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July 27, 2003 Opinion

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This week: Two Weeks of Odd Reversals
There was no issue of Just Above Sunset last week.  As was shown on the home page and sent to subscribers, the computer I use to build the magazine just up and died.  In technical terms, the motherboard failed.  But other parts were also failing or working badly.  So I replaced the whole thing.  It took a few days to get the new computer set up and all the software loaded and all the old files back to where they belong.  But that leaves me with two weeks worth of commentary to organize in some fashion. 
In the last two weeks, the current administration in Washington admitted that the assertions about Iraq being an immediate nuclear threat, particularly about whether the Brits or our CIA could find evidence of Iraq seeking to purchase processed uranium ore (yellowcake) in Niger or anywhere else in Africa should not have been in the State of the Union address.  The CIA took the blame, George Tenet said it was his fault, and then he didn't.  And then in one single day, Jessica Lynch returned to West Virginia, we found and killed the two sons of Saddam Hussein we had been seeking, someone else took the blame for the problem in the State of the Union address.  Lots of things happened.
Take last Tuesday, the 22nd.
One of the things any government does is try to control the release of news to manage the publics mood and wavering opinions.  The "feel good" story that day was supposed to be the return of the sweet young Army PFC to her hometown after months in the hospital.  This had been scheduled for some time and planned for.  She seems like a nice kid, and she has been in hospital a long time recovering from all the war damage.  Seeing her return to the little town of three hundred folks in West Virginia and hug her family perhaps would have made us all feel that whether she was rescued heroically or not, whether she fought valiantly until her ammunition ran out or was just banged up bad when her Hummer hit the truck in front - well, that would all be forgotten.  Let her have her homecoming and parade.  She seems like a good sort who has been through a lot of crap.  It was just good she got home.  Good for her.

But then the "feel good" story of the day turned out much different.  We cornered and killed two really bad guys.  The ace of hearts and the ace of clubs if you're using the deck.  Daddy is the ace of spades, by the way.  This was "a victory" and will, we are told, get us two-thirds of the way to ending all the potshots at our guys. 

I heard a news anchor ask why, if we had these guys cornered, we didn't just sit there surrounding the place and starve them out.  Then we'd get to interrogate them, and have them walking around in handcuffs all humiliated on camera, then be able to turn them over to the new Iraqi council for trial and let the Iraqi folks have their way with these guys.  This would show the world it's not just us who have a Jones about that family. 

The retired general who replied - there are so many of them I missed which one it was this time - said that while that might have been good, it was better to show our strength and resolve and show that folks who mess with us will pay the ultimate price. 
So it all comes down to which message you want to send.  And is it not more satisfying to us to see them dead, whatever the new Iraqi council might want? 

One thinks of the photos of Mussolini strung up, and the shots on the news of Nikolai Ceaucescu and his wife dead and rotting in their fancy garden.  Feel good images.  Such things please people. 
I expect none of my readers are the kind of total pacifist I am, thinking that killing folks solves very few things ever.  So you all may feel really good about this, except for a few sensing there something a bit coldly bloodthirsty going on here.  Oh well.  It doesnt matter much.

But given these two big stories, it was the day for the White House to drop a big one late in the afternoon.  The kind of thing that is supposed to get passed over because of all the other chatter.  Stephen Hadley, President Bush's deputy national security adviser - second in command to that Rice woman - became the second administration official to apologize for allowing a tainted intelligence report on Iraqs nuclear ambitions into Bushs State of the Union address.  He admitted he received detailed memos from the CIA in October, four months before the State of the Union speech, giving all the minutiae on why reports here and in the UK about Iraq buying uranium ore in Africa were almost certainly false.  He claimed he "forget about" these memos.  Oops.  He offered his resignation.  Bush refused to accept it and said he had total confidence in Hadley, Rice and in George Tenet over at the CIA. 
Okay.  Fine.  But it was a good news day to have Hadley fess up.

But I'm not cynical.  Nope.  Not me.

And that's how the news went.

Since that day there has been more and more commentary on the death of Hussein's two sons, but not so much about whether we should have just hung around and starved them out of the place and made them captives... then put them on trial and humiliated them. 
Yes, folks are arguing that still.  And you will find commentary in the Syrian press and elsewhere in the Middle-East suggesting we had to kill them because they knew too much about how we supported Iraq in the 1980-1988 war they had with Iran, looking the other way at the time when the used some pretty awful weapons.  It was too dangerous to take them alive because of what they knew about us.  That seems far-fetched.

