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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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Thursday, 9 September 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Framing Issues - Refer to a movie, or to sports, or...?

The Army points to the CIA and says it's their fault! What are the parents to do when the kids fight?

Army Says C.I.A. Hid More Iraqis Than It Claimed
Eric Schmitt and Douglas Jehl, The New York Times September 10, 2004
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - Army jailers in Iraq, acting at the Central Intelligence Agency's request, kept dozens of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities off official rosters to hide them from Red Cross inspectors, two senior Army generals said Thursday. The total is far more than had been previously reported.

An Army inquiry completed last month found eight documented cases of so-called ghost detainees, but two of the investigating generals said in testimony before two Congressional committees and in interviews on Thursday that depositions from military personnel who served at the prison indicated that the real total was many higher.

"The number is in the dozens, to perhaps up to 100," Gen. Paul J. Kern, the senior officer who oversaw the Army inquiry, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Another investigator, Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, put the figure at "two dozen or so," but both officers said they could not give a precise number because no records were kept on most of the C.I.A. detainees.

Under the Geneva Conventions, the temporary failure to disclose the identities of prisoners to the Red Cross is permitted under an exemption for military necessity. But the Army generals said they were certain that the practice used by the C.I.A. in Iraq went far beyond that.

The disclosure added to questions about the C.I.A.'s practices in Iraq, including why the agency took custody of certain Iraqi prisoners, what interrogation techniques it used and what became of the ghost detainees, including whether they were ever returned to military custody. To date, two cases have been made public in which prisoners in C.I.A. custody were removed from Iraq for a period of several months and held in detention centers outside the country.

Another question left unanswered on Thursday was why Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the military intelligence officer who oversaw interrogations at the prison, agreed to let C.I.A. officers use the prison to hide ghost detainees. General Kern said that when Colonel Pappas raised questions about the practice, a top military intelligence officer in Baghdad at the time, Col. Steven Boltz, encouraged him to cooperate with the C.I.A. because "everyone was all one team."
And what team would that be? The team that makes people disappear?

I supposed it is important that our enemies fear us, and that they realize that anyone we round up could mysteriously disappear, and no one would know anything. No accounting, no visits from anyone, no charges, no trail - no nothing. Poof. Gone. We need to show we aren't playing by anyone's sissy rules here. You don't mess with us. No one and nothing is going to protect you.

And the Army goes and points fingers and says the CIA isn't playing fair. Not useful.

I suspect the idea here is that the world has to understand we are not what they think - and the United States of America now doesn't play by any rules. Because 9/11 changed everything of course, and rules are for sissies and wimps. Like these army guys. And folks who would vote for Kerry.

We have been told, and many believe, the most important thing in winning this war on terror, is showing the evildoers that we are tough. Maybe it is the only thing that really matters. Unless they understand we will break any rule, toss out the rights of even our own citizens, ignore any law that gets in our way, over there or over here - well, otherwise they will think us weak and keep attacking us.

That strategy may just make these bad folks hate us all the more, and throw away everything we say we stand for, but at least we won't seem weak.

For this strategy to work one has to assume that being ruthless, amoral, and, when we feel like, lawless, has the particular direct effect on the bad guy of making them back off in awe, and fear, of our power and toughness.

Do you believe there is a direct cause and effect - act tough and the other side will then be good? Have you ever seen that principal work in life? What? You say when someone acts tough and slaps an opponent silly, and breaks all the rules to do it, sometimes that opponent seethes with resentment and gets even nastier? Ah, really? Well, you are not in charge here. Keep you illogical fantasies to yourself. Our leaders know real life.

A bit further down in the Times article there too is this -
... The new disclosures about unregistered prisoners drew angry criticism from Democrats and Republicans, and a promise from Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and the committee chairman, to hold a separate hearing.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said, "The situation with C.I.A. and ghost soldiers is beginning to look like a bad movie."
I'm not sure what movie McCain was thinking of, but "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" comes to mind. Remember the scruffy bandit, when his authority is questioned, says this - "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!" Perhaps McCain was thinking of some other film. The guys at the Times should have asked which one.

Now I'm not sure which movie one would think of seeing this Associated Press item -
The military has lost key evidence in its investigation into the death of an Iraqi man beaten by Marine prison guards, throwing into doubt the status of a court-martial of one of the guards.

