Information Programs.

Amazingly, both Rumsfeld and Myers still appear to believe there's a chance that the whole mess will go away when various groups within Iraq come to their senses and welcome us with open arms. The only reason that hasn't happened already, according to Myers, is that those darned "death squads" (the new, favored term for the Fedayeen, apparently) are forcing Iraqi civilians to fight, "when they would much rather give up."

Speaking to reporters on the way into the Senate hearing, Myers even seemed to hold out hope that the Republican Guard might still just simply surrender of their own accord: "There is still time for the members of the Republican Guard, their leadership, to do the right thing and ... honorable thing ... lay down their arms and be on the right side of this inevitable victory by the coalition."

News flash for General Myers: You've tried this already. It didn't work. At this point, floating more offers to whatever officer you hope will turn against Saddam and cut a deal with us just feeds into the perception, apparently widespread on their side, that we don't have the stomach for a real fight.

For his part, Rumsfeld waved away the inconvenient fact that large-scale defections to our side haven't happened even in Basra, the largely Shiite hotbed of anti-Saddam sentiment. He now predicts that the Shiites of Baghdad will rise up to help us overthrow Saddam. All in all, the "subduing" of Baghdad sounds like it's going to be remarkably straightforward, at least the way Rumsfeld described it. Though he acknowledged that "it could take some time."

Rumsfeld also dismissed Red Cross warnings of an impending humanitarian crisis in Basra, where the main water treatment facility has been out of service for nearly a week. From the State Department story: "While acknowledging that there are places in Iraq where water is not flowing properly, Rumsfeld said there is no intelligence coming in to suggest there is a humanitarian crisis at hand or that shortages have reached critical proportions." I wonder how long Rumsfeld thinks it takes for a city of one million without adequate drinking water to reach a state of crisis.

Anyway, it's nice to hear that everything is going so well with the war. Or it would be nice, if any of it were credible.

Posted by jbc at 06:52 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Singer: The Moral Cost/Benefit Analysis of the Iraq War

Peter Singer is someone who, in my view at least, brings as much intellectual honesty to questions of morality and ethics as someone like Tacitus does to military strategy. And he (Singer) had an opinion piece in today's LA Times that really hit home with me, touching, as it does, on many of the issues I've been wrestling with in the last few weeks: How many lives is this war worth? (LA Times login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works). In years to come, when we look back on this war, most of us won't be focusing on the specific strategies and tactics that were employed in the fighting. We'll be focusing on the stuff Singer is talking about: Were we right to go in? What did we accomplish? What did it cost? Was it worth it? We have an obligation, to our future selves if to no one else, to think seriously about those questions now, while we're still in a position to make the choices we'll be living with later on.

Update: The Web-hostile LA Times no longer offers the article for free, but still does. Go Web.

Posted by jbc at 12:32 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tacitus on the New, Longer War

One of the militarily-smart types I'd previously mentioned that I've been reading lately is Tacitus. He has an interesting piece today on how things have gone wrong with some of the rosy assumptions that some, at least, were making before the war: Doctrinal purity. It draws, and comments, on an article from today's Washington Post: War could last months, officers say. Choice Tacitus quotation: "But they [the US and British forces currently deployed] cannot win the war. They could win the war that was, it seems, expected -- popular revolts at every turn, and a demoralized enemy fleeing at the speed of feet -- but they cannot win this war."

Posted by jbc at 12:17 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Dowling: Is This the Real Dubya?

As long as we're looking at The Guardian, we can't overlook the following droll knavery from Tim Dowling: Will the real George Bush please stand down.

Yesterday President George Bush made his first public appearance since the start of the war, speaking to service personnel at the MacDill airforce base in Tampa in an obvious bid to reassure Americans and boost the morale of the armed forces. But how do we know this is the real George Bush?

Later in the day a man who looked and sounded like Mr Bush appeared alongside Tony Blair at Camp David, leaving intelligence experts to ponder whether a lookalike had been used, and whether the same lookalike had been deployed on both occasions.

It has long been suspected that Mr Bush employs a string of lookalikes for difficult or dangerous speaking engagements, some of whom may have had their ears specially enlarged for the task...

It continues from there. Great stuff.

Posted by jbc at 12:00 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

al-Chalabi: Forget About Winning Iraqi Hearts and Minds

From The Guardian of last Tuesday, expat-Iraqi brit Burhan al-Chalabi has this opinion piece: You should have known we'd fight. "So the message from Iraq is clear: go home and leave us alone. You will never be welcome in Iraq as colonisers. Stop destroying Iraq. Do not bury our nation. Stop the war and give peace and the UN inspectors a chance in the name of humanity."

Posted by jbc at 11:49 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fisk on the Abu Taleb Explosions

Here's Robert Fisk's on-the-scene report of the explosions that killed at least 15 civilians in a northern Baghdad market yesterday: It was an outrage, an obscenity. The Pentagon briefers made it clear yesterday that if the blasts were the result of US bombs or missiles, they were off-target. I think I buy that, as far as it goes. We've obviously been trying to avoid events like this (well, at least within the context of having launched an invasion that requires events like this). Other comments I've seen have focused on the possibility that the explosions were caused by Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles. But whatever.

CNN carefully edited the Iraqi TV footage to omit the most gruesome parts, while the rest of the world saw it in all its pulpy, bloody glory. And of course, it's not hard to draw a connection between the sanitized images the US public sees, and that public's willingness to go along with the lame justifications for the war, while the rest of the world was saying, hey, wait a minute. Do you understand what you're unleashing here?

Our much-praised free market compels our media outlets to refrain from upsetting us too much. Parents like me would be outraged if our 5-year-olds, whom we persist in leaving unmonitored in front of the TV, were seeing that footage in its original form, and we'd let CNN (and if need be, their sponsors) know in no uncertain terms that we wanted that shit off the air, pronto. And CNN would do it, or their viewers would quickly migrate to another channel that would.

I guess we'd be okay with this stuff being broadcast on some pay channel, like HBO, after 10:00 p.m., when our children are safe in their beds. Too bad those three kids who were burned alive in their overturned car yesterday didn't enjoy the same sort of protection from this war's effects.

Posted by jbc at 11:28 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Arab News on Humanitarian Aid Distribution in the South

Here's an Arab News account of the initial distribution of humanitarian aid in southern Iraq yesterday: Resentment, relief, and resistance. Definitely paints a different picture than the one I got through the narrow-focus lens of CNN's video clip.

Posted by jbc at 10:53 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Arab News: War Stays the Same

Arab News is running this fairly depressing, if apt, editorial: Realities of war. "The reality of war is always death and destruction. It always spews out dead bodies - torn, twisted and charred bodies - and legions of injured and maimed." The piece goes on to point out that the US seriously misjudged in thinking that Iraqis would not defend themselves: "For all that the Iraqis fear and hate the regime under which they suffer, they are patriots - and patriots are always at their toughest when defending their homeland."

Posted by jbc at 10:41 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Texas Sodomy Law

Interesting arguments at the US Supreme Court yesterday, concerning whether or not the Texas sodomy law, which criminalizes various acts, but only when the participants are both of the same sex, should be struck down as unconstitutional. Based on the questions they put to the two sides, the court is "deeply divided," with folks like Rehnquist and Scalia probing for ways to justify what is clearly, at least to my way of thinking, a bogus law, and folks like Breyer and Souter apparently taking the other side. But we'll have to wait until late June or so to hear what the decision is.

