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Counterpoint: Hits from the Left!

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Bush's Bogus War
*Paul Knox comments on justifying the means...*

War Based On Lies
*Rhonda Hauben exposes the duplicity*
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Ignorance Fuels Arrogance

Since the US decided to take another crack at killing Saddam I have read hundreds of comments like this:

…They wonder why the US acts unilaterally? Imagine if world bitchiness with the US could result in something more serious than merely getting kicked off the UN human rights committee. Many international laws and conventions (Kyoto, Geneva) only provide a means for weak nations and nongovernment organizations (NGO's) to manipulate the strong (read US), often at the expense of the greater good. Take the Geneva Convention. The US is the only combatant that ever really follows it. Yet the International Red Cross (IRC) and Amnesty deign to check up on Camp X-ray. Hey IRC, where were you when Hitler was killing people in his camps by the millions. More timely question: What about Fidel just across the island from X-ray? Ever check out any of the prison conditions in the workers paradise? Hell, I'll bet the denizens of X-ray eat better than most of Castro's subjects. Thank God the current President is not so enamored with the concept of forfeiting US sovereignty to a bunch of Euroweenie mandarins and NGO radicals.

OK, so let’s ignore the fact that the US took two years to join the fight against Hitler. (We’re all very grateful…thanks for coming out) But where the hell does the average American get the idea that the US is the only combatant to comply with the Geneva Convention??? Is this a case of collective amnesia?! What about the 79 million litres of Agent Orange that the US spread over Vietnam? Yeah, it’s a herbicide, but these 79 million litres just happened to be contaminated by dioxins which are highly toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons potent enough to have effects when dispersed in just a few parts per trillion – 170 KILOS of dioxins were mixed in with the herbicide…the largest dioxin release in history.

And let’s not forget Clinton’s brilliant plan known as the “Desecration of the Water System�. The idea in this post-war offensive was to destroy Iraq’s complicated water filtration and distribution infrastructure and turn the people of Iraq against their leader. What it accomplished instead was the revival of polio and typhoid from their previous extinction, and the elevation of diarrhea to the number one spot for infant mortality.

More recently, one might want to take issue with the fact that high-ranking Iraqi soldiers have been turned over to countries like Pakistan and Jordan for interrogation. Jordan, of course, is well known for much more ‘persuasive’ methods of gathering intelligence than the US and so this becomes a case of complicity.

While we’re on the topic of complicity, we can’t forget the prestigious “School of the Americas� where Latin Americans are trained in combat, counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics. Included in the SOA’s 60 000 graduates are notorious dictators: Manuel Noriega, Omar Torrijos, Leopoldo Galtieri, Roberto Viola, Juan Velasco Alvarado, Guillermo Rodriguez, and Hugo Banzer Suarez. These men, with the help of US trained militia, carried out some of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America.

America complies with the Geneva Convention? It makes you wonder what's being taught in American history.

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Thursday, June 26, 2003

ZIMBABWE: The Kettle Calling The Pot . . . Racist?!

Notwithstanding the horrifying attrocities being carried out in Zimbabwe, I don't see how the current political interchange between the Harare and American governments could be any more comical: a patently racist government accusing the American leadership of racist motivations, and an illegitimate president accusing another of illegitimacy.

excerpt - Reuters: Zimbabwe is facing a severe economic crisis that critics blame on government mismanagement, Mugabe's seizures of white-owned farms for black resettlement and his alleged rigging of his re-election last year.

Neighboring states led by South Africa favor diplomacy to resolve Zimbabwe's woes, but Washington and London have openly criticized Mugabe and called for a transition unity government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The United States has taken a hard line against Mugabe since the presidential elections, trying to isolate his government internationally. Bush, who will visit Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria from July 7-12, has said Mugabe is not a legitimate leader.

