Friday, November 03, 2006

Tomgram: Nick Turse on the Bush Planetary Lock Up

The evil nature of our enemies has, it turns out, certain advantages -- at least when secret imprisonment and torture are at stake. The Bush administration has proved adamantly unwilling to talk to, or deal with, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, except when it came to parking terror suspects we wanted tortured on his lot. In fact, the Syrians proved so handy and so eager to be good allies in the shadow world of global incarceration that U.S. officials turned over at least 7 of their prisoners to Syrian ministrations, according to a recent piece in the British Guardian.

There was nothing unique about administration reliance on the Syrians for this. From Uzbekistan to Egypt, autocratic regimes willing to torture have been destinations for CIA secret prisoner "rendering" operations. Following kidnappings or captures elsewhere on Earth, the Agency has sent planes hopscotching -- sometimes thousands of miles -- across the globe to our jailors of choice. Though the aircraft used were posh indeed, such assignments proved so rigorous for CIA handlers that they evidently regularly repaired to five-star hotels in Italy, on the Spanish island of Majorca, and possibly elsewhere for a little of the recuperative good life. In places like the Marriott Son Antem, a golfing resort in the Majorcan city of Palma, they could "journey to deep inner peace" (as the hotel spa advertised) at American taxpayer expense, even while on "extraordinary rendition" trips.

In fact, when it comes to what Nick Turse calls the Bush administration's "prison planet," little bits of news about further horrors seep out almost daily. Just in the last week, for instance, thanks to the Israeli paper Haaretz, we learned for the first time that at least some CIA rendition flights stopped at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on their way to and from Cyprus, Jordan, Morocco, and other spots east and west, north and south -- and that the first case "of the United States handing Israel a world jihadi suspect" in a rendition operation has been confirmed.

At the same time, if you happened to be checking the South African press, you might have noticed a report that, a year ago, 10 unidentified men in several "luxury vehicles" -- luxury being a good sign that the CIA is probably involved -- pulled up in front of a home in the medium-sized town of Estcourt, ransacked it at gunpoint, shooed away the police, and then hooded and dragged off two Muslim men, one of whom was later released (thanks to the intercession of a South African lawyer). The other, Rashid Khalid, a Pakistani national, is suspected of being somewhere in the system of American secret global detention centers, but his fate remains a mystery twelve months later.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the International Red Cross, it was reported, had "its first opportunity in more than 20 months" to see hundreds of former Abu Ghraib prisoners now rehoused in a state-of-the-art multimillion dollar prison, Camp Cropper, that the Bush administration has built, almost without notice, near Baghdad International Airport. Finally (but not exhaustively), back in our growing homeland security state, "in a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law." The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007, according to Frank Morales, "allows the President to declare a ‘public emergency' and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to ‘suppress public disorder.'"

And that's just a modest grab bag of recent Bush administration global incarceration news, another humdrum week on what's increasingly coming to look like an American prison planet. These bits and pieces of information seeping out are undoubtedly merely suggestive of what we don't yet know. Now, let Nick Turse, in his usual vivid, well researched fashion, make a little sense of all this for you. Tom

American Prison Planet

The Bush Administration as Global Jailor
By Nick Turse

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Important events at McMaster University on Nov. 3rd!

McMaster First Nation Student Association presents:

Seven Fires Prophecy

Guest Speaker: Walter Cooke

Date: Friday Nov. 3 2006

Time: 2:30pm - 4pm

Location: MUSC Rm 311/313

Cassandra Pohl
Indigenous Studies
Ext. 27426
Grassy Narrows Blockaders Speak
Respect Native Rights; Protect Ancient Forests


Judy Da Silva and Roberta Keesick, two Indigenous leaders of the Grassy Narrows logging blockade will speak about their fight to protect their culture, their forests, and their Indigenous people's right to self-determination on their traditional territory.


November 3rd, 2006. 7 p.m.


McMaster University
Ewart Angus Centre 1A6
Pay what you can. We suggest a donation of $5-$10 to support Grassy Narrows.


2,500 square miles of forests, lakes and rivers north of Kenora, Ontario have sustained the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation for thousands of years. Now Weyerhaeuser, and Abitibi, with the consent of the McGunity government are driving a wave of destructive logging that
threatens to uproot their traditional way of life.

On December 2nd, 2002 the indigenous youth of the Grassy Narrows First Nation lay down in the path of industrial logging machines, blocking access to their traditional homeland. Their action sparked the longest standing indigenous logging blockade in Canadian history.

But, almost 4 years later, logging is still taking place on remote sections of Grassy Narrows' land. Weyerhaeuser, Abitibi, and the Ontario Government refuse to stop the logging, and respect the community's right to manage their territrory as they see fit.