In the meantime, in the interest of recognizing high-profile falsehood, I feel compelled to point out the op-ed piece Norah Vincent has running in today's Los Angeles Times: 'Rights Just for Us': The Gay Left's Self-Serving Agenda (stupid free login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works). I get the feeling Vincent would like to chime in on the side of those who portray the current court challenge as somehow being about getting "special rights" for gays. Which it isn't, of course; the law in question functions as exactly the opposite: a codification of special rights for heterosexuals. That is, after all, one of the two bases on which the law is being challenged.

But Vincent finds another way to make the same case: She points to the actions of groups like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which have been active in using boycotts and negative publicity to target sponsors of anti-gay talk show hosts like "Dr." Laura Schlessinger and Michael Savage, and claims this constitutes a curtailment of free-speech rights.

Which is completely ludicrous. The First Amendment says Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech. Nobody's passing laws to muzzle homophobic speech here. Schlessinger and Savage are free to spout off whatever bigotry they like. And people who disagree with their views are similarly free to speak out against it, including banding together to pressure advertisers not to support them.

Update: I confess to not having a clue who Norah Vincent was when I wrote the above. I vaguely remembered seeing her byline on previous LA Times op-ed pieces, but had just dismissed her as another right-wing anti-gay crusader. That point of view fueled my pissy rant, above.

Well, duh. Norah Vincent, upon further investigation (thanks, Janus), turns out to be, among other things, gay. She's written extensively on the intersection of gender and politics, and seems pretty likely not to have been trying to make the particular coded-language appeal to the "gays want special rights" position I accused her of.

I still think she's wrong to protray the attempted boycotting of companies that sponsor anti-gay talk show hosts as a violation of First Amendment rights. But given that she's a lesbian who's 1) out, 2) outspoken, and 3) positioned somewhere significantly off the main left/right axis that defines most politically active types in this country, I'm going to have to plead guilty to my own brand of bigotry in how I interpreted her column, above.

I confess I felt an inclination to just edit my comments, Dave Winer-like, to erase the evidence of my lame-osity. But I won't. I'd rather leave it as a reminder to myself of my own fallibility (which I will predictably ignore next time an opportunity to do so comes up). Oh well.

Posted by jbc at 10:24 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 26, 2003

The Battle for US Public Opinion

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, here's a nice overview of the issues surrounding public support for the war in the US: Favorable opinion on the home front crucial during war.

The big unknown for me is this: granted, the public that was willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt on his lame mishmash of reasons for going to war may well take a more skeptical look if and when thousands of bodybags start coming home. But will they have the same skepticism in the face of Iraqi civilian casualties? So far, images on Iraqi TV and al Jazeera notwithstanding, these seem to have been extraordinarly light. As Robert Fisk said, the US has mostly been blowing up empty buildings in Baghdad. But assuming the militarily-smart-sounding guys I've been reading on the Web know what they're talking about, we'll soon reach a stalemate, in which our forces have reached the outskirts of Baghdad, but can't go in without generating all those full bodybags. So what will we do then?

I'm thnking we'll do whatever promises to deliver the city with the fewest US casualties. That is, we'll take out Baghdad's power and water systems, then sit back and wait. Shortly thereafter, 5 million innocent Iraqis will start dying.

Bush will claim this is Saddam Hussein's fault, rather than his own. Will the American people buy that?

Posted by jbc at 05:20 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ritter: US Will Lose Iraq War

Here's a position you don't see every day: Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector and long-time Bush gadfly, is saying that the US defeat in Iraq is inevitable. Make of it what you will. Thanks to Janus for the link.

Posted by jbc at 02:11 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fisk on the Propaganda War

From the New Zealand Herald comes this interesting piece by Robert Fisk: Allies not telling truth - things are going wrong. I'm not sure if that's Fisk's headline or the Herald's; the story is a little less breathless than the headline makes it sound. It's basically a rant on the way many who are covering the war are not being as critical as they could about the information they're being fed and the language they're using in their dispatches.

Posted by jbc at 10:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2003

Peters: War Is Going Great

Here's the gung-ho, upbeat version of what's happening in Iraq, from retired military man and right-wing columnist Ralph Peters, writing in yesterday's New York Post: Winning big. Basically, he asserts that everything is going fine. Sure, some people on our side are dying; that's war. Overall, he thinks the strategy is sound. Worst-case scenario, he says, is that we have to lay siege to Baghdad for a few weeks while we think up some innovative ways to end their resistance. Um, what innovative ways would those be? And do they involve a few hundred thousand Iraqi civilians dying? Something tells me that might cut severely into the profits of Halliburton's FTD division, which I understand has been awarded the contract to supply the flowers that grateful Iraqis are going to be showering on their liberators.

Posted by jbc at 09:37 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)


From the good people at Defective Yeti, via Janus, comes this droll screenshot of the CNN web site. Heh. Really.

Posted by jbc at 05:11 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

War Links: Fisk, Higgs, Walkom

Here are three putting-things-in-context pieces I just read. First, from, a great interview with Robert Fisk, the writer for The Independent who's been posting stories from Baghdad: Live From Iraq, an Un-Embedded Journalist. Next, from a different Independent (, Robert Higgs' commentary, Military Precision versus Moral Precision. Finally, from the Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom, Is Saddam winning political war? The first and the last stories, especially, make some interesting points about where this war is headed, in terms of the larger political picture. And it's not pretty.

Posted by jbc at 05:02 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hardy: The Truth about Bowling for Columbine

I seem unable to stop posting links about Michael Moore and Bowling for Columbine. Maybe I should actually see the movie. Anyway, here's the latest: from David T. Harvey, Bowling for Columbine: Documentary or Fiction? According to Harvey, Columbine cannot be considered a documentary, because in making it Moore consistently lied about his subject matter.

Posted by jbc at 11:29 AM | view/comment (24) | TrackBack (0)

Wright's Resignation Letter

I wasn't paying attention to this when it happened, but here's another career diplomat who has resigned her position in the State Department to protest Bush's foreign policy. Mary A. Wright's letter of resignation was sent to Colin Powell on March 19.

The idealist in me decided a long time ago that I would never vote for a Republican. But I confess that the realist in me, looking around at the political landscape and wondering where, oh where, are we going to find someone capable of steering us out of the current catastrophe, keeps coming back to one name: Colin Powell. Yes, I know he's tainted by association with a lot of things that left-leaning folks in general and me in particular have a really hard time with: his military service in Vietnam, his role as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the first Gulf War, his flirtation with the Republican presidential candidacy, and, especially, his willingness to fall into line with the chickenhawks in the current administration after the so-called "diplomatic effort" failed.

But I continue to have this weirdly favorable attitude toward him. It dates to that "first we're going to cut it off, then we're going to kill it" briefing he gave during Gulf War I. My God, I thought at the time, here's someone who is actually willing to tell the truth about what's going to happen.

At first, my liking him was probably mostly a case of my projecting noble impulses and values onto the largely blank image he'd been careful to craft around his public self. But as time has passed, and I've made a point of trying to piece together more of what's going on there, I've found my favorable opinion surviving largely intact. I don't know why, but I've been willing to cut him a lot of slack, to interpret his participation in the Bush presidency as the waging of a long, drawn-out campaign for a more-sensible foreign policy than the one Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz have been pushing. He thinks like a soldier, whose duty is to follow the orders of his commanding officer, even while he's doing his best to give that commanding officer the information and advice he needs to make good decisions.

But there comes a time when a person of principle has to stop following bad orders, and live up to a higher duty. I think that's what the recent resignations coming out of the State Department have been saying.

I think Colin Powell should follow their lead. He should resign as Secretary of State, and run for president as an independent in 2004. If he did, I might very well confound my own ultra-liberal leanings and vote for him. I can't justify it intellectually, really, but I continue to trust him.

Anyway, whether or not I would vote for him is beside the point. The point is this: If he followed this scenario and ran for president, I think he would actually win.