The missing evidence includes bones taken from the throat and chest of Nagem Hatab, attorneys said Thursday at a hearing for Maj. Clarke Paulus.

Hatab, 52, died last year at a makeshift camp in Iraq that was run by Marines. He had been rumored to be an official of Saddam Hussein's Baath party and part of the ambush of a U.S. Army convoy that killed 11 soldiers and led to the capture of Pfc. Jessica Lynch and five others.

The missing bones are just one of several errors in the investigation that came to light at Thursday's hearing.

Hatab's organs, which were removed during autopsy, were subsequently destroyed when they were left for hours in the blazing heat on an Iraqi airstrip. A summary of an interrogation the Marines conducted with Hatab shortly before his death at the camp also is missing, as is a photo of Hatab that was taken during questioning.
Oops. But no movie title comes to mind here. Some Keystone Cops thing? No - too benign. This is from some forties film noir potboiler - the cops protecting one of their own conveniently lose the incriminating evidence. No, that doesn't work either. We need Oliver Stone here to directed on of his conspiracy epics, like his JFK or something. But the bad guys and the good guys get all mixed up here. Maybe the Cohen brothers could make something of this.

One fears this sort of thing just makes us look bad to everyone else in the world - the two possible explanations for this missing evidence are incompetence or arrogant scorn for what anyone thinks. The reaction in the Arab world, with our allies who really want to support us, and allies who wonder about us, will be devastating. But then again, we long ago stopped caring what "they" think. Well, Kerry does. That alone will lose him the election.

Well, his concern for our international reputation and for gaining the support of other nations may be moot.

The election itself may be moot.

Here's a summary of some issues as of Thursday, September 09, 2004 -
The state of California has decided to sue Diebold, the nation's largest manufacturer of electronic (touch screen) voting machines because the company lied about the machines' security. The machines have a special feature that creates fake vote totals when a secret 2-digit code is typed in. The LA Times article about the lawsuit does not specify whether there are separate codes to fake a Bush victory and fake a Kerry victory or whether one candidate's victory has been programmed in advance or whether election officials can enter any result they want. However, Diebold's CEO, Walden O'Dell, has said he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes for the president." The suit comes 6 months after the machines failed in the March primary. The machines are used in 19 California counties and many states nationwide.
Well, I suppose I could use my computer skills, and free time, to hack in and make sure all of California's electoral votes go to Tommy Chong. Others may have the same idea, of course. Joan Rivers or Brian Wilson could carry the state. One never knows. These machines are not that complex. The field is open. The hackers are giggling. This could be great fun.

Finally, if you want one last item on the current follies, I recommend this.

Wrong-Way Bush
In the war on terror, the worst defense is a bad offense.
William Saletan - Posted Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004, at 3:42 PM PT SLATE.COM

Saletan takes us back to January 1, 1929 - the Rose Bowl - Cal plays Georgia Tech. Roy Riegels was the center and captain of the California team. Riegels was the guy who ran the wrong way and almost scored a touchdown against his own team. He was a bit confused. Saletan reminds us that when Riegels was heading the wrong way one of his teammates chased him and just begged him to stop. Riegels was steadfast and resolute and uttered the proud words - "Get away from me! This is my touchdown!" One of his teammates finally grabbed him and held on to him until his own team could catch up and tackle their own captain. They stopped him at the three-yard line. The other team was either staring in amazement or laughing their asses off. It is said the Georgia Tech coach tranquilly observed - "He's running the wrong way. Let's see how far he can go."

You see the parallel. Imagine Osama Bin Laden as the Georgia Tech coach and al-Qaeda as his team, and you can hear him tranquilly saying (but in Arabic) - "He's running the wrong way. Let's see how far he can go."

Yep. But what's this about the wrong way?
... In the Bush-Cheney worldview, all foreign adversaries blur into one: "the enemy." All U.S. options simplify to two: "offense" or "defense." Going on offense shows "strength" and defeats the enemy. If the president starts running with the ball, and you criticize him, you show "weakness" and invite terrorism.
And that about sums it up. As above, winning this war on terror is all about showing the evildoers that we are tough. Unless they understand we will break any rule, toss out the rights of even our own citizens, ignore any law that gets in our way, over there or over here - well, otherwise they will think us weak and keep attacking us.


But here's the rub -
But what if there's more than one enemy? What if the enemy we're "fighting back" at isn't the one that struck or threatened us? What if the president turns away from the team that was trying to score on us, and he starts heading for another team that's sitting in the stands, behind our own end zone? What if his "offense" is losing yards with every stride?

