Friday, December 30, 2005

Trib Editorial

The Chicago Tribune's "analysis" of George Bush's prewar WMD claims omits perhaps the most crucial available fact; By the time Bush ordered US forces to invade Iraq virtually all of its "intelligence" had been proven wrong to a level of scientific certainty. For example in September of 2002 the White House posted on its website photos of what it claimed was new construction on a WMD manufacturing facility at Al Furat south of Baghdad. On December 10, 2002 Hussein's government escorted hundreds of journalists to the site . With cameras rolling they documented not just an absence of new construction but abundance of cobwebs. More telling was the claim of a renewed Iraqi nuclear program. The administration said the famed aluminum tubes were suitable only for use in constructing centrifuges as part of a nuclear program. Iraq said they were for an attempt to "reverse engineer" conventional rockets. On 7 March 2003, weeks before the invasion, Nobel prize winner Muhammad El Baradai, head of the Internation Atomic Agency, reported to the UN Security Council that; "The Iraqi decision-making process with regard to the design of these rockets was well-documented. Iraq has provided copies of design documents, procurement records, minutes of committee meetings and supporting data and samples." He concluded that based on the evidence: "the IAEA team has concluded that Iraq efforts to import these aluminum tubes were not likely to have been related to the manufacture of centrifuge, and moreover that it was highly unlikely that Iraq could have achieved the considerable redesign needed to use them in a revived centrifuge program."

These are but two examples of the verifiable scientific evidence that refuted all the administration's testable prewar claims. Between 27 November 2002 and 17 March 2003 Bush's claims were investigated by more that 200 physicists, engineers, biochemist and manufacturing experts, many of them American. The scientific refutation of those claims was and remains a part of the international public record.

The the President and the Chicago Tribune chose to ignore the published and verified scientific record with regard to the administrations claims is difficult to excuse as mere incompetence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Spy on me, please!

I want my daughters to have FBI files. I want them filmed by hostile government agents during a mass protest against injustice. If they get lucky, they’ll be tear-gassed; not so much to do damage, just enough to make a good story. Like I was tear gassed as a child. Just like my mother wanted it.

When I was eight my mother led our whole family into the marches against segregation in Chicago. The FBI spied on us then, too. In the sixties, the Bureau claimed to be looking for “communists,” now they’re hunting “terrorists," but they look for enemies among the same group of Americans: protesters, we who dissent. At civil rights marches there were countless guys in suits taking movies and snapshots of us all. Sometimes it was the FBI, sometimes the Chicago Police Department’s in house anti-subversive unit, the Red Squad. My mother taught us to smile a wave at the camera. Even at eight we understood they meant to scare us, I was in Catholic schools at the time so I was well acquainted with the notion of stuff going on my “permanent record.”

But my mother wanted protest on our permanent records. She insisted that she and her children be counted among those whom bullying law enforcement did not scare.

I am overwhelmingly proud of my childhood dissent. I wear the suspicion of the FBI as a badge of honor. I long to be included on Bill O’Riley’s enemies list.

When my daughters are little old ladies and their grandchildren ask “Where were you guys when the rebels saved us from Bush?” I want them to brag, “We were in Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, we’re not lying, check our FBI files!”

I want my daughters to know the joys of rebellion, the delights of fighting outgunned and against the grain. I want them to breathe deeply the electric air outside the main herd. That the other side has the FBI just makes the fight more romantic. A ragtag band of news junkies, partisans, and assorted kooks against the great media/industrial death star, Morpheus against the Matrix, rebels against the state, like in 1965 and 1776.

I had despaired that my children would have no great monsters to slay, no forge for their mettle. But there ain’t a greater call to American action than a warning from the FBI to shut up. Conscience makes rebels of us all.

I haven’t been to an anti-war march in a few months but I’ll be at the next one I hear about, with my daughters. If the FBI is there filming we’ll all smile and wave for their cameras. But to save the bureau time and effort: my name is Aaron Freeman, two “a’s, two “e’s”. Please print it out in seventy-two-point font. Than king George might read it without his spectacles.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Less Democracy, Please!

Could sombody please stop the spread of democracy in the Middle East? I do not like the way it's turning out. Iran for example has been having elections for almost thirty years, since the overthrow of the Shah, and look who wins them. Iran's election have produced presidents ranging from moderate right wingers like Abul Hassan Boni Sadr to full-tilt ultra-religious wingnuts like current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose politics appear to only slightly to the left of Pat Robertson.

Iraq's democracy has provided some interesting political innovations including their pre-election ritual of having 20% of the electorate bombed by a foreign power. Nonetheless Iraq democracy has turned the country from a secular, socialist state into an Islamic republic aligned with Iran. Iraq's two biggest political parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and DAWA are not just supported by Iran but were created in Iran during the reign of the Ayatollah Kohmeini. Which is fine, Iraqis have every right to vote in whatever government they want but does America have to pay 6 billion dollars a month for it?

