Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Saturday 29 Aug 09
Some funneee cartoons(I especially like the one of Death watching what appears to be an infomercial, but they're all good.)
by Bob Eckstein
Bob Eckstein also refers to this fascinating post, which is timely and ironic from my perspective. --
"One cartoonist was recently threatened with a lawsuit for not posting any more images for others to steal."
from today's Wikipedia 'did you know?' page:
...that Gray's Inn only began employing a librarian after barristers began stealing the books?
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Nine tenths of the law?
Somebody named Elizabeth(link) at a web site called Human Trend decided to nab my entire "Sanford an the Son" post from earlier this summer, which I posted at Hugo Zoom, here, and at Dead Horse, here.
I left a comment as follows:
Elizabeth, if that is your name,
please tell me why you decided to steal my post(from Hugo Zoom and Dead Horse), but did not feel you needed to give me proper attribution. This isn’t an excerpt, but the entire post, even my photo-editing work.
Perhaps ironically, my comment is awaiting moderation as I write this. I don't know if she thought that leaving the "cross-posted at Dead Horse" bit at the bottom constitutes sufficient attribution, or she just meant to steal this cleanly and forgot to lop off the bottom. For the record, No, I DON'T think it's sufficient attribution. Although I'm not necessarily against someone posting an entire post of mine(with attribution, which also means a link back to the source) IF it's a really short one, say under 50 words. But this wasn't a short post, and I wasn't asked or mentioned.
For longer posts I'd think any time you're venturing over 50 per cent of the original you're definitely going over the line, maybe even sooner if the excerpt is really long in itself. And I always give attribution. So should you, Elizabeth.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Af-Pak, pt 2
photo: Getty images/BBC
Jeremy Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, "Ex-ISI Chief Says Purpose of New Afghan Intelligence Agency RAMA Is ‘to destabilize Pakistan’"Aug. 12th
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, "Peace Talks with Taliban top issue in Afghan Vote", Aug 17th,
Anne Applebaum,Slate, "It Doesn't Matter Who Wins the Afghan Election" Aug. 18th,
Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy, 'The "safe haven" myth', Aug 18th,
Peter Bergen, Foreign Policy, "How realistic is Walt's Realism?", Aug 19th
Christopher Allbritton, Insurgency Watch, "Why Pakistan's Delaying its Waziristan Push" August 19, 2009
Juan Cole, Salon, "As Afghans Vote, American Support for Afghan War Collapses" Aug 20th,
Helena Cobban, Just World News"Does Afghanistan's election matter? How, exactly?" Aug 21st.
Chris Floyd, "Af-Pak Masquerade", Aug 21st,
CNN:"Taliban cut off fingers of Afghan voters" Aug 22nd.
Christian Science Monitor, "More US troops to Afghanistan? Why Mullen won't answer", Aug 23rd
(and "Af-Pak pt 1" is here.)
Starting with the most recent item and moving backwards, Mark Sappenfield in the Christian Science Monitor writes:
America has never before had a plan – or the resources – to do what must be done. Mullen put it this way: "This is the first time we've really resourced a strategy on both the civilian and military side."To do what must be done. Sounds ominous to me, especially since it suggests that "what must be done" is so undeniable, has already been agreed upon, a fait accompli-- and it doesn't sound like the negotiating of peace that the New York Times' Carlotta Gall suggests is primary in the mind of Afghan voters. Politicians in the US don't always listen to what American voters want, but this is never referred to in our press as corruption or in any way an issue of the government's legitimacy, but American politicians and journalists seem very worried that this week's Afghan election be perceived as legit in the eyes of Afghan voters, as well as elsewhere, like across the border in Pakistan.
The reason, of course, is Iraq. Almost all the Pentagon's top minds and money went to Baghdad. This was particularly true in the surge, and that helped turn the tide of the war. In Afghanistan, that process truly just began this spring, when President Obama for the first time announced a clear strategy for American forces in Afghanistan.
