Monday, May 31, 2004

trousers to the world

handsome devil
You're "Unhappy Birthday"! You're a
bastard when someone wrongs you, but you're
funny as hell.


Which Smiths Song Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

via Backword

Sunday, May 30, 2004

managerial wisdom

From Draxblog:

Anecdote, repeated in Soderbergh's Traffic, tells of the day Khruschev had to leave power to the new Soviet leader. He met the new man in his office, left him two letters and said: "Whenever you find yourself in trouble, follow the instructions in the letters". Few years later, new man in charge found himself in trouble. He went to his office and opened first letter. The letter said: "Blame me". The man did just that and remained in power. Few more years passed and new trouble came. The new man went back to his office and opened another letter. The letter said: "Start writing two letters".

Saturday, May 29, 2004

my adoptive home town

Never ceases to amaze.

Less than 24 hours later, a 14-year-old boy was critically ill in hospital with stab wounds in the chest and stomach. At first it seemed as though a brutal, but straightforward, robbery had gone wrong. But yesterday the young "victim" became the first person in this country to be convicted of inciting their own murder.

An intricate web of deceit had been spun by the boy on the chatroom to recruit another teenager as his would-be killer.

"This case serves as a stark warning of the dangers of the dark side of the internet," Nicholas Clarke, prosecuting, told the court yesterday.

The boy - who is now 15 and can be referred to only as John for legal reasons - persuaded his friend, known as Mark, now 17, to stab him to death in order to pass a fictitious initiation test for the British secret services in a meticulously planned attack one Sunday evening last summer.


there.I've said it.

Welcome, one and all, to the grand opening of the Official Nick Berg Conspiracy Theory. After cutting the ribbon, the mayor will pin a rosette on an odd shaped vegetable and dip his finger in a number of home made jams produced by elderly virgins.

Possum believes "the available evidence surrounding the case suggests that it was a 'black operation' by US psychological warfare specialists ... to provide the media with a moral relativity argument to counter the adverse publicity over torture at Abu Ghraib". The use of FBI footage in the opening sequence, if confirmed, suggests the involvement of high-level US Government operatives.

Since this is congruent with my own political outlook, I'm obliged to think of reasons why it can't be true. Probably something to do with the complete lack of evidence for the proposition as put forward. Still, pretty coherent for two and a bit weeks after the event.

Friday, May 28, 2004

lizard brains

Last year, shortly before it was published, Martin Amis' Yellow Dog was the recipient of a berserk, pre-emptive attack by Tibor Fisher:

Yellow Dog isn't bad as in not very good or slightly disappointing. It's not-knowing-where-to-look bad. I was reading my copy on the Tube and I was terrified someone would look over my shoulder (not only because of the embargo, but because someone might think I was enjoying what was on the page). It's like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating.

Well, I'm two thirds of the way through the paperback and I'm here to tell you that it's Tibor out there astonishing the kiddies, his dick swinging in the wind. True enough, Yellow Dog isn't "slightly disappointing". It's pretty damn good. I was going to say his best since...but it doesn't really work like that.There seem to be some changes at work that make comparisons pointless.

For one thing, it's simple. There's none of the cosmic stuff, where Amis attempts to nail the feelings of his squalid creations to the stuff of the universe itself as they snuffle and hoot their way towards Cosmic Doom. Freed from portentousness, what we have is a day out swimming in the postmodern swamp with a random sample of ethical cripples, some more sympathetic than others, all assailed by a kind of creeping, corrosive worthlessness attendent on an overmediated culture.

Fuck me, I've gone all purple. Mart, boy, what have you done to me? Anyway there's lots of laughs too, deriving as is usual in Amis' stuff, from shame and humiliation.

Reading Koba the Dread, it occured to me that Martin's politics were starting to resemble his dad's, in a less bufferish and commonsensical way. It may also be that his books are turning in the same direction. No-one's a more nifty tap dancer round a thesaurus than Amis junior, but in Yellow Dog he seems content to just show us what he's on about rather than work quantum physics - or whatever - into things to develop a meaning for us all.

So what's he on about, then? One theme seems to be the ability of technology and commerce to both satisfy desire and to push it further than we ever thought possible or desirable. It's also a vision of an Americanised culture in a British context, publicity without style, celebrity without self worth, diffident recklessness, resentful hedonism. People either wallow joylessly in their impulses or squat on their jobs like fat, prehensile toads. Yes, it's the first really successful age of Blair novel. State of England, eh Mart? 'Kinell. State of that!

I've sometimes wondered why we have to use a dumbed-down phrase like dumbing down to describe a dumbed-down culture. Mart's here to tell us why words have failed us. Thing is, it's not that we've got dumber. Naah, geezer. it's just that our impulses have got smarter. Our lizard brains have learned to txt and e-mail and publish newspapers...

"Clint had recently read a piece in a magazine that posited the emergence of a new human type: the high IQ moron. Wised-up, affectless and non-empathetic, high IQ morons...were also supercontemporary in their acceptance of all technological and cultural change - an acceptance both unflinching and unsmiling."

Thursday, May 27, 2004

handling bollocks roughly

I interviewed Francis Wheen once for the China Daily about his biography of Marx, and met him later on at the old Briton’s Protection pub next to G-Mex. Nice bloke, and still fighting the good fight. Even if it is in Spiked and he has to fight his way through the inevitable smugness.

As a good God-fearin' atheist and some time contributor to the New Humanist magazine, Wheen is especially aghast at the apparent rise of the creationist movement. 'Those people', he says, as a full sentence, to indicate that he doesn't much care for the likes of the Christian fundamentalists who in 2002 took control of a state-funded school in north-east England intending to 'show the superiority' of creationist beliefs in their classes. 'Why don't we have schools that teach children there is a tooth fairy or put Santa Claus Studies on the national curriculum, and be done with it?'

Wheen was most struck by prime minister Tony Blair's response to revelations of a creationist takeover of a state-run school. When Lib Dem Jenny Tonge asked Blair if he was 'happy to allow the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in state schools', the prime minister said: 'In the end, a more diverse school system will deliver better results for our children.' 'A simple "no" to Tonge's query would have sufficed', says Wheen, 'and perhaps shown that the prime minister of the United Kingdom believes in reason.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

i'll go long

The market for martyrs. (pdf file).

Injury-oriented sacrifice can be modeled as a market phenomenon grounded in exchanges between a relatively small supply of people willing to sacrifice themselves and arelatively large number of “demanders” who benefit from the sacrificers’ acts. Contrary to popular perception, it is on account of limited demand rather than limited supply that markets for “martyrs” so rarely flourish.

A little too much effort to squeeze the whole phenomena into the rational choice economics formula, but a useful line of enquiry I think.

via Libertarian Jackass

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

way too much information

Someone has done a close, frame-by-frame analysis of the Nick Berg beheading video, with particular attention to blood spatter. Finish your tea and read the conclusions.

unintended ironies

Matthew Turner'snoticed something.