Posted by jbc at 11:06 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Bill Schneider on Likely US Casualties

I caught a brief piece on CNN yesterday that struck me as fairly insightful (!), and have now found the transcript for it at In it, analyst Bill Schneider points out how the US public seems to be "fighting the last war," in the sense that they are expecting US casualties from the current Iraq invasion to be of the same order as those of Gulf War I (when about 1 in 1,500 US military folks were killed or wounded). But it seems much more likely, says Schneider, that this war will result in something closer to what we experienced in World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam, when the casualty rate was more like 1 in 15. As a result, we'd end up not with the 760 or so casualties we saw in Gulf War I, but something closer to 17,000. And in his (Schneider's) view, the US public isn't at all prepared for that.

You can browse CNN's transcript for the piece (look a little more than halfway down the page), or you can just follow the link below (or scroll down) to see my stolen copy of the relevant portion.


Posted by jbc at 07:58 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

More Detail on US Violations of the Geneva Convention

Here's a nice article from The Guardian that provides more specifics on how the US has been violating the Geneva Convention with respect to prisoners from Afghanistan, making it kind of silly for Rumsfeld to issue stern pronouncements about how he expects the Iraqis to toe the line in their handling of US prisoners: One rule for them. Thanks to reader michael for the link.

Posted by jbc at 07:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 24, 2003

Parade Float of the Week

In some ways the folks in Europe are just so far advanced compared with us colonials that it's not even funny. Except when it actually is pretty funny. Thanks to Hiro for the link.

Posted by jbc at 05:25 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Poniewozik on Moore's Oscar Rant

Just to beat a dead horse a little more, here's Time Magazine's James Poniewozik with a fairly apt critique of Michael Moore's anti-Bush, anti-war acceptance speech at the Oscars last night: Shame on You, Mr. Moore! Shame on You!

Posted by jbc at 05:01 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dave Barry on Writing Oscar Jokes with Steve

Dave Barry reveals the process behind the creation of Steve Martin's Oscar jokes. Dave Barry is extremely cool.

Posted by jbc at 04:31 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kos on Quagmire and Propaganda

Some good commentary from Daily Kos today: Not a quagmire. Yet. He also talks about the ongoing propaganda effort from the U.S. military, and their squandering of credibility through lots of statements that have required subsequent retraction:

  • Saddam is dead! Ok, no he's not.
  • Iraq fired a Scud at Kuwait! Ok, no it wasn't.
  • Umm Qasr is taken! Ok, no it's not.
  • The Iraqi 51st Division surrendered en masse! Ok, no it hasn't.
  • Republican Guard commanders will surrender! Ok, no they won't.
  • Basra is taken! Ok, no it's not.
  • We found a chemical weapons factory! Ok, maybe it isn't.

Anyway, see the article for the rest of his take on it.

Posted by jbc at 11:37 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Weiner on Effective Antiwar Protest Strategy

Bernard Weiner has a really fabulous piece running at A Vietnam-era Dad Talks to His Protesting Son. We need more voices with this level of wisdom guiding the antiwar movement.

Posted by jbc at 10:50 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Birthday in Baghdad

From comes this relatively upbeat story to counter some of the stuff we've been seeing lately: Amal Shamuri's thirteenth birthday party. "When asked what she wanted for her birthday, Amal - whose name means 'hope' in Arabic - smiled and simply replied, 'All I want is peace.'" Happy birthday, Amal. May you get your wish.

Posted by jbc at 10:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Latest War Analysis

The Washington Post has a nice analysis of where the US war strategy stands after yesterday's events: U.S. Losses Expose Risks, Raise Doubts About Strategy. The upshot seems to be that while the nasty images of captured and dead US soldiers are kind of shocking to the domestic audience, the inherent vulnerabilities of the long, relatively unprotected supply line the front-line forces are leaving behind is nothing the military planners were unaware of. "'I'm waiting to see what happens when they hit the Medina division,' [retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson] said, referring to one Republican Guard unit. 'That's when we really will know how we are doing.'"

Posted by jbc at 10:35 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Civilian Casualties: The Numbers Game

From our right-leaning friends at US News & World Report comes John Leo's column, The truth about casualties, in which he labors manfully to undercut the message of folks like Marc Herrold, whose civilian bodycount numbers for the Afghan war I linked to previously. Leo claims that Herrold's number of as many as 4,000 civilian dead in Afghanistan is too high; Reuters and the LA Times, he points out, have estimated around 1,000 civilians killed.

On some level I guess that would tend to undercut my comments about the signifcance of our having killed more innocents than the 9/11 hijackers. Leo specifically cites such arguments as justification for looking skeptically at Herrold's numbers. But on another level, the whole debate just makes me nauseous.

It's like that chilling phone caller in Talk Radio, asking Eric Bogosian's Barry Champlain if he knows how many Jews really died in Nazi Germany. Well, obviously, no, I don't know exactly how many Jews died in the Holocaust. Nor do I, or Marc Herrold, or John Leo, know exactly how many Afghan civilians died as a result of our bombing campaign in Afghanistan. But I know that it was a fuckload more than it should have been. We're all people. The equation that says a single death in my family is equal to five deaths in my hometown is equal to 100 deaths on the other side of the country is equal to 10,000 deaths on the other side of the world may be more or less accurate in predicting what I will pay attention to as a consumer of news-as-entertainment, but that's a reflection of the way my brain twists reality to serve my individual needs. I don't believe it is actually true, in some objective, higher sense.

George Bush has consulted his gut, and made the determination that any number of deaths of innocent civilians outside our borders is justified by the need to prevent largescale innocent deaths inside our borders. My gut can understand that, because it works the same way. All our guts do. But my head knows that it's wrong, and that the logical fallacy it embodies will eventually catch up with us, or with our descendents, and make a mockery of our short-sighted attempts to guarantee our security.

We need a better option, one that does a better job of guaranteeing all our security. We need to change the rules of the game. Bush lacks the imagination required to see that, and his limited moral vision has become the bottleneck through which all the world's hope for a better future must now pass.

Posted by jbc at 10:01 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Red Cross Warns of Drinking Water Shortage in Basra

From the Washington Post comes this scary harbinger of things to come: Red Cross Fears Basra's Drinking Water May Run Low. Basra has a population of about 2 million, including many young children, whose low body mass typically makes them the first to start dying in large numbers when water-quality issues lead to widespread dysentery.

Posted by jbc at 09:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brownstein Contrasts Bush, Blair, McCain

A really nice analysis that makes it worthwhile to endure the suck that is Ronald Brownstein's Bush displays tenacity and obstinacy. Points out that Dubya's greatest strength (his single-minded focus) is also his greatest weakness (since it blinds/deafens him to valid criticism, and to the cautions of those whose more-nuanced perception allow them to see farther down the road he is travelling than he does himself).

Posted by jbc at 08:24 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iraqi Footage of Captured US Soldiers Censored?

I can't help wondering about the rationale being offered for keeping the Al Jazeera footage of the captured U.S. soldiers off the air in this country. Apparently the effort to keep us from seeing these images goes further than that, too; at Yellow Times they are running the following notice: "The pictures of U.S. POWs and Iraqi civilian casualties has been censored by our hosting provider. Therefore, we cannot show these pictures. They also forced us to remove pictures of Iraqi casualties. Our site was shut down for an hour until we removed the pictures. You can see the pictures at our affiliate site here:"

Over at ArabNews, they have a page of stills from the Al Jazeera footage titled Pictures US Media will not show; elsewhere, they use a still from the video in a news story titled Day of Setbacks for US.