Was the election legitimate? Who knows? The Taliban actively discouraged people from participating, decrying the whole process as illegitimate. Sociologists study the often illogical factors that people weigh when making their decisions, such as when American liberals weigh a candidate's "electability" versus her stands on issues. I wonder if any voters in Afghanistan, viewing incumbent Karzai as a US puppet, considered their options, then, deciding that the election is a sham anyway, said maybe if they re-elect the candidate the US wants, the soldiers will go home?
Helena Cobban seems to think that as long as the winner is seen as acceptable to the Afghan public, proves "manageable", and the no. 2 candidate doesn't put up too much of a fuss, the US and NATO are unlikely to care very much who wins. I imagine she's right. It also occurs to me that both the Taliban and the Pentagon benefit from low turnout. Since low turnout suggests the result was not legitimate-- good for the Taliban, as well as proving that US forces are needed to stay (for years on end?) because the security situation clearly isn't good-- good for Pentagon appropriations. But that's just silly, right?
Jeremy Hammond talked to Hamid Gul(above), a retired Pakistani general and former head of their intelligence. Gul says that the US, India and Israel are all involved in assisting the TPP(the fundamentalist group fighting the Pakistani government) because one of the purposes of the Af-Pak war is to destabilze Pakistan. Naturally I hope Gul is wrong, but he lays out a compelling case. Hammond also notes that the US government has accused Gul of aiding the Taliban in the past, which he denies.
Both Gul and Chris Floyd discuss Unocal's refusal to ink a deal with Taliban for a pipeline in 2001, and Gul reminds the reader of Taliban leader Mullah Omar's offer to send Bin Laden to a third country, not the US, where he would receive a trial according to Sharia law, which George W. Bush refused.
People in the west, or at least here, often forget this detail.
The problem with accommodating such a face-saving request would have been that Bush Jnr would essentially have conceded that the US way of doing things isn't always the best way.Critics on his right flank, and maybe even on his left, would have become livid that the ragheads were telling us how to do things. All "they" understand is force, American force.
In "Obama's magnificent opportunity", although he doesn't say so directly, Rob Payne suggests that Obama has a real chance to halt America's slide into the post-imperial ditch we've been digging for the past 30 or 40 or so years. Of course Rob seems to be making his point in a roundabout, playful way-- being the wiseacre that he is-- and recognizing the narrowness of Obama's careerist vision for what it is, knows this is just the kind of dream you have when you had too much spicy cheese before you went to bed, or something like that .
...in terms of fundamentals, there is no difference at all between Republicans and Democrats in the realm of foreign policy. Both parties, our governing elites, and most bloggers all hold the same unchallengeable axiom: that the United States is and should be the unequaled, supreme power in the world, with the capability of directing events across the globe and intervening wherever and whenever we deem it necessary for our "national interests." As [Christopher] Layne notes, all our prominent national voices are united in their conviction that no other state "entertain the 'hope of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.'" Military power on a scale never before seen in world history is the most certain means of ensuring that goal.[...]
I will be blunt: I submit that, considering these facts and the staggering reach of our global military power, any relatively sane person ought to be aghast that our governing class, together with almost every pundit and blogger, will look at these same facts and say only: "More, please!" But this is the inevitable result for a people who are entirely comfortable with the fact that their nation dominates the world, and of their belief that it does so by right.
Occasionally, I have referred to the phenomenon of pathology as foreign policy. When one contemplates these facts, it is very hard to conclude that anything other than pathology is involved. Our strategy is indefensible, irrational and immensely destructive, and yet almost no one questions it. But this particular pathology is so inextricably woven into our myths about the United States and about ourselves as Americans, that we believe this is simply "the way things are," and the way things ought to be.
Arthur is rarely accused of having a light touch-- but he doesn't mince words to avoid uncomfortable conclusions.