Blair's announcement today that the provisional Iraqi government can, if it wants, tell the coalition troops to go home is a remarkable achievement for the prospective provisional government.

For that weak, divided and under-strain authority has achieved a level of control it is believed no British government has ever managed with respect to US forces in Britain.

up and down the Cheetham Hill Road

A shoddy article in today’s Guardian on the subject of the Muslim vote - apparently, sub-editing is haram or something – did bring to mind a stroll down the Cheetham Hill Road last Saturday.

With an election pending, you normally find that most of the businesses have posters up. Round here, that means either Labour or Lib Dem, or quite often both. They let people put posters for lost pitbulls in their windows, so why not political candidates? The locals are a courteous bunch, by and large.

This time there were more posters than usual, and they were all for the Lib Dems. The beaming, bald bonce of Qasim Afzal followed me all the way down the road. Due to some problem with the offset process, however, the forces of Liberal Democracy in the Cheetham Hill ward were visually represented by an ugly shade of burnt orange.

Gorgeous George’s acolytes were also out soliciting, but not getting many customers. The lads at Spices of Kashmir put one of their posters up – in emetic shades of yellow and green – but they’re only young.

As ever at times like this, I wonder where the hell the Tories are. In times past, they had good representation in Manchester and a fairly strong local organization. And these are small businesspeople we’re talking about. They don’t like taxes any the better because their parents came from somewhere around the Pakistan/China/Kashmir border area. I suspect the Tories’ ongoing trouble – their continued feebleness - isn’t down to their ideas, but to their lack of organization. If they were stronger in this regard they’d have held on to the swivel-eyed loons too. Build the party, comrades!

For the record, the all-important B&T endorsement goes to the least unappealing of our three centre right parties, in a newly established popular front with proprietors of the Midway Halal grocers and the Sizzling Balti. I might give the crusties a punt in the generals, assuming they venture out of Hulme.

Monday, May 24, 2004

liberal Chekist

Vladimir Putin, considered at length by Neal Ascherson.

Sakwa writes about Putin's choice between 'pluralistic statism' (imposing the authority of the law without diminishing the structures of civil society or regional autonomy) and 'compacted statism' in which civil society is regimented in the name of enforcing the rule of law, while power and patronage are concentrated on an undemocratic elite at the centre. At present, Putin's Russia looks increasingly compacted rather than pluralistic. Jack shows that Putin's Kremlin is increasingly composed of 'enforcers' - officials who have served either in the KGB/ FSB, or in the military. The proportion of such people among federal officials was under 5 per cent in Gorbachev's time. Now it is 58 per cent. Democratic self-confidence does not grow well in their shadow.

Jack defines Putin as a 'liberal Chekist'. He sees parallels with Andropov, the head of the KGB who came to lead the Soviet Union in 1982, when it was too late (and he was too sick) to carry through his ideas. He wanted to liberalise the Soviet economy without corresponding political reform. 'First we'll make enough sausages, and then we won't have any dissidents.'


One theory about the demise of the Soviet Union, apparently popular in US intelligence circles, is that the whole reform process in the 80’s was initiated by the KGB. According to this, Russia’s technical development was fuelled mainly by industrial espionage (remember Concordski). Examples of high technology would be stolen and the Soviets would fill the gaps in their knowledge by figuring out how it worked. By the early eighties, the West was so far ahead that Soviet scientists couldn’t work out how to reverse engineer the stuff, so the game was up.

Andropov wanted to launch Chinese style economic reform, but died before he got properly going. Gorbachev eventually took over and tried the same thing, but didn’t have the authority to carry it through while preserving the integrity of the state. Hence Putin’s fondness for enforcers.

laughter for monday

Extensive ruminations about the Chalabi/Iran connection, courtesy of Kevin Drum and Jim Henley. The latter in particular has some questions:

Isn't blowhard Michael Ledeen, for instance, just the sort of arrogant fool a foreign intelligence service would regard as the perfect mark? Aren't Ledeen's endless screeds demanding that the US topple the Iranian government the perfect cover for a witting or unwitting agent of influence? Where do the allegiances of (continuing!) Ledeen pal Manuchir Ghorbanifar really lie, and what damage has Douglas Feith done to the country by getting himself mixed up with the man? Are the Iranians crazy, for bringing US troops to their very borders, or crazy smart, having figured out just what a ten-division army bogged down in a sour occupation can and can't do to them?

Schadenfreud has been forbidden by those whose position on the war has revealed them to be fools. Well I don’t care. Give me Schadenfreud! Give me Emma Freud! Give me all the scions of the great psychoanalytic dynasty, including that creepy publicist and cultural operator!

I just can’t help it. I’m minding my own business when I’m overcome with giggles by the thought that Melanie Phillips is an Iranian intelligence asset. I think my lungs will burst at the next po-faced discussion of the “influence” of Tony Blair, dupe of dupes. Those endless legions of tough-minded, unfooled, stout-hearted, clear-sighted think tank monkeys, calling for courage and sacrifice from their corner offices. All with their strings pulled by a couple of guys with beards in an office in Tehran.

On the other hand, a lot of the neocon crowd were close to the Iran-Contra nonsense. Dupes or…what did they know and when did they know it?

Sunday, May 23, 2004

led to the appointed place

Or something like that.It’s always tricky to judge the boundaries between reasonable conjecture and outright conspiratorialising. I use what I call Rosenbaum’s Rules, evolved after reading Ron Rosenbaum’s sympathetic but skeptical accounts of various conspiracy buffs (go here to buy his book on these and other matters).

These are:

does the theory maximise itself in terms of those supposedly responsible for it? (and George W Bush personally ordered…

does it merge with other conspiracies to form one grand Secret History of Everything?

does it conform to and expand on the political beliefs of the person making the theory?

Say yes to any of these and its time to go away and lie down for a bit, contemplating fluffy bunnies and sunlight. Having said that, further reports of the Nick Berg case are beginning to convince me that there is officially Something Funny Going On.

The authenticity of the Nick Berg beheading video is critiqued here and here. Main points:

If al-Zarqawi was responsible, he seems to have grown a leg. Either that, or the story of his medical treatment - including the amputation of his leg - in Baghdad is not true. This story indicates that the line on al-Zarqawi may be changing, however.

The video is in fact two videos spliced together and overdubbed.

Nick Berg was probably dead before his beheading.

Asia Times also publishes the following:

According to e-mails sent from a US consular officer in Baghdad, Beth Payne, to the Berg family, Nick Berg was being held in Iraq "by the US military in Mosul". A May 13 AP report notes that a US State Department spokesperson subsequently said this was untrue, an error, and that Berg was being held by Iraqi authorities. But another May 13 AP report quoted "police chief Major-General Mohammed Khair al-Barhawi" as claiming that reports of Iraqi police having held Berg were "baseless".