All of this raises several questions in my mind. Why are the images not being shown? I could see commercial news outlets shying away from doing so on the grounds that the images would be too disturbing for an American audience, and they wouldn't want to hurt their ratings (though you could argue that their duty as a news organization should trump such concerns, given the issues involved), but that wouldn't explain Yellow Times' Internet provider (VORTECHHOSTING.COM, orlando, fl) shutting their site down until the pictures had been removed. Maybe that could be justified as a standard response to posting others' copyrighted material in violation of an Acceptable Use Policy, but I'd still wonder about whether the ISP was acting on complaints it had received, or what. (Update: See the comments, below, for a copy of the email their tech support folks sent in response to my asking them about it.) You could argue that these images should not be shown out of respect for the POWs (and dead soliders') families, but you'd have to balance that against the interest of a democratic society in having an accurate picture of the costs of the war, such that informed decisions could be made about it.

Anyway, a lot of those questions are effectively moot, at least for the subset of the population getting its information from the net, given its dumb-in-the-middle design, which makes it pretty darn hard to keep people from seeing things you don't want them to see. But I can see where this could definitely raise some hackles on the part of those who view ready access to such information as being very much a bug, rather than a feature.

Some of these issues are summed up quite nicely by an editorial at Lies, Lies, and More Lies (catchy title, that), which points the finger at Donald Rumsfeld, claiming he has bullied CNN, Fox, and MSNBC into keeping the images off the air because they are "propaganda" in violation of the Geneva Convention. Deep, murky waters we're swimming in here. When those news outlets quote Iraqi government officials saying the infidels are being driven back by the heroic resistance, that's obviously propaganda, too, but Rumsfeld apparently doesn't feel like he needs to take personal steps to keep it off the air; he assumes that a reasonably intelligent audience will compare that information to the other information they have available, and conclude that the Iraqi officials are blowing smoke. But the footage of US POWs is different, because, well, it's true, and it's much more damaging to the Bush administration's effort to keep public support for the war as high as possible.

So I can certainly see why Rumsfeld would want to keep us from seeing it. But that doesn't mean he's right. And in the context of ready access to non-US information sources, he loses. At least for now, and at least for those of us whose media are new enough to actually work the way information sources are supposed to in an open, democratic society.

Posted by jbc at 01:23 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

March 23, 2003

Oscar Does War

So, I watched the Oscars. I was gratified by The Two Towers winning a few technical awards, and pleased that my (admittedly pretty sucky) score of 9 was sufficient to win the prognostication pool between myself, my wife, and my sister-in-law. And it's fun to see Steve Martin doing what he does. Also, I was curious, like everyone else, to see how the war figured in acceptance speeches.

I basically agree with most of Michael Moore's criticisms, but his ranting annoyed even me. Personally, I was more impressed with Adrian Brody's more-thoughtful comments. Michael Moore bugs me in much the same way that Rush Limbaugh and Evan Coyne Maloney do. The strength or weakness of their arguments notwithstanding, I don't like their certainty. For Michael Moore to get up on the Oscar stage and spout off about Bush's fictions requires that the other side respond with boos, and the noise level goes up, and before you know it people are willing to go to war with each other in the name of peace.

There's actually something fairly Bush-like in Moore's assumption that the direct assault is the way to go. It's kind of childish; everything is black or white, right or wrong, with us or against us. I assume the author of the YahooNews story I saw about Moore's acceptance speech was going for irony with the line about how Moore had "used his win of an Oscar to launch a violent attack on US President George W. Bush," and while I think that phrasing constitutes a pretty severe devaluing of the term "violent attack," especially in the current context, I can also see the person's point.

Posted by jbc at 11:41 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Good Morning, Vietnam?

The US war-making apparatus appears to have come full-circle. After waging a first Gulf War designed to slay forever the concept of military force hampered by political squeamishness at civilian casualties, that appears to be exactly what is happening in the fighting in southern Iraq today. Or at least, that's the implication of this article from the Washington Post: U.S. Makes Some Gains, Suffers Setbacks. Lots of interesting parallels there, including the idea that we'd be welcomed as liberators being replaced by the realization that when you bomb and invade a country (surprise!) people fight back. There were also some quotations that seemed reminiscent of an earlier conflict in which traditional military types had to deal with annoying locals who refused to fight on the invaders' terms. I can totally imagine some British army general sending something akin to this back to George III circa 1775: "What we're finding throughout the area is small groups of determined men, probably Fedayeen, loyalists, fanatics, who are in a limited way fighting in quite a determined manner... They're a nuisance rather than a significant threat, but they're a nuisance to soft-skinned logistics vehicles and the like."

Posted by jbc at 04:36 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

US POWs on Iraqi TV

I guess this will be the first real test of the war's popularity with the people who don't view Iraqi casualties as significant: Al Jazeera is airing footage from Iraqi TV showing a handful of US supply-line troops who have been captured by the Iraqis. The POWs include at least one woman, which seems likely to give pause to at least some of the more enthusiastic in the war-is-good camp. Christopher Allbritton points out that Rumsfeld's call for Iraq to observe the Geneva Conventions with any captured prisoners rings somewhat hollow, given the way our own side has been playing fast-and-loose with those rules during the War on Terra. Update: Daily Kos points out that, given the military strategy currently being pursued by the US ground forces (bypassing outlying cities and avoiding direct fighting while racing to Baghdad), the supply lines represent our Achilles' heel.

Posted by jbc at 10:02 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

More War Stories

Here's another trio of stories about the ongoing war on Iraq. From the Sydney Morning Herald, US fears a hard, bloody war; from the Washington Post, On the Line From Baghdad, A Family's Stoicism and Fears; and from Robert Fisk writing in The Independent, This is the reality of war. We bomb. They suffer. So, the new-car smell seems to be wearing off on this precision-bombardment thing. I suppose it's still too early to tell, and it might still be possible that the defense will melt away in the face of our ability to center the blast radius of our bombs on particular phone booths. But it seems more likely that there will still be some forces on the ground willing to resist the advance of US troops in Baghdad, and that the inevitable logic of urban combat will then kick in: lots of civilian lives expended in the only-somewhat-successful effort to preserve the lives of soldiers. Nice of these folks to pay with their blood so that those calling the shots in the Bush administration, who to a man managed to avoid seeing combat when they were of cannon-fodder age, can learn these lessons now. And isn't it interesting how the only senior advisor to Bush who actually has combat experience has been the one least willing to pursue war as the preferred option. I guess Colin Powell has seen enough carnage already, and doesn't need to demonstrate his machismo by ordering up more.

Posted by jbc at 09:21 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 22, 2003

Historical Megadeath

From Bravo, a perennial beacon of interesting information in an otherwise murky world, comes this nice little historical context: Selected Death Tolls for Wars, Massacres and Atrocities Before the 20th Century, as well as Death Tolls for the Man-made Megadeaths of the Twentieth Century. I'm not sure what this means, actually; abstracting war into however many millions of people end up dying seems to tapdance around the reality somewhat. But if you're going to make meaningful comparisons between these things, you need to start somewhere, I guess.

Posted by jbc at 06:28 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Voices Against the War

Here's a trio of opinion pieces expressing opposition to the war: From William Rivers Pitt, I am the terrorist; from Alan Bisbort, God damn you; and from Richard Dawkins: Bin Laden's victory. They each come from a different perspective, but each is worth reading. The Pitt one is especially interesting to me, in that he claims the Shock and Awe bombardment has led to large numbers of civilian casualties already, if not due to actual blast and shrapnel effects of the huge bombs going off, then due to the resulting out-of-control fires. I haven't seen that reported elsewhere, and I've been looking. If true, it would call into question much of the "bending over backward to avoid civilian casualties" claptrap coming out of Donald Rumsfeld's mouth lately. But I'm not sure it's true. Which isn't to say that I'm down with Shock and Awe, in any sense. Even if massive civilian casualties aren't happening yet, it doesn't mean we won't get them later, either as a result of disease, thirst, and starvation, or as a result of the military tactics likely to be employed in taking Baghdad on the ground if resistance persists that long. Anyway, thanks to The Smirking Chimp for all three links.