That's the lesson of three years of investigations.

The 9/11 commission has found "no evidence" of "a collaborative operational relationship" between Iraq and al-Qaida. Bush's handpicked chief weapons inspector, David Kay, says there "were no large stockpiles of WMD." What has this diversion done for the war on terror? A year ago, U.S. intelligence officials told reporters that "as much as half of the intelligence and special forces assets in Afghanistan and Pakistan were diverted to support the war in Iraq." While we've been bogged down in Iraq, Iran has revved up its own nuclear program, and North Korea has acquired the fuel for as many as eight nukes.

Bush screwed up. He picked the wrong target. He's been running the wrong way.
Ah, details, details, details....

Saletan runs the Bush-Cheney quotes and takes apart the whole mess. And you can almost hear Bush say, "Get away from me! This is my touchdown!"

Saletan see himself on the three-yard line holding on, waiting for the team to catch up and stop this -
Bush says, "The world is a safer place with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell." That's true. Every arrest of a bad guy makes the world safer. But the world is full of bad guys, and we have limited resources. The arrest of Saddam has cost us about $200 billion, absorbed our attention, and forced us to pull American troops from other countries. That means other bad guys have gone unchecked. Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the worst attack on the U.S. mainland, remains at large. In North Korea, the world's worst proliferator, Kim Jong-il, has built more nukes. Saddam had no nukes and never attacked the U.S. mainland.

Bush says, "Free societies in the Middle East will be hopeful societies, which no longer feed resentment and breed violence for export." That's true, too. But it will take a lot more time, money, and American casualties to transform Iraq into a free society. It would take still more time and money--and perhaps more casualties--to spread that transformation to the countries that contributed to the 9/11 plot. Even if this were possible, it's a very long and roundabout way of getting to a result that could be addressed more immediately by pursuing the people who struck us on 9/11 or threaten us today.
And there is much more of that.

This football story is, of course, an odd reference - an odd way to frame the business.

Monday afternoon I will have the occasion to drive past the Rose Bowl - appointments in Pasadena - and I will smile as I do. Not that it matters - as the majority of the country is pleased that the guy is running with complete conviction at a goal, no matter right or wrong. It's the complete conviction that matters.

I'd rather win the game.

Posted by Alan at 22:58 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 9 September 2004 23:15 PDT home

Wednesday, 8 September 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Bush's Bad Day at Black Rock (CBS)

At mid-week, Wednesday, things were making the folks a little grumpy at the White House.

David Froomkin in the Washington Post has a handy list with links of these minor irritations -

1.) We finally passed one thousand of our people dead in combat in Iraq, and although the White House is saying little, the media is doing heavy coverage of the milestone, if it is one.

2.) There are lots of big headlines about the record $422 billion budget deficit and the multi-trillion-dollar deficit projections for the future.

3.) Then there are many, many the stories about Vice President Cheney's statement yesterday that a Kerry victory would result in more terrorist attacks. So everyone should vote for George, or surely you will die. Yes, his own staff is now qualifying it. The Democrats, Edwards in particular, are all over it. Late in the afternoon, and not covered by Froomkin, the president was asked whether he agreed with the statement - and he just stared at the reporter, and did not say a word. This, I believe, was a steely-eyed Clint Eastwood moment.

4.) And of course Bush's National Guard record during the Vietnam War is turning into a real mess. CBS was all over it tonight on "Sixty Minutes II" and not kind.

5.) Florida Senator Bob Graham is all over the media - MSNBC "Hardball" a few hours ago - charging Bush with covering up evidence that might have linked Saudi Arabia to the September 11 hijackers.

6.) And there is Kitty Kelley's book in pre-release discussion everywhere on the net - not in the major media - on Bush using cocaine long after he said he stopped, and drinking heavily again now.

The "Sixty Minutes II" segment features Ben Barnes explaining how he pulled strings to get George Bush into the National Guard in 1968. But CNS has more stuff: new documents from the personal files of Colonel Jerry Killian, Bush's squadron commander.

And this is four new documents:

1.) A direct order to Bush to take a physical examination in 1972. Physical exams are an annual requirement for pilots.