And Berg is seen on the beheading videotape in what appears to be US military prison-issue clothing, sitting in what appears to be a US military-type white chair, virtually identical to those photographed as used at Abu Ghraib prison.


According to the Philadelphia Daily News, meanwhile:

Berg teamed up in Baghdad with an ex-Philadelphia man who led a controversial group of Iraqi expatriates encouraged by the U.S. government - even as he faced deportation for his role in Russian-emigre crime ring selling millions of vials used for crack.

Aziz Kadoory Aziz, also known as Aziz al-Taee, hooked up earlier this year with the 26-year-old West Chester man to start a small company called Shirikat Abraj Babil, or Babylon Towers Co., that would install, inspect and repair telecommunications and utility towers.

In interviews with several news organizations in Baghdad, Aziz claimed he may have been the last friend to speak with Berg before his kidnapping and beheading by terrorists possibly linked to the al Qaeda network. The radio-tower contractor had come back to Baghdad after a 13-day detainment in Mosul, only to disappear again on April 10.

Aziz said that on April 10 Berg "surprised me by calling me at 9 or 10, to say that he found some friend to travel with to Jordan." Berg said he was en route, but Aziz doesn't know who he was with or what kind of vehicle they were driving. "He said they were nice people. I told him to have a nice trip."


I don’t know what to make of all this, but it paints a very odd picture of a willfully naïve Candide figure stumbling around Iraq intersecting with all sorts of interested parties. And there’s the odd encounter back home as well.

Before traveling to Iraq twice this year, Berg had been investigated by the FBI because in 1999 - while at the University of Oklahoma - an associate of jailed Sept. 11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui had obtained Berg's e-mail password.

on the eve of war

a president prepares. In this clip from German channel zdf, Bush the younger consumes the unforgiving minutes before going on TV to declare the war officially started with a bit of larking about. From last year. File under ‘how we got into this mess’.

via the Daily Kos

timely

Things to be cynical about. 714 of them.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

all ahmed

All the time. The bust followed Chalabi's attack on the UN's oil for food programme, says Christopher Allbritton. He's an Iranian agent, says TPM. He's a construct of geo-political fantasists, says the FT. Juan Cole discounts Andrew Cockburn's allegations that he was planning a coup, and Riverbend has her first good laugh in ages.
Me, I'm reminded of the line in Goodfellas (from memory)...

"There were supposed to be rules but guys just got whacked all the time, whether they got out of line or not."

Thieves fall out, so there you go. But what does all this tell us about the power struggle in Washington?

update: possibly, this.

Friday, May 21, 2004

loved not wisely but too well

I don't have much experience in Toryology, but there's something odd going on over on the right hand side of the aisle.

There is abundant evidence of this, most eloquent of all Michael Howard’s in-tray. The Conservative leader has been deluged with letters from senior Republicans attacking him, sometimes in strong terms, for his alleged failure to support Tony Blair to the hilt. The Republican party believes that the betrayal is all the greater because of his role in setting up the Atlantic Partnership, a think tank dedicated to ‘purposeful strengthening’ of links between Europe and the United States. The Atlantic Partnership, whose meetings are addressed by senior members of the US administration as well as top-rank European politicians, has been extremely effective in getting the US message across to an elite British audience. But some of the Partnership’s Republican backers have told Michael Howard that his recent criticisms of Tony Blair amount to a betrayal. According to an aide, Howard recently remarked on receiving a letter from an angry Republican, ‘I am not going to be told by Americans what I will and will not do.’

Never mind the public - when do any of them mind the public - this is some kind of pitch to the Tory faithful in their house journal. Max Hastings hs also been using the Speccy and the Guardian to make foreign and defense policy proposals for the Tories, from the left of the party. But why do the Tories want to chain Blair to Bush? What's actually in it for them? And I wonder how much of this stuff Kerry's aware of?

One senior official privately describes telling Blair, ahead of a pre-war meeting with George Bush, that Britain’s standing in Washington was now so high that he could make practically any demands he liked, and that they would probably be granted. A list was provided. The official was aghast when the British Prime Minister did not raise a single one of them at the meeting which followed. Later he described the meeting, and his feeling of utter amazement, to Jack Straw. The Foreign Secretary shrugged his shoulders. ‘That’s the nature of the beast,’ he said.

I can juts see himn sitting there with puppydog eyes, trembling in some sort of personal apotheosis. Blair's approach to politics has always struck me as somewhat theological. Where previous labour leaders stressed atlanticism for its utility - as a signal that they were fit to govern - for Blair it seems to be a matter of faith. There can be no higher calling than to sit by the right hand of an American President.

On the other hand, what if Kerry got in and it was generally understood that Blair's closeness to Bush, his role in not making him seem like an absolute dolt, had damaged his standing with the Democrat in the white house? The thought that he had actually undermined the "special relationship" would finish him off for good.

you too can be...

Thomas Friedman!

Remember: Thomas Friedman is the Carrie Bradshaw of current events. Think Sex and the City, write "Sects and Tikriti":

a. How can Islam get to its future, if its past is its present?

b. Later that day I got to thinking about global civilizational warfare. There are wars that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that take you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant clash of all is the one you have with your own civilization. And if you can find a civilization to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous.


via Arts and Letters Daily

Thursday, May 20, 2004

"too clever by half..."

In an absolutely stunning article, Andrew Cockburn goes behind the Chalabi bust.

Another benefit was his money. One former covert operator happily recalled the inaugural meeting of the Iraqi National Congress in Vienna, Austria in June 1992, which was wholly, if secretly, funded by the CIA: "There wasn't a single person there who didn't believe he was paying for it all out of money he had embezzled from the Petra Bank!" (I asked one investigator who had spent years probing the Petra wreckage if anyone from the US government had ever queried him on the true facts of the fraud. "No", not once," he answered, adding that journalists had also steered clear of the ugly truths about Chalabi's banking career.)

"He doesn't want colleagues, only employees," says one former INC associate sadly. "And he prefers to bring in outsiders who can't work independently of him." As example, this Iraqi opposition veteran cites INC official Zaab Sethna, an American of Pakistani origin, and Francis Brooke, Chalabi's Washington lobbyist. During last year's war, Brooke, a fundamentalist Christian, told Harper's Magazine that he would support the elimination of Saddam, "the human Satan," even if every single Iraqi were killed in the process.

Other key aides who have stuck by him over the years include Nabil Mousawi, a former Leeds pizzeria manager who first attracted Chalabi's notice when he volunteered to work the copy machine at the INC's inaugural meeting. Entifadh Qamber, now the INC spokesman in Baghdad, has been similarly loyal. Known for his verbal and physical aggressiveness, Qamber once punched out an elderly Iraqi critic live on television.

we march towards death in onomastic cohorts

40 today. A quick glance at the obituaries in the Manchester Evening News seems in order. I’ve been doing this for a number of years now out of curiosity, trying to scope out the circumstances behind the trade jargon of death. “Died in the arms of holy mother church” – one of ours, a fellow left footer. “After a long illness, bravely born” – swigging the Brompton’s mixture.“Taken from us suddenly” – Manchester style, head kicked in outside a nightclub.

