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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Consider:

"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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Sunday, 6 November 2005

Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

Anticipation: The National Conversation Is Now Open

Does the week begin on Sunday, as the calendar on your desk shows, or does it begin on Monday when everyone gets back to work, or at least those who still have jobs and are not at home wondering how his or her replacement in Bangalore is faring with the systems code? Here in Hollywood, three in the afternoon on Sunday is when Monday begins in Paris. It's always the next day somewhere.

It doesn't matter. The issues for the coming week were being set up on Sunday, November 6th - one could see what will be discussed in the following days.

One: Look to France - What is Happening There Justifies the Iraq War and Conservative Policies

Sunday the riots that started in the Paris suburbs were in their tenth day, or eleventh, depending on the time zone you find yourself in. As distressing as these are in France, and for France, they are fodder for the American right, proof that we have some sort of worldwide war with Islam on out hands, and, as the right likes to claim, that the French are always wrong.

In France? Le Monde here: "A country which prides itself as the fatherland of the humans right and the sanctuary of a generous social model shows, in the eyes of all, that it is incapable of ensuring dignified living conditions for young French people." Well, that seems to be what they say. It's in French. And despair from the English-language Euronews - "Nothing has deterred the gangs from running rampage. Not calls for calm, not marches for peace. Not even thousands of extra police." As for Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, Socialist Party leader François Hollande tells Libération she had "zero tolerance" for Sarkozy and his "simplistic polemics." This and more in a Washington Post's survey of such comments, including links Le Monde saying to nothing much is working - the continuing burning of cars and sacking of public buildings is proof that the conservative government's "zero-tolerance" policies have failed just as much as the liberal policies of the previous left-wing government. They say the state is "impotent." The Post's own view on this? The rioting "underscores the chasm between the fastest growing segment of France's population and the staid political hierarchy that has been inept at responding to societal shifts. The youths rampaging through France's poorest neighborhoods are the French-born children of African and Arab immigrants, the most neglected of the country's citizens."

Here in the United States?

Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun Times had the American conservative right buzzing with Wake Up, Europe, You've a War on Your Hands, generating many commentators riffing on his ideas, as in 'It's like Baghdad here! It's the Apocalypse!' - "After how many days does rioting become civil war? At what point do the French people say 'enough is enough' and either demand action from the government in the form of reactive violence, or simply take to the streets themselves in search of justice?" And too you find things like this - "The current intifada in France has stripped the American Left of its second Utopia in a generation. The Left lost its earlier worldly utopia when the Soviet Union fell apart."

Yeah, yeah, this all proves this global war, and its subset in Iraq, is a wonderful thing - they're all out get us - and that the French are wimps and fools, socialism doesn't work, universal healthcare is evil, and the French should pasteurize their cheese like normal people. Whatever. Use the beta version of the new Google "blog search" and chuck in "France Riots" and you'll get about two thousand of such things to scan, if you wish. But you get the general idea.

What is happening in France may be a bit more complex than what is said on the right - yes, my conservative friends get really angry at those words, "more complex" - but if you look at the complied accounts of the events and all the background and maps here, you see there's much that has to do with the history of France and North Africa, with immigration and socialization policies, with the usual odd and theory personalities of various leaders, and with some cultural issues.

But the talking point now is that "the French model" for anything at all just doesn't work, and they should be more like us, vengeful and severe and willing to go to war anywhere at any time - and every Monoprix should be a Wal-Mart (there's not that much difference), and they need free-market healthcare not that socialized stuff. And they talk funny.

Two: We Was Had

The current New York Times is demonstrating what it does when does when Judy Miller is not in charge, shilling for the administration with her single-source insider stories of what Chalabi and Cheney say are grave threats that will kill us all and justify wars here and there. There are rumors she will return to the newsroom any day now and resume telling editor Bill Keller and publisher Arthur Sulzberger what they should and should not print each day, but until then, others are doing the reporting.

One of them is Douglas Jehl, and Sunday, November 6 he gets his column-inches to give us this, a story about one Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda prisoner we captured just after the 9/11 business. Jehl reports that according to a newly declassified memo, not only did this al-Libi provide us with false information suggesting that Iraq had trained al-Qaeda to use al kinds of very nasty weapons of mass destruction of all sorts, but a whole lot of our intelligence agencies pretty much knew the information was bogus as early as 2002 - and Colin Powell presented this crap to the UN in February 2003 anyway, as "credible evidence of Iraqi WMD programs" - just before we told the rest of the world to buzz off and invaded Iraq. We knew the threat. Yep.

The summary from Editor and Publisher -
A newly declassified memo... shows that an al-Qaeda official in American custody was identified as a likely fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons, according to this Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002.

