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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Friday, 4 June 2004

Topic: Making Use of History

Books: We ARE the good guys, and always have been...

Robert Lilly, criminology professor at Northern Kentucky University, has a book not yet published here - perhaps the translation is not quite complete.

The book?

La Face cach?e des GI's. Les Viols commis par des Soldats Am?ricains en France, Angleterre et en Allemagne pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale 1942-1945
Paris: ?ditions Payot et Rivages, 2003.
Pr?sentation : Broch? - 445 g - 14 cm x 22 cm
ISBN : 2228897558 - EAN : 9782228897556

The GIs' Hidden Face?

What is this about?

A commentary at
L'image du soldat en service en Europe comme "symbole am?ricain" est tout sauf exacte. La participation de "la plus glorieuse g?n?ration qu'aucune soci?t? ait jamais engendr?e" - comme les Am?ricains se plaisent ? dire - ? la victoire de 1945 comporte une odieuse face cach?e, l'un des comportements les moins h?ro?ques et les plus brutaux dont un soldat puisse se rendre coupable : le viol. S'appuyant sur des archives des tribunaux militaires am?ricains inexploit?es depuis plus de soixante ans, Robert Lilly montre que, entre le 8 octobre 1942, date du premier viol jug? en Angleterre, et le 23 septembre 1945, date du dernier viol jug? en Allemagne, 17 000 femmes environ furent victimes de viols commis par des soldats am?ricains en Angleterre, en France et en Allemagne. Pi?ces ? l'appui, il dresse la typologie de ces viols, explique qui ?taient les violeurs, quelles ?taient leurs motivations et leur modus operandi, fait le portrait de leurs victimes, fait entendre leur voix exacte, ainsi que celle des procureurs et des avocats. Il montre enfin que les sch?mas de viols changent ?norm?ment en France compar? ? ce qui s'?tait pass? en Angleterre et ? ce qui se passera en Allemagne ; les sanctions militaires chang?rent ?galement, les punitions refl?tant la diff?rence de perception que les Am?ricains avaient des param?tres id?ologiques de chaque pays, de ses habitants et de ses r?fugi?s.
Ah, but if your French is not up to speed today, the Associated Press has you covered.

See U.S. GIs in France: 60 years later, some are exploring the downside
Jamey Keaten, Friday, June 04, 2004

The AP item has been picked up in the Canadian press, by Fox News, and by the Boston Herald and The Guardian and most every service out there.

It opens like this:
PARIS (AP) - With crushing firepower, U.S.-led forces stormed into a proud nation under the yoke of a murderous tyrant to cries of joy from a liberated public. Then came the less uplifting work of running an occupation.

Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003? No. France from D-Day and the two years of American occupation that followed.

U.S. President George W. Bush and other leaders gathering on the beaches of Normandy this weekend will celebrate the heroism and ingenuity of June 6, 1944. But some scholars are paying closer attention to what followed as the victors settled in - black market trade, armed robbery, looting and rape.

Only a small minority of GIs were involved, but ...
This is not "The Greatest Generation" stuff, obviously. But the fellow from Kentucky is quoted as saying, ""There is a great, ugly underbelly that has not been really explored."

Well, yes, this could be.

But our troops were greeted pretty warmly. That is not in dispute.
"There remains a huge recognition toward the liberators; they are still heroes," said Elizabeth Coquart, journalist and author of La France des GIs (France of the GIs). "But that doesn't mean we can't judge and say, 'Yes, some GIs behaved badly."'

"It's the same as in Iraq," she said. "Any military occupation - whatever it may be - grows intolerable over time."
So do we stretch the parallel to fit - France at the end of WWII and our "bad apples" (and their leaders) doing awful things in that prison outside of Baghdad?

The AP writer suggests there are limits to the parallels with Iraq.
France was a country already battered by four years of foreign domination, but it quickly had a provisional government in place. The Americans faced nothing resembling the Iraqi insurgency, and they left it to the French to deal with its Nazi collaborators.

And the occupation, though big, was short, compared with that of postwar Germany. According to the U.S. Army Center for Military History in Washington, 750,000 American soldiers remained in France in October 1945 - five months after the war's end. By June '46, the last 24,000 were on their way out. Britain also had troops in France, but far fewer.
But the fellow from Kentucky contends that while there were rapes (les viols) by GIs in France, the number of cases "skyrocketed" when U.S. soldiers rolled into Germany and the war was wrapping up.

How does he know that?

It seems Lilly says he was inspired to examine rape by GIs from stories by his father and uncle, both Second World War veterans. (Curious family revelation, that!) And Lilly estimates there were 3,620 rapes by U.S. soldiers in France from June 1944 to June 1945 - and apparently he was using military records as his source.

Why would he use military records? Funny thing - it seems things were a bit different back then.
While U.S. soldiers were exempt from prosecution in French courts, those who were court-martialed often received severe punishment.

Of 139 soldiers suspected of rape in the specific cases Lilly turned up, 116 were convicted, his book says. He found that 70 soldiers were executed for crimes in the entire European theatre during the war.
It seems times have changed. We have three guilty pleas in the prison scandal so far. Executions? No - dishonorable discharge and loss of pay will do these days. Is that progress? Perhaps so. Perhaps not.

But then again, the French summary comments on this - les sanctions militaires chang?rent ?galement, les punitions refl?tant la diff?rence de perception que les Am?ricains avaient des param?tres id?ologiques de chaque pays, de ses habitants et de ses r?fugi?s....

We severely punished those who raped and otherwise abused the French and Germans. We understood the ideology of those countries - and we knew these folks. We had centuries of experience with them. They were a bit like us, really. The French helped us in our revolution. The Germans supplied mercenaries to help out Washington. They were us - as we are a nation of immigrants, and mostly European immigrants. We don't "get" Arabs and Muslims in this way. They lose. The punishment matches what we understand of the people who were wronged.

