Monday, May 30, 2005

La France dit non au projet de Constitution européenne: the exit polls

/ non / they said /
These are some rather interesting exit poll data on yesterday's European Constitution referendum in France, concerning who voted for what and why. Required reading before jumping to unfounded generalizations and intepretations. Note that a clear majority of the Non voters are in favor of the European project...

Also: the geography of the Yes and No votes.

Via various metafilter threads.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Index of Economic Fiefdom

/ freedom / from / democracy /
John Miller of Dollars&Sense, takes on the WSJ and Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom, its flagrant flaws and what it says about the kind of freedom they treasure:

[The weird rankings] are not surprising, however, given the index’s premise: the less a government intervenes in the economy, the higher its freedom ranking. Specifically, the index breaks "economic freedom" down into 10 components: trade policy; fiscal burden of government; level of government intervention; monetary policy; financial liberalization; banking and finance policies; labor market policies; enforcement of property rights; business, labor, and environmental regulations; and size of the black market. In other words, minimum-wage laws, environmental regulations, or requirements for transparency in corporate accounting make a country less free, whereas low business taxes, harsh debtor laws, and little or no regulation of occupational health and safety make a country more free.

Consider that the index docks the United States’ ranking for passing Sarbanes-Oxley, a law that seeks to improve corporate accounting practices and to make CEOs responsible for their corporations’ profit reports. The segment of the U.S. population whose economic freedom this law erodes is tiny, but it’s obviously that segment—not workers and not even shareholders—whose freedom counts for the folks at the Journal and at Heritage...

... An "Economic Freedom Index" that tells us little about economic growth or political freedom is a slipshod measure that would seem to have no other purpose other than to sell the neoliberal policies that stand in the way of most people gaining control over their economic lives and obtaining genuine economic freedom in today’s global economy.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

If EU constitution fails, U.S. won't be gloating

/ friends / helping / friends /
This IHT article about positive American attitudes towards the European Constitution might help to ground to reality those that somehow suggest that the European Constitution is the beginning of a more independent Europe. Like Chirac.

Please note this rather funny (and telling) concluding point:

...So the American yes on the EU referendums is not only coherent good sense, but also an investment. An official, sitting in his office here, couldn't have been clearer on the European constitution: "If they think it would get them a few yes points, we've told the French we're ready to condemn the thing in minutes."

Also worth pointing out is the suggestion that the outcomes are not symmetric, the "No" vote being reversible:

France and the Netherlands should re-run referendums to obtain the "right answer" if voters reject Europe's constitutional treaty, Jean-Claude Juncker, current holder of the EU presidency, said yesterday.

Which surely says something about the way democracy is perceived up there...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Human Rights Watch - Darfur Drawn: The Conflict in Darfur Through Children's Eyes

/ massacres / depicted /
"On mission along the border of Chad and Darfur, Human Rights Watch researchers gave children notebooks and crayons to keep them occupied while they spoke with the children’s parents. Without any instruction or guidance, the children drew scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur: the attacks by the Janjaweed, the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Europe's First Marxist Conservative Party?

/ right / versus / left /
This article needs some explanation. It is an attack by Takis Michas in the Wall Street Journal / Europe, against the conservative government, on the grounds of them being supportive of the continuation of the "Last Marxist State" in Europe, meaning Greece - a shock to the local Communist party, I assure you, which failed to detect the Soviet-era inspiration behind the latest economic policies of the Karamanlis government.