2.) A 1972 memo that refers to a phone call from Bush in which he and Killian "discussed options of how Bush can get out of coming to drill from now through November" because "he may not have time." This was presumably in preparation for Bush's departure for Alabama that year, but is nonetheless damning since there's no reason that working on a Senate campaign should have prevented him from showing up for drills one weekend per month.

3.) A 1972 order grounding Bush. This order refers not just to Bush's failure to take a physical, but also to "failure to perform to (USAF/TexANG) standards."

4.) A 1973 memo titled "CYA" in which Killian talks about being pressured to give Bush a favorable yearly evaluation. He refuses, saying, "I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job."


A comment from Kevin Drum -
This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.

In fact, these four memos are pretty close to a smoking gun, since it's now clear that (a) Bush was directly ordered to take a physical in 1972 and refused, and (b) he plainly failed to perform up to National Guard standards, but that (c) he was nonetheless saved from a failing evaluation thanks to high-level pressure.

So why did Bush refuse to take a physical that year? And why did he blow off drills for at least the next five months and possibly for a lot longer than that?

And finally, why did he get an honorable discharge anyway?
Because he could, Kevin, because he could.

We see here some in the press who are patriotic Americans are making journalistic decisions for the good of America. KWTV in Oklahoma City moved the CBS show from its mid-evening slot to 3:15 in the morning. But they said it wasn't political. And late in the day, after they got they got so much grief, they reversed themselves and decided to show the CBS "Sixty Minutes II" at its normal time. Odd. The CBS affiliate in Indianapolis said they'd only air the show at 2:30 in the morning, not at its normal 8:00 time. Why. Who knows? But the pressure from viewers got to them and they'll show it at 9:00 - only one hour late.

Most curious.

But Wednesday started with the bombshell article of the day -

Bush fell short on duty at Guard
Records show pledges unmet
The Boston Globe, September 8, 2004
... reporters Stephen Kurkjian, Francie Latour, Sacha Pfeiffer, and Michael Rezendes, and editor Walter V. Robinson.

It was written by Robinson.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, provides a summary and a comment -
The gist: Bush not only signed a pledge in 1968 saying he could be punished for not doing his drills, which he didn't and wasn't punished, but also that when he got permission to quit early to go to Harvard, it was on the condition he find a unit in Boston and finish out his service there, which he didn't and wasn't called on it. He could have been called up again because of it, but apparently "gamed the system," as one military guy puts it.

Yeah, I still think it's an issue with short legs, but maybe that's because the Kerry campaign is not making it clear to voters that when one is applying for this particular job, one's whole life of service and commitment, especially to one's country, is a legitimate subject of scrutiny.

If I went for a job interview, but told my prospective employers that since I found Jesus when I was forty, anything that happened before that was none of their business, wouldn't they have a right to drop me from consideration for the job? Hey, that finding-Jesus thing seems to have covered a multitude of sins, and as his possible employer, I think I have a right to know what those sins are!
Anyway, here are keys items from the article.
In February, when the White House made public hundreds of pages of President Bush's military records, White House officials repeatedly insisted that the records prove that Bush fulfilled his military commitment in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. But Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice... Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty. He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show....

On July 30, 1973, shortly before he moved from Houston to Cambridge, Bush signed a document that declared, ''It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilization augmentation position. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months... " Under Guard regulations, Bush had 60 days to locate a new unit. But Bush never signed up with a Boston-area unit.... Dan Bartlett told the Washington Post that Bush finished his six-year commitment at a Boston area Air Force Reserve unit after he left Houston. Not so, Bartlett now concedes. ''I must have misspoke," Bartlett, who is now the White House communications director, said in a recent interview....

Bush, a fighter-interceptor pilot, performed no service for one six-month period in 1972 and for another period of almost three months in 1973, the records show.... Bush's attendance at required training drills was so irregular that his superiors could have disciplined him or ordered him to active duty in 1972, 1973, or 1974. But they did neither. In fact, Bush's unit certified in late 1973 that his service had been ''satisfactory" -- just four months after Bush's commanding officer wrote that Bush had not been seen at his unit for the previous 12 months....

Army Colonel Gerald A. Lechliter, one of a number of retired military officers who have studied Bush's records and old National Guard regulations.... ''He broke his contract with the United States government -- without any adverse consequences. And the Texas Air National Guard was complicit in allowing this to happen," Lechliter said in an interview yesterday. ''He was a pilot. It cost the government a million dollars to train him to fly. So he should have been held to an even higher standard."