The Harare government says Bush's stance is unjustified, driven by racism and by Washington's natural support for Zimbabwe's former colonial power Britain in fighting Mugabe over his seizures of white farms.


read the rest here
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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Blair aide testifies today. . .
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Dodgy Language
Canadian lawyer Karen Selick comments on an abuse of the term "human dignity" in Ontario courts (Globe & Mail, Comment/06/25). The term is intentionally vague, and designed to curry support where it may not have beem forthcoming by appealing to individual sentiment. After all, everyone has a positive concept of human dignity. The problem, though, is that not everyone agrees, and one person's dignity may be another's disgrace. Of course, Selick is talking about the Canadian decision to allow same sex marriages, but flagrant abuses of language abound in virtually every medium of communication.

Correcting misuse is a monstrous task but a worthy one. I propose that we begin with "terrorism" and "weapons of mass destruction".

On The Hook
Excerpt from P. Krugman, NY Times/06.24: "some commentators have suggested that Mr. Bush should be let off the hook as long as there is some interpretation of his prewar statements that is technically true. Really? We're not talking about a business dispute that hinges on the fine print of the contract; we're talking about the most solemn decision a nation can make. . .Republicans shy away from confronting the administration's dishonest case for war, because they don't want to face the implications."

read the rest here: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0624-04.htm

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Monday, June 23, 2003

Israeli vengeance hurts peace process
*Assassination of Palestinian militant earns Israel rebuke from U.S. While a truce between Hamas and Israel seems to be a necessary prerequisite for peace in the Middle East, Israeli PM is determined to lay waste to Hamas. Truce is not enough, Israeli officials say. Palestinian authorities must go beyond mere condemnation, and dismantle the militant organizations. More signs of trouble came when Sharon approved the expansion of settlements saying that settlement building "isn't part of the road map", recanting promises to stop development and dismantle existing settlements.

UK - "dodgy dossier"
**Top Blair aide Alastair Campbell to testify about WMD . . . stay tuned**
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Saturday, June 21, 2003

NOTE TO READERS
This site is experiencing some extreme growing pains. That is to say, the host (not naming names...but you can find the button) insists on periodically erasing code in the template and exchanging regular text in the posts for html thereby seriously screwing with the layout of this page. Two posts have had to be deleted for this reason. Please allow some time for to get everything sorted out and running smoothly.
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Friday, June 20, 2003
"FRIENDLY FIRE NOT CRIMINAL"

Friendly fire is a brutal fact of war, but it is not criminal. Being a Canadian I naturally gravitated to sentiments of frustration and resentment at the news that the two U.S. pilots responsible for the deaths of four Canadians in April of 2002 would be getting off with only minor punishments. Losing a month's pay seems like a cheap price to pay for taking the lives of four men from their families. My frustration was not helped by the stereotype of trigger-happy American fighter pilots that had slowly entrenched itself in my mind after watching movies like Top Gun and such as I was growing up. Last night in conversation I even found myself resorting to these stereotypes to justify my opinion about what the proper punishment should be: "They were glory hunting," I argued. "They completely disregarded the consequences of their actions." Many Canadians share these sentiments; they have been printed in our papers; and echoed in conversation. But this couldn't be farther from the truth.

After detecting surface fire Major Schmidt radioed that he was "rolling in, in self-defence." He next requested permission from the AWACS on patrol in the area to use his 20mm cannon. His patrol leader, Maj. William Umbach, suggested that they confirm that the target were not friendlies before attacking at which point the two pilots surveyed their target with nightvision. Scanners did not pick up the signal that usually tells pilots that they have locked on to a friendly target. Before releasing his laser-guided bomb, Major Schmidt said: "I've got some men on a road and it looks like a piece of artillery firing at us." "Boss Man copies," came the reply from AWACS. Seeking confirmation that he had not killed a friendly Schmidt asked AWACS "can you confirm that they were shooting at us?" "You're cleared, self defence," came the response. The pilots wanted to know that they had done the right thing.

Major Schmidt ended up killing four Canadians and injuring eight others; he made some serious mistakes, but it is difficult to say with certainty that he had done the wrong thing. If you consider the fact that the pilots had not been informed of friendlies in the area, let alone friendlies conducting live fire exercises, and also the fact that AWACS had supported the strike, the picture no longer seems to fit the Top Gun fighter-jock stereotype. The problem is systemic, and if you're going to punish the pilots then there seems to be cause to punish others who were involved in the breakdown -- whoever it was who neglected to inform the pilots of the firing exercises for example.