Anyway, how does one explain what happened then, since we are having a national debate over how to explain what's happening with the prison abuse business right now?

Elizabeth Coquart, the journalist quoted above, says only a "handful" of GIs, about one per cent of those stationed here until France set up its own government in 1946, were involved in misbehavior and crime. And AP runs this by Peter Caddick Adams, a military historian at Britain's Royal Military College of Science, and he says, well, the guys were bored - "When you get a lot of bored rear-echelon troops with a lot of time on their hands, you get excesses of behavior."

Ah, yes, I suppose you do.

But what else was different then? Well, there were posters in police stations across France that reminded the local officers not to prosecute GIs suspected of wrongdoing but to hand them over to U.S. authorities. I guess the idea was that everyone knew the United States didn't tolerate such stuff and would take care of the misbehaving occupation troops, and severely punish the bad apples, so the speak.

No one believes that now. That is not going to work in Baghdad, particularly after the June 30 change in status. No way. It's almost like no one trusts us any more. Now, why would that be?

But here's a classic French existentialist shrug - Elizabeth Coquart, the journalist quoted above, says this sort of thing is, well, just what happens: ""It was just the behavior of an army that, like any victorious army, feels authorized to do anything it wants: taking women, taking the spoils... It's the prize of many armies."

We're no different? George says we are.

Posted by Alan at 15:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 4 June 2004 16:10 PDT home

Thursday, 3 June 2004

Topic: Iraq


We've all seen the news.

From the New York Times -
Army Extending Service for G.I.'s Due in War Zones
Eric Schmitt, June 3, 2004
The Army announced Wednesday that it would require all soldiers bound for Iraq and Afghanistan to extend their active duty at least until their units have returned home from duty there, a move that could keep thousands of troops in the service for months longer than they expected over the next several years.
From the Associated Press -
Army Plan Aims to Keep Soldiers on Duty
John J. Lumpkin, June 3, 2004, 12:05 AM CDT
The announcement Wednesday, an expansion of a program called "stop-loss," affects units that are 90 days or less from deploying.... The Army is struggling to find fresh units to continue the occupation of Iraq. Almost every combat unit has faced or will face duty there or in Afghanistan, and increased violence has forced the deployment of an additional 20,000 troops to the Iraq region, straining units even further.
A quick analysis from Matthew Yglesias in The American Prospect here -
This is probably the correct response to the manpower situation the military's currently facing, but it's obviously not viable -- or, really, acceptable -- as a long-term solution. What's worse, the more the military burdens the volunteers it's got, the harder it's going to be to recruit people in the future. Members of the National Guard have come to learn that they've committed themselves to something much more arduous than they might have initially believed, and now the active-duty military is learning that the stated lengths of their enlistments can be deceptive. The country needs a real answer to this manpower problem -- a higher end-strength and a restructuring to produce more of the kind of troops we need, and fewer who are better-suited for outdated tasks.
Maybe so.

From the Los Angeles Times, more detail -

Troops Told They Can't Leave Army
'Stop-loss orders' keep soldiers in service if their units are set to be deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq. Officials call move 'finger in the dike.'
Esther Schrader, Times Staff Writer, Thursday, June 03, 2004
The Army has undertaken a series of recent measures to satisfy the personnel demands being imposed by the extended overseas conflicts.

Last week, a unit that for decades has had the job of preparing other deploying units at one of the Army's two elite training centers, the 1st Battalion of the 509th Parachute Infantry at Ft. Polk, La., was told that more than half of its soldiers would be sent to combat. It is the first combat deployment for the unit since World War II.

Army planners also are considering mobilizing its sister training unit, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California...

Last month, the 10th Mountain Division, which has already served once in Afghanistan and once in Iraq, got orders to deploy to Iraq again. In addition, a brigade of 3,600 troops based for decades in South Korea will be moved to Iraq.

In a further effort to bolster its numbers, the Army over the past year has called up about 5,000 members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of veterans recently released from active duty, cadets at service academies and college students on military scholarships. The Ready Reserve, which is not required to continue training, is supposed to be called up only in a national emergency. Members of the reserve were last called up in small numbers in 1990, in preparation for the Persian Gulf War.
The Times also reports this is a bit controversial in the military.
"I've led troops for the past two years on the small unit level, and these are not guys who are unpatriotic in any way. They volunteered and in many cases have served multiple tours," said Andrew Exum, 25, a former Army captain who served in a special operations unit in Iraq and Afghanistan and has written a book based on his experiences.

"We're the ones who serve our country proudly and we're happy to do so. But we'd like to be able to plan on doing something else," Exum said. "There are a lot of guys who would just like to go to college, to start a family, and now their future plans are thrown into turmoil. These are the guys who are not going to say no to old Uncle Sam."
Well, yes. That is true.

Let's seem - we're short on troops so we're are sending all the training units from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin out in Barstow into combat in Iraq. Training the outgoing units is too much of a luxury - it's all on the job training from now on. And we're pulling in troops from the Korean peninsula.

Not good.

So what do you say to these guys?

Stan Goff, a retired Special Forces master sergeant, and the father of an active duty soldier, has some advice.

See Hold On to Your Humanity
An Open Letter to GIs in Iraq
Counterpunch Issue of November 14 / 23, 2003

Here's some of it:
I am a retired veteran of the army, and my own son is among you, a paratrooper like I was. The changes that are happening to every one of you--some more extreme than others--are changes I know very well. So I'm going to say some things to you straight up in the language to which you are accustomed.

In 1970, I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of shit: shit from the news media, shit from movies, shit about what it supposedly mean to be a man, and shit from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even though they'd never been there, or to war at all.