Even retired Lieutenant Colonel Albert C. Lloyd Jr., a former Texas Air National Guard personnel chief who vouched for Bush at the White House's request in February, agreed that Bush walked away from his obligation to join a reserve unit in the Boston area when he moved to Cambridge in September 1973. By not joining a unit in Massachusetts, Lloyd said in an interview last month, Bush ''took a chance that he could be called up for active duty. But the war was winding down, and he probably knew that the Air Force was not enforcing the penalty."...

Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs in the Reagan administration, said after studying many of the documents that it is clear to him that Bush ''gamed the system." And he agreed with Lloyd that Bush was not alone in doing so. ''If I cheat on my income tax and don't get caught, I'm still cheating on my income tax," Korb said. After his own review, Korb said Bush could have been ordered to active duty for missing more than 10 percent of his required drills in any given year. Bush, according to the records, fell shy of that obligation in two successive fiscal years.

Korb said Bush also made a commitment to complete his six-year obligation when he moved to Cambridge, a transfer the Guard often allowed to accommodate Guardsmen who had to move elsewhere. ''He had a responsibility to find a unit in Boston and attend drills," said Korb, who is now affiliated with a liberal Washington think tank. ''I see no evidence or indication in the documents that he was given permission to forgo training before the end of his obligation. If he signed that document, he should have fulfilled his obligation."...

In June 1970, after five additional months of specialized training in F-102 fighter-interceptor, Bush began what should have been a four-year assignment with the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In May 1972, Bush... move to Alabama.... But Bush's service records do not show him logging any service in Alabama until October of that year. And even that service is in doubt... no one has come forward with any credible recollection of having witnessed Bush performing guard service in Alabama or after he returned to Houston in 1973.... On May 1, 1973, Bush's superior officers wrote that they could not complete his annual performance review because he had not been observed at the Houston base during the prior 12 months.

[S]ome [records]... suggest that he did a flurry of drills in 1973 in Houston -- a weekend in April and then 38 days of training crammed into May, June, and July. But Lechliter, the retired colonel, concluded after reviewing National Guard regulations that Bush should not have received credit -- or pay -- for many of those days either. The regulations, Lechliter and others said, required that any scheduled drills that Bush missed be made up either within 15 days before or 30 days after the date of the drill.... Bush had little interest in fulfilling his obligation, and his superiors preferred to look the other way. Others agree. ''It appears that no one wanted to hold him accountable," said retired Major General Paul A. Weaver Jr., who retired in 2002 as the Pentagon's director of the Air National Guard.
Ah well.

Actually, I'm of the opinion all this may actually play well to Bush's base. He beat the system - he stuck to "the man." He knows how to play the game. He's a sly fox. He's our kind of guy - to all those guys who wish they could get away with such things. It will increase their admiration of him. And that is the sort of things you hear on AM talk radio about all this.

Now Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, was one of the guys who started CNN and his wife is an executive there now, and he adds this -
I saw Judy Woodruff's interview with Globe editor Walter Robinson on CNN's "Inside Politics" an hour ago, and he made it sound like the Bush controversy is basically nailed, that for anyone who cares, the guy is guilty as the day is long.
Maybe so. But I watch CNN on and off too.

The White House and Wolf Blitzer (CNN two hours later) are saying they have proof Bush corresponded with a Denver Air National Guard unit while at Harvard and this technically fulfilled the requirement. There is no problem.

Bush didn't fly, he didn't attend any drills, he didn't show up for anything, but he wrote some letters saying he would if he had to. Case closed?

Maybe so.

But a minor note in ABC's "The Note" mentions in passing that the White House has now assumed all jurisdiction over any Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests, so that will stop things dead. No more of this. The White House must now approve all requests for government documents - think Karl Rove.

Works for me - shut it all down. This is making the president look bad. Facts do that.

I suppose the thing to do here is add a spirited defense of our right as citizens to know the facts of what our government does, and see the records of events and what people did at certain times when they were working for us in the government or military. Hell, we were paying their salaries. Of course you must make exceptions for matters that would reveal military or state secrets, or get people killed and all that. But still....

One could imagine a spirited defense of that idea. Go ahead. Imagine it, because I'm too dispirited to write it.

Finished yet? Good.

This story will probably fade away.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, thinks it's an issue with short legs - because the Kerry campaign is not making it clear to voters that when one is applying for this particular job, one's whole life of service and commitment, especially to one's country, is a legitimate subject of scrutiny.