No, most of the commentary seems to center on the wisdom of displaying the mangled bodies, releasing the photos in JPG format on a CD to all the news services, and then inviting the reporters with their cameras to document the "fixed up" corpses.  It did seem a tad gruesome.  The Guardian in the UK called the business head-on-a-pike propaganda.   It does make one consider what we're trying to send as a message to the rest of the world. 

As Les Payne writes in Newsday today, the 27th -
Are Americans embarrassed by the Bush administration releasing those grisly photographs of Saddam Hussein's two murdered sons?  I think so.  Are they repulsed by their government displaying on playing cards the human faces of targets of its tax-paid hit-team?  Do they approve of assassins being hired in their name to track down face-card fugitives as if the world's lone superpower is some tinhorned, nuclear-crazed vigilante state?
Has this administration lost its Wild West, bounty-hunting mind?
Two other commentaries from the left further illustrate the objections. 
Heres Douglas Valentine on the 24th in counterpunch.com -
What do you call it when George W. Bush, without provocation and based on false pretenses, sends an army to invade a foreign nation; and then, without any attempt to negotiate a surrender, effect an arrest, or put this nation's leaders on trial and present evidence of their crimes, instead puts multimillion dollar bounties on their heads, relies on collaborators and spies to track them down, and then corners them and blows them away in their homes, in their own country?
Do you call it what the Israelis, who lately have done it hundreds of times, call it?
A targeted kill?
What would you call it if Saddam Hussein hunted down and killed George Bush's daughters in Texas?

Cold-blooded murder?
How about calling this sort of behavior assassination?
Why call it anything?  A rose by any other name, right?
And don't even ask if targeted kills, cold-blooded murders, and assassinations are legal or moral. Who the hell cares?
They're popular. It's so much fun, you can even find death cards on the Internet, naming the people that Bush plans to kill in Iraq. It's like a videogame, or that old Steve McQueen show, Wanted
Dead or Alive.
Bush really gets into it too; "Bring 'em on," he said, playing the role of Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel; and since then a couple of GIs have gotten killed every day. But what the hell, it's a volunteer army, and it isn't you or me.  So they die for Bush's vainglory.  Who cares?  It's the vicarious thrill that counts.
Heres Rhett Redelings-MacDermott writing for informationclearinghouse.org -
What bothers me is how bloodthirsty the average American revealed himself to be.  I won't forget the hand painted signs on the tanks that read "Baghdad today, Paris tomorrow".   I won't forget how French fries, French toast and French bread all became freedom fries, freedom toast and freedom bread.   I won't forget seeing Americans betraying the values of their own country by trying to silence those of us who disagreed with them.  I won't forget being called a traitor or a terrorist or at the very least, unpatriotic, because I believed the Bush administration's endless "war on terrorism" to be a farce and the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq to be ruinous for America as well as being illegal and unwarranted atrocities.   I won't forget how it feels to have the rest of the world look at us like we're the new Nazi state.  I won't forget how it feels to know that they're probably right.  It wasn't just a handful of extremists thirsting for blood and trying to silence any and all opposition.  It wasn't just a handful of extremists promoting intolerance, paranoia and blind nationalism.  It wasn't just a handful of extremists supporting hate crimes, both at home and abroad.  It wasn't just a handful of extremists giving away our rights and undermining the values of the United States of America .  
It was the everyday American citizens goose-stepping right along with the extremists, because it feels good to believe you're on the winning team, it feels good to think you've got it all figured out and, let's face it, it feels good to do whatever you like, no matter who or what it hurts.  Nothing makes fear subside like kicking someone's ass and feeling powerful.  It doesn't even matter if they deserve it.  Children on playgrounds know this.  And they resent it when an adult steps in and reprimands them.  They resent having to learn how to behave in a civilized manner and they resent having to accept that what they want isnt always good for them or good for others.  They dont want responsibility.  But they are children and dont know any better.  It is for the adults to know better and to guide our children in making sense of the world and making healthy, thoughtful choices.  What will our children learn from our own behavior? 
Can you see the irony here?   It's looking at you in the mirror.   
America is shamed today. 
And these were excerpts from quite detailed arguments.

Of course, on the Fox News website today, and on their discussions shows, there is general agreement that the deaths of Husseins sons and the photos of the bodies will kill any effort by any Democrat to attack Bush and the Republicans, because Bush and the Republicans are getting the job done.