**many apologies--the remainder of this entry was deleted by an error on the blogspot server; regular text was converted to html and ruined the layout of the rest of the weblog so it had to be deleted. unfortunately the blog was composed on blogspot and therefore not saved...i may or may not get the chance to rewrite it**
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WORTH A READ

Iraq Commons Hearings
*evidence provided by ex-cab. ministers Cook and Short concerning Blair's use of 'evidence' of WMD in Iraq*

Naomi Klein's most recent "Unlabelled"
*Bush vs. NGOs*

Iraq Update
*20 Important Questions about the state of affairs in Iraq*

Truth vs. Truthfulness
*Doug Saunders takes a look at contemporary reporting: 'based on a true story'*

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Wednesday, June 18, 2003

“Ethics? What Ethics?”

Yesterday, (June 17th) the American Medical Association (AMA) approved the cloning of human beings for medical research. In a statement posted on their website the AMA announced that they had approved "recommendations by its Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) that cloning for biomedical research is consistent with medical ethics." The implication in such a statement is, of course, that human cloning for research is morally acceptable. However, we need not accept this conclusion. Alternatively it suggests that the AMA's code of ethics could use some serious revamping.

Harvesting human embryos is just one of a few suggested methods for gathering the stem cells required for research. Adult stem cells can be harvested from living tissue (the skin or organs) without infringing on the sort of ethical issues human cloning calls to mind. The problem with adult stem cells, however, is that their function is fixed. Adult stem cells taken from the lung, for example, are only able to develop into lung tissue. This makes them less than ideal for experimental research. But it has also been suggested that totipotent stem cells--cells which can grow into any type of human tissue--can be harvested from the umbilical cord. If so, this practice would equally avoid the ethical problems involved with human cloning. As it turns out, it just happens to be cheaper to harvest the stem cells from cloned human embryos. There is ample research in this area provided by the existing work in in vitro fertilization, and researchers are familiar with the practice of cloning embryos. But cheaper and easier choices do not always translate into ethical and moral choices.

Some time ago, just after Advanced Cell Technology Inc. announced its breakthrough in human cloning research in 2001, I wrote an article for a newspaper which began with a quote from Jurassic Park. At one point actor Jeff Goldbloom remarks: your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they never stopped to consider whether or not they should!” Despite AMA’s conclusion that cloning conforms to their ethical standards, we are once again confronted with the question of whether or not we ought to conduct such research. The issues, of course, remain the same: many pro-life advocates have argued that once the process of life has begun, regardless of how it was induced in the lab, you are dealing in the realm of potentiality, and that potentiality is entirely human and therefore not to be trifled with. Advocates of the policy, on the other hand, typically incite the idea of the greater good suggesting that the potential benefits of cloning research far outweigh the cost. And once again we are hearing rumours of miraculous cures for AIDS, cancer, and all types of debilitating conditions. As always, such talk should be taken with a grain of salt.
There is also the matter of the AMA’s cloning policy conflicting with the existing ban in the United States. Last year the Bush Administration’s managed to push the Senate into accepting a bill which banned all types of cloning, therapeutic and reproductive alike. At the time, W. Bush said that “Anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be unethical.” ‘Why’, you ask? Because “research cloning would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics – that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another.” (Whitehouse address, April 11, 02) How is it, I wonder, that the AMA missed that part?

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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

ALL IN A DAY:

Reuters, the NYTimes, and the Financial Post published as their top stories that Tony Blair is under increased pressure to provide evidence of WMD; warring Liberian gov't signs a cease fire with rebels and agrees to peace talks; U.S. envoy John Wolf meets with Palestinians to try to curb opposition to the peace plan; Microsoft takes a legal stand against spam mail; and France cracks down on Iranian terrorism

What did Canada's national paper The Globe & Mail place as it's largest story? Alberta city councillor Darlene Heatherington insisting at a news conference that she isn't crazy. Great!