The essence of all this shit was that we had to "stay the course in Vietnam," and that we were on some mission to save good Vietnamese from bad Vietnamese, and to keep the bad Vietnamese from hitting beachheads outside of Oakland. We stayed the course until 58,000 Americans were dead and lots more maimed for life, and 3,000,000 Southeast Asians were dead. Ex-military people and even many on active duty played a big part in finally bringing that crime to a halt.

When I started hearing about weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States from Iraq, a shattered country that had endured almost a decade of trench war followed by an invasion and twelve years of sanctions, my first question was how in the hell can anyone believe that this suffering country presents a threat to the United States? But then I remembered how many people had believed Vietnam threatened the United States. Including me.

When that bullshit story about weapons came apart like a two-dollar shirt, the politicians who cooked up this war told everyone, including you, that you would be greeted like great liberators. They told us that we were in Vietnam to make sure everyone there could vote.

What they didn't tell me was that before I got there in 1970, the American armed forces had been burning villages, killing livestock, poisoning farmlands and forests, killing civilians for sport, bombing whole villages, and committing rapes and massacres, and the people who were grieving and raging over that weren't in a position to figure out the difference between me--just in country--and the people who had done those things to them.

What they didn't tell you is that over a million and a half Iraqis died between 1991 and 2003 from malnutrition, medical neglect, and bad sanitation. Over half a million of those who died were the weakest: the children, especially very young children.

My son who is over there now has a baby. We visit with our grandson every chance we get. He is eleven months old now. Lots of you have children, so you know how easy it is to really love them, and love them so hard you just know your entire world would collapse if anything happened to them. Iraqis feel that way about their babies, too. And they are not going to forget that the United States government was largely responsible for the deaths of half a million kids.

So the lie that you would be welcomed as liberators was just that. A lie. A lie for people in the United States to get them to open their purse for this obscenity, and a lie for you to pump you up for a fight.

And when you put this into perspective, you know that if you were an Iraqi, you probably wouldn't be crazy about American soldiers taking over your towns and cities either. This is the tough reality I faced in Vietnam. I knew while I was there that if I were Vietnamese, I would have been one of the Vietcong.
Well, you get the idea. Click on the link for the whole thing.

Here's Goff's take on the challenge -
... In our process of fighting to stay alive, and in their process of trying to expel an invader that violated their dignity, destroyed their property, and killed their innocents, we were faced off against each other by people who made these decisions in $5,000 suits, who laughed and slapped each other on the back in Washington DC with their fat fucking asses stuffed full of cordon blue and caviar.

They chumped us. Anyone can be chumped.

That's you now. Just fewer trees and less water.

... I changed over there in Vietnam and they were not nice changes either. I started getting pulled into something - something that craved other people's pain. Just to make sure I wasn't regarded as a "fucking missionary" or a possible rat, I learned how to fit myself into that group that was untouchable, people too crazy to fuck with, people who desired the rush of omnipotence that comes with setting someone's house on fire just for the pure hell of it, or who could kill anyone, man, woman, or child, with hardly a second thought. People who had the power of life and death--because they could.

The anger helps. It's easy to hate everyone you can't trust because of your circumstances, and to rage about what you've seen, what has happened to you, and what you have done and can't take back.

It was all an act for me, a cover-up for deeper fears I couldn't name, and the reason I know that is that we had to dehumanize our victims before we did the things we did. We knew deep down that what we were doing was wrong. So they became dinks or gooks, just like Iraqis are now being transformed into ragheads or hajjis. People had to be reduced to "niggers" here before they could be lynched. No difference. We convinced ourselves we had to kill them to survive, even when that wasn't true, but something inside us told us that so long as they were human beings, with the same intrinsic value we had as human beings, we were not allowed to burn their homes and barns, kill their animals, and sometimes even kill them. So we used these words, these new names, to reduce them, to strip them of their essential humanity, and then we could do things like adjust artillery fire onto the cries of a baby.

Until that baby was silenced, though, and here's the important thing to understand, that baby never surrendered her humanity. I did. We did. That's the thing you might not get until it's too late. When you take away the humanity of another, you kill your own humanity. You attack your own soul because it is standing in the way.

So we finish our tour, and go back to our families, who can see that even though we function, we are empty and incapable of truly connecting to people any more, and maybe we can go for months or even years before we fill that void where we surrendered our humanity, with chemical anesthetics--drugs, alcohol, until we realize that the void can never be filled and we shoot ourselves, or head off into the street where we can disappear with the flotsam of society, or we hurt others, especially those who try to love us, and end up as another incarceration statistic or a mental patient.

You can ever escape that you became a racist because you made the excuse that you needed that to survive, that you took things away from people that you can never give back, or that you killed a piece of yourself that you may never get back.

... So here is my message to you. You will do what you have to do to survive, however you define survival, while we do what we have to do to stop this thing. But don't surrender your humanity. Not to fit in. Not to prove yourself. Not for an adrenaline rush. Not to lash out when you are angry and frustrated.

... I can tell you, without fear of legal consequence, that you are never under any obligation to hate Iraqis, you are never under any obligation to give yourself over to racism and nihilism and the thirst to kill for the sake of killing, and you are never under any obligation to let them drive out the last vestiges of your capacity to see and tell the truth to yourself and to the world. You do not owe them your souls.

Come home safe, and come home sane. The people who love you and who have loved you all your lives are waiting here, and we want you to come back and be able to look us in the face. Don't leave your souls in the dust there like another corpse.
This is pretty straightforward advice, if somewhat subversive.

My friend John, a Vietnam veteran himself, reacts:
When I returned from Vietnam, I went to Chicago to visit my brother. We went to visit his 5-year-old daughter who was in a local hospital. She was doing well, but there was a very thin child in the same pediatrics ward sitting in a wheel chair looking very sad, not participating in play with the other children, looking as though he had no inspirations. My brother tried to cheer him up with kind conversation. He got ice cream for this child, and spent several hours attending, very passionately, to him. I heard him ask the nurse if the child had family or other visitors.