Although I'm not convinced that Silber is entirely correct about the attitudes of ordinary Americans, ultimately we do give our consent, in terms of our passivity if nothing else. But what else can regular people do? Students who riot will have their loans revoked, workers who protest will be fired. But we're free. The nice man and nice woman on the television tell us this, and they wouldn't be on TV if they didn't know. Supposedly we're also bringing freedom to Afghanistan, even if it appears we're not doing a very good job, otherwise we'd be done freeing them after 7 years and counting. You'd think.
Ann Applebaum, who also writes for the Washington Post, writes in Slate:
The Taliban is sometimes described as an ideological force, sometimes as a loose ethnic coalition, sometimes as a band of mercenaries, men who fight because they don't have anything else to do. But perhaps with this election, we can now start to use a narrower definition: The Taliban are the people who want to blow up polling stations.The threat is also useful in another sense: It reminds us of what we are fighting for—by which I don't mean "democracy" as such. After all, we are not trying to create some kind of Jeffersonian idyll in the rugged heart of Central Asia, but merely an Afghan government that is recognized as legitimate by the majority of Afghans—a government that can therefore prevent the country from turning back into a haven for terrorist training camps. If there were someone acceptable to all factions, we might presumably consider helping the Afghans restore the monarchy. For that matter, if the Afghans were willing to accept an appointed American puppet, we might, I'm guessing, consider that, too, at this point. But there isn't, and they won't.
I'm guessing, if you met Anne Applebaum, she would seem like a nice person. She probably is a nice person, in the interpersonal sphere, just as nasty commenters in cyberspace are probably mostly nice in person, just like the guy from the Christian Science Monitor is probably a nice person, as , I imagine, even General McMullen is, and so forth. Anne Applebaum's Wikipedia bio mentions that she won the Pulitzer prize a few years ago, that that she went to Yale and the LSE, and that she's an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Her Slate byline just says that she also writes for the Post. Maybe they left the other stuff out because of reactive modesty, going on the theory that Anne probably wouldn't want them to brag about her accomplishments, making her seem all stuffy and pompous. On the other hand, maybe it wasn't very cricket of them to leave out her association with the neocon AEI. I'm guessing they felt that was OK because she isn't writing an editorial, but reporting about the election. Or maybe because she's not a real AEI fellow, just an adjunct.
More likely the former, at least in the eyes of the Slate/WaPo folks, which illustrates Arthur Silber's point about how
'we believe this is simply "the way things are," and the way things ought to be.'Otherwise, how can you make any sense whatsoever of what Anne Applebaum says, that
if the Afghans were willing to accept an appointed American puppet, we might, I'm guessing, consider that, too, at this point. But there isn't, and they won't.Does she really believe that? She went to Yale and won the Pulitzer, so she's supposed to be smart, right?
Afghan villager: Excuse me, mister American soldier. This one you chose for us, we don't like him.
American General: Yeah, what was I thinking. Sorry about that. OK, I'll kill him.
Afghan villager: No, no, please! No more killing.
American General: What do you mean, no more killing? Are you Taliban, trying to mess with my head? Do I need to send a pilotless drone to buzz your village?
Afghan villager: No, no! He's OK! He's great!
An airstrike here, an airstrike there. Oops, a wedding. Oops, farmers, not terrorists. You can't just keep killing people in a country you've invaded, for years on end, and keep telling them, "don't look at my actions. My intentions! Jeez, what's wrong with you? My own people back home believe I mean nothing but the best for you, so why don't you?"
Anne: "After all, we are not trying to create some kind of Jeffersonian idyll in the rugged heart of Central Asia..."
No, of course not. She's not saying they're a bunch of savages or anything, just that they need a...more rudimentary government, one that
"merely... is recognized as legitimate by the majority of Afghans—a government that can therefore prevent the country from turning back into a haven for terrorist training camps."