And so on, and so forth. But it’s the names that make the most impression. When I started reading obits for pleasure, it was Freds, Berts and other names redolent of allotments, pipes and British war movies that were busy departing.

They seem to have gone now, though their wives – the Ivys , the Annies and the Bettys were making appearances for a good few years afterwards, confirming what we’re told about comparative lifespans.

Then came the R-generation – Reg, Ray, Ron, products of the thirties and the early meritocratic period. Orwell once described children in the new towns who knew nothing of the bible, but had an intimate knowledge of magnetos. There they are, dying before my eyes. And following on, their lady wives: farewell, Pam and Shirley. Your taste in wallpaper will not be missed.

There’s also a sense of history books closing. There go Tadeusz and Iwan, fetched up in Manchester after evading the Nazis or the Communists in Poland or the Ukraine. And here, names strongly suggestive of the Windrush generation. All integrated now in Southern Cemetery.

Onwards to the world of the welfare state, the firstborn of the family with its first mortgage and first family car. Derek, Colin, Chris – there were such hopes for you, and you did become an industrial chemist. But now you’re gone, or going.

This is where it starts to get disturbing. There was a Derek in my class at school. When you’re good and distant , there’s something almost reassuring about the way naming fashions identify cohorts which march together through life towards their endings. But I’m a bit too far up the conveyor belt to be smug right now. Martin Amis said after the late thirties, people stop saying hi and start saying bye. Well there’s a Martin right here in the paper – suddenly, at home (at home=not murdered) – so what do you think of that Mr smartarse?

Hopefully I’ll be able to step out of line for a few years. At least, for long enough to read the paper and say to myself: there goes Darren and I’m still dodging my coffin. Meanwhile, there is something to be said for a cheerful outlook and a sturdy sense of humour. So here’s a re-enactment of "the Shining" by cartoon rabbits.

business news

This fellow is going to make money

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

vanishing Sonia

Early speculation over Sonia Gandhi’s fit of modesty concentrated on a supposed backlash to her Italian ancestry – not likely given the fact that the Indian electorate know all about it and a plurality of them voted for her anyway. Rahul Mahajan has what sounds like a more credible explanation.

Normally, Congress governs in coalition with the Indian Communists and kindred left parties. This time they refused to play ball, preferring to support Congress from the outside over specific issues while not committing themselves to the full neoliberal package. The Indian Sensex market drops precipitately, and Sonia gives way to Manmohan Singh, the name most closely associated with neoliberalism. The people have their say, the investors have their government. Full story here.

hope for us yet

According to this BBC report, while most of the public remain in favour of ID cards, a larger minority than previously thought oppose them. More significantly, a large number of people are prepared to be militant in their opposition.

Up to 5 million people (28%) would demonstrate against ID cards the survey conducted by online research firm YouGov found.

One million would be prepared to go to prison rather than register for a card.

The survey paints a different picture to the recent MORI poll which found that 80% of UK citizens were in favour of cards.

By contrast the YouGov online poll found that a smaller majority - 60% - of citizens were in favour.


With this issue it's a case of never mind the quantity, feel the depth. ID cards would require almost universal compliance to be practically workable. And those opposed would also have to play a gigantic game of chicken with the government over the proposed punishments for those who refuse to comply. If enough people said they'd be prepared to go to prison even after the government made an example of one or two, strict enforcement of the law would swampt the criminal justice system. It's really a matter of preventing refuseniks feeling isolated in the face of state coercion, which is why this is one of the few issues where demonstrations might have some practical effect.

We also need a more everyday means of recognising each other. An ID card, perhaps...

...that made his ears burn

It's a fine spring morning, and the Los Angeles Times brings us a brief history of the lobotomy.

The late Walter Freeman, who wrote Howard's case history, had retired from the neurology department at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. By then, he was famous for championing the lobotomy. Freeman was so convinced of the value of the operation that he traveled the country to "treat" just about any stubborn mental problem, charging as little as $25.

He would damage the prefrontal region by driving steel ice picks through each eye socket, just above the eye. This "transorbital" lobotomy required no drilling into the skull, as other techniques did.

Freeman had settled in Los Altos, a few minutes' drive from where Howard's family lived. He was nearing the end of his career and would later lose his surgical privileges after one of his patients died on the operating table.


What with one thing and another, I'm still tempted now and again...

via Hit and Run

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

i think a new look is in order
Abnormal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
from the pre-history of neo-conservatism
Actually, from the Georgetown Bookshop's fascinating collection of antique propaganda material. It seems that some things don't change. Other things don't change either. Nor do still other things.

But this is how all the trouble started.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

somebody phone UKIP
I’ve been boggling at the KCNA site published in Japan for a few years now, but via Nick Barlow I see that North Korea has it’s own official web presence. Amid the treasure trove of Stalinist cult lunacy therein, a number of souvenirs are on offer…all priced in Euros.

I think that tells us everything we need to know.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

a conspiracy is born
Curious. The Nick Berg referrals are still rolling in. But now a large number of the requests say "Nick Berg execution staged". I wonder if this is the point when a specific conspiracy theory hardens out of a state of generalised radical distrust.

Friday, May 14, 2004

crumbly lipped cassandra in reductio ad absurdam shock
Melanie Phillips, making sense.
message to gorehounds
I appreciate all the traffic, but there is no video of the Nick Berg murder on this site. If it’s work displacement activities you’re after, there’s plenty of commentary about various things here and at the sites linked to on the right. Or you could actually do some work . If you insist, there are stills here, along with a comments facility.
hordes of imperialists slaughtered, one heroic resister slightly scratched
Dispatches from the insurgency. About as trustworthy as Adam Ingram, but worth bookmarking anyway.
America's dreaming
Not his best, but it's JG Ballard, so read it anyway.

Note that characteristic Ballard touch...

We might think that the US had enough problems coping with Iraq, where the abuse of prisoners has given a spin of sexual perversion to its drive towards world domination, something the British Empire, with its croquet and memsahibs, never achieved, alas.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

under old management
One of the things about the great outsourcing debate that puzzled me was the idea that India was booming because cold calling the UK and lying about supporting Man United to likely sales prospects was considered a great job for its graduates. Apparently not.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has resigned after a shock election defeat that paves the way for Italian-born Sonia Gandhi's Congress party to take power in the world's largest democracy.

The result was a resounding rejection by the rural poor of Vajpayee's "India shining" campaign motto, although Gandhi's Congress was not expected to turn its back on a policy of gradually liberalising Asia's third-largest economy.