One reason I remember that day so well is because he showed so much kindness, patience, care and concern for this child's well being and I watched quietly for hours but I really didn't give a damn about that child's condition. That is what happens to one when all humanity is lost. Fortunately, with the help of family and friends, most of it has been recovered.

Stan Goff is right on the money.
John recovered. I know him. I don't know how hard it was for him to return.

Phillip Raines commented -
I found that read stirring too, and was hit most of all by the impending loss of humanity from being in combat. When survival is a matter of fact and keen priority, something's gotta go. Things that are most near get shut down. I'm glad to hear that an antidote to the damage exists, and wouldn't you know it would come form the people who care about you? That is not the guys in $5000 suits that Goff refers to, spouting off bravery from safe and cushy Washington. I believe as the writer said, they don't give a shit about you soldier, not in any depth.

A couple of quick points. I spoke with Chip Carter, who reads foreign affairs journals as part of work with the Carter Center. I learned that human right abuses from other countries that had previously tempered their practices, would now be resumed, and Geneva conventions taken more lightly, because of the Iraqi prison photos. They see that as long as you refer to an enemy as a terrorist, or maybe even an insurgent, then you can get away with, well... you know.

Well, there is a UN human rights report due out soon.

What about it?

See US frantic to soften harsh language in UN rights report on Iraq
AFP, Wednesday June 2, 20048:43 PM ET

This is ironic:
The United States is scrambling to soften allegedly harsh and inflammatory criticism of the US-led coalition in Iraq that is expected to be contained in a UN human rights report to be released this week, US officials said.

...The officials said US diplomats are lobbying for language in a report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be toned down in a bid to prevent a new firestorm of controversy over the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees by US troops at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

... The final version of the report is to be released Friday at UN human rights headquarters in Geneva and Washington fears that, without changes, its publication could complicate efforts to secure passage of a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Got it?

How did we get into this mess? Bad soldiers? Hardly.

See Wise Counsel
Appoint a special counsel to investigate Geneva violations.
Neal Katyal - Posted Friday, May 28, 2004, at 1:50 PM PT - SLATE.COM

Now Neal Katyal teaches law at Georgetown University. He is chief counsel to the military defense lawyers in the Guant?namo case pending at the Supreme Court.

What's he argue?
In the past week, details have emerged of not only more prisoner abuse in Iraq, but also a concerted effort by the president's chief lawyer to try to insulate such abuse from domestic criminal investigation. A 2002 memorandum from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales tells the president to refuse to apply the protection of the Geneva Conventions to detainees because Americans could be charged in domestic courts with war crimes. Now that photos and Army reports suggest that just such crimes have been committed, a criminal investigation is necessary. And because the administration's own memoranda reveal that it tried to adopt policies to frustrate precisely such prosecutions, the attorney general must now appoint an outside prosecutor to investigate whether war crimes actually occurred.

This is the paradigmatic case for a special counsel.
Really. The whole thing is long and detailed, a legal argument.

And there is a smoking gun.

And it is not in the hands of a soldier.

Posted by Alan at 21:28 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Election Notes

And it's only Thursday...

Let's see, today George Tenet resigned as CIA director -- a post he's held for nearly seven years - and as a fellow cited below points out, that's longer than anyone since Allen Dulles ran the agency under President Eisenhower.

There's lots of speculation on this. President Bush praised him and said he'd miss him, but, one supposes, now can say well, he, as president, never really wanted to go to war at all, at least not in Iraq, but Tenet tricked him with bad information and made him do it, and embarrassed Colin Powell who told the UN all sorts of wrong stuff Tenet told Powell was true. Bad guy. Now he's gone.

No, that won't happen. Tenet must have the goods on a lot of people. But something strange is going on.

There are twenty or thirty theories floating around on what this is all about.

But the "how this was done" is most curious.

The New York Times account -
Mr. Bush announced the resignation in a way that was almost bizarre. He had just addressed reporters and photographers in a fairly innocuous Rose Garden session with Australia's prime minister, John Howard. Then the session was adjourned, as Mr. Bush apparently prepared to depart for nearby Andrews Air Force Base and his flight to Europe, where he is to take part in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Normady invasion and meet European leaders -- some of whom have been sharply critical of the campaign in Iraq.

But minutes later, Mr. Bush reappeared on the sun-drenched White House lawn, stunning listeners with the news of Mr. Tenet's resignation, which the president said would be effective in mid-July. Until then, Mr. Bush said, the C.I.A.'s deputy director, John McLaughlin, will be acting director.

The president praised Mr. Tenet's qualities as a public servant, saying: "He's strong. He's resolute. He's served his nation as the director for seven years. He has been a strong and able leader at the agency. He's been a, he's been a strong leader in the war on terror, and I will miss him."

Then Mr. Bush walked away, declining to take questions or offer any insight into what Mr. Tenet's personal reasons might be.
Well, he's the president. He doesn't have to explain anything to anyone.

He doesn't need to explain why the Pentagon has begun polygraph testing of employees in an attempt to find out who leaked information to that Chalabi fellow about Iran.
The polygraph examinations, which are being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are focused initially on a small number of Pentagon employees who had access to the information that was compromised. American intelligence officials have said that Mr. Chalabi informed Iran that the United States had broken the secret codes used by Iranian intelligence to transmit confidential messages to posts around the world.
Interesting times over at the OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense), no?

And as Josh Marshall points out, it has been an interesting week so far: "... beside the possibility that the White House's favored Iraqi exile was an Iranian agent, that the spy chief just got canned, that the OSD is wired to polygraphs, and that the president has had to retain outside counsel in the investigation into which members of his staff burned one of the country's own spies, I'd say the place is being run like a pretty well-oiled machine"

Yep, time for a European vacation.

Bush is hiring a personal lawyer?