Posted by jbc at 06:16 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thoreau's Civil Disobedience

In the striving-after-truth vein, here's something I hadn't read in a while, but which all this protesting and counter-protesting put me in mind of: Civil disobedience. Now there's someone who could have taught Dubya a thing or two about "moral clarity."

Posted by jbc at 07:43 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Maloney Videos SF Protesters

Evan Coyne Maloney previously got a mention here for his videotaping of New York anti-war protesters; basically, he used the video to make them look like idiots. He's posted answers to some of the frequently heard criticisms of that action on his Questions about the protest video page; I'd be curious what onan thinks of his answer to the charges that he (onan) made in the comments on the earlier story. Anyway, now Evan has a new video: Protesting the protesters II, which covers similar hijinks with the anti-war protesters in San Francisco on March 15. Apparently in doing so he was aided by the people at, a bunch of screw-loose counter-protesters who like to join anti-war marches carrying signs that mock the actual anti-war folks in a subtle and clever fashion. (Well, the people doing it think it's subtle and clever.) I dunno; with all these folks I get a sense of some sort of psychological need to reassure themselves that they really are smarter/cooler/better than the other side. With the protestwarrior folks it's pretty obvious. Evan's case is tougher; he's clearly got more on the ball than someone who feels the need to post a photo of himself next to a hot blonde in a tight t-shirt to demonstrate that despite being an embittered Dittohead he can still get sex, but the same sort of striving still comes through in things like his choice of opponent and his one-sided presentation. It happens on both sides, of course, but sometimes I just get tired of the whole us-versus-them thing. Why not drop the pretensions of infallibility, and try to find some actual truth? It just seems like it would be a better use of your time and energy.

Posted by jbc at 07:36 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Dear Mr. President, Parts 2-4

I previously linked to McSweeney's Dear Mr. President letters, a collection of really hilarious (actual) missives collected by Gabe Hudson as a publicity stunt connected with his (fictional) book, Dear Mr. President. Now it seems we have more installments, and they're all very much worth your time: Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Favorite quote from the most-recent batch: "Dear Mr. President, I am the submissions editor at the Texas International Law Journal. I help choose which articles we publish. Recently, authors have been saying to me things like, 'Texas International Law Journal? I thought Texans didn't believe in international law!' They think it's funny, but it's really bad for business. Sincerely, Brannon Andrews."

Posted by jbc at 07:04 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 21, 2003

Dionne on the Importance of Allowing Dissent During Wartime

WorkingForChange's E.J. Dionne, Jr., has a nice piece on the Republicans in Congress who have made such a fuss about Tom Daschle's criticism of Bush's war-mongering: Hawks flirt with dissent double standard. He points out that some of the same people telling Daschle he's a traitor for not supporting the Commander-in-Chief took advantage of their freedom to offer the exact same sort of criticism themselves when Clinton was bombing Kosovo. Funny how that works.

Posted by jbc at 06:13 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rosenberg on the Big CNN Lie

Scott Rosenberg at Salon reports that he could only take a half-hour or so of CNN today, and goes on to talk about the big lie that underlies all the whiz-bang coverage: CNN and the denial of death. Thank you. On the other hand, when I was eating lunch with Linda and William (and a bunch of other moms and kids) today, and the seating arrangements at the burger place meant that the kids ended up in the room with the TV on the wall tuned to images from the war, I found that lie comforting, since it meant my son and his buddies were able to stay focused on their 5-year-old interests, without needing to pay attention to the silly grown-up stuff on the TV. If that coverage had been more honest, I don't think that would have been the case.

Posted by jbc at 05:52 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stories from

I noticed today that I had to mute the audio on CNN to avoid getting pissed at Wolf Blitzer's verbal hard-on in reporting on the outbreak of Shock and Awe. And that made me wonder if CNN's coverage has become more jingoistic than I remember it being during the first Gulf War, maybe as a result of things like Fox's competing "news" coverage, or if it's just me that's changed. I'm guessing it's a little of both, but it made me stop and think about the influence that Net-based news sources have on my outlook these days. I can read coverage of the war from as many perspectives as I want, which means I get to gravitate toward those that match my existing opinions, and can be less patient with those that contradict those opinions. Anyway, that's all meant as preface to the following links from, the web site for Saudi Arabia's oldest English-language newspaper, which I'm finding is a pretty good source when I need to counter some of the spin that much of my own country's media seems willing to pass on more or less verbatim: Hell rains down on Iraqis, The horror of it all as seen from the other side, Baghdad’s night of terror, and My dear Americans.

Posted by jbc at 05:29 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rall: Most Americans Are Idiots

Nice piece from Ted Rall: The Moron Majority. Beginning with the recent poll showing that 51% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks, Rall goes on to talk about what the future holds for a nation populated by such deep thinkers.

Posted by jbc at 12:02 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Comparing Bush to Hitler reader immy2g forwarded this link, from Jimmy Breslin, as printed in Newsday: Familiar, haunting words. It's a transcript, mostly, of the speech Hitler gave the Reichstag on September 1, 1939, justifying the invasion of Poland that ushered in World War II. Paul Craig Roberts has a column running in the Washington Times that makes much the same case: That Bush, in using lies to present an aggressive invasion of another country as self-defense, is very much following in Hitler's footsteps. By the rules of Internet debate, of course, the side that first plays the Hitler card automatically loses. But in this case, I can't see any way to ignore the parallels. Yes, Bush has not yet gone as far as Hitler. But the people pulling his strings have a long list, and Iraq is just the beginning of it. The neocon chickenhawks who are currently running this country think war is a great thing (at least for the victors), and that even the rest of the world united against us can't stand in the face of our supremely powerful industrial war machine. Where have we heard that before? As I write this, CNN is showing Baghdad under heavy bombardment, and running the celebratory infographic, "Shock & Awe Under Way." God, this is awful. Bush is Hitler.

Posted by jbc at 10:09 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Kinsley: Bush As Dictator of the World

Slate's Michael Kinsley posted an excellent piece yesterday: The Bush Doctrine: War without anyone's permission. It's a succinct summary of the ways in which Bush's current actions, and his justification for those actions, betray the principles on which this country was founded. At this rate, we'll be lucky if Bush even allows us to have elections next year.

Posted by jbc at 07:04 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

GYWO #22 Is Up

Get Your War On has a new update. My favorite quote: "All I have to say is, Once this is over, the Iraqi people better be the freest fucking people on the face of the earth. They better be freer than me. They better be so fucking free they can fly."

Posted by jbc at 06:39 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2003

Mike's Message

I tend to avoid posting things in the "War" category, but I'm a big fan of Michael Moore (both as a Director, and as a Human) so I want to point out his recent letter to Bush
WHOA!!! ... that's got to be a first for .. it's a Dup!

Posted by hossman at 04:39 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Michael Moore's Letter to Dubya

I missed this when it first appeared, but it's too fun to pass up: A Letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush on the Eve of War.

Posted by jbc at 04:35 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

US and Iraqi War Strategies

Paul Hirst has an interesting piece at on the respective paths to victory likely to be pursued by the US and Iraqi forces in the current war: Asymmetrical strategies.

Posted by jbc at 02:30 PM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

Statement by a Human Shield

Rosemarie Gillespie is a 62-year-old grandmother from Australia. She's currently stationed at a water-treatment plant in Baghdad. Read what she has to say in From a human shield.