... "The document provides the earliest and strongest indication of doubts voiced by American intelligence agencies about Mr. Libi's credibility," Jehl writes. "Without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, and other administration officials repeatedly cited Mr. Libi's information as 'credible' evidence that Iraq was training Al Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons."
The Times was given the report by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the leading Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and from the article itself:
At the time of Mr. Powell's speech, an unclassified statement by the CIA described the reporting, now known to have been from Mr. Libi, as "credible." But Mr. Levin said he had learned that a classified CIA assessment at the time went on to state that "the source was not in a position to know if any training had taken place."
Yep, another Democrat making trouble. And now we learn the CIA appears to have pretty much believed that Saddam Hussein maybe was pursuing those evil WMD programs before the war started, but that there were also real substantial doubts and dissents about a lot of the actual evidence - from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Department of Energy, from Air Force intelligence, and from various parts of the CIA itself.

What's the phrase? Close enough for government work?

Oh heck, Judy Miller got the Times to publish that stuff about those nasty aluminum tubes for the production of nuclear bombs from a single source, and the scoop on the guy who was actually working on "the Iraq atom bomb" just a few months before the war. Did she have to check secondary sources? People are so picky. The old Times said it was so. What's the problem?

Well, neither was true. The new Times has this radical idea that you verify what you're told. And the new Times has this new item on what happens when you don't.

When Judy returns Doug Jehl will be shown the door. It'll be back to business as usual - print the insider scoop from the administration, and don't ask questions.

Be that as it may, just how did Colin Powell end up at the UN explaining some things we heard from pretty much one guy, who had been tagged as a lying loser, as reasons to defy the world and overthrow another government?

Ah, there's a "back story," as we say out here in Hollywood.

Duncan Black here points to a year-old Newsweek article here. Say what? It seems this al-Libi dude was one of the first "test cases" for our new campaign to introduce torture as a standard interrogation technique overseas. The old FBI methods were just too time-consuming, with all that stuff about "winning trust" and clever thinking.

From Newsweek -
Al-Libi's capture, some sources say, was an early turning point in the government's internal debates over interrogation methods... "They duct-taped his mouth, cinched him up and sent him to Cairo" for more-fearsome Egyptian interrogations, says the ex-FBI official. "At the airport the CIA case officer goes up to him and says, 'You're going to Cairo, you know. Before you get there I'm going to find your mother and I'm going to f--- her.' So we lost that fight."
Comment?

Kevin Drum here: "No wonder DIA was skeptical of al-Libi's information. Not only did the details of his testimony seem inconsistent with known facts, but DIA knew perfectly well he had given up this information only under torture and was probably just saying anything that came to mind in order to get it to stop."

And Drum links to others:
As Mark Kleiman points out, this is the pragmatic case against torture: not only is it wrong, but it doesn't even provide reliable information anyway - and it makes Cheney's relentless moral cretinism on the subject all the worse. Larry Wilkerson, who investigated this back when he was Colin Powell's chief of staff, confirms that "there was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office" that authorized the practices that led to the abuse of detainees, and Cheney continues to vigorously support the use of torture to this day, pressuring Congress behind closed doors not to pass John McCain's anti-torture legislation.
So there is something very odd here, generating a lot of discussion.

Cheney wants this amendment to forbid torture dropped, even though the senate voted 90-8 to add it to the next spending bill. Cheney argues that the CIA at the very least should be exempt and be allowed to torture anyone they'd like. He says the administration will use its first veto in all these years to stop it, not matter what bill to which this amendment is attached. Senator McCain, who was tortured by the North Vietnamese, says fine - he'll attach it to every bill the senate passes. Hey, Dick, you want to veto them all?

Friday, November 4, Cheney met privately with Republican senators to press the matter.

Andrew Sullivan on that -
A man who avoided service in Vietnam is lecturing John McCain on the legitimacy of torturing military detainees. But notice he won't even make his argument before Senate aides, let alone the public. Why not? If he really believes that the U.S. has not condoned torture but wants to reserve it for exceptional cases, why not make his argument in the full light of day? You know: where democratically elected politicians operate.
Yeah. Good question.

And maybe this will be a topic this week.

Three: Be Careful Out There

See this - a discussion of the Sunday, November 6 item from the Washington Post reporting that the FBI has been obtaining and reviewing records of ordinary Americans in the name of the war on terror through the use of national security letters that gag the recipients.
The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters - one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people - are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.
No more should be said here.

Note this from the Post:
































Have a nice day - too bad you read this post.

Posted by Alan at 18:30 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005 18:35 PST home

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