See It's been a bad week for the Bushies.
Fred Kaplan - Posted Thursday, June 3, 2004, at 2:35 PM PT at SLATE.COM

Bush may need one:
...the Valerie Plame affair is gaining traction. A grand jury has apparently been at work for some time, investigating who might have told reporters that Plame was an undercover CIA agent. It was revealed yesterday that President Bush himself has sought the services of an outside lawyer in case he is called to testify. The widespread suspicion is that a White House operative exposed Plame in order to punish her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who publicly revealed that Bush (or those around him) blatantly lied in claiming, in the lead up to war, that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Exposing an undercover agent is not just a felony, it's one of the most reckless crimes that anyone armed with a security clearance could commit. Again, the guardians of the crown jewels will not hesitate to lock up the culprit for as long as the book allows. (Or, if they do let the guilty party slip away, expect dozens of the guardians to resign in protest. Also expect the full roster of remaining undercover spies to come in from the cold.)
Geez, if Bush even tacitly approved of outing this woman and exposing her contacts and blowing her cover and all that, to get even for someone showing him up, by destroying the career of that someone's wife... well, yes, Bush may need a lawyer.

So Bush has one on retainer. Best to have all your bases covered.

Kaplan points out that another hit on the White House this week comes from Time Magazine. They dug up - don't ask how -- a Pentagon e-mail message indicating that Vice President Dick Cheney played a role in arranging for Halliburton to win the multibillion-dollar, no-bid contracts for construction and logistics in post-Saddam Iraq. Yes, Cheney had been CEO of Halliburton before Bush asked Cheney to select himself for his current position. Yes, Halliburton is "profiting grandly" from the occupation. Yes, the e-mail is the first tangible sign of a direct Cheney link.

Oh well, these guys won the election - to the victors go the spoils. What's the point of gaining the ultimate height in domestic and international power if you can't profit from it? What, you win a contest and your supposed to decline the prize money?

Kaplan does point out that "such blatant political interference in the awarding of a large military contract" is, at very least, a violation of Pentagon procurement regulations. Rumsfeld can take care of that. Who writes the regulations?

We owe Bush and Cheney a lot for their steady leadership? If we do, then they are simply collecting what is owed them by us. Look at it this way. We're paying them for their service.

Given all this stuff roiling around, Bush need a European break - some good black coffee in Rome with "Bubbles" Berlusconi, a heavily sauced traditional French dinner with Chirac and the wives, and yes, a chat with the Pope to set that old man straight about what is proper and moral about preemptive war based on fear and misinformation. Hey, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - as Horace said. The Pope is good at Latin. He'll understand.

A bad week? Hardly.

Kaplan says "the walls haven't collapsed around George W. Bush, but the pillars are buckling, the floorboards are rattling, the inspectors are probing, and it doesn't look good."

Has the week so far been that bad?

Yes, in the White House and the Pentagon, senior officials face the prospect of criminal charges. And "...the vice president is accused of malfeasance, at best. A key erstwhile ally in the war on terrorism has apparently turned against us in an act of criminal perfidy. And now the nation's spymaster has turned in his cloak - it's not yet clear whether he jumped or got pushed; either way, Bush's risk-rating has just soared."

What risk? Dull, plodding John Kerry is hardly a threat.

Kaplan also says we should not forget the Abu Ghraib scandal, which remains the subject of a half-dozen panels probing up and down the chain of command. Why? "This may be the most remarkable sign of the scandal-strewn depths -- that even Abu Ghraib can be buried in the rubble."

Rubble? An administration in deep trouble?

Maybe. But Bush represents firm leadership. He doesn't give in. People respect that.

Consider this.

"I never apologized to the Arab world."


That was what Bush just said to the editorial board of Christianity Today about the Abu Ghraib prison abuses.

Don't explain. Don't apologize. Just do.

A conservative commentator, Andrew Sullivan, a long-time Bush supporter, says this "speaks volumes about Bush's sense of personal responsibility. He is a walking example of the following culture: `If it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else.' But he just can't or won't see it."

Yeah, so?

Bush may have lost Andrew Sullivan, but Sullivan is openly gay and upset about Bush's call for a change to the constitution to ban gay marriages. He feels Bush and the Republican Party have betrayed him. But he doesn't matter.

Bush knows his real base. They want a leader who won't explain (and actually, given his meager intellect, personal history of drug and alcohol abuse, and lack of curiosity about most everything, Bush probably can't explain much of anything, even to himself), who never apologizes, who has no doubts (he did say in that press conference last month that he could not think of any mistakes he had made) - they want a man who does things.

Even if whole lot of what is done is done incompetently, on a vast, global scale, and riles up every would-be terrorist in the world, and creates tens of thousands more, and alienates almost all of our allies, and even if some of what is done may be a bit illegal and, yes, petty and spiteful, and gets a whole lot of our sons, daughters and friends killed or maimed for life, and even if the policies enacted may cause harm to the environment that may never be repaired, and even if the poor get locked in place with no escape and the wealthy profit greatly as the real wages of those who work for them fall and their own tax burden is gloriously lifted, and even if more Americans are without jobs than at any time since the Great Depression.... Oh heck, you get the idea.

And least George is doing something. That's enough for a whole lot of our countrymen.

Posted by Alan at 17:44 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 2 June 2004

Topic: Making Use of History

The Anniversary of D-Day Sixty Years Ago

George Bush is off to France for the anniversary celebrations.

And the times they are a changin' - as the man says.

From l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) by way of The Tocqueville Connection see BUSH TELLS FRENCH READERS: CHIRAC'S MY FRIEND
Received Wednesday, 2 June 2004 19:24:00 GMT

Say what?
PARIS, June 2 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush has reached out to France in an interview in which he calls President Jacques Chirac his "friend" and seeks to downplay the bitter divide over his decision to invade Iraq as an amicable debate.

The comments, to be published Thursday in the French magazine Paris Match, come just ahead of Bush's in France this weekend for commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, where Chirac will host an array of world leaders.