Among Palestinians their first round of elections brought us President Yassir Arafat and now the big political dog is Hamas which wins election after election no matter how many of their leaders Israel blows up. Which is all fine, "Self determination," I'm down with it but I'm worried the cancer of middle east democracy will matastesize to other Arab nations. From what I read if democratic elections were held in Saudia Arabia the biggest votes would go the the Saudi Nuke Israel Party followed by the Burn Israel Party and running a close third would be the Drive the Jews into the sea party.

It's not like we don't know how to put the brakes on Islamic democracy. Back in 1991 Algerian voters seemed on the brink of electing an Islamist government and the ruling party, supported by France and the US, just canceled the elections and outlawed the Islamist parties. But I'm sure there are less in your face, more artful ways of... not frustrating Middle Eastern democracy but calming it down. We got the the Deiboldt Corporation and Karl Rove could be looking for a new job any day now.

Again, I'm all over democracy, within reason. Full-frontal democratic governments, reflecting the will a majority are fine in theory but in practice are scary as hell. I'm sure that's why we've done away with it here in the United States.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Saddam Eight

Saddam Hussein is the Bobby Seale of Baghdad.

As a Chicagoan, the trial of Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants is a trip down memory lane. Once again the accused are throwing the charges in the face of the court and aiming to put US justice on trial. Saddam is, so far, more genteel than Bobby Seale in how he's addressed the court. Hussein has not yet called judge a "fascist dog" but he is every bit as proud, defiant and smart as the founder of the Black Panther party. He wears berets too.

The reporting of the Baghdad and Chicago Eight are about the same. Both proceedings were almost entirely political, with their outcomes forgone conclusions months before they began. Yet both show trials were covered like they were legit. Both sets of defendants are caricatured as dangerous loons and their legitimate legal objections mostly ignored.

A difference between the trials is the happy fact that all Chicago Eight defense lawyers made it through the proceedings alive. Baghdad's US-trained cops are apparently even worse than Chicago's. Also unlike Bobby Seale, Hussein has not yet been bound and gagged, though in the US he's suffered the 21st century equivalent, he's been cropped and edited.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Barack Obushama?

Talk about trying to be all things to all people. Illinois Democrat Barack Obama in addition to being everybody's hope for a progressive future, is now even an apologist for George Bush. According to the Chicago Tribune Obama was asked at a town hall meeting whether Bush should be impeached for lying us into a war and 30,000 dead Iraqis, to which our junior senator replied "Well, FDR, JFK, LBJ -- we have a pretty long list of presidents who maybe were not entirely forthcoming with intelligence information before they went to war." saying Bush was "maybe not entirely forthcoming" Is like saying "LeBron James is maybe not entirely short."

If "everybody does it" is Obama's idea of legal defense then call former Illinois governor George Ryan and tell him charges are dropped. Cause the list of corrupt Illinois governors is even longer than the list of "maybe not entirely forthcoming" presidents. If "everybody does it" trumps investigation and prosecution we should just lay off the torture trial of former Chicago police captain John Burge. Everybody tortures, Bush would get off on that one too, wow. Set Burge free. Send him over to Baghdad to train the Iraqi police.

Maybe there's something in the Washington DC water that suppresses people's (or at least politician's) ability to get mad about folks for doing wrong. Maybe it happens when they smell the power. Obama’s impeachment defense combined with his earlier attempt to excuse the administration for Abu Ghraib in Baghdad look like another in the senator's endless attempts to remain the Will Smith of American politics, "a cute black guy everybody can agree on."

I'm rooting for him but he doesn't get to treat us like knuckleheads or spin the crime of war.

Truth is, of course Obama's too smart to be the first US Senator to call for Bush's impeachment, (sigh, but it sure does feel good to say those words!) But Saint Barak has just got to find a less insulting story. Ask our senior senator Dick Durban, his thoughts on impeachment and he says, "I want to get hearings on the intelligence committee." If you're entirely cynical, like if you're paying attention. You could call Durban's position a cautious dodge but at least it appeals to grownups.

Obama could say something like "If we tried to impeach him the evil republicans would shoot us dead in the streets!" That'd be believable.

I'm sure our benighted Barack will eventually find his footing on this issue as well. I'm certain the Senator's rhetorical cynicism is little more than a political speed bump is not the beginning of what Brits call "reverse metamorphosis," the transformation of a butterfly back into a slug.

Friday, December 09, 2005

President Gilliigan?

OK I admit it is anti-intellectual, politically incorrect and possibly treasonous but, I think the new Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the cutest politician on the world stage. Now don’t get me wrong, my views are entirely superficial. If US news reports are true, always a big if, Ahmadinejad’s politics are so far from mine I couldn’t see them with the Hubble telescope. He’s a holocaust denier, anti-Israel agitator and just generally maddening.. Compared to Ahmadinejad, Dr. James Dobson is a hippie. I don’t even want to think about his views on Jewish Negroes.