Posted by jbc at 02:24 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Barnett on the Emerging Power of World Opinion

It's a little starry-eyed, and a little long-winded, but still, there's something there that's worth thinking about. I'm referring to Anthony Barnett's World opinion: the new superpower?

Posted by jbc at 02:21 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Zunes Critique of Bush's March 17 War Speech

I realize it constitutes beating a dead horse after it's left the barn, but it's worth reading anyway: Stephen Zunes' point-by-point refutation of the arguments Bush advanced in his speech on March 17, in which he did his best to make a case for war.

Posted by jbc at 02:03 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oscars Blacklist Antiwar Stars?

From The Scotsman comes this interesting story: Oscars blacklist stars in bid to prevent peace protest speeches. So, assuming the Oscars do go forward as planned, there's another reason to tune in: to see if anyone gets their acceptance speech cut short for saying what they think about the war.

Posted by jbc at 01:53 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Long Road to War

Our friends at PBS/Frontline have put out this great chronology of the events beginning with Saddam's rise to power thru the days leading up to the current conflict.

Funny how even today, 15 years after he left office, our country is still influenced by Ronald Reagan and his leadership.

Posted by jaybird at 12:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Byrd: I Weep for My Country

From one of the few principled people we have left in our government, apparently, comes this speech, delivered late yesterday: The Arrogance of Power.

Posted by jbc at 09:36 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: Things to Come

Another nice piece from the NYT. This one is an opinion piece from Paul Krugman: Things to Come. Yeah, this is pretty much what scares me the most, too.

Posted by jbc at 07:21 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Iraq Body Count

Here's a convenient way to keep track of your tax dollars at work:

Posted by jbc at 07:16 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

NYT: War in the Ruins

Did you miss me? My power was out for about 55 hours (not that anyone was counting), but the juice seems to be flowing again. Here's a nice editorial from the New York Times to get back into the swing of things: War in the ruins of diplomacy.

Posted by jbc at 07:11 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 18, 2003

Ro, Sham, ... BOO YA!!!!

In times like these, it's good to see that some people still know the most fair way to settle any argument: "The third jewel in the triple crown of Rock, Scissors, Paper competitions.. The best quote of all time: "There's a science to it, ... Everyone here's pretty much not as smart as I am."

Posted by hossman at 10:50 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 17, 2003

Rodeo Brawl Follows Dispute Over Patriotic Song

I only checked out this story because the headline made me think it was going to be about the Dixie Chicks: Brawl erupts after song played at rodeo. Turns out the song in question was actually Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American, but the story is still pretty fun. Way to go, Texas! I don't know about that "taking care of the rest of the country" stuff that Heather was talking about in the user comments, but Texas is sure taking care of my entertainment needs lately.

Posted by jbc at 12:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Parry: The Potential Downside for U.S. Troops

Writing in, Robert Parry discusses Bush's double jeopardy for U.S. Troops. It's basically a laundry list of the ways in which the quick victory Bush is counting on in Iraq could fail to materialize.

Posted by jbc at 12:25 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Carp Warns of Impending Apocalypse

These are the days of miracles and wonders. What else to conclude after reading the story of the talking carp that began shouting dire predictions - in Hebrew - about the coming end of the world . My favorite part is how the shocked fishsellers who heard the fish went on to butcher and sell it.

Posted by jbc at 10:13 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Back to Iraq 2.0

According to Daypop, everyone's linking to Back to Iraq 2.0, in which journalist Christopher Allbritton blogs from Iraqi Kurdistan. Actually, I'm not sure if he's there yet, or just planning on going there. But wherever he's posting from, it's pretty good stuff on the war.

Posted by jbc at 10:02 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: Pundits Abandoning Dubya's Sinking-Ship Foreign Policy

Interesting piece from the NYT's Paul Krugman: George W. Queeg (user-hostile login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works for now). In that I recently watched The Caine Mutiny again, I found the comparison of Bush to Bogie's paranoid, vindictive captain a pretty apt one. I'm not sure if Krugman meant for me to take it this far, but I think the movie's message, as delivered by Jose Ferrar's character after the court martial, is pretty apt, too: that Queeq was more victim than villain, someone who was well-intentioned, but was simply unable to rise to the challenges fate placed before him, and was let down by those around him.

Posted by jbc at 09:57 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 16, 2003

The Foundation for a Patriotic America

I honestly can't tell if the Foundation for a Patriotic America is intended to be serious or sarcastic. Which means the people behind it are either really scary or really subversive. Either way, I like it. Thanks to Bravo for the link.

Posted by jbc at 11:24 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Bulwer-Lytton Results from 2002

I'd missed this when it was actually timely, but Hiro fixed that: winning entries from the 2002 edition of the Bulwer-Lytton contest, in which people compete to write the worst opening sentence for a novel. Lots of great ones; here's an example: The professor looked down at his new young lover, who rested fitfully, lashed as she was with duct tape to the side of his stolen hovercraft, her head lolling gently in the breeze, and as they soared over the buildings of downtown St. Paul to his secret lair he mused that she was much like a sweet ripe juicy peach, except for her not being a fuzzy three-inch sphere produced by a tree with pink blossoms and that she had internal organs and could talk.

Posted by jbc at 11:08 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 15, 2003

Meyerson on the Neocon/Xenophobe War

Here's a story that ties together all my recent obsessions, making it hard to classify. From the LA Weekly's Harold Meyerson, On the Brink: The neocon-xenophobe war. It's about the real reasons we're going to war, and the weakness of the publicly stated ones; the larger context in terms of why the rest of the world is so uniformly opposed to what we're doing; and the unpleasant truths about where Dubya is coming from, psychologically. Much thanks to Janus for the link.

Posted by jbc at 11:05 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 14, 2003

Comparing the WTC/Afghan Bodycounts

I find it interesting that the count of civilian casualties of the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan is so close to the number of people who died in the September 11 attacks: a little over 3,000 in each case, with the edge apparently going to the U.S. government in the killers-of-innocents contest. Rumsfeld and Co. make grand claims about how hard they worked to keep the civilian death-toll in Afghanistan "as low as humanly possible," but I think these numbers really beg the question: what exactly is the point of being the good guys in a war on terror, if we end up killing more innocent people than they do?

Posted by jbc at 01:04 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

Natalie Maines Pisses Off Pro-War Country Fans

Giving me yet another reason to like the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines has apparently annoyed the heck out of many country-music fans with her comment during a recent London show that she was "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Even nicer is the way Maines and the group are sticking to their guns, using two subsequent press statements to more specifically explain what they're unhappy about, rather than backing down.

Posted by jbc at 11:46 AM | view/comment (57) | TrackBack (0)

The Iraq War/Greenhouse Gas Connection

From Tom Athanasiou comes Two futures, and a choice, a nice look at the common elements in the U.S.'s current mania for blocking international accords on greenhouse-gas production and invading/occupying oil-rich nations.

Posted by jbc at 11:23 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Is Bush Smart Enough to Be President?

It's interesting to me to see stories that question Bush's intellectual qualifications starting to resurface. Like this one, from Andrew Greeley: War is not the smart option. We heard a lot about how unintelligent dubya was during the campaign, and during the first year of his presidency, but after 9/11 people really backed off on that. The country was freaked out, and no one wanted to say, or even think, that the person directing our national response to those events was otnay ootay ightbray. Now, though, people are coming out of that initial shock, and realizing that the 9/11 attacks didn't make Bush any smarter.