"I have never been angry with the French. France has long been an ally," Bush said in the interview, translated into French and made available to AFP ahead of publication.

On Iraq, he said, "I made a tough decision and not everybody agreed with that decision ... (but) friends don't always have to agree. Jacques told me clearly. He didn't believe that the use of force was necessary. We argued as friends."

When asked whether he would invite the French president to his ranch in his home state of Texas -- a privilege accorded to few foreign leaders -- Bush told Paris Match with a laugh: "If he wants to come to see some cows, he's welcome. He can come and see the cows."
Yeah, right.

See U.S. bitter about French stance on war
Harsh words lead to strained relationship with France
Warren P. Strobel , Knight Ridder, Published: Thursday, April 24, 2003

A little over a year ago?
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has warned France that it will pay a price for having led the effort to thwart the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the latest sign that hard feelings generated in the run-up to the war won't dissipate quickly.

The warnings came after a White House review this week of U.S. policy toward France, and they continue a trend by President Bush of punishing nations that cross him, even allies such as Canada and Germany.

American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to provide many specifics of how relations with France, an ally of the United States since the Revolutionary War, will change.

They said Wednesday that no final decisions had been made and that much would depend on whether French President Jacques Chirac proved cooperative in the rebuilding of postwar Iraq.
Washington and Paris are in the middle of another tussle over the United Nations' role in Iraq, including how quickly to revoke sanctions, whether to readmit U.N. weapons inspectors and the world body's role in forming a post-Saddam Hussein government.

On Tuesday, France moved partway toward the U.S. position that sanctions on Iraq should be lifted immediately, proposing that most sanctions be suspended for now.

Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed appreciation for the change in a telephone call Wednesday with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, according to French news reports.

But in a television interview Tuesday night on "The Charlie Rose Show" on PBS, Powell responded simply "yes" when asked if there were consequences for France for opposing the United States.

"We have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of this," Powell said.
And this from those days:
American anger at France over its refusal to support war in Iraq reached new heights yesterday when President George Bush took a direct swipe at President Chirac.

"I doubt he'll be coming to the ranch any time soon," was Mr Bush's tart comment in an interview with NBC News, when asked about Jacques Chirac - a reference to the informal summits Mr Bush likes to hold with favored foreign leaders at his cherished retreat in Crawford, Texas. Many in his administration - by implication, himself among them - had the impression "that the French position was anti-American", the President said.

... In Paris, one French official was told by a White House official that "I have instructions to tell you our relations have been degraded", while senior Bush aides met on Monday to decide on the nature of the punishment.

The likely sanctions will include steps to marginalize France within Nato, and efforts to downgrade or even bar French participation in US- sponsored international meetings.
What happened?

And now this from the AFP?
Bush's wife, Laura, contributed to the US charm offensive on France by giving an interview to state television network France 2 in which she also stressed that the two countries were "friends".

"Yes, we had our differences over the war in Iraq. But we have also worked together, we have worked together in Afghanistan. I think France will be with us in the reconstruction of Iraq, to help the Iraqis build democracy, to free themselves from the oppression of Saddam Hussein," she said, according to the channel's dubbed French translation of her remarks.

"I believe, I think that we will always remain friends, that our two countries will always be allies. I hope so."

The First Lady added that she thought that French animosity towards her husband came from not knowing him well enough.

"He deeply believes that freedom for all is important. I hope people see that in him. It's a hidden aspect in his character. He has a character that Americans are proud of: a strong personality, he's tough, independent, with a love of freedom. Those are American characteristics and my husband has them. I think the French have them, too."
Perhaps. Or perhaps the animosity towards her husband come from understanding just who he really is.

Well, who is to say?

Our friend Ric in Paris offers these comments in an email just received here, under the heading Les Vaches:
Bush: 'Not all French presidents are wimps' ....

Not surprising. Mrs Bush was 'interviewed' on France-2 TV news tonight by David P, who was doing the news here, and suddenly he was there - in DC - but 24 hours ago. Mrs B is looking forward to the state din-din at the Elysee Palace tomorrow or whenever it is.

Mrs B confirmed that Jacques is George's favorite Frenchperson. She said she couldn't say so in French, and did not say that she hoped that Madame Jacques can speak English - because they will be spending some time together in the next few days, traipsing off to Normandy, to see some beaches, graves and cows.

As it is, French TV news announced but did not follow up with story about how many D-Day visitors to Normandy are already in Normandy, trying to beat the rush and the visits by heads of state this coming weekend. Apparently cows get nervous when there are too many big heads around.

For any Listers who may be intending the relive the events of Tuesday, 6. June 1944, please do not forget that the event is on a Sunday this year. Long-range weather forecasts are shaping up nicely and there may actually be real sunshine this coming Sunday, unlike for the original event.

D-Day, already in prime time on TV, goes into heavy rotation tomorrow night with the beginning of the full-length movie of the 'Longest Day.' This is not the movie version by the same name, but a film of the actual event - in color! - that will last from 6 June until the Liberation of Paris on 19 August, when the film of this other historic event will take its place. (Also in color, see it on France-2, France-3, TV5 and Arte. 'Reality' TV shows will continue to be aired as usual on TF1 and M-6.)

Monday night's preview of the 'Longest Day,' called '?t? '44,' contained the startling news that only 0.5 percent of the French were in the Resistance before D-Day. There were also many residents who were annoyed with D-Day on account of being bombed and killed. After D-Day, membership in the Resistance swelled suddenly, to one percent.

It stayed at this level until enough chewing gum, cigarettes and Coca Cola became available and the French became aware of the advantages of abandoning the Vichy regime in favor of the new invaders, who were mainly Americans (the ones who had gum and money), supported by General Monty with the British (the ones without gum or money.)