And there is no room here to review all the items about whether we were sold a bill of goods, generally, that war NOW was necessary.  Things could NOT wait.  The UN was wrong.  France, Germany, Russia and China were wrong.  We had proof.

Well, all that chemical and biological weaponry has not turned up.  It's becoming pretty obvious there was no Iraqi nuclear program since 1992 or so.  Those two trailers we found seem to be British-made units for inflating weather and artillery balloons.  Those aluminum tubes were most likely not for gas centrifuges to enrich uranium.  The two drones that could deliver biotoxins or deadly germs on out cities within forty-five minutes turned out to be two model airplanes, one of which couldn't fly.  And so on and so forth.

Its been a bad few weeks for the administration.
Well, Lance Armstrong came through. 
There is, of course, the madness about the recall election out here in California see "I live in Hollywood.  Don't we all?" in July 27, 2003 Reviews about that. 

And there is the economy.   We're in this "jobless recovery" and IBM announced this week that they will be outsourcing many jobs to India. 
It seems IBM has been watching what CSC and Perot Systems has been up to and will follow suit.  I've been a "senior system manager" for those last two organizations.  If what I used to do can been done by someone in India for fifteen grand a year, and done well, it really is time to move on.  Systems management has moved off-shore.  Done. 
The quality of the work done in India these days is flat-out excellent.  The folks there are superbly educated and inventive.  And what I did, or used to do, for a fat salary here and in Canada, will cost Perot or CSC fifteen grand there.  I feel like the fellow who got stuck with a warehouse full of eight-track tapes of disco hits.  Time to learn a new trade. 
I don't think any turn-around in the economy will change matters at all in the systems world.  Things have changed structurally.  There's no going back.  So one adapts.
And I feel no anger about this at all.  Nor should any of my colleagues laid off or soon to be.
One thinks about all those folks pissed at losing their jobs shoeing horses or making buggy-whips when everyone started buying automobiles.  Same thing.  These folks offshore offer better products and services at a sixth of the current domestic cost?   Fine.  Deal with it.
This actually is good in a "macro" sort of way.  I guess I do come down on the side of free and open trade.  I was pissed when Bush raised tariffs on foreign steel to keep prices high and protect our producers - after the European producers dropped their subsidies to play fair.  The WTO just found those tariffs illegal, last week, but we'll fight for them tooth and claw.  Damn. 
And I'm not happy Bush goes to Africa and gets all sanctimonious when he still uses millions our tax dollars to pay direct subsidies to American cotton farmers, allowing them to undercut all the African producers even if the real cost of production here is hundreds of times higher.  Why are we destroying their cotton industry to prop up inefficient producers? 
If I understand why folks like me are not finding work in systems management then why can't the conservative Republican "business-friendly" party understand that rigging the marketplace to protect the increasingly incompetent is bad business, and even worse geopolitics?
Oh well.  Just a rant there.
You see, I missed a week of commentary.  There's too much happening.

Oh yeah, one other thing.  On Tuesday, July 22, I came across Welcome to the Big Darkness by Hunter S. "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" Thompson - an essay containing this -

The Rumsfield-Cheney axis has self-destructed right in front of our eyes, along with the once-proud Perle-Wolfowitz bund that is turning to wax. They somehow managed to blow it all, like a gang of kids on a looting spree, between January and July, or even less.  It is genuinely incredible. The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap War in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of Corrupt Brits despises us.  We are losers, and that is the one unforgiveable sin in America.

Beyond that, we have lost the respect of the world and lost two disastrous wars in three years.  Afghanistan is lost, Iraq is a permanent War Zone, our national Economy is crashing all around us, the Pentagon's "war strategy" has failed miserably, nobody has any money to spend, and our once-mighty U.S. America is paralyzed by Mutinies in Iraq and even Fort Bragg.
The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse.  I am surprised and embarrassed to be a part of the first American generation to leave the country in far worse shape than it was when we first came into it.  Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor, our vaunted Social Security, once the envy of the world, has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam, Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world.
The Stock Market will never come back, our Armies will never again be No. 1, and our children will drink filthy water for the rest of our lives.
The Bush family must be very proud of themselves today, but I am not.  Big Darkness, soon come.  Take my word for it.

That didn't cheer me up.  But this week will be better.


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27 July 2003

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