Michas is among the leading neoliberal / libertarian intellectuals in Greece, a rather tiny minority, with reasonably good access to the Greek press (especially the financial press). Michas is certainly the most serious (certainly the better read) of the group, with a Trotskyite (I think - leftist anyway) background. This heterogeneous group, headed by the two most prominent proponents of a hard-core neoliberal order in Greece (elected to parliament under the PASOK banner), has made a pact with the Socialists. They seem to share more common ground with PASOK, than they do with the (populist-right leaning) New Democracy Party. In fact, the quote used by Michas, namely that [Greece is] "the last remaining state of existing socialism in Europe", comes from Former EU Commissioner and leading PASOK (Socialist that is) member Anna Diamantopoulou, a rising star of the socialist party - with more in common herself with Friedrich Hayek than with anything resembling socialist thought. This rapprochement is taking place on firm neoliberal grounds. The neoliberals are truthful when they say that they haven't moved a centimeter from where they always stood - and that it's the Socialists who have come over to their ideological positions.

Given that, as I mentioned in a previous post, the current government is bent on continuing the previous government's austerity policies (which in one form or another have been going on for 20 years in Greece), working time flexibility anti-labour laws, and vast transfers of wealth from the poorer to the rich, a Greek observer might be stunned at the rather improbable claim, and be weary of its timing. A non-Greek observer with a casual or non-existent knowledge of Greek politics and economy (especially your average WSJ reader), might be expected to nod his head wearily and mumble something about these backward Greeks. The intended audience, however, of this bewildering claim, is, most probably, the current government. It's a notice, possibly, that they should shape up and start acting as they are expected to - and fast.

I must mention that Michas miscounts state participation in the Greek economy which, he claims, controls "over 60% of the country's GDP"... Unless he's using some non-obvious method of measurement (closer to 50%). Also that his article is more cheerleading, (preaching in fact to a converted audience) than analysis.

Finally, note that Michas is reported as "writing a book on Noam Chomsky's economic theories". This should be interesting, because I had no idea that Noam has any body of work that can be meaningfully described as an "Economic theory", and Michas, unlike the overwhelming majority of NC's critics, seems to actually have read (parts at least) of what Chomsky has really written.

I eagerly await.

Link from the very active Greek libertarian group blog e-roosters

Friday, May 20, 2005

5 reasons to say "Non" to the European constitution

/ constitution / unhealthy /
In the EU Observer, Susan George provides 5 reasons to say No to this European Constitution treaty:

  • This so-called "Constitution" or "Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe" (TCE) is unintelligible. No ordinary person has the time or background to understand it.
    A Constitution should be comprehensible for the people it will govern. This text completely fails the test.

  • A Constitution must be based on popular sovereignty, that is, come from the people. We have known this since the 18th century. Here this principle is forgotten. The people who draw up such a document should be elected for that purpose by the people who will be subject to its provisions.

  • Changes cannot, for all practical purposes, be made to the TCE without the double majority: first all heads of State (the European Council); then ratification by all member States (parliament vote or referendum). We are asked to sign for an "unlimited duration", as the text says.

  • The French employers Union, the European Employers union UNICE and even George Bush have declared themselves very satisfied with this Constitution. They should be: This Constitution is a neo-liberal dream. Even public services (never defined in the text) are subject to the rules of competition.

  • Normal Constitutional principals such as separation of powers and "checks and balances" are almost entirely absent and the executive branch is far too dominant.
  • Thursday, May 19, 2005

    Jean Bricmont: Vive La France?

    / non / non / non /
    This is a piece by physicist Jean Bricmont (who some of my readers will recognize as one half of the Sokal / Bricmont team that fought the good battle against relativist absolutist blathering, picking up the good fight where Lenin left it - I suppose - through their book Fashionable Nonsense), on the importance of the "Non" vote for the left, for Europe and for the world, in the upcoming French referendum. (In passing may I add that the Greek electorate was denied the democratic luxury of voting directly on the referendum, despite good evidence that the Yes vote would have won anyway - they don't like it when some questions are raised).

    I find it hard to select excerpts from this piece with which I'm in total agreement. I must note however the near hysteria among France's and Europe's ruling elites, facing the spectre of dissent. It's almost embarassing to watch.