Somehow, between 6 June and 19 August, everybody in France joined the Resistance, including many former members of the Milice, past-time Gestapo informers, and some Vichy government officials, like Maurice Papon. The hapless ones were stuck in the Vel d'Hiver and left to rot.

Parisians, cranky and unpredictable as always, would not listen to reason and went ahead and liberated themselves, using any old material that was lying around. This was started by the police (who had been arresting Resistance members 24 hours before) when they decided to have a strike. They took over the Prefecture on the Ile de la Cite and began shooting at the occupiers, who shot back. Some Parisians were killed, and about 1000 memorial plaques were later pasted up all over the city.

When General De Gaulle arrived four days later, the city was pretty much liberated, except for some random shooters at the Place de la Concorde and at the Hotel de Ville. De Gaulle did not once drop his cigarette, but had a duck a couple of times, along with 500,000 other people.

About a week later he ordered the Resistance and the FFI disbanded. If they wanted to keep shooting, he said, they had to join the army. Some did and got killed on an excursion to Berlin.

Meanwhile, all sorts of camp-followers like Ernest Hemingway arrived. Old Ernie liberated the Ritz Bar, visited Sylvia Beach, and moved into the Hotel Maurice that had so recently been vacated by the other occupying forces. The sound of big band jazz was heard for the first time and bottles with drippy candles were set out in basements in the Quartier Latin, to be ready for the existentialists.

So far, it's been surprising how many French actually do remember all of this. As far as I know, nobody has said a word about it in the last 27 years. It turns out that it wasn't forgotten at all. Some people in Normandy are still complaining about getting bombed. Everybody accepts Coca Cola and chewing gum now. The most popular brand is 'Hollywood.' If that isn't a 'thanks,' I don't know what is.

To further international understanding between France and the United States, I think Mr. Bush should hang around for a week, to witness the European Elections when the French and the Germans, and everybody else except the sodden Swiss, will vote for new representatives to the European parliament. This is another way of saying 'thank you' for getting liberated, even if many of the Bush crew think that Europe may be getting a bit too big and shows it off by having continental elections.

To show that Europe isn't all that big, in France alone there are about 25 parties competing on 13 June. Some of these are anti-European parties. But May '68 hero 'Dany the Red' is the Euro manager for the Euro-Greens, and is running a trilingual campaign on behalf of candidates from the Atlantic to Russia, from the Mediterranean to the North Cape.

In France, at least, the big question is whether the Trotskyites will out-score the Communists. Jacques' conservative UMP party is trying to avoid another severe slap in the face, but really wishes the Euro-elections were happening in Australia, maybe last year. Jacques' Prime Minister has said that he will ignore any new 'slaps in the face.' It just goes to show that conservatives anywhere have a lot in common.
Ah, I wish I were there. The conservatives in power being slapped around by those who actually wish to live in a community... "Egalite, Fraternite, Liberte" and all that stuff we think is for sissies.

But yes, Daniel Cohn-Bendit is a far different man now than he was in 1968. Aren't we all?

I do recall on my trips to France seeing "Hollywood" chewing gum. In a pipe shop in Avignon I had a long talk with the owner about the name. I told him I actually lived in Hollywood. He was amused and threw in some free pipe tobacco.

Ah, crazy Americans. And crazy French.

Ah but should you find yourself in Normandy for this D-Day thing?

Also from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) ...

Received Wednesday, 2 June 2004 10:25:00 GMT

In short -
Top-selling items are copies of the famous toy cricket used by members of the US airborne divisions to identify each other after dropping behind German lines. The metal gadgets, which emit a click when squeezed, sell for between 2.5 and four euros (four to five dollars).

Other souvenirs -- some in special 60th anniversary packaging -- include model parachutists, car registration plates marked "D-Day 1944" and the whole gamut of camouflage clothes.

For the more discerning -- and wealthier -- collector, it is possible to buy genuine articles dating from the Normandy campaign, such as a piece of shrapnel for eight euros, a box of British bandages for 14, a US stretcher for 150, and a German grenade for 200.

"In general German military objects are more in demand than British or American ones," said one saleswoman, Sylvie.

A German helmet bearing insignia can go for as much as 600 euros, while recently a US helmet found covered with a crust of sea-shells in the mud of the beaches went for 240.
Ah well.

Sic transit gloria mundi ...

As for the D-Day festivities and the speechs?

This could be interesting.

See Bush warned against comparing D-Day to Iraq
Kim Willsher in Paris, The Guardian (UK), Wednesday June 2, 2004

Bush has been warned:
French officials fear George Bush will inflame anti-American sentiment in France this weekend by linking the D-Day landings with the invasion of Iraq.

Advisers close to Jacques Chirac have let it be known that any reference to Iraq during the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France on Sunday would be ill-advised and unwelcome.
Both presidents will address second world war veterans and VIPs during a service at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy.

"He'd better not go too far down the road of making a historical comparison because it's likely to backfire on him," said a source close to President Chirac.

He added that the French would not appreciate any public mention linking the events and said photographs of US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisons did not sit well with the image of D-Day heroes.

Anti-US feeling has been running high in France since Paris opposed the war on Iraq last year. Activists have called for a mass demonstration in Paris on Saturday to protest at Mr Bush's arrival.
Oh yeah, from a guy who probably likes Hollywood chewing gum and thinks Laura Bush has it wrong - the French dislike Bush because they actually know they type.
Laurent Fabius, head of Mr Chirac's governing UMP party, said of Mr Bush: "He represents the exact opposite of everything we admire about America."
Well, there's a lot to unpack in what Fabius said right there.

Ah, but as Ric in Paris points out, Kim Willsher here in The Guardian is at tad confused -
Laurent Fabius, ex-minister, is a leading member of the Socialist Party in France.