Now I understand that the Canadian public isn't interested in reading, day after day, about political strife in other countries. But seriously, what relevance does some woman's drug induced romp around Vegas have to a national audience? You want to tell us about the increased risk of technology in vehicles? fine. You want to tell us about the rising dollar, government abuses of taxpayer's money, elections, referendums, environmental hazards, job losses, whatever? Good. But splashing the gritty details of some woman's personal life over the front page? This sort of garbage belongs in the tabloids.
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Monday, June 16, 2003

THEY JUST WON'T QUIT

The Iraqis just wont give up fighting. Sunday saw a U.S. military convoy ambushed by a small resistance group which lead to several injuries but no deaths. More extensive operations have been renewed in the north where it is believed that leaders of the Iraqi opposition are organizing their forces. Now with more than 40 American soldiers killed since the U.S. "won" the war, and with five major resistance groups growing stronger by the day, U.S. officials are more rigorously entertaining the possibility that Saddam may still be alive.
That Saddam survived the war and is now secretly rallying his forces is not necessarily the best explanation, however (though it has happened in the past). More likely is it that U.S. troops are encountering anti-occupation forces who see American occupation as an insult and violation of their homeland. This is to say nothing of an allegiance to Saddam.
In spite of all of the political disappearances that were splashed all over the media before and during the war the Globe and Mail recently quoted one Iraqi arrested by Americans during this period of heightened anxiety saying: "I'm 60 years old and I have nothing to do with all this," Mr. Mohammed said. "Even Saddam never did a thing like this to us. We got rid of one problem and now we're having a bigger one." Some Iraqis may want democracy, but they want the U.S. out. V.P. Dick Cheney's comment "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators" is starting to sound like a bad joke.
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Bush's Post Facto Justification

President Bush's recent troubles justifying his war against Iraq stand as yet another example of history repeating itself. President Bush and his predecessor Lincoln both received heavy criticism for premising their cases for war on shaky technical grounds which never really panned out. History has it that Lincoln tried to curry support for the Civil War by offering a rather bogus interpretation of the constitutional rights of secession; in Dubya's case it was "weapons of mass destruction".

As a university teaching assistant I have heard a lot of creative excuses (from those students who muster up enough courage not to wet themselves at the prospect of confronting their TA). Having just emerged from their highschool cucoons and still reaking of foul excuses like "I left my assignment on the bus", and “my computer wouldn’t print”, I feel that it is partially my duty to break these students of this nasty habit. I am, nevertheless, quite patient about it. It was only after spending 45 minutes or so defending minor grammatical corrections to a student (which did not even cost them any marks) that I finally let loose and barked: "Look, if you want a better mark then write me a better essay." Half of the line-up disappeared. Rumour has it that future employers won’t tolerate petty excuses either, and I propose that none of us accept them from our leaders.
Lincoln’s Civil War started off as the War for Asymmetrical Federalism (whatever the hell that means). But with human losses exceeding half a million, Lincoln’s justifications began to fall apart, and it was only after the fact, that is after the war, that he was able to turn the war into a powerful struggle for human rights.
Bush now finds himself in a similar pickle. Before the war the American public and the world were assured that, without a doubt, Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. The Secretary of Defense even went so far as to say that they knew where the WMD were! Now, after months of continuous fearmongering, years of endless inspections, invasion, capture, and a thorough scouring of the country, nothing seems to be panning out. Even the “mobile-labs” that Bush referred to time and again as “weapons of mass destruction” turned out to be weather balloon platforms.
Thus far, however, Dubya has managed to evade direct fire by clouding the matter with morality. The picture that is being painted for us now is one in which the war attains justification on humanitarian grounds–the freedom of the oppressed Iraqi people–as opposed to being a matter of national (and international) security.
Some people are insisting that if Bush had been upfront about these humanitarian goals from the beginning that he still would have had their support. It is not too late, some also say, to give this war proper justification. I, for one, think that it is a bit late for that. War is a serious matter and if you’re going to send your sons and daughters to fight and die for a cause then you bloody well give them the right reasons.
Before the invasion a Whitehouse spokesperson stated on national television that “there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical,” which the Secretary of Defense backed up saying: “We know where they are, they are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.” “Show me the money” has been the resounding response. To abandon the justifying (or damning as the case may be) force of the presence of WMD to pursue the moral high ground, as Lincoln did, may give this second war in Iraq a higher cause, but it is also to admit that the evidence submitted as grounds for war was questionable at best, and perhaps insufficient to warrant invasion.
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Friday, June 13, 2003