Like that matters?



Architect: Eero Saarinen and Associates
Developer: CBS
Erected: 1965
In midtown Manhattan, the "Black Rock," as this headquarters building of CBS is popularly known, has befuddled and confounded architecture critics since its inception.

Is it great architecture or bad urbanism?

Like most real-life either/or questions, it isn't that simple.

This 38-story, sheer, freestanding tower set in its own shallow sunken plaza is unquestionably great architecture because it is original, consistent, boldly expressed and daring. Initially, some observers did not like its dark coloration, and considered sunken plazas anathema and its aloofness rather condescending and disrespectful of the common man, that is, the pedestrian. These attributes, however, were not really negatives given its context of fronting on an avenue whose smile then displayed many broken and missing teeth because of the existing irregular pattern of nearby public plazas. Moreover, its context along the Avenue of the Americas was generally undistinguished design. ...
The link will give you more details, and photographs.

Posted by Alan at 20:24 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 8 September 2004 20:34 PDT home

Topic: World View

Even thugs need advice now and then...

As I write this it is coming up on one in the morning in Paris. What you missed on television there Wednesday evening? An odd documentary revealing something you would have never imagined.

Les escadrons de la mort - L'?cole fran?aise
Mercredi 8 septembre 2004 ? 20h45
Rediffusion: vendredi 10 septembre 2004 ? 16h45
R?alis? par Marie-Monique Robin
Production : Id?ale Audience

What is this about? Will you tune in to watch the rebroadcast at quarter to five Friday afternoon? Oh heck, no one watches Arte-TV late on Friday afternoon in that city. That's "L'Heure Verte" - the Green Hour. (Think absinthe if you wonder about the name they use for what we call the Happy Hour.) But it is an interesting show.

This is a documentary about the development of anti-subversive methods used by the military, employed for the first time in Algeria. There's no news film from the war of independence in Algeria; only the Italian-Algerian film "The Battle of Algiers." (That film has been discussed in these pages here and here.)

Well, it seems the leading generals are still alive, and they spoke for this documentary. Paul Aussaresses said, "How do you get information without torture?" He was there, and also characterized the Gillo Pontecorvo 1965 film as being accurate, "true to life."

The French military developed the tactics thought necessary to deal with a civilian insurgency, including torture to gain information, and the elimination of those tortured. According to the documentary, these methods were developed and refined by the French. But France "lost" Algeria.

Still, this documentary shows, other governments were quite impressed with French methods. In the early 1960s French "experts" who had served in Algeria were invited to Fort Bragg to instruct the US Army in counter-insurgency tactics. "Operation Phoenix" in Vietnam was a result.

Yep, we learned to be tough from the French. Ha!

We are shown that other French "experts" were invited to Argentina to teach the military there, and to Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. Chileans were trained at bases in Brazil. French "experts" were also loaned to the US "Southern Command" in Panama, where officers from South American armies came for training.

"Operation Condor" was a coordinated anti-subversive effort run by South American dictatorships. For example, it "disappeared" Chileans who were refugees from the Pinochet regime living in Argentina.

One Argentine ex-officer explained that their cells only held 100 persons. When there was an excess, the extras were given cement shoes, flown out over the Atlantic and dumped.

A Chilean journalist asserted that France's DST assisted on keeping watch on Chilean refugees in France, and alerted Pinochet's secret police when the refugees were returning to Chile.

There are international warrants outstanding against some of those who appeared in the documentary. It was also asserted that Pinochet is not senile - which his defense says he is.

The whole thrust of the documentary was to explain the role of the "French School" of counter-insurgency tactics, first developed in Algeria in the late "50s.

Now you know where the US Army in Iraq got its inspiration.

It is unlikely this documentary will make it over this way, with subtitles and all that, as it doesn't fit our current narrative about the French being cowards and wimps. Want to learn to be a tough thug and have the bad guys fear you? The French can help, it seems? And have helped.

I shall ask my friends in Paris if any of them caught the show, but I suspect "L'Heure Verte" may have had more allure.


Oh, and an odd photo published long ago by Ric Erickson in MetropoleParis - a place where you might spend "L'Heure Verte" - and named appropriately...

Posted by Alan at 15:52 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 8 September 2004 16:48 PDT home

Tuesday, 7 September 2004

Topic: Photos

Burned out on politics....