    Anyway *extended* excerpts from Jean Bricmont:

    ...Europe came around to imitating the United States, even if, at the same time, the United States was getting worse. This at least maintained the gap between the two, obscured the extent of the upheavals underway, and allowed the European elites to complain ceaselessly that "Europe was falling behind". One of the preferred methods of catching up is called "European construction", whose latest manifestation is the treaty for establishing a European Constitution.

    The method is simplicity itself. It consists in isolating political processes from the influence of the citizenry, by entrusting a maximum of decisions to a non-elected bureaucracy which is not answerable to any parliament, but which is open to the influence of every possible private pressure group (including certain NGOs). European construction boils down to transferring State power to a super-privileged bureaucracy which preaches to others the purest economic liberalism. Elections can go on being held, but they are of no importance, because no serious political alternative can be proposed, no "New Deal", no "structural reform", no "common programme of the left", no "Italian way to socialism". Competition and the free market are the only prospects on the horizon now and forever. And, as in the United States, people vote more and more with their feet by avoiding the ballot box, or else vote for whoever seems to be most hated by those in power (Le Pen for instance)...

    ...In the discussions on the constitution, at least on the left, there are in general two types of argument: those who refer to the texts, who are for voting "no", and those who refer to Auschwitz and Le Pen, who are for voting "yes". To hear the latter, one would think that rejection of the constitution would lead us into war, if not genocide. This argument, which considers that peace depends on eliminating sovereignty, fails to note that there is more than one kind of sovereignty. Europe is seeking to create its own sovereignty, imitating that of the United States which has strong borders and troops deployed to the four corners of the earth. This creates the danger of endless war, as sooner or later people do not welcome armed missionaries. On the other hand, Switzerland is without doubt the most sovereign country in Europe, but it has never sent its troops abroad, never committed genocide nor started a war...

    There is at least one argument used by the "yes' camp that is partly correct: the debate goes beyond the narrow bounds of the treaty's text to become largely symbolic. It fundamentally pits against each other partisans and adversaries of the neo-liberal order, those who want to pursue the policy begun in the 1980s and those who want to change it. A victory of the "no" would provoke a political shock wave, principally by awakening, throughout Europe, the social and popular aspirations which have for so long been repressed and defeated. With Bush in Washington, Sharon in Tel Aviv, Wolfowitz at the World Bank and Ratzinger in the Vatican, one might conclude that reactionary forces have got their way worldwide. But with Chavez in Caracas, the "no" which is growing in Paris and the U.S. army bogged down in Iraq, hope may be changing sides and this is what gives a profound meaning to this campaign. Even if the "yes" wins (and in light of the disproportion of the means at the disposal of the two sides, it would be a miracle if if didn't), the mobilization for the "no" shows that the times are changing and that the days of TINA (There Is No Alternative to unbridled capitalism) are no doubt counted. After all, the grassroots movement for "no" was launched primarily (on the left) by ATTAC and by the CGT base, which in themselves are far from representing a majority of French people. The echo of that movement throughout French society is an immense sign of encouragement and shows that if the genuine left is at once bold and intelligent, it can rally practically a majority of French people around specific objectives...

    ...The left-wing elites have for a long time shamed France by reducing her past to Vichy and (for the far left) to the Algerian war. But France is also the first democratic revolution on the European continent (and the most radical of all), the Paris Commune, the denunciation of anti-semitism at the time of the Dreyfus case, the Popular Front, the biggest of all general strikes (in May-June 1968) and the model for secularism throughout the world. With the campaign for "no" to the European constitution, after the official "no" in 2003 to American imperial policy, France once again arouses surprise and admiration in much of the world and gives a fresh impetus to a movement, stalled for decades but more necessary than ever, in favor of peace and social progress...

    Blowing Up an Assumption

    / suicide / bombers / secular /
    This piece by Robert Pape in the NYT is an analysis of who exactly commits suicide bombings. The results of a detailed research are quite contrary to a lot of widely held assumptions:

    ...Over the past two years, I have compiled a database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003 - 315 in all. This includes every episode in which at least one terrorist killed himself or herself while trying to kill others, but excludes attacks authorized by a national government (like those by North Korean agents against South Korea). The data show that there is far less of a connection between suicide terrorism and religious fundamentalism than most people think.

