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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yeah? Well . . . You're Notably Unhelpful, Too

It's not like US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has lied before, so we can believe him when he says Iran allowed explosives to cross the border into Iraq, to be used in suicide bombs.

Rumsfeld has already prepared an alibi in case he is quoting "bad intelligence." While he wouldn't say the Iranian government was directly involved in the shipments, he did say "it's notably unhelpful for the Iranians to be allowing weapons of those types to be crossing the border."

Dang straight, hombre. However, I would warn you, Rummy, that your comment might sound hypocritical if any of the following were true:
  • The US was the world's largest arms dealer.

  • The US had a history of supporting totalitarian regimes in the Middle East, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, and of course Saddam Hussein during his most violent and murderous years.

  • The US had not secured the ammo and weapons left behind by Saddam's military and had instead allowed the weapons to be stolen for use in suicide bombs and attacks on soldiers and civilians.

  • The US had tortured and killed Iraqi detainees not charged with any crime, often photographing the detainees in humiliating positions.

All of those things would have been "notably unhelpful," had they been true.

Rummy also said: "What you do know of certain knowledge is the Iranians did not stop it from coming in," he said.

We also know for certain that the US military, which controls Iraq, did not prevent it from coming in. Normally it is the job of a nation to prevent the entry and not exit of its borders. Can we say for certain that some person or business in the US has not sent weapons or explosives to Iraq?

When asked if Rummy was threatening to invade Iran, now, he replied, with his usual undebatably clear candor: "I don't imply threats. You know that."

If I was an Iranian leader, I'd be inferring a threat, that's for sure. And let me be the first to say that invading Iran, in the effort to defeat terrorism, would be, as is the current conflagration, notably unhelpful.

Sounds Familiar

Britain's conservative leader, Michael Howard, is complaining that the country's human rights law is undermining the nation's effort to fight terrorism. Using an amazing but oft-used piece of propaganda, Howard writes:

"Aggressive judicial activism will not only undermine the public's confidence in the impartiality of our judiciary. It could also put our security at risk - and with it the freedoms the judges seek to defend. That would be a price we cannot be expected to pay."

We heard this repeatedly in the US when the Patriot Act was being debated – we must give up our freedoms in order to protect them. When and if we get those freedoms back is of course not defined and tied to our victory in the war on terror, which realistically means "never", especially is Bush and Blair have anything to do with it.

What really got Howard's ire was last year's ruling that the indefinite detention of foreign terror suspects without trial – allowed by the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act – violated the UK Human Rights Act.

Bummer, those human rights protections. Always getting in the way of denying human rights.

Howard is not claiming that the ruling allowed the suicide bombers of July 7 to accomplish their mission or that sans ruling Scotland Yard would have prevented the bombings. So why believe that his proposed course will make Britain any safer in the future?

In Iraq, soldiers are allowed to search every house and person at will, whenever they like, and yet they cannot slow the tide of suicide bombings. If people are motivated and willing to die for a cause, you simply cannot stop all of them.

Which is why I, like many people, have been saying for years that we must address the motivations of the bombers. Think of it as preventative medicine. Remove the hatred and you remove the inspiration for suicide.

Bush and company, with the compliant mainstream media, responds to this idea with silly claims that terrorists just hate our freedoms, or some such nonsense, when the terrorist leaders themselves say their effort is to get the US to leave Muslim holy lands and to stop meddling in the affairs of their governments.

I think many Americans actually believe we are in Iraq to spread democracy. Strange. We've been actively involved in that region for decades, overtly and covertly, overthrowing democratically elected regimes and bolstering totalitarian regimes that are willing to allow foreign companies to get rich off the oil wealth that lies beneath many Middle Eastern countries. We overthrew the Iranian government and installed the Shah. We support Saddam for years, through his most evil years. We keep the Saudi king in power. We prop up Israel with our financial and military resources, which Israel uses to mercilessly crush the Palestinians. And on and on and on.

These lessons are not lost on Muslims, who see the latest outrage (the invasion and occupation of Iraq), as a major threat and have responded by turning our invasion into a massive rebellion. Most of the foreign fighters are Muslims who say the US invasion has "radicalized" them – made them willing to die fighting the Americans.

Any notion that suspending the rights of prisoners in the UK will make Britain or any place else more safe is absurd, although I suppose if you believe that the terrorists just hate our freedoms, then getting rid of those freedoms might sound like a good plan.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

And a Very Merry Christmas to You All

Watching the movie Brazil recently, I was reminded of a TV interview that takes place almost in the background during the opening scene. Mr. Helpmann, the Deputy Minister of Information, is being interviewed, and the exchange sounds frighteningly familiar:
INTERVIEWER: Deputy minister, what do you believe is behind this recent increase in terrorist bombings?

HELPMANN: Bad sportsmanship. A ruthless minority of people seems to have forgotten certain good old fashioned virtues. They just can't stand seeing the other fellow win. If these people would just play the game, instead of standing on the touch line heckling –

INTERVIEWER: In fact, killing people –

HELPMANN: In fact, killing people – they'd get a lot more out of life.

. . .

INTERVIEWER: Do you think that the government is winning the battle against terrorists?

HELPMANN: Oh yes. Our morale is much higher than theirs, we're fielding all their strokes, running a lot of them out, and pretty consistently knocking them for six. I'd say they're nearly out of the game.

INTERVIEWER: But the bombing campaign is now in its thirteenth year . . .

HELPMANN: Beginner's luck.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much, Deputy Minister.

HELPMANN: Thank you, David ... and a very merry Christmas to you all.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Don't Worry, Smallpox Blankets Are Still OK

FSU fans, as well as fans at other schools with mascots named after Native American tribes and their stereotypes, are upset that the NCAA has banned "the use of American Indian mascots by sports teams during its postseason tournaments, but will not prohibit them otherwise."

FSU President T.K. Wetherell called the move a "complete lack of appreciation for cultural diversity" He was apparently also speaking for the presidents of the Southeastern Oklahoma State "Savages" and Carthage College "Redmen." And you can't get more appreciate of other cultures than by calling them savages and redmen.

OK, so the Florida Seminole tribal authority says it is cool with them to have FSU be the Seminoles, but Seminole tribes elsewhere say it's not. And of course the tribal resolution doesn't mean all Florida Seminoles agree with it.

Heck, those injuns should feel proud that we've repaid the near destruction of their people and the theft of the lands with the honor of a non-Native American cheerleader riding around Doak Campbell stadium in constume and carrying a spear.

Here's a suggestion -- change FSU's mascot to the Hillbillies, with a straw-chewin' slack-jawed yokel with a huge grin painted on the 50 yard line and a similar mascot hanging in a hammock behind the bench, drinking beer. FSU fans would be re-naming their dogs "hillbilly", and Gators fans wouldn't know what to do -- how could they make fun of their own kind? It would be an interesting situation.