What is there to say? Political commentary can wait until tomorrow, and I had meetings all afternoon in Pasadena. And anyway, it was too hot to get all excited about anything in the news. When I arrived on White Oak in Pasadena in the early afternoon it was well over one hundred in the shade, and dry as a bone - the third day of this, with many more to come.

Today's news? We finally reached one thousand of our people dead in Iraq. Dick Cheney told us electing John Kerry would mean we would certainly be attacked again, and many more would die this time - so the choice is obvious. Vote for George or die. More of Bush's military records have been found - and he really did skip out on a whole lot of his service. Kitty Kelly's new book was released - George did a whole lot of cocaine as recently as a few years ago and is drinking again? Maybe. The book by Senator Edwards of Florida came out too - Bush knows the Saudi folks were behind 9/11 as is covering up? Maybe. The polls are shifting. Again. Same old stuff.

The lieu of commentary, photos...

The mindless world of popular entertainemnt - the heart of Hollywood, Bob Hope Square, where Hollywood and Vine meet - and on Hollywood Boulevard at La Brea, the hard metal women at the western gateway to it all...

Posted by Alan at 21:48 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 6 September 2004

Topic: Photos

Follow-Up: Low-Rent Crystalnacht ( continues)

At some point in these pages you will find a continuation of what started with the "Low-Rent Crystalnacht" idea here (and published in Just Above Sunset on the weekend here).

I don't like what is in the air, but I want to avoid being one more lefty yelling Nazi and fascist like so many others. Bush is not Hitler. And Karl Rove is not Hermann Goering. Yes, Rove's grandfather was Karl Heinz Roverer, the Gauleiter of Oldenburg. Roverer was Reich-Statthalter - Nazi State Party Chairman - for his region. He was also a partner and senior engineer in the Roverer Sud-Deutche Ingenieurburo AG engineering firm, which built the Birkenau camp - according to this research. But so what? The father of Arnold Shwarzenegger was a Nazi officer, but Arnold is our governor out here now. That's all in the past.

Lots of folks like to point out the seizures in late 1942 of five enterprises Prescott Bush, the grandfather of the president, managed on behalf of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen. Prescott Bush got caught red-handed and a whole bunch of assets were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Yeah, there were these Nazi financial transactions, from 1924 on, and maybe through 1951 actually, involving Prescott Bush and the private bank, Brown Brothers Harriman. Yep, Averell Harriman seems to have been involved. (Read all about this stuff here.)

But really, George Bush is not his grandfather. Arnold Shwarzenegger is not his Austrian father. And I taught the grandchildren of Averell Harriman back in the seventies at that fancy prep school in upstate New York. Nice kids, and not Nazis as far as I could tell. But the family did run the oldest fox hunt in America, yearly, on their big estate down in Geneseo.

"The world may be divided into people that read, people that write, people that think, and fox-hunters."
- William Shenstone, Works in verse and prose (1764).

Everyone has their faults.

But is there something fascist and Nazi-like in the air? The idea that Andrew Sullivan floated - the cult of the Great Leader - fascinates me, particularly in how it makes certain attitudes and behaviors (like the minor Crystalnacht-lite vandalism noted previously) almost inevitable. But I don't know. I just put this week's Just Above Sunset to bed and may take a rest. It's about 110 right now here, really, and I'm drained. Los Angeles is in the middle of a four-day heat wave. Let it rest.

But just to keep the issue alive, here you can watch an ABC news video from last week's Republican National Convention - a clip from the floor of Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. You will see a young Republican supporter kicking a female protester inside the Garden as she is lying on the ground being held by three secret service agents. The protesters were arrested. The young Republican was not. A search is on for his identity - and here and here you can announce you know this young fellow, if you do.

The question that comes to mind for me is simple. When a political leader becomes something like a cult leader, in the sense that his decisions and actions cannot be doubted or even questioned - as that would be unpatriotic and an attack to the personality of the leader - is such behavior to be expected, or even glorified? Or put it another way. When you base your campaign on your attitude - and not on your ideas or your actions or your decisions or your accomplishments - does such behavior in your followers, well, just follow naturally? Even more simply? If all you have to run on is swagger and sneers, then, when people buy into that, what else did you expect?

There will be more of this.

As for the young Bush enthusiast, my young prep school students back in the seventies looked much like this.

Posted by Alan at 17:37 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 6 September 2004 17:47 PDT home

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