    The leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion. This group committed 76 of the 315 incidents, more than Hamas (54) or Islamic Jihad (27). Even among Muslims, secular groups like the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Al Aksa Martyr Brigades account for more than a third of suicide attacks...

    ...Three general patterns in the data support these conclusions. First, nearly all suicide terrorist attacks - 301 of the 315 in the period I studied - took place as part of organized political or military campaigns. Second, democracies are uniquely vulnerable to suicide terrorists; America, France, India, Israel, Russia, Sri Lanka and Turkey have been the targets of almost every suicide attack of the past two decades. Third, suicide terrorist campaigns are directed toward a strategic objective: from Lebanon to Israel to Sri Lanka to Kashmir to Chechnya, the sponsors of every campaign - 18 organizations in all - are seeking to establish or maintain political self-determination.

    Before Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, there was no Hezbollah suicide terrorist campaign against Israel; indeed, Hezbollah came into existence only after this event. Before the Sri Lankan military began moving into the Tamil homelands of the island in 1987, the Tamil Tigers did not use suicide attacks. Before the huge increase in Jewish settlers on the West Bank in the 1980's, Palestinian groups did not use suicide terrorism.

    And, true to form, there had never been a documented suicide attack in Iraq until after the American invasion in 2003. Much is made of the fact that we aren't sure who the Iraqi suicide attackers are. This is not unusual in the early years of a suicide terrorist campaign. Hezbollah published most of the biographies and last testaments of its "martyrs" only after it abandoned the suicide-attack strategy in 1986, a pattern adopted by the Tamil Tigers as well..."

    Which confirms an older post that more or less asserted as much.

    via Metafilter

    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    Galloway by a knockout - before round five

    / accused / to / accuser /

    Say what you will about Gorgeous George, the man has got perseverance. An anti-war Labour MP, he was slandered as being on Saddam's payroll on both sides of the Atlantic, he won one apology and two legal victories, against his detractors.

    He then proceded to be re-elected as a member of parliament for the Respect coalition, winning the seat from a pro-war Blairite.

    [This is not the first time a Leftist British political figure has been politically "assasinated" through slander. It's just that this time - Galloway is fighting back.]

    Yet the accusations resurfaced. and were taken up by the US Senate. Never mind that the oil smuggling went on with Washington's tacit approval.

    So Galloway flew to Washington to give his accusers both barrels of the gun. And, boy, did he do just that. The quotes linked to from the post title above are quite delicious. He turned the tables on the US Senate:

    Far from displaying the forelock-tugging deference to which senators are accustomed, Mr Galloway went on the attack.

    He rubbished committee chairman Norm Coleman's dossier of evidence and stared him in the eye.

    "Now I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," the MP declared.

    The whole room scanned Mr Coleman's face for a reaction. The senator shifted in his seat - nervously it seemed.

    It was the first time a British politician had been interrogated as a hostile witness at the US Senate - but Mr Galloway cast himself not as the accused, but the accuser.

    [Faint echoes of Dimitrov in the Reichstag trials? (yes, I exaggerate)]

    "I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns."

    "Senator [Coleman], in everything I said about Iraq I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 have paid with their lives, 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies."

    Meaders over at Dead Men Left, points out to a Socialist Worker story, proving that the central documents in the case against Galloway are quite clumsy forgeries. What's more they have the testimony of a guy that took part in the forgeries:

    ...On 10 February 2004 the newspaper Al-Watan published the account of Sajad Ahmad Ali.

    He explained how he forged the original Arabic document obtained by Al-Mada:

    “I’d like to indicate here that it was us who made — that is to say we forged — this list of names and titles of people who got money from the ministry of information, the palace and the oil for food programme.

    “The person who took charge of this task is called Abu-Salim and he got four individuals to work on the project, one of whom was me...