....

The coalition led by Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost one-third of its MPs, including its foreign minister, punished by disaffected rural poor who feel excluded from India's economic boom.


Of course, India's peasantry really support globalization. All the so-called peasants who voted against the BJP must be middle class westerners in disguise.

Not that it'll do them any good.

not depressed enough yet?
Try some contemplation of global immiseration. Your host: Mike Davis

Something in this essay struck me as relevant to Iraq and the ongoing confrontation between the Occupation forces and their (current) Shi’ite allies and the Sadrist movement.

Today, on the other hand, populist Islam and Pentecostal Christianity (and in Bombay, the cult of Shivaji) occupy a social space analogous to that of early twentieth-century socialism and anarchism. In Morocco, for instance, where half a million rural emigrants are absorbed into the teeming cities every year, and where half the population is under 25, Islamicist movements like ‘Justice and Welfare’, founded by Sheik Abdessalam Yassin, have become the real governments of the slums: organizing night schools, providing legal aid to victims of state abuse, buying medicine for the sick, subsidizing pilgrimages and paying for funerals. As Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi, the Socialist leader who was once exiled by the monarchy, recently admitted to Ignacio Ramonet, ‘We [the Left] have become embourgeoisified. We have cut ourselves off from the people. We need to reconquer the popular quarters. The Islamicists have seduced our natural electorate. They promise them heaven on earth.’ An Islamicist leader, on the other hand, told Ramonet: ‘confronted with the neglect of the state, and faced with the brutality of daily life, people discover, thanks to us, solidarity, self-help, fraternity. They understand that Islam is humanism.’

The Sadrists started out as a ‘government of the slums’ especially the al-Thawra district of Baghdad, now known as Sadr City, under the leadership of Moqtada al-Sadr’s father Mohammed Sadiq – providing a social and welfare infrastructure and an alternative system of justice to Saddam’s courts. Juan Cole’s essay on Sh’ite political factions in Middle East International provides fascinating background on both the younger and elder Sadr, who wasn’t averse to secular or leftist influences.

Muhammad Sadiq had a wide-ranging intellect. He notonly excelled in the Islamic branches of knowledge, but also learned fluent English,and studied psychology and history. Al-Asadi says that his history tutor, Dr. FadilHusayn, considered him his best student and presented him with a rare copy of TheParis Commune (presumably the one authored by Karl Marx).22 This anecdote suggests the way in which leftist and Marxist influences circulated even in clerical circlesin the shrine cities, a phenomenon that went back at least to the 1950s. Muhammad Sadiq wrote a Shi‘ite commentary on the 1789 “Rights of Man” issued by the French revolutionaries.

Prof Cole also explains how the Sadrist government of the slums mobilized after the invasion deposed Saddam.

Sadr Movement adherents differentiate themselves from middle class and
wealthier, more secular Iraqis of the sort who controlled Iraq politically for most of
the twentieth century. They decry the wearing of Western-made clothes, patronizing
movie theaters that show Western films, drinking alcohol, and the appearance in public
of unveiled women. They insist on the necessity of holding and attending Friday
prayers at mosques. They also represent themselves as more socially conscious and
caring than is the Westernized and individualistic Iraqi middle class. Their militias
provided security to millions of Shi‘ites in the spring and summer of 2003, at a time
when the Iraqi police force had collapsed and the Anglo-American forces were too
small to provide security. Sadrist clergymen fought looting and insisted on the return
of looted merchandise. Adherents also specialize in providing food and medical aid to
poor neighborhoods, seeking thereby to build a political base when elections come.
They appear to have gained some Iranian patronage for these efforts.


Sadr the elder was assassinated in 1999, along with two of Muqtada’s elder brothers. His uncle had been murdered by Ba’athists back in 1979.

Like other Arab dictators, Saddam was an assiduous killer of socialists and communists. And in Iraq as elsewhere, it is religious leaders and parties who have moved in to fill the gap. It’s one of those post-liberation ironies that a party led by a determined enemy of Saddam and supported by significant sections of the Iraqi working class now apparently has to be disposed of in the name of freedom and pluralism. Maybe it does. Muqtada himself appears to be more than a little deranged, possibly as a consequence of the brutal repression his family suffered under the Ba’ath. But this is part of Iraq’s unfolding tragedy rather than a reason for whooping it up.

Whatever happens to Sadr’s movement in particular, it’ll be interesting to see if Sadrism in the wider sense – a kind of declaration of independence by the global surplus population complete with autonomous civic and military structures – takes off in the future.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

willing the ends
From Normblog, an interview with Adam Michnik.

Bush has a utopian ideology . . . maybe not Bush, but maybe his circle. Perhaps I'm being naïve, but I don't think it is utopian to want to install democratic rule in Iraq. If it won't be an ideal democracy, let it be a crippled democracy, but let it not be a totalitarian dictatorship. I don't like many things in today's Russia, but we have to say that there is a difference between Putin and Stalin. In my opinion, the religious visions of Bush's circle are anachronistic. I can't believe that John Ashcroft has personal conversations with God every day, who tells him what to do. But if God told him that he should destroy Saddam, then this was the right advice, because a world without Saddam Hussein is better than a world with Saddam Hussein.

I don’t agree with the conclusion, but the analysis seems to be exactly right when you look at what has been achieved by humanitarian militarism over the past decade. Bosnia slumbers on under the rule of King Paddy the Benign. In Kosovo, Serbian ethnic cleansers have been replaced by Albanian ethnic cleansers. For the most part, Afghanistan has reverted to its pre-Taliban political configuration. Hamid Karzai happens to be the warlord with international support who controls Kabul and its environs. Having said that, Kabul does seem to be a free city. Sierra Leone won’t be setting the world on fire any time soon, but the violence has largely ceased.

So with the possible exceptions of Kosovo and Iraq itself, the military humanists have left the sites of their interventions in a slightly better state than they found them. That is if we take a loose interpretation of the word ‘left’. All the happy beneficiaries apparently need ongoing political control of their country by the political delegates of the military humanists. Given the level of actual support for military intervention that exists internationally, it’s probably the best that can be achieved.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. In order to create “crippled democracies” in Afghanistan and Iraq, dictatorships in the surrounding countries have had to be supported, notably Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The hardline mullahs in Iran look more secure than they did a year back, and Ghaddafi has been given life tenure as Libyan dictator.

Additionally, the timing and conduct of the Iraq occupation has allowed militant jihadists to regroup, won them more supporters and made the people of the countries involved in the occupation at greater risk of attack. Of course, we were all targets before. But that in itself is no reason to paint a big red target sign on everybody’s head.

Add these factors to the equation. Now let’s make an honest pitch for liberation based on the “crippled democracy” approach.