"Tit-for-Tat"

Well, if my delivered newspaper is casting things in an accurate light (and I hold many reservations about this) then it certainly looks like Bush's precious roadmap is going to Hamas in a hand basket. Or, at least Hamas is who we are incited to blame anyways. Surprisingly, I've encountered a number of blurbs from people complaining that the news is committing a grave error by casting the acts perpetrated by militant Palestinians and the ever-retaliating Israeli military in equal light. That is to say, some people are really pissed that big-media is not lambasting Palestinians and lauding Israeli efforts to cope with the terrorism. Take, for example, Lileks most recent bleat on the matter. At one part he says:

"The top-of-the-hour radio news played today's news just as you’d expect - everything shoved through the tit-for-tat template. Israel attempts to take out a terror leader; Hamas “responds” with a bombing. As if they’re equal. As if targeting the car that ferries around some murderous SOB is the same as sending a blissed-out teenager to blow nails and screws through the flesh of afternoon commuters so he can bury himself in the heaving bosom of the heavenly whorehouse. Cycle of violence, don't you know."

I like Lileks writing style. It's controvercial. . .get's your feathers in a ruffle. But the fact that he is American and expressing these thoughts explains a lot. Terror is a sensitive issue for our southerly neighbours at the moment, but it wasn't always this way.
That said, the horror of killing 16 innocent people in coldblood is unspeakable. I don't understand it, I never will understand it. Nor do I understand the cycle of violence that is being reinforced by these attacks. I think it is impossible to decode, entrenched as it is, and we do not have the luxury of assigning blame to whomever cast the first stone. The violence is unequally balanced, that is true. But that is true of all conflict.
The fact of the matter is that right now Palestinians are living in what basically amount to concentration camps. They were evicted from their homes and are constantly humiliated and kept in abject poverty by checkpoints which routinely prevent them from getting to work. Additionally, despite living in these camps for decades now, they have had neither the funds nor the equipment to set up proper sewage systems and so rivers of excrement flow endlessly through the make-shift troughs running between their homes. On top of that many Palestinian towns have access to water only 2 days a week because the new Israeli settlements have commandeered their water towers and installed military posts around them. How sick is it that Palestinian mothers must watch their newborn children die from dehydration while the children in these settlements are cooling themselves off in swimming pools?
Yes, the violence is unequal. Hamas are bloodthirsty murderers. But you must not harbour the illusion that this conflict is perpetrated by the Palestinians alone. If indeed there were no Palestinian resistance, peace would not be the happy result. More likely Israel would push deeper into what is left of Palestinian territory, establishing new settlements closer and closer to the Mediterranean coast that they covet so dearly. The bottom line is to make life so miserable for the Palestinians that anyone who wants a normal life will eventually leave. This is a form of terrorism that does not expose itself by blasting its way through the flesh of innocent bystanders, but creeps along so slowly and so deeply in the lives of its victims that it escapes public attention.
My point here is not to justify the violence--it's disgusting and I wish it would all stop. Rather, my point is that coverage of the conflict between Israel and Palestine rarely conforms to a tit-for-tat framework. If you're bored and looking for something to do, try finding an article in the Western establishment media which depicts Israel as aggressor.
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Thursday, June 12, 2003

Here is the latest of my rejected attempts at journalism . . . (it is a response to yet another writer who, tired of the endless debate about the lack of justification for Bush's war, thinks that we should brush it all aside, thank Bush et al for doing such a wonderful job, and move on with our lives). I would have provided a link had the newspaper archived the article on their website. Alas, we are not so lucky.