    Watching Coleman today "all reactionaries are paper tigers" didn't seem to be much off the mark.

    Monday, May 16, 2005

    Massacre in Algeria

    / old imperialism / just like / new imperialism /
    A reminder of a little-mentioned "detail" of imperialist history, by Mohammed Harbi in "Le Monde Diplomatique", on occasion of VE day:
    "As France celebrated victory in Europe on 8 May 1945, its army was massacring thousands of civilians in Sétif and Guelma - events that were the real beginning of Algeria’s war of independence...
    ... The massacres in the Sétif and Guelma regions on 8 May 1945, described at the time as events or troubles in north Constantine, marked the beginning of the Algerian war of independence. This episode in the Algerian tragedy is one of the great turning points in colonial history."

    Via Monochrom

    Friday, May 13, 2005

    Internazionale indeed

    / international / solidarity
    ...The captain of Inter Milan football club says he would be willing to take up an invitation for the club to play a team of Mexican Zapatista rebels.
    The Italian club have received a letter from the indigenous movement, based in the southern state of Chiapas...

    This in response to FC Inter's previous gesture:

    ...Inter Milan has donated €5,000 (£3,475), an ambulance and the captain's No 4 black and blue team shirt to one of the last strongholds of the ragtag Zapatista army in a gesture of solidarity for the indigenous people of Chiapas in southern Mexico.

    Argentinian star Javier Zanetti, the team captain, talked his club into donating its changing room fines for late arrival or using mobile phones to help villagers rebuild after the village of Zinacantán was reportedly attacked by government military forces in April. "We believe in a better world, in an unglobalised world, enriched by the cultural differences and customs of all the people. This is why we want to support you in this struggle to maintain your roots and fight for your ideals," Zanetti wrote in a note to the village, posted along with the first instalment of €2,500...

    Inter was always my favourite Italian team. This is now consolidated (despite them letting Karagounis rust on the bench). (On the other hand I have a visceral antipathy to anything Berlusconi-related, including AC Milan. Thus, my best wishes to Liverpool.)

    news via words attack [in Greek]

    Home from Iraq

    / iraq / resistance / uncensored /
    A journalist's perspective after living the Iraqi resistance and being disappointed at how her collegues are covering the story. Excerpt:
    "We spent 10 months in Iraq, working on a story, understanding who the people are who are fighting, why they fight, what their fundamental beliefs are, when they started, what kinds of backgrounds they come from, what education, jobs they have. Were they former military, are they Iraqi or foreign? Are they part of al-Qaida? What we came up with is a story in itself, and one that Vanity Fair ran in July 2004 with my text and pictures. [My colleague Steve Connors] shot a documentary film that is still waiting to find a home. But the basic point for this discussion is that we both thought it was really journalistically important to understand who it was who was resisting the presence of the foreign troops. If you didn't understand that, how could you report what was clearly becoming an 'ongoing conflict?' And if you were reading the news in America, or Europe, how could you understand the full context of what was unfolding if what motivates the 'other side' of the conflict is not understood, or even discussed?...

    ...Recall Patrick Henry's famous speech encouraging the Second Virginia Convention, gathered on March 20, 1775, to fight the British, "Give me liberty or give me death!" Why is it that we, as Americans, presume that any Iraqi would feel any differently? If the roles were reversed, do you think for a moment that our men wouldn't be stockpiling arms and attacking any foreign invader with the temerity to set foot on our soil, occupy our buildings of government and write us a new constitution?

    Wouldn't we as women be joining with them in any way we could? Wouldn't the divisions between us -- how we feel about President Bush, whether we're Republican or Democrat -- be put aside as we resisted a common enemy?

    Then why is it that this story of human effort for self-determination by violent means cannot be told in America? Are we so small, so confused by our own values that we cannot recognize when someone emulates our own struggle? Even if it is the U.S. that they are struggling against? I want to be careful to explain that I am not saying that the Iraqis fighting against us are necessarily fighting for democracy, but they are fighting for their right to decide for themselves what their nation looks like politically."