Posted by jbc at 10:38 AM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (0)

Marketing Products During the Upcoming War

Here's another of one of those stories that bugs me because of the way it reduces the prospect of our invading another country and raining bombs onto the heads of its civilian population into just another business challenge. From Business 2.0: Marketing During Wartime. The article itself isn't all that annoying; it's just the idea behind it that bothers me.

Posted by jbc at 10:26 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

War on Iraq: When, How, and Why?

Here's a trio of stories that look at the imminent Iraq invasion from three different perspectives: First, from the Guardian: Preparing for war on four fronts, which looks in detail at war preparations, attempting to deduce when the attack will occur. Next, from the Mercury News: U.S. plans coordinated, fierce strike on Iraq, which gets into the specifics of the U.S. and British plans for what to do once the fighting starts. Finally, from UPI, What is the war's brand strategy?, in which a marketing expert looks at how well (or rather, how poorly) the Bush administration is doing in terms of selling the war in the marketplace of ideas.

Posted by jbc at 10:18 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Mel Gibson's Got Religion

You've probably seen this already, but if not, you'll need to check it out. Mel Gibson, it seems, is making a movie about the last few hours of Christ's life, which is nothing particularly new, but he's going to present it in Latin and Aramaic, without subtitles. Hollywood says he's crazy, but he's paying for it himself, so more power to him. Apparently this is related to Mel's close involvement with an ultra-conservative brand of Catholicism that believes the Vatican II reforms were a mistake; see the linked story for more wacky details.

Posted by jbc at 09:20 AM | view/comment (62) | TrackBack (0)

Texas Man Begins Court-Ordered Stay in Doghouse

I'm not sure why this story strikes me as adding up to more than the sum of its kooky parts, but it speaks to me. It says something about where we are as a society, as parents, as dispensers of justice, as strivers after truth. Or not. Probably not. But anyway, from the Houston Chronicle: Vidor man sentenced to 30 days in doghouse.

Posted by jbc at 09:09 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2003

Rogers on the Clean-War Myth

From Paul Rogers comes this very articulate analysis: The myth of the clean war -- and its real motive.

Posted by jbc at 05:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Coelho: Thank You, President Bush

Novelist Paul Coelho has a really nice piece at Thank you, President Bush.

Posted by jbc at 05:02 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

KROQ DJ's pushing for France's vote

A buddy of mine at CBS Radio turned me onto this yesterday. It seems that KROQ DJ Ralph Garman called (halfway down the page) and got thru to the French president by impersonating Jerry Lewis. What's next, having Howard Stern call the Russian premier?

Posted by jaybird at 11:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 12, 2003

Rall vs. SUV Drivers

It's becoming pretty cliched, but I'm always good for another anti-SUV rant. Like this one from Ted Rall: Big Babies. Favorite quote: "Short of opening a shooting range next door to a daycare center, buying an SUV is perhaps the single most antisocial act an ordinary American can commit."

Posted by jbc at 03:33 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Parrish on Dubya's Specialized War Vocabulary

Here's a cute piece from Geov Parrish: The Dubya war glossary. My favorite entry: disarm v. To blow to smithereens. E.g.: "Saddam Hussein's destruction of his missiles is an impediment to U.S. plans to disarm Saddam Hussein."

Posted by jbc at 03:16 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 11, 2003

MemoryHole on the Media's Handling of Dubya's 'Scripted' Comment

Again from, Media Misquote and Excise Bush Comment About "Scripted" Press Conference. That's my mainstream media; smoothing out those rough edges so my tiny little brain doesn't explode.

Posted by jbc at 07:22 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

MemoryHole: This Is War

From my new favorite site,, comes This is war, a collection of photographs and text passages describing just what it is our not-quite-elected leadership is about to unleash in our name.

Posted by jbc at 07:19 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ted Rall on Media Self-Censorship

Thanks to Janus for reminding me to pay attention to Ted Rall. In particular, to his recent piece, What they don't tell us, on how the media likes to leave out those crucial factoids that completely change a story. Thanks to a_stupid_box, btw, for suggesting the category name change.

Posted by jbc at 07:15 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ivins: Bring Back Bush Senior

Molly Ivins has a cute piece at WorkingForChange: Bring back Poppy, in which she runs through the litany of recent disappointments with dubya and wishes he was more like his dad.

Posted by jbc at 09:53 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

The CENTCOM Leaflet Gallery

As you've probably heard, the U.S. isn't just raining peace, freedom, and democracy onto the heads of the Iraqi people these days. Along with the occasional high explosive munition, we're also dropping propaganda leaflets. Now, thanks to Hiro, you can check them out on the Web. Collect the whole set! I think my personal favorite is this one, in which we tell Iraqi soldiers that they can best protect their children by making sure to keep the oil fields intact. Nice priorities we've got, eh? Who wouldn't want to be more like us?

Posted by jbc at 08:56 AM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

Bush's Prepared List

One last item about Friday's press conference, lest it get overlooked: the way Bush called only on a pre-selected list of reporters who had been chosen by Ari because they had a history of being team players. Which I guess really shouldn't be a surprise at this point, but again, it emphasizes the difference between previous presidents, who at least paid lip service to the notion that the chief executive should be answerable to the people, and this one, who sees nothing wrong with going through a scripted charade designed to present the illusion of access with none of that pesky actually-having-to-answer-tough-questions stuff. Thanks to Hiro for the link.

Posted by jbc at 01:03 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Weiner on the Run-Up to War

Here's a piece by Bernard Weiner: How to Swagger and Bully Your Way to Disaster: Bush's Foreign Adventurism. There's nothing particularly new here, but it does tie it all together in a fairly coherent package. I think that's the thing that's really clicked in my head tonight, the reason I felt compelled to get out of bed and post a whole raft of anti-Bush links: the president, and the bitter, scary men who pull his strings, really intend to go through with this, despite the objections of virtually the entire world. And it's going to really, really suck.

Posted by jbc at 12:53 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Koopersmith Pans Dubya's Press Conference Performance

Another (actually fairly vicious, if more or less accurate) piece that slams Bush's recent performance: Humiliation and Defeat. I know this sort of piling on is standard fare in political circles, and we can expect plenty more where this is coming from in the next couple of years, but man, I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the guy. Or would, if he weren't hell-bent on destroying the world that I'd just as soon have still be habitable when I pass it on to my children.

Posted by jbc at 12:19 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 10, 2003

Bush the "Dry Drunk"

Here's a series of articles, stretching back to September of last year, that I've somehow overlooked until now. Taken together, they paint a chilling portrait of President Bush as an addictive personality who is working through unresolved issues stemming from his history of alcoholism and a sense of inferiority in comparison with his academically gifted, war-hero father. Bush supporters will no doubt dismiss it as a liberal smear campaign, but I don't know; read it and decide for yourself. First, Alan Bisbort writes: Dry Drunk: Is Bush Making a Cry for Help?. Next comes "Dry Drunk" Syndrome and George W. Bush, by Katherine van Wormer. Finally, two pieces from Michael O'McCarthy: George W. and Alcoholism and Is Bush a "Dry Drunk"?

Posted by jbc at 11:52 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ebert on Private vs. Public Prayer

Roger Ebert has written a great piece on the scary theocratic elements of the Bush/Aschroft "faith-based" approach to government: Public prayer fanatics borrow page from enemy's script. Please, God, help us to elect leaders who understand what he's talking about. Amen.