Ladies and gentlemen. People of this great nation. We aim to topple a totalitarian dictatorship and replace it with a crippled democracy. Our plan is to create a corrupt, brutal and dictatorial regime, but not as corrupt, brutal and dictatorial as the one that went before it. We would like to do better, and who knows, we might pull it off. However, we cannot guarantee that we will succeed even in this.

Yet the attempt will involve us in an open ended military, political and economic commitment, using money that would otherwise have been spent elsewhere. An unknown number of our troops will die. So will an unknown number of the civilians in the country we intend to liberate. It’s not that we want to kill them, but public opinion demands that we put our own military’s security ahead of civilian lives in crippleddemocracystan, even though we care so deeply about these civilians that we intend to liberate them.

Those of you who know which way up a map goes will be aware that the country we intend to liberate abuts totalitarian dictators. We need secure bases of operations so we intend to provide these dictators with economic and political support. In this way we can pursue our policy of opposition to dictatorship more effectively.

Our liberation of crippleddemocracystan will indirectly further the aims of the more general war on terror by replacing a corrupt, brutal and dictatorial regime with a less corrupt, brutal and dictatorial regime. It is not however, a direct attack on the terrorists themselves, who may well increase their attacks on us in response now that the direct pressure is off them. Our response to this will be to curtail exactly the same kind of freedoms that we wish to see established in crippleddemocracystan, not that there will be too many of those. Never mind. You lot have had plenty of liberties for a long time, so now it’s time to share.

I don’t think a pitch made on these grounds would go over well with the public. But if you think that it needs to go ahead regardless, you are under pressure to come up with better reasons, even if they have no factual basis, or ignore the public altogether.

And the problem with that is that it tends to cripple democracy in your own country.
invitation to a beheading
Over at Maxspeak, the Sandwichman provides a preamble to the kidnapping and murder of Nick Berg.

On March 7, 2004 an "enemies list" composed of signatories to an anti-war petition was posted on the Free Republic website. The introductory and subsequent comments on that list suggest that the purpose of the posting was to encourage people to harrass the individuals on the list and to circulate their names to agencies and individuals that might take action against them.

Nick Berg's father, Michael Berg was on that list and he named Prometheus Methods Tower Service, Inc. as an affiliation. According to his family on March 24, 2004 -- approximately two weeks after publication of the enemies list on the Free Republic website -- Nick Berg was detained by Iraqi police who handed him over to US forces, he was then held until April 6 when he was released, the day after his family had filed a lawsuit in Philadelphia federal court. Nick Berg was not heard from again after April 9.


The original enemies list is here.

Today's Independent gives more background.

Mr Berg was unlucky in Iraq, even before the people who killed him got their hands on him. He went missing not once but twice. He arrived in Iraq for the first time in December 2003. On 1 February this year, he returned home on holiday, but he came back to Iraq on 14 March. That was when things started to go wrong.

His parents suddenly stopped hearing from him after 24 March. He had said he was coming home on 30 March, but he wasn't on the flight. That was his first disappearance. That time, the Americans found him. He had been arrested at a checkpoint in Mosul. He was released on 6 April, after his parents filed a lawsuit in the US.

He told them he had not been mistreated, but that at one stage he had been held in a room full of Iraqis, some of whom had begun shouting abuse at him. After that he was moved to a single cell.

Whether that first, strange episode had anything to do with his subsequent disappearance is not clear. Certainly, it is bizarre that Iraqi police would arrest an American and hold him for several days. If they had suspected him of wrongdoing, it would be more likely that they would hand him over to US forces directly. It is possible he met someone during that stint in an Iraqi prison who later took a more sinister interest in him.

After he was released, Mr Berg told his parents he was coming home. The US State Department offered to arrange him a ticket on a charter flight from Baghdad, but Mr Berg told his father Michael that he doubted they would be able to do so. Why is unclear - there were plenty of flights. Perhaps he was nervous that the plane would be attacked with a missile. The last time he spoke to his parents, on 9 April, he told them he planned to find a route out overland, either via Kuwait, Turkey or Jordan.


The Berg family found out about his detention following a visit from the FBI. (link via Atrios)

When FBI agents arrived at the Berg's West Chester home on March 31, they were relieved to know their son was alive, but in jail. The agents questioned them about various details that only they and their son would know about.

Jerri Williams, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia FBI office, said the agency was "asked to interview the parents regarding Mr. Berg's purpose in Iraq."
On April 5, the Bergs filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia, contending that their son was being held illegally by the U.S. military in Iraq.

The next day, April 6, Nick Berg was released. He told his parents he had been riding in a taxi on March 24 when he was arrested by Iraqi officials at a checkpoint in Mosul. He told his parents he had not been mistreated.


There's no proof of anything here, but there are a number of data points that stack up in a suggestive way. A list of "enemies" is circulated, in which Nick Berg's father and the company he works for is named. The son is arrested and detained for no clear reason, and jailed with people hostile to him. FBI agents question his parents about his son's reasons for being in Iraq. After release, he refuses offers of help from his own government. His final disappearance follows shortly afterwards. It will be interesting to see what the Berg family do next.

As to Al-zarqawi, he appears to have something of a charmed life. Atrios again:

The presence of al Zarqawi was used as one of the justifications for invading Iraq, despite the fact that he was being harbored in Kurdish controlled territory in the North. The Bush administration ignored 3 opportunities to get him, feeling that it would undercut their non-existent case for war in Iraq.

update: The Berg family wiegh in.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

the unbearable rightness of noam
Josh Marshall:

For someone who considers himself in many ways a hawk and who did and does believe in American power as a force for good in the world (most recently in the Balkans) it is difficult to describe the depth of the chagrin over watching the unfolding of a story which reads in many ways like a parody of Chomskian screeds against American villainy.

Over to Mark Kleiman:

George W. Bush has managed to actually carry out the program Noam Chomsky only dreamed about: to greatly reduce the capacity of the United States to achieve its ends abroad.It's that -- even more than making us liberal hawks look like a bunch of fools -- that makes some of us so uncontrollably angry

Er...why not just admit that Chomsky might be right now and again, instead of casting him as beyond the pale? After all, it follows from the above that when the next great adventure is mooted Chomsky's opinions may seem more realistic than those of "liberal hawks."

Explananda's noticed this too.
it's a slav thing baby, you wouldn't understand
The country has moved slowly and painfully from a grotesque parody of socialism to a no less offensive caricature of free market capitalism. Its first and so far only free elections have seen a rigid one-party (formally, a two-party) state replaced by a democratic coalition of National Conservative, Progressive Liberal and Religious Obscurantist parties, all of whose leaders are united by their Communist past and divided by business interests and clan feuds.

Ken MacLeod reports from Molvania

Monday, May 10, 2004

frantic, screaming voices
You’re the editor of the Daily Mail, the frantic, screaming voice of middle England.

In normal times, you’re supportive of the USA. Its general tendency is to move Britain to the right politically. You hate Europe, basically because it is European.