I'm guessing however, that Anne, though she may be a wonderful person in many respects, doesn't really care if the Afghans see their government as legitimate or not, just that they don't cause that government terribly much grief and that said government is also well-behaved and kowtows to the US and NATO, possibly handing over the occasional troublemaker to the west for extraordinary rendition to Jordan or Croatia or God knows where.
Maybe I'm a horrible person for thinking that's what Anne is really saying. But if you stop and think about it, apart from rendition overseas, isn't that what American elites expect from Americans as well?
Meanwhile the establishment press marches in lock-step, parroting the safe-havens bit. For my part I fail to see what so-called terrorist training camps do. If the 9-11 attacks are the reason for all this subsequent bloodshed, how are terrorist training camps, whether in Afghanistan or anywhere else, relevant? Didn't all the fateful connecting flights the 9-11 attackers took originate here? Maybe we need to get some special ops to attack various US airports and shut them down, so they never board another terrorist? Ridiculous? Sure, but how is it more ridiculous than what we're doing in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are terrorists because
1.They used to run the country(after being elected)
2.We invaded and deposed them, and
3. They're fighting to reclaim their country?
Don't get me wrong. I don't think the Taliban will create "some kind of Jeffersonian idyll" either, and I am aware of their less than salutary track record with respect to women's rights. But apparently the voters in Afghanistan want peace negotiations, and facile protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, it doesn't look like the US does. I'm guessing, in fact, that when the US does finally leave, it will turn out that the longer we stayed, the more likely that the government and the society left in the detritus of our occupation will be a harsh and fundamentalist one, and the sooner we leave and allow the presently standing government the breathing space and political leeway to negotiate for peace, the more likely a stable and heterogeneous society, "Jeffersonian" or otherwise, will take root. And it will largely be in spite of, and not because we were there.
Chris Floyd quoted the NYT's Carlotta Gall. I also think this is apt:
Abdul Wahid Baghrani, an important tribal leader from Helmand Province who went over to the government in 2005 under its reconciliation program, negotiated the surrender of the Taliban in 2001 with Mr. Karzai. Now he lives in a house in western Kabul but is largely ignored by the government, despite the enormous influence he could exercise.
Three months ago his eldest son, Zia ul-Haq, 32, was killed, along with his wife and driver, when British helicopters swooped in on their car as they were traveling in Helmand. Two Western officials confirmed the shooting but said it was a mistake. The forces were trying to apprehend a high-level Taliban target, they said.
"My son was not an armed Talib, he was a religious Talib," he said. The word Talib means religious student. "From any legal standpoint it is not permitted to fire on a civilian car.
"This is not just about my son," he said. "Every day we are losing hundreds of people, and I care about them as much as I care for my son."
Despite the deaths, he has remained in Kabul and still advocates peace negotiations. He said it was wrong to consider the Taliban leadership, or the leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, as irreconcilable. "It is not the opinion of people who know him and work with him," he said. "Of course it is possible to make peace with the Taliban — they are Afghans," he said. "The reason they are fighting is because they are not getting the opportunity to make peace."
We pay a high price for our delusional, imperial self-image. Of course others pay for it too.
Ramzy Baroud, "Drones and Democracy in Afghanistan", Aug 24th,
BBC[video link]:"Afghans talk about their daily struggles"
cross-posted at Dead Horse.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Af-Pak, pt 1
Rahul Mahajan, Empire Notes, "Weekly Commentary-- the Good War" July 20th,
On several recent occasions Rob has already discussed the situation in Afghanistan;
"Escalating in Afghanistan",Aug 1st
"Under a Darkling Sky: Waging War in Order to Wage More War", Aug 9th
As I've said elsewhere, the mainstream left's failure to take Obama to task for escalating the Af-Pak war is to me the most disgusting aspect(of many) to the left's timidity and fear of rocking the corporate democratic boat the in which party leadership is blissfully sailing, under the supposition that the rest of us at least get a berth in steerage. I doubt ordinary people get even that, except in some isolated instances, but that's a discussion for another day.