    Also from Molly Bingham: Why Elections won't quell Iraq Resistance...

    Wednesday, May 11, 2005

    Chiquita's Children

    From "In These Times" magazine:
    "In the ’70s and ’80s, the banana companies Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita used a carcinogenic pesticide, Nemagon, to protect their crops in Nicaragua. Today, the men and women who worked on those plantations suffer from incurable illnesses. Their children are deformed. The companies feign innocence...

    Today, we know that the companies had reason to worry about the potential danger of their product from the start. Laboratory tests conducted in the ’50s revealed that Nemagon caused testicular atrophy in rats. Regardless, scientists defended the product and in 1961 it was given the green light by the Department of Agriculture. The pesticide was instantly successful with American fruit companies, which exported it to their plantations in Central America and all over the world.

    The health problems caused by Nemagon were first observed in 1977. That year, a third of the workers in a California factory that produced the chemical were declared sterile. They sued Occidental Petroleum Corporation, their employer, which was forced to pay millions in compensation to the affected workers.

    That same year, the Environment Protection Agency ordered American companies to stop using Nemagon, judging it too noxious for human contact. But the ordinance was valid only for the United States. Standard Fruit Co. (now known as Dole Food Co. in the United States) continued to use Nemagon in Honduras as late as December 1978, a year after the disclosure of the sterility problem, as well as at its Philippine plantations until well into the late ’80s. The result: Tens of thousands of workers continued to be exposed to the nefarious chemical for years...

    ...In Nicaragua, the ex-workers aren’t giving up. In the last two years they’ve organized three marches from Chinandega to Managua, more than 84 miles. The last of these marches, begun on January 31, 2004, attracted more than 5,000 people, many of whom are sick and weak.

    'We walked for 10 days,” says Espinales, who was one of the march’s organizers. “Once we were there we were made to camp in front of the National Assembly for days before the president would pay us any attention.'

    The march garnered national interest thanks to its size and length. The big Nicaraguan dailies dedicated full pages to the victims of Nemagon, a product dubbed 'death’s dew.' "

    See this relevant Fact Sheet. Meanwhile the Nemagon lawsuits are spreading to Venezuela.

    Remaining in Nicaragua, it seems that the Sandinistas are on the verge of power again, as the political climate warms up, which has alarmed their neighbourly Big Brother, which continues to strong-arm the country in a most unabashed way. Perspective. News. Alternative-building.

    Also other famous people might be running for president of Nicaragua...

    Tuesday, May 10, 2005

    Striking home

    / mayday / belated /

    So here's the story of today's general strike in Greece (11/4): It's both farcical and dead serious:
    The conservative government feeling established anough to actually venture some sort of political move, after a period of moderation, really, and disowning neoliberal extremism (I kid you not), decided to fall back in line: it started testing the waters with news of a suggested working hours "liberalization" and ways to increase labor flexibility. The idea is that by introducing a more flexible work schedule, reducing overtime pay and extending shopping hours there will be more "jobs" and greater efficiency all around. I note, that wages and salaries in Greece are the second lowest in the EU, (a fact that can be gleamed by the cost of labor in the country) labor laws are decent but often do not apply to most of the private sector anyway, the unions are in the hands of the socialists and are utterly compliant except when there is some political overhead to be made by their masters in the "Socialist" (and I use the quotes ironically) party, the prices are bizzarely high, making Greece one of the most expensive countries in the EU to live in - certainly the most expensive purchasing parity wise for the lower paid, most pensions are at or below the poverty line, and those Greeks who already work (there's a 10% unemployment and a relatively low percentage of the population working) are working the most hours in the EU. Things are marginally livable thanks to a tight social family network which provides support and aid. These measures would therefore deteriorate working conditions in an already horrid working environment (I note from personal experience, that a large part of the private sector didn't strike because they could neither aford the pay cut and/or were threatened with lay-offs).