"Apologies required"

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair are ‘under fire’ for failing to provide proof that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) existed in Iraq. And critical opponents of the war certainly are eager to point this out. But the call for (parliamentary) investigation is not a malicious retaliation for some personal offense caused by coalition forces winning a war which did not have their approval. The deeper issue is trust. And opponents of the war are not the only ones demanding proof; not everyone who supported the war feels that the matter is closed just because the allies won.
More grave are the legal implications which could, depending on the severity of the conclusions drawn by investigators, induce a series of resignations and possibly even serve as grounds for an impeachment. These are serious concerns which cannot be brushed aside simply because Bush and Blair, in their pursuit of the ‘greater good’, showed ‘political courage when lesser men held back. The demand for proper justification of the evidence supplied by coalition intelligence agencies must be honoured. And, if that’s not possible, it must be decided whether the real intention was to deceive in order to curry support, or if there was a critical breakdown in intelligence gathering. Still, many defendants of the war are trying a different tack.
Proponents of the war typically draw our attention to the fact that Saddam was a nasty man (as is the case in your June 7th editorial “No apologies required”). We are reminded that he carried out inexplicable atrocities against the Kurdish people, ‘disappeared’ those who opposed the Baath party, and hoarded profits that his citizens desperately needed to survive. So far, we are all in agreement. But according to international law, this does not, by itself, justify an invasion. The mandate of the UN specifically prohibits uninvited intervention in a country’s domestic affairs.
Stronger is the argument that Iraq was already guilty under UN Security Council resolution 1441 which demanded documented proof of their disarmament. The onus was therefore on Iraq (not the U.S.) to exonerate themselves, and Hussein’s non-compliance in this regard was taken by coalition forces to suggest the concealment of WMD. Bolstered perhaps by Hussein’s stubbornly defiant behaviour, Hans Blix’s team sustained reports of a suspected 10 000 or so litres of anthrax right up to the moments preceding actual invasion. But the UN’s promise to send troops in resolution 1441 was based on Hussein and his WMD posing an immanent threat to the U.S. and other countries and the shortage of evidence backing these claims vitiated UN conviction. Not even Kuwait or Iran felt Iraq to be an immanent threat.
And lest we forget, international law actually prohibits regime change (unless, of course, the government in question is guilty of aggression outside of its borders). No country or coalition may depose a government simply because they don’t like the leader. The reason for this is obvious: there is an implicit danger that a superpower (like the US) might get it in mind to change any and all regimes that do not share the same political ideology. Little chance that might happen, but . . . didn’t someone say something about Syria? It is also interesting to note here that the willful coercion or oppression by political and or military means to enforce a regime change falls under the U.S.’s own definition of terrorism, but take that as an aside.
Invariably, the next argument tries to make the point that the UN is a defunct organization (like its predecessor the League of Nations) and that if any order is to be maintained at an international level you need someone who is willing to act. OK, so let me get this straight. The U.S. was justified in disregarding the UN and going to war because, well, Iraq was disregarding the UN? If the point of attacking Iraq was that they failed to adhere to UN resolutions then it only seems fair that we should all be obedient. In fact, given the U.S.’s derision of the UN, it is hard to see the sense in pursuing justification from an organization that you blatantly disregard.
One could go on and on about the mysterious evidence that supposedly tied Saddam to various terrorist networks like al Queda. And it could be endlessly debated whether the Iraqi threat was in fact immanent, or whether there was any threat at all. But the point in “No apologies required” was, if I may, that we should all stop quibbling about whether or not the war was justified, or whether Bush and Blair were abusing intelligence, and just thank them for doing a good job (getting rid of Hussein).
As the matter stands, I suspect that no one, either for or against the war, would say that the deposition of a murderous tyrant is a bad thing. But the ends do not always justify the means, and if it is true that the British Prime Minister or the U.S. President have either falsified or exaggerated evidence to curry support for the invasion, then we have to seriously consider the credibility of these institutions, not pat them on the back. After all, aren’t trust and truth integral to the functioning of our democracy? But don’t be disheartened. They have found a couple of trucks.
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