In times normal and abnormal, you loathe Tony Blair and everything he stands for, even though you maintain that he doesn’t stand for anything. He is Evil, and That is That.

Britain has joined a US-led war. Hooray for our brave boys! But no. If successful, this war will work to the credit of Blair. Blair is Evil and That is That! And the Daily Mail is Good!

For a while, you are in two minds, or three or four. You maintain that the government is not fit to lead Britain into the war, but must take part anyway. You share the concerns of the French and Germans. But it cannot be – they are French and German! And America is Good. But the US is friends with Mr Tony Evil Blair!

After several months of an editorial policy which consists of yelling abuse at everybody, you eventually collapse in a quivering heap on the antiwar side of the fence. But this means that the Germans and the French are right. If they are Right, they Might even be Good. And this Cannot Be!

Deep in the fevered night, an answer presents itself. A quick phone call to a favourite historian follows.

Resolution! The Americans are not Good after All. They have lots of people who originally come from Germany! Rumsfeld! That’s why they torture people! It’s because they’re Europeans!

You go to the doctor to get more lithium.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

events, dear boy
A short time ago, I made a comment to a post at Harry’s Place that the position of the pro-war left amounted to the idea that the US army become the militia of the Iraqi Communist Party, and expressed a certain level of skepticism that this was likely to happen.

Well, via Billmon there are signs that events are beginning to run in that direction.

Iraqi officials who have been in close contact with Washington say the parties that will have to be represented in the caretaker government include the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which has close ties to Iran, and Dawa, another influential Shiite group. The Communist Party is also likely to be represented, they said.

What’s interesting bout this is that al-Dawa party was founded by the Shi’a clergy back in 1959 specifically to counter the growing influence of the ICP amongst the Shi’a peasantry migrating to the towns as Iraq urbanised – it was a sort of Mesopotamian version of Fianna Fail (off the wall metaphor of the week!).

For more details of Iraqi political groupings and parties, go here.

I’d thought that the ICP’s co-operation with the occupation authorities was a strategic mistake, since they’d be ideal candidates as scapegoats used to engineer a reconciliation between Sunni and Shi’a confessional parties (you and I may be heretics, but together we can put down the infidels). On the other hand, playing as full as public role in the political life of occupied Iraq may have been necessary to make this harder to do

As far as the US is concerned, this is the sixth - I think - change of plan since last April, and it’s worth pointing out that the ICP’s apparent new opportunity has come about precisely because of the level of armed resistance to the occupation. In retrospect, it loks like the Party’s positioned itself well to benefit from this.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

up from football
Pausing only to commend the Mirror's tenacious fightback over it's British army coverage, I think it's time for a small torture free period here at blood & treasure - at least until the movie premiere.

Instead, lets turn to the last day of the football season. Crooked Timber directs my attention to Simon Kuper's piece in the FT on ther psychological scars of footy madness.

This would just be the story of one man's psychopathology, were it not that millions of people live like this. It is one of the great undiscussed conditions. At a party recently, I confessed to our captain: "When we lose and I suck, I'm upset for days." He shrugged: "It's the same for most people who play football."

I was a football monomaniac in my teenage years, until the gradual process of acquiring a life pushed me away from the game. About halfway through this process I decided to put a positive spin on things and renounce it formally. I wouldnt follow my club's progress. I'd switch over if anything came on the TV and pointedly ignore the sports pages from August to May, after which it didn't matter anyway.

The effect of this was to make clear that what I thought were just the standard aches and pains of life were really withdrawal symptoms. That sense of summer aimlessness stayed for years - for a fan, summer is just a blank space where you wait for life to start up again. And for many years I would get bowel cramps at half past four every Saturday. In times past, this would be because I was at the match waiting out the last fifteen minutes, or sat home twitching in front of the teleprinter on Final Score. It took years before I could reach five o clock without feeling physically sick.

But I'm all better now. Like Will Buckley, I'm up from football. I have absolutely no knowledge of the fact that Stoke City have reached mid table safety after a free fall in results was turned around by the inspired loan signing of Gerry Taggart from Leicester. Even oif I did know these things, I would be supremely indifferent to them and to the fact that the last game of the season - at home to Gillingham - could see a return to division two for the Gills, if their former manager Tony Pulis succeeds in gaining revenge on his former club, which he left acrimoniously. To me, the game which starts tomorrow at 3.pm is simply so much cosmic dust floating in a meaningless universe.

update: 0-0. Monkey spunk. I didn't say that, because I don't care any more.

Friday, May 07, 2004

busy, busy, busy
Entertain yourselves with this, this, this...and this.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

it's just like China!
Via politix, a review by Terry Eagleton of Robert Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism.

It remains to be seen whether the world will revert to fascism. But there are certainly signs that a planet well stocked with authoritarian capitalist regimes is on the cards. Liberal capitalist nations are becoming more authoritarian under the threat of terrorist attacks, while societies which were already authoritarian, such as China, are turning capitalist. The two systems are meeting each other, so to speak, coming the other way. Meanwhile, the globe is well furnished with capitalist set-ups that were never liberal in the first place, as well as with regimes whose former colonial proprietors exported market forces to their shores while forgetting to include democratic institutions in the cargo. The assumption that the free market and political democracy go naturally together was always pretty dubious, and fascism is one dramatic refutation of it. But we might now be moving deeper into a world where the two go together like a horse and cabbage.

This strikes me as exactly right. Back in the early nineties a Chinese friend and I worked on a magazine together. It was bilingual, and part of his job was to write about the UK government and its various stupid politician tricks. One day he asked me about a Major era measure to force people into makework jobs in return for benefit. That’s just like China! he said, when I explained it. “That’s just like China!” eventually became a standing joke between us, having been repeated so often in our conversations about the government. I think he eventually made it the title of a regular column on British politics, though I can’t be sure.

Another friend came over after being involved in the Tiananmen demonstrations. I remember her disappointment after the cops nearly shot some fellow waving a Tibetan flag at Jiang Zemin on his state visit a couple of years back. She started talking about going back to China to make some real money after that. What else was there for her to do? And what’s the real difference?

My friends, this is Hobbes’ world. The rest of us just live in it.
it's a pisser
According to this report in the Guardian, the Mirror are sticking to their guns over revealing the names of the two squaddies who gave them the controversial abuse photos. Good. To my mind, the whole point of the furore over the photos is to get the Mirror to reveal its sources, thereby compromising its ability to embarrass the government further.

I thought the photos looked iffy when I first saw them, mainly because of their quality. Is your average squaddie likely to have a digital camera that takes very hi-res black and white photographs? Yet the complaints about their authenticity have focused on the possibility that they may have been staged. No-one that I’ve seen has claimed that the photos themselves have been faked with photoshop or a similar programme. And these claims themselves rested on things that weren’t proved (the make of rifle and truck) or on nitpicking about the way in which the squaddies and victim were dressed.