    Anyway, despite all this the government decided to open up a new and needless front against the unions by refusing to declare the transferred Mayday celebrations as an official day-off. The real Mayday fell on Easter Sunday (Orthodox calander) and therefore the celebrations were postponed for the 11th. This widely unpopular move provided a much needed boost to the unions at a much needed time, and made certain that today's demonstration was vastly more massive than it would have been otherwise (the fact that the Communist part of the unions staged a rally at a different location and time practically split the demonstration in two didn't help though - nice going guys). They're probably testing the waters for the real attack.

    Meanwhile the most progressive thing this government tried to do, namely limit media ownership and ban media moguls from strongarming their way to public works projects (in a country with rampant corruption and bribery anyway) was shot down by the EU Comission, which obviously judged that the weak and rather inefficient controls this law introduced would be a bad precedent for the freedom of capital to do whatever it wants, revealing their true priorities and the importance they attach to transparancy and protecting democracy from Media overcentralization and corruption. The saddest spectacle in all of this was the Socialists' fury against this law which apparently was too upsetting to their owners backers, since the largest Media oligarchs in Greece are PASOK supporters...

    Saturday, May 7, 2005

    Scapegoating: a mixed report

    As the CSM notes:

    If any lesson can be drawn from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse legal fallout so far, it may be this: The lowest-level soldier has the highest level of responsibility. The rank and file must clearly know right from wrong -- both in terms of their own actions and orders from superiors.

    This after the Lynndie England mistrial, the Calipari murder whitewash, and the clearing of the Marine caught on videotape murdering a wounded man, might be doubted. Note that:

    Of the eight soldiers charged over the abuse scandal, only ringleader Charles Graner's case has gone to trial.
    Five soldiers pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from a dishonourable discharge to eight years in prison. Graner is serving a 10-year term imposed after he was found guilty in January.

    All in all, the verdict should be that a few lowest level soldiers might shoulder all of the responsibility unless it can be avoided.

    In other news: the Iraqi that was photographed at Abu-Ghraib with a bag on his head speaks to PBS, and more crimes, financial and war crimes are detailed. The possibility of a British coverup is also raised.

    Thursday, May 5, 2005

    Blast from the past

    / mullahs / missing /
    The completely forgotten leader of the Taliban, formerly wanted dead or alive, and a significant target of the Afghan invasion, Mullah Omar, is staging a comeback, in an aging rockstar kinda way, teaming up with Al Qaeda's No2 Al-Zawahri, coming soon to some quaint Afghan mountaintop:

    Taliban fighters, modelling their tactics on the Iraqi insurgency, are regrouping and intensifying their fight against the Afghanistan government and US-led military coalition, amid reports that their spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, together with al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawhari, have started directing battle operations. Sightings of Omar and al-Zawhari in the city of Zabul in southern Afghanistan, were confirmed to Adnkronos International (AKI) by sources in Kandahar...

    The AQ's leading performer was rumoured dead recently (again), apparently incorrectly... Thus the mystery of how a man who is supposed to need dialysis treatment manages to survive between remote mountain tops and hidden caves, remains unsolved. Apparently the CIA is revealed as wanting to do a Zarqawi on Bin Laden, leading me to believe that this decapitation business is part of the zeitgeist.

    Speaking of Zarqawi, that mythical beast has resurfaced, as the "US military released a letter yesterday it believes was addressed to terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from an underling contending that incompetence of leaders in his Al Qaeda in Iraq network is hurting morale.
    The letter's authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but it was the latest in a series of assertions by US-led forces of progress against the insurgency..."

    This quite opportunely-timed news item, should be correlated with the report of that shining star of the Kim Il Sung School of Power Worshipping Media, the Fox News Network, which reveals that the US Occupation forces have now got Zarqawi's laptop as well (Fox is trying to put the Onion out of business, it seems).