But every time I see him I think, “It’s Bob Denver from Gilligan’s Island… if Gilligan were a right wing Iranian Shiite Muslim. ” And it’s not just one or two good photos like newspaper columnists who run the same picture for years. I’ve seen a bunch of pictures of the guy with all kind of expressions in all kinds of lights and with each viewing, I wonder “Are the Skipper and MaryAnne involved to Iranian politics too?”

Even the guy from that old US embassy takeover picture who wasn’t Ahmadinejad but looked sort of like him was cute.

Of course my response to President Ahmadinnejad aside from being shallow and irresponsible is potentially dangerous. If everybody’s analysis of politicians stopped with their ranking on a cuteness scale political discourse would be in deep doo-doo.

If all consumers of politics were a superficial as me our country could end up being led by shallow suits who smile sweetly while undermining everything we hold dear.

Thank goodness this is America where stuff like that can’t happen.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tortured Explanations

Condi could not have been clearer; "the United States did not have torture relations with that man, Kahlid Sheik Muhammad." Pay no attention to that blue dress with the bloodstains.

I am proud that the secretary of state is going to set the Europeans straight about how America treats it's victims- I mean prisoners- I mean detainees.

I hope she explains to them that the use of snarling dogs to intimidate people who've never even been charged with anything is just our way of promoting inter-species understanding.

Administration critics need to understand that against the threats of the 21st century, we cannot rely on 20th century interrogation methods we must look forward and embrace the techniques of the 15th century. Don't think of it as the rack; consider it "violently assisted yoga." Hanging hooded suspects from the ceiling by their wrists should merely be considered "a dangling conversation."

And as for the reports and photographs of the Gulfstream V, with tail number N379P, that's been used to whisk detainees to secret locations around the world where they have subsequently just disappeared? Give us some credit. We are, at our own expense, helping those people accumulate massive frequent flier miles.

I'm certain that once they get the right perspective Europeans will be proud to join our noble struggle against undue process. After all, and without any doubt, the United States is not a nation of torturers. Of course that does depend on what the meaning of is, is.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Billion Dollar Beg

News Item - The US Agency for International Development has posted on its website an opportunity to apply for a grant of a billion dollars to anyone who can develop a plan to stabilize ten Iraqi cities identified by the administration as crucial to defeating the Iraqi insurgency.

If the government’s offer of a billion dollars to anyone on earth who can come up with a plan to stabilize Iraq weren’t so comic it’d be tragic. Thank goodness, it's funny. Two and a half years after transforming Iraq from zero terrorism to, by every measure, the number one terror state on earth if not the history of the world. The administration is now like Vincent Price at the end of the movie “the Fly;” trapped in by its own creation gone wrong screaming, “Help me!”

They're offering a billion dollars, that used to get you a whole war now they’re hoping it’ll buy them out of one.

As embarrassing as the offer is I consider it a positive sign that they now, finally think stabilizing Iraq so important they won’t even entrust it to cronies.

At they didn’t just automatically give the money to Halliburton.

The request was posted on the USAID web site on 30 November and the President announced his plan to stabilized Iraq on November 31st. Do you think he was trying to get the money himself? Since the offer was still on the table as of Sunday we can only assume the USAID did not accept the Bush plan.

But as easy as it is to mock and ridicule the offer, which I’ve been doing non-stop since I read it, as a loyal American I feel a responsibility to my country, in addition to my bank account, to offer my plan to try get the billion dollars- I mean, to stabilize Iraq. To paraphrase the late Dr. Martin Luther King, “I have a scheme!”

I call it the Strategic Negro Initiative. It relies on the well-established fact that Islamist’s are sympathetic to African Americans. Remember that when students took over the US embassy in Iran back in 1979, they not only let the black men go free, them let them take the white women with them.

My plan, the SNI, would send every available African American to Iraq. Everybody from Al Sharpton and Oprah to the guy with the big afro in the Office Max commercial to Michael Jackson, I repeat, we’d get Michael Jackson out of the country, which in itself would be worth a billion dollars. In my plan we would fan out to the key Iraqi cities as ambassadors of good will. Oprah would host a series of mosque-hall meetings where she’d talk to Iraqi women about how she once an insurgent. Jesse Jackson would deliver speeches in defense of America that would not only stir religious hearts but rhyme and Colin Powell would do a whole lot of apologizing.

The SNI would shock the Islamist world into re-evaluating America and all it stands for because we colored people have credibility like almost no others since the world knows we didn’t vote for Bush. As Iraqi resistance fighters admired 50 Cent's pectorals, attended Spike Lee film festivals and ran in terror from Mike Tyson they’d have less time to fight and the cities would thus calm.

So there it is, my plan. I guarantee it’ll work. And just to show what a loyal American I am, the USAID can have it for only half a billion.