Alain Juppe, another former Prime Minister, is head of the UMP party - but is awaiting court decisions about whether he is a political crook or not. He is being challenged by Nicolas Sarkozy, now Minister of Finance, for leadership of the UMP party. There will be a party meet later this year to decide who will lead the party.

Further news to come as events unfold.
The Brits are having trouble telling one frog from another? So it would seem. Kim Willsher seems to have this problem.

Ah well.

Be that as it may, the French, it seems, rather like Americans. The problem is this Bush fellow.

In my trips to France, with very few exceptions, I have been welcomed with warmth, and good spirits and lively talk by these difficult French folks. And some of them I now count among my good friends. But I, and so many others who have had the same experiences I have had, don't have Bush's particular charm, I suppose. I guess we lack his moral clarity or whatever.

But will there be protests in the streets of Paris? There all always protests in the streets of Paris. It is what the French do.

But this time?

Paris bans protests ahead of Bush's visit
Robert Graham in Paris, The Financial Times, London (UK)
Published: June 2 2004 19:14
Demonstrations have been banned in central Paris throughout this week to ensure no hostile protests are in evidence to disturb President George W. Bush's brief presence in the French capital on Saturday, where he will be dining with President Jacques Chirac.

This blanket ban cannot conceal the groundswell of French hostility to the US president and the unpopularity of his policies on Iraq and the broader Middle East.
Perhaps Ric will cover what happens in the street with next Monday evening's MetropoleParis. I suspect something will happen.

Posted by Alan at 20:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 3 June 2004 05:59 PDT home

Tuesday, 1 June 2004

Topic: Bush

Rhetorical Flourishes and Imaginary Friends

See Making Hay Out of Straw Men
Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, Tuesday, June 1, 2004; Page A21

Milbank is bothered by the same thing that bothers me in discussions with my conservative friends. It's this straw man mode of argument.

And Bush does it well. As Milbank says, it's an ancient debating technique: Caricature your opponent's argument, then knock down the straw man you created.

Here's the problem, in one example:
In a speech on May 21 mentioning the importance of integrity in government, business and the military, Bush veered into a challenge to unidentified "people" who practice moral relativism. "It may seem generous and open-minded to say that everybody, on every moral issue, is equally right," Bush said, at Louisiana State University. "But that attitude can also be an excuse for sidestepping life's most important questions."

No doubt. But who's made such arguments? Hannibal Lecter? The White House declined to name names.
Yep, I've been there. Many of us have had this thrown in our face.

Much of the idea that it might be wise to understand the root causes, justified or not, of hatred of America, of the Palestinian hatred of Sharon's tactics, or of Israel in general - all that sort of thing -- is met with being accused of granting that perhaps our enemies are NOT wholly evil, of granting perhaps they MAY have a grievance they feel deeply, justified or not, that it might be wise to address. We are told that we are really saying they're as right and justified as we are. And we are sternly reminded we are good and they are bad. No more, no less. Being generous and open-minded, as Bush puts it, is simply disregarding the facts. But who is being generous and open-minded? We just want to know what's happening and why?

The why is that they are just, well, damn it, evil.

Ah well, maybe they are just evil. All of them. Everyone of them. Even the toddlers.

Milbank notes a few more straw men. Kerry recently suggested we halt, or at least slow, oil shipments that are replenishing emergency petroleum reserves. Might help with the high prices.

And yes, Bush replied by saying we should not empty the reserves.

But Kerry didn't say that. Oh well. "The idea of emptying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would put America in a dangerous position in the war on terror. We're at war."

No one said to do that. Doesn't matter. Most people will assume Kerry said it.

Then there is the issue of why we went to war in Iraq. As least Bush isn't saying it was to prevent gay marriages in Haiti. But Bush, as Milbank notes, has a really cool routine. No weapons of mass destruction like we said we had to destroy?
... Bush explains the prewar intelligence indicating Saddam Hussein had such weapons, and then presents in inarguable conclusion: "So I had a choice to make: either trust the word of a madman, or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America every time."
Yes, but that wasn't exactly the choice. Milbank says the real choice was to support continued U.N. weapons inspections, or go to war.

Heck, maybe there were third or fourth options.

And on it goes. I like this one:
On May 4, Bush was discussing the war on terrorism, when he said: "Some say, 'Well, this is just a matter of law enforcement and intelligence.' No, that's not what it is." On May 10, he posited: "The natural tendency for people is to say, oh, let's lay down our arms. But you can't negotiate with these people.... Therapy won't work."

It is not clear who makes such arguments, however. All but a few lawmakers in both parties support military action against al Qaeda, and Kerry certainly has not proposed opening talks with Osama bin Laden or putting him on the couch.
Yes, Bush is having debates on psychology and the philosophy of terrorism with imaginary people who say the funniest things. But they aren't there.

Bush was, in support of the Leave No Child Behind reforms that were enacted, arguing with those who say "it's racist to test" students. Huh? No record of anyone saying that.

Milbank points out that some folks who usually like George, are calling Bush on this:
On April 30, for example, Bush was discussing Iraq when he said: "There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins ... are a different color than white can self-govern."

The columnist George Will asked who Bush was talking about, then warned of the "swamp one wanders into when trying to deflect doubts about policy by caricaturing and discrediting the doubters." There are some, including in the State Department, who are skeptical about the ability of the United States to spread democracy in the Arab world, but that is a far less sweeping argument than the one Bush knocked down.
Well, yes. I don't believe it is the position of the State Department that people of color don't get this democracy business and can't ever get it, because of their race. Hey, look who heads the State Department.

Bush is arguing with his imaginary friends again. I would guess this race and democracy counterargument to an argument no one made causes Colin Powell to bang his head against a wall, or drink heavily

But it is good theater.

Milbank also covers Bush on healthcare and on the economy, particularly outsourcing and tariffs and all the rest. Try the link and read it all. Find a wall. Drink heavily.

Posted by Alan at 22:19 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 1 June 2004 22:32 PDT home

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