Archive for December, 2005

Friday garden blogging

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Rain followed by snow


A dusting, seen here on the old Honda, was nice after an inch of rain melted the ice

I won’t complain about the weather the last few days. It has been dank and wet, but very mild in temperature until this afternoon. All the ice melted in the driveway, a good thing! Now with a cold fron has come a little fluffy snow to dress things up nice.

Look who's back in charge of Iraqi oil

Friday, December 30th, 2005

Crisis mounts while large refinery remains shut; cuts in fuel subsidies in the wake of policy-making demanded by IMF


US and US-puppet control of Iraq’s oil industry has resulted in a failure to regain pre-invasion production levels. Meanwhile, Iraq’s domestic fuel prices triple overnight.

According to a BBC report:

Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum has been temporarily released from his post amid a dispute over the government’s petrol pricing policy. He is to be replaced for 30 days by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi.

Chalabi is the quintessential fraudster (see this Guardian story from April 2003 for full details, though Jordan has apparently forgiven Chalabi). Furthermore, no single human being is more responsible for generating the phony intelligence that led to war than Chalabi. There are plenty of stories on this, start here and here.

Corruption has been off the charts since the US took over international guardianship of Iraq’s oil accounts in May 2003 with the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483. Billions of dollars literally have disappeared unaccounted since. This largely unreported scandal dwarfs in size and level of official corruption the much-ballyhooed irregularities of the Saddam-era Oil-for-Food program.

Deep Blade Journal has in the past covered aspects of this corruption here, here and here.

Now the whole Iraqi oil industry threatens to come apart over policies being insisted upon by the international financial class. Crime upon crime continue to be committed under the auspices of the US-Iraq regime.

Merry Christmas, Iraq

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on a trip to Iraq brought what was supposed to sound like good news to weary troops and the US public alike. News outlets typically followed the script, allowing Rumsfeld to to tout minor deployment changes that may mean there will be 7,000-fewer US troops in Iraq compared to some point over the past few months.

Today, Rumsfeld was out on a Christmas Eve happy-face pr shot in the troops serving line, dutifully reported by the Sinclair-owned Portland, Maine CBS affiliate with the quote, “Certainly no one more than you deserves the Christmas wish of tidings and joy, for that’s what you have selflessly given to 25 million Iraqis.”

But elsewhere in the Washington Post on Christmas Eve we learn that “U.S. airstrikes in Iraq have surged this fall, jumping to nearly five times the average monthly rate earlier in the year, according to U.S. military figures”….

“…townspeople, tribal leaders, medical workers and accounts from witnesses at the sites of clashes, at hospitals and at graveyards indicated that scores of noncombatants were killed last month in fighting, including airstrikes, in the opening stages of a 17-day U.S.-Iraqi offensive in Anbar province. (via Needlenose)

Of course, the military disputes that it is killing anyone who does not deserve killing. Many Iraqis seem to have a different impression.

Christmas wish for the soul of America

Saturday, December 24th, 2005

We need to care

No Relief To Offer
by hilzoy

I have written previously about the case of Abu Bakker Qassim and A’del Abdu al-Hakim, the two Uighurs who are still being held at Guantanamo, four years after they were captured by bounty hunters and turned over to the US for cash, and nine months after a tribunal found that — oops! — they were not enemy combatants after all. Today the judge who is hearing their case issued an extraordinary decision….

The December 22 decision states that America has imprisoned these men unlawfully, but the court “has no relief to offer.”

Only when the people of America wake up from our deep dehumanizing slumber will these injustices be corrected. That is my pie-in-the-sky wish for Christmas. Right now I’m working on getting members of my own quite wonderful family to recognize the need for action on this front. The response so far makes me feel like we are on a slippery slope to hell and we don’t even know it yet. There is a lot of work to do.

Friday Garden Blogging

Friday, December 23rd, 2005

Dreary


Where roses go in winter


Christmas spirit

The weather is turning icky — ice on the way. Cloudy and dank today… At least there are lots of Christmas figures and lights up in the neighborhood to drive away some of the darkness. Solstice has passed but noticable extra daylight is still weeks away.

Election engineering failure

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

One of the last unembedded journalists in Iraq explains what has been voted in

The reporting from Baghdad by Patrick Cockburn of the UK Independent has been invaluable these last few weeks. Here’s the topper, published December 21, archived at Counterpunch with the following headline & lede: Iraq Election Spells Total Defeat for US; “The election, billed by Mr Bush and Mr Blair, as the birth of a new Iraqi state may in fact prove to be its funeral.”

The whole story is worth a read, as are all filed by Cockburn.

Evidently, the US has all but given up trying to shape the elected spectrum in Iraq. (See this post and the Sy Hersh piece from last summer referenced therein about the way the US had thrown its weight around trying to influence the January election.) Now, despite another attempt by the US/UK to bolster their favorite, the hated Iyad Allawi, Islamic fundamentalist movements and Iran-friendly forces are solidifying their positions in the country with real electoral legitimacy and strengthening militia forces.

While not a peep is ever heard here in the US about these actualities of Iraqi politics, the pie-eyed lunacies issued by President Bush get the air play. On Sunday he spoke as a sort of flower child, preaching a togetherness of America and its Iraqi puppets, “working toward the same goal — a democratic Iraq that can defend itself, that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists, and that will serve as a model of freedom for the Middle East,” where, “the institutions of a unified and lasting democracy, in which all of Iraq’s people are included and represented.”

Of course, on this Iraqi unity front, the “news is encouraging,” as a “voter was asked, `Are you Sunni or Shia?’ And he responded, `I am Iraqi.”’