Posted by jbc at 06:24 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

GYWO #21 Does the Dubya Press Conference

The fine people at Get Your War On have a new entry, in which they marvel at the way Bush kept saying "September 11" in response to every question at his recent press conference, no matter what the question was actually about. Good stuff. And having watched that conference, I keep thinking back to the weird way Bush kept talking about the oath he swore. He apparently meant the presdential oath of office, since he quoted it at one point, but it's really odd to me that he doesn't see any distinction between swearing to "protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution" (which is what the oath actually says), and swearing to "protect the American people" (which is what he repeatedly misquoted the oath as saying). Bush thinks the two things are identical, but they aren't. In Bush's view, he is the nation's father, and his judgement trumps that of us willfull children. But that runs directly counter to the ideas embodied in the Constitution, in which the executive branch has a specific set of responsibilities and carefully circumscribed powers, to be exercised in a fashion that protects the people not only from foreign dangers, but also from the very real risk of tyranny at the hands of a power-hungry executive here at home. In the Constitution's view of things, the people are perfectly capable of looking out for their own interests. They are the ultimate source of presidential authority, and they don't need some self-styled Daddy-in-Chief to ignore their wishes because he knows what's best for them.

Posted by jbc at 02:43 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Jimmy Carter on the Upcoming Not-So-Just War

From the NYT comes Jimmy Carter with a list of ways in which the invasion of Iraq currently being prepared for fails the test of the "Just War" doctrine.

Posted by jbc at 10:55 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Bush the Former to Bush the Lesser: Don't Go It Alone

Interesting piece from the London Times reporting on a speech given at Tufts University by former president Bush. The elder Bush used the opportunity to encourage his son not to go to war without international support, and to resist his inate tendency to bear grudges against those who disagree with him. Thanks to Bravo for the link.

Posted by jbc at 09:24 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 08, 2003

Dubya: Theologian in Chief

From Business Week, via Yahoo, via Janus, comes this story about the way Bush's fundamentalist Christian views are causing secular leaders in Europe some concern as they contemplate the possibility that he's pursuing war in the Middle East because he thinks he can thereby hasten the triumpant return of Christ. That's my dubya.

Posted by jbc at 11:46 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 06, 2003

Cheney's Lawyer Bitches at Satirist Over Lynn Cheney Clown Nose

Nice story about the Vice President's lawyer trying to stop the fine people at from posting pictures of Lynn Cheney wearing a clown nose. You can read about it at YahooNews, or just go straight to the source, at (Assuming the site is still up. It was having a hard time handling all the traffic, now that it's been singled out for attention by the Bushistas. Nice lesson for them on the Law of Unintended Consequences, eh?) So, when do I get my letter from Dick Cheney's lawyer? I'm totally jealous.

Posted by jbc at 01:19 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2003

Estrich on the Shifting Case for War with Iraq

Susan Estrich has a nice piece at WorkingForChange on the Incredible Shrinking Case for War with Iraq: What is it this week?

Posted by jbc at 12:38 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

The (Non-)Torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Here are a couple of articles speculating on just what the folks holding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are doing to him. Since we in the U.S. are good guys, or at least like to see ourselves portrayed as such on TV, "torture" is explicitly ruled out, and has been denied by none other than Ari Fleischer. I'm sure that's quite comforting to Mohammed, wherever he is. Anyway, here are the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and with their take on the subject. My favorite quote (from the latter article): "U.S. officials overseeing interrogations of captured al Qaeda forces at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba can even authorize 'a little bit of smacky-face,' a U.S. intelligence official says. 'Some al Qaeda just need some extra encouragement.'"

Posted by jbc at 11:38 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Images from the Mars Global Surveyor

Here's another batch of thumbnails. This time, they're from a world beyond the reach of mechanized bloodshed: Mars, as imaged by Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Orbiter Camera. It's interesting to me, given the place Mars occupies in our collective symbology, that once you actually send a camera there and look, it seems like a really peaceful place. I dunno; maybe I'm just projecting my own desire for an escape from the headlines here on this planet, but there's something comforting about that.

Posted by jbc at 11:24 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

Turnley's Unseen Gulf War

From photojournalist Peter Turnley comes The Unseen Gulf War, a series of images showing the side of Gulf War I that Bush the First and his spin doctors worked so hard to keep us from seeing.

Posted by jbc at 09:03 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Onion: Bush Offers Taxpayers Another $300 If We Go to War

It's almost worth having a dim-witted, arrogant, wannabe dictator for a President, just so we can have The Onion making fun of him. Almost.

Posted by jbc at 08:58 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Man Arrested for Wearing Anti-War T-shirt

Gotta love that mall security. Spotting a man wearing a "Give peace a chance" T-shirt in the food court at the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, they told him to remove the shirt or leave the mall. When the man refused, the guards called the local police, who arrested him and charged him with criminal tresspass. But the man turns out to be a lawyer, and director of the Albany Office of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, no less. So methinks maybe the boys picked the wrong citizen to come down on. Or maybe not; this is, after all, the Age of Ashcroft. We'll have to wait and see, I guess. Update: And now, 100 activists have descended on the mall to protest the arrest. That'll teach those security guards.

Posted by jbc at 08:53 AM | view/comment (7) | TrackBack (0)

CBS Used Fake Accent for Saddam Translation

As Vincent Vega would have said, "it's the little differences." In this case, the little differences between the truth, and what we expect the truth to be. And what better way to usher in a new category than by celebrating one of those little differences: the way CBS used an American voice actor to put a fake Arabic accent on the translation of Saddam's interview with Dan Rather.

Posted by jbc at 08:42 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

March 04, 2003

Isioma Daniel's Story

I missed this when it first appeared, but it's very much worth reading: Isioma Daniel's story of the events surrounding her writing of the piece that provoked the Miss World riots in Nigeria, and the subsequent issuing of the fatwa against her.

Posted by jbc at 04:44 PM | view/comment (5) | TrackBack (0)

Kristof: News Media Overwhelmingly Out of Touch with Born-Agains

From Janus comes word of this interesting Op-Ed piece at the New York Times: God, Satan and the Media. The author, Nicholas D. Kristof, has some interesting statistics on the percentage of people in the U.S. who are evangelical Christians (like Dubya), and the gulf that separates such folks from virtually everyone in the news media.

Posted by jbc at 02:52 PM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

Harry Belafonte Kicks Ass

Speaking to television reporters in Finland during a break in his Finnish tour, singer Harry Belafonte said the U.S. is currently being run by "men who are possessed of evil" (among some other choice quotes). I'm not sure why it makes me so happy to read that, but damn, it really does. You tell 'em, Harry.

Posted by jbc at 02:05 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Scheer on Dubya's 'Big Lie'

From Robert Scheer, a nice summing up of the 'Big Lie' approach that Dubya has brought to the White House. Dubya, you see, doesn't lie about little things like getting blow jobs from interns in the Oval Office; he lies about big things, like whether or not Iraq is linked to Osama bin Laden, whether Iraq represents an imminent threat to the security of the United States, and whether or not the invasion of Iraq will help to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Posted by jbc at 07:16 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 03, 2003

Smoking-Gun Memo on NSA's U.N. Surveillance?

Your tax dollars at work (again!). The Observer is running the story about a secret surveillance operation that the U.S. is running against key U.N. members: specifically, non-British Security Council members, whose votes on behalf of a U.S. invasion of Iraq we would dearly love to buy, extort, or otherwise add to our column. So let's bug the delegates' home phones, shall we? Maybe one of them is secretly gay, or has a mistress, or something. Update: In actually reading the memo, I'm not sure the "dirty tricks" label can really be made to stick. Maybe the part about bugging "domestic comms" is spooky enough to raise the hackles of British leftists, but in America we typically save the term for more creative knavery.

Posted by jbc at 08:51 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Kiesling's Letter of Resignation

From the NYT comes the text of career diplomat John Brady Kiesling's letter of resignation to Colin Powell. It explains that Kiesling can no longer participate in the ongoing train wreck that is the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Posted by jbc at 08:39 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)