Topic: Couldn't be so...
It must be some sort of cosmic joke, even is a cruel one...
It's just getting too absurd. But it should be documented. The week of Monday, June 19, 2006, started out with more of the spiral downward, and a sense that those in charge are just somehow disconnected, in some existentially absurd way.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked tough, warning North Korea not to even think about testing that long-range missile that could reach California carrying a nuclear warhead (details here), and the whole world is worried, particularly Japan and South Korea. But when Bush took office our policy changed. We stopped direct all talks with them - no talks unless they stopped all their nuclear and missile programs first - then we named them part of the Axis of Evil, then we said we'd talk, but only as part of a group of six other nations, certainly not one-on-one, ever. That would just reward them by making it seem like they were a legitimate government. So they did what they did - went on with the bomb thing and the missile development. Why wouldn't they? We pinned our hopes on "regime change." Right. So now what?
Of course the way out of this is simple. Many have suggested it. This administration poured billions into an anti-ballistic missile program that even though it failed all its testes, we deployed anyway. Time to prove it's not a boondoggle, not just some way to make the friends and contributors to the Republicans richer than they already are. You say it works. You say it's not just a waste of money wecould have spent to deal with terrorists sneaking in small nukes through Long Beach or Baltimore? Fine. When the North Koreans launch the new missile to test it, shoot down the damned thing. It would be perfectly legal, over international waters, and the world would sigh in relief, and the supporters of the administration would cheer, and everyone, left and right would feel a whole lot safer. You say it works fine. So use it. Then again, it would be the first time it ever worked. This could be tricky. Better to bluster, and not be embarrassed.
Then there was this - "President Bush told Iran on Monday that nations worldwide won't back down from their demand that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment."
They should chat with Korea. We have steely resolve. They keep working on the uranium technology. And why wouldn't they?
Of course this is all a charade. As the second buttress of the Axis of Evil, we don't see Iran as it is as a legitimate government either. We want the youth there to rise up and unleash the hidden American in each of their souls, and throw out the clerics, and so on. That is our stated aim. We set many millions aside for the effort - to fund the rebels, to bring on the democratic revolution. Dick Cheney's daughter - the other one, not the lesbian one with the new book - is in charge of that effort. You could look it up.
So we won't back down on our demand that Tehran suspend uranium enrichment. Of course not. And we know they won't back down. That's as plain as day. Why would they choose to be humiliated? That's the only "out" we've left them. We already, three years ago rejected serious talks with them on any of these issues (see this). We don't want to work things out.
So it's a set-up. Back them into a corner where we can say, see, they need to go away. The diplomacy is not at all to get them to stop what they're doing. Whatever diplomacy involved is to set up things so people agree they're just not a government that should be allowed to exist any longer. That may or may not work. We may go it alone again, or pretty much alone. Fiji will stand with us, or someone.
We wanted Saddam Hussein to provide definitive, documented proof he had no weapons of mass destruction, and to destroy what he didn't have. Cool. And we are demanding Hugo Chavez down in Venezuela provide definitive, documented proof he has no ties to al Qaeda or any terrorists. Show us the documents that show there are no documents. Right.
This is very odd. Demanding the other prove the negative - prove to me that you aren't thinking about an orange - is just absurd.
But these guys do absurd in a major way.
And they do absurd in a minor way too, as in this - "A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position. The document outlines retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities, and in a section on defects lists homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders."
What's to say? In some parts of the administration it's always 1953, in Tulsa. The armies of other nations just deal with it - good soldiers may, sometime, be gay. So what? Here that's right up there with being retarded, just like Gore Vidal is, and T. E. Lawrence. Oh well.
The military has other things to worry about of course, like the two soldiers who seem to have been captured near Baghdad by some locals tied to al Qaeda (see the AP account here and the New York Times here). This is serious stuff. Let's hope they don't get tortured or anything. That would be awkward after Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and all. But what really happened is still unclear. This is just a "claim" after all. We're still looking, shutting down whole villages and much more.
As Tim Grieve notes here, one year and about eight hundred forty American soldiers ago, Vice President Cheney said that we were seeing the "last throes" of the insurgency in Iraq. It'd all be over soon. He knew.
Monday, June 19, 2006. he was asked about that again (see this) - does he still think that true. He does. You see there were the Iraqi elections in 2005 and then the formation of a government this year. And that was the beginning of the end of the war. It's obvious - "I think that will have been, from a historical turning point, the period that we'll be able to look at and say, 'That's when we turned the corner, that's when we began to get a handle on the long-term future of Iraq.'"
And all gays are retarded. It's all how you look at things.