Cockburn lays waste to these fantasies with a strong dose of reality,

The election marks the final shipwreck of American and British hopes of establishing a pro-western secular democracy in a united Iraq. Islamic fundamentalist movements are ever more powerful in both the Sunni and Shia communities. “In two-and-a-half years Bush has succeeded in creating two new Talibans in Iraq,” said Ghassan Attiyah, an Iraqi commentator….

The elections are also unlikely to see a diminution in armed resistance to the US by the Sunni community. Insurgent groups have made clear that they see winning seats in parliament as the opening of another front. The US is trying to conciliate the Sunni by the release of 24 top Baathist leaders without charges. But the main demand of the Sunni resistance is a time table for a US withdrawal without which they are unlikely to agree a ceasefire ­even if they had the unity to negotiate such an agreement.

It is yet to be see how far away from US interests in key areas the new Iraqi government will be allowed to stray before it finds itself in open conflict with its belligerent occupying allies.

Enabling Act for the Bush dictatorship?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Congress and the American people are getting what we asked for in the days following September 11, 2001

The text of H.J. Res. 64, passed through both chambers of the Congress of the United States on September 14, 2001 is as follows:

H.J. RES. 64

Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and

Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and

Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and

Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and

Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘‘Authorization for Use of Military Force”.

SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
(a) IN GENERAL.–That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any further acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

(b) WAR POWERS RESOLUTION REQUIREMENTS. —
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION.–
Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS.
–Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution. [emphasis added]

There’s big a problem with all this. Nobody has ever asked President Bush to explain just how “he determines” who the “terrorists” are and who “aides” them. Out of these open-ended authorizations flows the “legal authority” President Bush now asserts.

The result has been a worldwide round-up of presidentially-declared “enemy combatants” who often disappear into black prisons for torture. These persons never are brought up on charges. The justice of public trials never are afforded these suspects who remain entombed in the American-run gulags.

Now a broad spying program against US citizens has been revealed late and grudgingly by the New York Times.

It’s an insanely un-American net of unlimited suspicion for which Congress laid down before Bush in September 2001, and that the president continues to promulgate now:

PRESIDENT BUSH, MONDAY: What we quickly learned was that al Qaeda was not a conventional enemy. Some lived in our cities and communities, and communicated from here in America to plot and plan with bin Laden’s lieutenants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Then they boarded our airplanes and launched the worst attack on our country in our nation’s history.

This new threat required us to think and act differently. And as the 9/11 Commission pointed out, to prevent this from happening again, we need to connect the dots before the enemy attacks, not after. And we need to recognize that dealing with al Qaeda is not simply a matter of law enforcement; it requires defending the country against an enemy that declared war against the United States of America.

Despite the deadly spectacle of September 11, this is broad-brush over-reaction of the worst kind. It is and always has been absurd to view criminal terrorism as some kind of world war. It is downright defeatism to lay down our civil liberties while discarding legitimate law enforcement as the main tool to protect the country from what are at most a very small number of truly dangerous enemies.

We need the cooperation of people around the world to root out the genuine terrorists. But conducting war against the people who live above the oil is in fact a surefire method of breeding terrorism instead.

Bush cannot be trusted with the power he accurately claims he was awarded in 2001, as he is proving every day. Will history record that HJ 64 enabled dictatorship in America? Is there a lesson of history from the German Enabling Act of 1933, which asserted that,

Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed. [from How Hitler Became a Dictator by Jacob G. Hornberger, quoting a translation of the original declaration passed the day after the Reichstag fire]

President Bush angrily denied he had become a dictator, while denouncing the unnamed person or persons who had leaked details of the spying program to the press. The warning coded into these remarks says to me that we should fear Mr. Bush is fast becoming exactly what he says he is not.

Even if Bush leaves office on schedule in 2009, will the next president maintain the same broad powers? It would be difficult for a new president to resist holding onto them, even if that president projects a less messianic outlook.

Friday garden blogging

Friday, December 9th, 2005

Snow!


Several midweek temperature dips down to -12°C finally put this tougher-than-nails broccoli plant out of business


What a difference a week makes this time of year (see same scene last week)


Holly (Ilex opaca)

The snow is welcome. I dislike having the cold weather hit with everything bare, like it did this week. But the snowfall stopped below forecast at a disappointing 2.5 inches that made the roads a mess nonetheless. Meanwhile, data suggests heating oil and natural gas supplies seem adequate for the winter as prices slip from sky-high to sky-high but slightly lower.

Pinter

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

“You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.”

That is a line the new Nobel laureate, playwright Harold Pinter, offered as part of an audition to be a speechwriter for President Bush. And my, oh my, the rest of his Nobel Prize Lecture captures the essence of Deep Blade Journal’s own view, much better of course than I usually do. When I heard a short excerpt on the BBC hourly news yesterday afternoon (the part I quote here with emphasis) I could imagine the stiff newsreader laying an egg.

PINTER: The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what’s called the ‘international community’. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be ‘the leader of the free world’. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man’s land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You’re either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading as a last resort all other justifications having failed to justify themselves as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they’re interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Pinter closes with a message not unlike one Deep Blade Journal has given often — a cautionary note — the suggestion that the time for us as citizens of America and Britain to save our souls is slipping away:

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us the dignity of man.

Pre-recorded and shown yesterday in Sweden, the whole thing is definitely worth reading. Unfortunately, Pinter suffers from cancer and his health is declining.

Merry holidaze, Bill

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

Seen at billoreilly.com:

Kos had a note on this and I had to try it myself! For the record, I celebrate the winter solstice because I was born right on it. And I am perfectly happy with a warm Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever. There’s far too little love in the world for us to rip on each other about what greeting we use.