These claims are semi-refuted here. To my mind, the telling point is this. If the photos were staged, then this means that some obliging fellow agreed to be pissed on by a man dressed in military uniform for the benefit of the Daily Mirror. Even with money involved, this is hard to believe. I suppose someone could have been coerced into posing in this way, which leads to a whole different line of enquiry.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

onwards and upwards
Clinging to the hope that those Mirror photos are false so you can talk about the pictures and not the actual torture, sorry 'torture'? Suddenly discovered the benefits of moral equivalence? After all, our boys didn't torture half as many people half as badly as Saddam did. Feeling a little queasy nonetheless? Let Mr Hitchens stiffen your backbone.

Nobody should know this better than Lakhdar Brahimi, the current envoy of the United Nations and a lifetime member of the Algerian FLN. A few years ago, his party and his government were challenged by an extreme fundamentalist movement that actually won the first round of a general election but would probably not have permitted any subsequent one. In any event, the Algerian authorities announced that on no account would they surrender the country to the "insurgency" that followed. They showed themselves willing to kill on an unprecedented scale, employing measures that the U.S. Marines would never be permitted. Repulsive though many of the tactics were, I think the FLN was broadly right. Certainly, Algeria today is a far better society for the outcome, and so is the whole of North Africa and therefore Southern Europe. These are the stakes. It is impossible to lose sight of them for a moment and irresponsible to confer the noble title of rebel or revolutionary on those who showed no courage at all when there was a real tyranny in the land.

I like that 'broadly'. The Algerian dirty war killed around 100,000 people. Presumably, if a few less of them had been women and children, the FLN would have been right narrowly and in every particular. Let's take a snap look at what actually happened, via Human Rights Watch.

Doubts that all of the killings attributed to the GIA were the responsibility of a single organization acting alone were fueled by the posture of the security forces towards the perpetrators of the massacres in 1997 and 1998 and by a series of statements by former security officials in exile claiming Algeria’s military intelligence apparatus, the Securité Militaire, had both deployed forces masquerading as Islamists and manipulated GIA groups through infiltration.

The questions surrounding the massacres received no conclusive answers. Through September, no independent Algerian body had conducted a thorough inquiry. The government allowed no international human rights organization or U.N. human rights rapporteur to investigate the violence.

The suspicions, however, were reinforced by interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch outside of Algeria and by others on the ground with survivors, witnesses from neighboring communities, rescue workers, journalists, and former security personnel. The attackers, numbering sometimes 200 or more, were found to have moved in and killed and departed freely through militarized areas, without any effort on the spot by the security forces to protect civilians or make arrests. At Rais, where the death toll on the night of August 29, 1997 reportedly reached 335, the killings began when men in military uniforms brazenly arrived in two open-backed trucks, firing on men playing dominoes at the entrance to the community, according to accounts that survivors gave to a rescue worker who arrived shortly after the attackers withdrew.

The attackers who killed over 250 people at Bentalha on the night of September 23, 1997 entered the community on foot through orange groves, but according to at least one account, some also arrived in open-backed trucks. Even after the arrival of the army, police, and communal guard on the perimeter of village, the killers were reportedly able to load spoils into trucks before departing unchallenged.


So, war wimps, lose those collywobbles and fight to win. We're moral universalists! We're liberators! We can kill who we want! Let's go all the way back to the good old days, when the Marines ran wild and free.

Filipinos first welcomed Americans as liberators. But in June when Aguinaldo issued a declaration of independence, the pro-war U.S. press began to demonize Aguinaldo, and a U.S. general told Congress that Filipinos who wanted freedom had "no more idea of its meaning than a shepherd dog."

President McKinley said he spent many sleepless nights agonizing about the Philippines until God told him to keep the islands and "uplift and civilize and Christianize them." The President called his program "benevolent assimilation." The influential San Franciso Argonaut was more candid: "We do not want the Filipinos. We want the Philippines. The islands are enormously rich, but unfortunately, they are infested with Filipinos."

A U.S. army of 70,000 [including 6,000 Black troops] was sent to pacify the islands and, as more than one white soldier said, "just itching to get at the niggers." General William Shafter told a journalist it might be necessary to kill half the population to bring "perfect justice" to the other half. After General Jack Smith promised to turn the Philippines into a "howling wilderness" most casualties were civilians. Smith defined the foe as any male or female "ten years and up," and told his soldiers: "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me."

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

"we do what we can to make it fun here"
The private and professional diaries of an Abu Ghraib interrogator.

I got to take the rest of the day off after our long booth time. This gave us a nice evening after dinner to head to the roof and play a round of golf. Scott Norman, Jeff Mouton, Steve Hattabaugh, Steve Stefanowicz, and I all took turns trying to hit balls over the back wall and onto the highway. Since the club is a left handed 3 iron, I had an unfair advantage and missed a dump truck by only about ten feet. Not bad since the highway is about 220 yards. We do what we can to make it fun here.

found by a commenter at Whiskey Bar.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

instead of a mayday post
I had to work overnight on Friday, so come May day I was too tired and, after the torture revelations, generally dispirited to post something substantial about the day itself. From the conservative point of view, this is an appropriate and congenial state of affairs. Prole too stunned to make use of exciting new technology. Paint a portrait and call it "after Thatcher."

And this in turn reminds me of John Holbo's extensive explication of the philosophy behind the conservative approach to work and the people who do it.

“The great, overwhelming fact of a capitalist economy is risk. Everyone is at constant risk of the loss of his job, or of the destruction of his business by a competitor, or of the crash of his investment portfolio. Risk makes people circumspect. It disciplines them and teaches them self-control. Without a safety net, people won’t try to vault across the big top. Social security, student loans, and other government programs make it far less catastrophic than it used to be for middle-class people to dissolve their families. Without welfare and food stamps, poor people would cling harder to working-class respectability than they do not.”

The thing that makes capitalism good, apparently, is not that it generates wealth more efficiently than other known economic engines. No, the thing that makes capitalism good is that, by forcing people to live precarious lives, it causes them to live in fear of losing everything and therefore to adopt – as fearful people will – a cowed and subservient posture: in a word, they behave ‘conservatively’. Of course, crouching to protect themselves and their loved ones from the eternal lash of risk precisely won’t preserve these workers from risk. But the point isn’t to induce a society-wide conformist crouch by way of making the workers safe and happy. The point is to induce a society-wide conformist crouch. Period. A solid foundaton is hereby laid for a desirable social order.


Saturday, May 01, 2004

squalor
You've seen the pictures. Seymour Hersh has the words.

A month later, General Karpinski was formally admonished and quietly suspended, and a major investigation into the Army’s prison system, authorized by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior commander in Iraq, was under way. A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating. Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added—“detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.” Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their “extremely sensitive nature.”


More on this later. Article via Back to Iraq.