As you probably know more and more people are calling it the Af-Pak war, partly because many of the fighters battling US forces in Afghanistan are believed to have bases along the Af-Pak(Pakistan) border, often on both sides, and to be receiving aid from persons in Pakistan-- but also because the US forces have increasingly started to make incursions past that border, and of course when they've killed people in airstrikes, noncombatants usually end up among the dead-- some believe they are the majority, and US airstrikes are no more than collective punishment.
It's also called the Af-Pak war because many experts feel that it is serving to destabilize Pakistan, the world's only predominantly Muslim country with nuclear weapons, and already a place with a tenuous political fabric. I'm really curious about any recent polling regarding America's involvement in Af-Pak mayhem, since the mainstream press seems mostly silent about this, as if people can only have opinions about one big issue at a time, or as if Af-Pak warring isn't in fact a big issue. (To give some credit where it's due, Lara Logan on CBS News had a report on the conflict last night when they noted that US casualties were up substantially, both compared to earlier this spring and summer '08. It would be nice if they also talked about the civilian toll, which would at the very least make people over here question why we're even over there and if they even want us over there, but something is better than nothing.)
I'll admit I haven't followed the Af-Pak conflict particularly closely, certainly not as closely as Rob and some other bloggers have, but I was surprised when I saw this article at Rahul Mahajan's Empire Notes recently:
In discussing Peter Bergen's essay "Winning the Good War" in the Washington Monthly, Mahajan writes,
Most of his facts are accurate and some of the arguments he tries to refute are really silly -- if only I had a dime for every idiot column claiming that Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires for 2500 years and that it will wreck the United States too.It's also true that poll results show a significant majority of Afghans in support of the presence of U.S. and NATO forces. And that Afghanistan is nothing like Vietnam. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to see that Bergen is caught up in the same blindness as say Thomas Friedman in 2005 regarding Iraq -- and untold liberal intellectuals in every counterinsurgency since the beginning of recorded history.
Here's a different reading of some of the same facts. The fact that in a recent ABC poll, 63% of Afghan respondents supported the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan while only 8% supported that of the neo-Taliban is a welcome indication that the 8-year occupation has not yet done irreparable damage -- and indicates an opportunity to move the policy in a very different direction than that of counterinsurgency. That lack of irreparable damage does not mean that the United States has done much good -- indeed, 63% thought the US had done a "fair" or "poor" job and a slight majority has an unfavorable opinion of the US.
Furthermore, 18% favored escalation with 44% opposing, and an overwhelming 77% said the use of air strikes was "unacceptable." Hamid Karzai has also repeatedly gone on record opposing U.S. escalation and favoring attempts at a negotiated settlement.
I don't understand Mahajan's assertion that if only he had a dime for "every idiot column" claiming that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires and will the wreck the US too. Maybe he looks at the recent uptick in the stock market and has concluded that our long-term economic prospects are good, case closed. The "graveyard of empires" truism may be just that, a truism, but that doesn't mean it isn't applicable to the US, as one straw of many on the camel's back, even if it isn't necessarily the definitive straw-- at least not yet.
As far as his assertion that we haven't yet done "irreparable damage", that seems like just one person's opinion, even if it's that of a highly educated fellow(Mahajan is an NYU prof.). Speaking of truisms, the enemy of my enemy might be my friend in an Erroll Flynn movie, but just because the Afghans don't necessarily care for the Taliban doesn't mean they also want the US there. Even if they do, clearly they just want the US to keep the peace, without the airstrikes. But seven years' worth of airstrikes is a lot of civilian killings, and it seems awfully unlikely that ordinary Afghans brush off periodic news of deaths of relatives and neighbors as just some bothersome annoyance. I also would want to know more about the methodology of the ABC poll, and whether the respondents may have felt that they needed to fear reprisals from US forces. I'm not saying they had reason to, but I imagine if you lived for seven years in a war zone you'd be skeptical of somebody purporting to be a pollster and prefer to err on the side of excess caution.