So how do you look at this - the same day, in Baghdad, our U.S. military announced that a noncommissioned officer and two soldiers have been charged with murder, obstruction of justice and a few other crimes. This seems to have something to do with the death of three Iraqis in military custody last month. The spin in the Arab street, if there is such a thing as that street, will be awful. After all the rest, this. Or you can spin it the other way, as we don't stand for such things and these guys will be tried, and what other nation does that sort of thing, so it shows we take care of our own problems and do the right thing. When they get six-week suspended sentences that spin will need some adjustment.
But for absurd spin the same Monday there was a lot of talk about what Karl Rove said the week before, accusing Jack Murtha and John Kerry of being "cut-and-run" politicians who "may be with you for the first few bullets" but won't "be there for the last tough battles." Again, Rove was eighteen in 1968 but managed to avoid serving alongside men like Murtha and Kerry in Vietnam, and Grieve nicely puts it. The talk was all about what former Marine a pro-military man Murtha had to say about that on "Meet the Press" that Sunday, and he wasn't kind - "He's in New Hampshire. He's making a political speech. He's sitting in his air-conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, 'Stay the course.' That's not a plan. I mean, this guy - I don't know what his military experience is, but that's a political statement."
Still those on the right call Murtha a coward and traitor for suggesting redeploying and rearranging our forces, and call Rove the real hero, the tough guy. Go figure. Who knows more about such matters? Don't ask.
And by the way, there's also this, a new report on Cheney's old company Halliburton. It's the "single fastest-growing federal contractor between 2000 and 2005," or so the report says. In 2000, Halliburton received $763 million in federal government contracts. In 2005, it received nearly $6 billion worth of work, taking it from No. 20 to No. 6 on the list of the government's biggest contractors. War is good. Reading the Tim Grieve daily surveys of current will drive you nuts.
So will reading stuff buried deep in the Washington Post, like this. It seems the Post got their hands on a "sensitive" memo from the public affairs office of the US. Embassy in Baghdad and it offers "snapshots" of what life is like for its Iraqi employees who live outside the Green Zone. The Post has it here in PDF format, and everyone seems to be discussing it.
One summary is here -
But other than that things are fine, except men who wear shorts or jeans have come under attack from "what staff members describe as Wahabis and Sadrists." And different neighborhoods are controlled by different militias, and staff members have to be careful to dress and speak differently in each one - "People no longer trust most neighbors." And a newspaper editor reports that ethnic cleansing is taking place in almost every Iraqi province.
Great. The document is dated around the time the president dropped by. He probably didn't see it. The name on the bottom is Khalilzad, our ambassador there.
An assessment here -
Ah well. At least the president is on top of things. Monday, June 19, he delivered the commencement address at the US Merchant Marine Academy, and tossed in this - "This morning, I flew here on Air Force One with my friend, Andy Card. You might remember Andy - he was my former chief of staff, and he attended this Academy in the 1960s. It just so happens when he was a plebe, he was stuffed in a duffel bag and run up the flagpole."
What? That sounds like a line from some absurdist's play - didn't Stoppard have Rosencrantz say that to Guildenstern?
It's hard to make sense of it all. It must be some sort of cosmic joke, even is a cruel one.
And then there's the torture business and Guantánamo.
As reported late in the day Monday, June 19, here, after the three prisoner suicides, and after we tossed out all the reporters there, so no one will now know anything, the military tribunals, for the ten of the four hundred ninety we think we can prove might actually be bad guys, have been put off. The idea is that maybe it might be a good idea for the Supreme Court to rule on whether we can do that at all, in the way we planned. Things have gotten a bit out of hand.
And too, the previous Friday the Pentagon actually declassified a November 2004 report about detainee abuse by our Speical Operations guys in Iraq (here in PDF format). That's the one where Brigadier General Richard Formica (great name). That's the one where he told reporters that it was "regrettable" that the troops he investigated had inadequate guidance about detention policy, but really, no one was ultimately responsible. Just a bit of a mix up.
But then folks finally got around to reading the details, and the New York Times noted this -
See Spencer Ackerman here -
Two of our guys are missing. Think about it.
Yeah, but what about Guantánamo?
Andrew Sullivan here points to a list of interrogation techniques reliably documented at our detention centers in Guantánamo or Afghanistan, compiled by medical ethicist, Stephen Miles, in a book coming out soon, Oath Betrayed. Miles has examined 35,000 pages of government documents and "credible witness" testimony and this is what we seem to have done -
Did all that work wonders? Over one hundred prisoners died. But then, no more planes were flown into Manhattan skyscrapers. The connection is tenuous, if there at all.
The Post says this -
And one of his readers, puzzled over the evangelical Christians in charge - good is good and evil is evil, so you fight pure evil anyway you can - says this -
And what of our two soldiers who seem to have been captured by the bad guys? What if they are tortured?
There are some questions here -
Who knows what our government would do or say in such a case? They kind of got boxed in here. That's what the absurd is all about. Too bad it's likely.
Enough. This calls for scotch.