Finally, regarding the Vietnam analogy:
(1) Peter Bergen notes that from 2002 to 2009 US public disapproval of the Afghanistan war has gone from 6 percent to 42 percent(earlier this spring), which suggests that given enough time, Afghanistan could well become Obama's Vietnam.
(2) While Mahajan acknowledges that any US military strategy going forward in Afghanistan is likely to involve substantial reliance on continued airstrikes, he closes-- apparently without irony-- with a variation on the classic excuse people made for the Vietnam debacle- instead of "the US could win, but we lack the will to see it through", it's we could secure a lasting peace, but lack the will to seek a political solution.
cross-posted at Dead Horse.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Joe Biden and friend
Thursday, August 06, 2009
an invisible coup, pt 2
Xenophile 08/04/2009 08:47 AM
That sounds like PressTV's revenge for Western coverage/promotion of the astroturf revolution in Teheran.
Lemme see if I get it: a Saudi dissident quoted from the Arabic-language Iranian channel by the Iranian official press is the source. À consommer avec moderation.
I also came across this: (September 2008)
Iranian media reported a failed coup attempt in Saudi Arabia on Sept. 3, citing an Arab publication. The details of the reports suggest, however, that they are unfounded. Tehran’s move to pick up the story is likely Iranian psyops against Saudi Arabia, designed to undermine global confidence in the stability of the world’s largest oil producer.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
an invisible failed coup?
I gather that some Arabic language radio channels have been discussing a possible failed coup this past weekend in Saudi Arabia, possibly led by Prince Bandar.
Have you heard of E.I.R. Gmbh, aka Eirna.com? I know nothing about E.I.R. GmbH, so I'm not really in a good position to assess their veracity. I found this(dated July 16th) at their site in looking for info about the possible failed Saudi coup:
In the U.S., newly declassified documents from the files of the official investigatory Commission on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, give further evidence of the direct role of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services. One key document, a “Memorandum for the Record” dated April 23, 2004, confirms that a known Saudi intelligence officer, Omar al-Bayoumi, was working closely with two of the hijackers based on the West Coast, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar.
This document summarizes an interview that Commission staffers Quinn John Tamm Jr. and Dietrich Snell had with an unnamed source, who was an FBI informant in the San Diego area, and who rented a room in his home to two hijackers during much of 2000. In the interview, the FBI informant confirmed the relationship between al-Bayoumi and the two hijackers.
However, the document omits one highly interesting piece of information, that is included in other 9/11 Commission documents, as well as in a 28-page synopsis suppressed by the Bush White House, on the role of al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan (another identified Saudi intelligence officer) in funding the two West Coast hijackers. That is, that Prince Bandar bin-Sultan, then Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and his wife, Princess Haifa, paid between $50,000 and $72,000 to al-Bayoumi who, in turn, passed on some of the money to al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, to finance their rent, and their flight school attendance, previous to the 9/11 attacks. Note that Princess Haifa is the sister of Prince Turki bin-Faisal, who was the head of Saudi Arabian intelligence at the time of the 9/11 attacks – and resigned, suddenly, shortly thereafter.
The article goes on to mention that former FBI director Louis Freeh is now Prince Bandar's attorney, representing him in the BAE bribery case.(2003 Guardian link) Meanwhile this is the only link I found discussing a possible failed coup in Saudi this past weekend:
Press TV, "In kingdom, Saudi prince's coup 'fails'"
BBC, April 2008, "UK wrong to halt Saudi arms probe"
BBC, July 2008, "Lords says SFO Saudi move lawful"
Times of London, May 2008, "BAE accused of being uncooperative with US investigators"
6 Aug 09: please see additional comments at "an invisible coup, pt 2"