Endorsed by: Christian Peacemaker Teams, ForestEthics, Rainforest Action Network, Journalists for Human Rights Ryerson

For more information check out:

Contact: 289-439-3230
Cassandra Pohl
Indigenous Studies
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1
P: 905 525 9140 ext 27426
F: 905 540 8443

Tomgram: De la Vega on One Soldier against the Empire

It's hard even to remember anymore the true state of the U.S. military as the Vietnam War ground toward its bloody end. By the late 1960s, the statistics flowing back to Washington about the American war machine were enough to give any general nightmares. Drug-taking was rampant. (By 1971, up to 60% of returning soldiers admitted to some use.) Desertions stood at seventy per thousand, a modern high; small-scale mutinies or "combat refusals" were at critical levels; incidents of racial conflict had soared; and strife between officers ("lifers") and soldiers ("grunts") was at unprecedented levels; reported "fraggings" -- assassination attempts -- against unpopular officers or NCOs had risen from an already startling 126 in 1969 to 333 in 1971, despite declining troop strength in Vietnam. According to military count, as many as 144 underground newspapers were then being published by, or aimed at, soldiers. ("In Vietnam," the Ft. Lewis-McChord Free Press typically w! rote, "the Lifers, the Brass, are the true Enemy, not the enemy.") And the country was experiencing the largest political exodus of potential soldiers, AWOLs, and deserters since large numbers of Tories left the country two hundred years earlier, after the American Revolution.

In 1971, Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. reviewed the evidence for Armed Forces Journal in an article entitled "The Collapse of the Armed Forces," and concluded: "[T]he foregoing facts point to widespread conditions among American forces in Vietnam that have only been exceeded in this century by the French Army's Nivelle mutinies of 1917 and the collapse of he Tsarist armies [of Russia] in 1916 and 1917." Hardly less threatening to military cohesion at the time, active-duty soldiers in relatively small numbers as well as significant numbers of Vietnam veterans were by then beginning to organize against the war.

If you want part of the explanation for why the Vietnam War ended and all of the explanation for why the draft that once did result in a genuine citizen's army was abandoned for an all-volunteer military, look no further than this traumatic set of events. And it's been true that, whatever the problems -- and they've been multifold -- staffing an overstretched volunteer military to fight two increasingly unpopular wars without end in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam-style unrest in the military has been slower to grow. But there's nothing like a losing war in an alien land among an increasingly hostile populace to throw one's worst acts into strong relief. So, despite the obstacles, small but growing numbers of American soldiers -- like Lieut. Ehren Watada, "the Army's first commissioned officer to publicly refu! se orders to fight in Iraq on grounds that the war is illegal" -- have stepped forward to challenge the Bush administration, its war-making, and the military. Their often lonely acts of resistance reflect an extra degree of courage in comparison with the Vietnam era -- and where it's been difficult for them military families as well as parents of the American dead in Iraq like Cindy Sheehan have heroically stepped into the void.

Former federal prosecutor, Elizabeth de la Vega, whose new book U.S. v. George W. Bush et al. will be published this December (and highlighted at this site), considers one of these new military resisters in her own unique way. If you want to look for "profiles in courage" in the age of Bush and Cheney, this is certainly a good place to start. Tom

Move Over G.I. Joe and Han Solo

Sgt. Ricky Clousing, Peace Action Hero
By Elizabeth de la Vega

I look forward to the day when Mattel makes a Sgt. Ricky Clousing action figure.

As the mother of sons born eight years apart, I spent nearly half my adult life surrounded by -- and stepping on -- action figures. They were everywhere: a phalanx of tiny knights in shining armor on the windowsill; Batman and Robin frozen in an ice tray; and GI Joe guys in camouflage among the hosta. One Christmas, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo even ended up in the manger scene along with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, two cows, three sheep, and several Ewoks. My kids spent hours and hours in a fantasy world populated by villains and heroes of every description except one; there were no peace heroes.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In Afghan Fields the Poppies Blow...

In Afghan fields the poppies blow

A line to remember on N11, with a whole new meaning. We should remember that poppy growing has skyrocketed since 2001, and that the Taliban had made great strides in eradicating heroin production. This may be too macabre for anyone to finish... DR

In Afghan fields the poppies blow
Between the ...

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

I N FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Al-Qaeda Wants Republicans to Win

Despite George W. Bush's assertion that a Democratic victory on Nov. 7 would mean that "the terrorists win and America loses," the evidence actually points to a conclusion that a Republican victory would much better serve al-Qaeda's interests.

As U.S. intelligence agencies know, Osama bin Laden has long understood that Bush's blunderbuss "war on terror" is al-Qaeda's best ally in spreading violent extremism throughout the Muslim world.

For the full story of how Bush and bin Laden have become symbiotic partners in a rush toward international chaos, go to

Oaxaca State of Siege - Images

MNN has been following events of our Indigenous brothers and sisters in Oaxaca. Here are some photos of yesterday's incursion by Mexican armed forces. MNN

It seems that the Mexican government finally unleashed its repressive military machinery against the people of Oaxaca. Your solidarity is more important than ever!

imagenes del inicio de la represion

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Emergency Picket in front of Consulate of Mexico in Toronto!!!

!!Emergency Picket in front of Consulate of Mexico in Toronto!!!
Solidarity with the people of Oaxaca in resistance
Friday November 3rd
12:00pm -2pm
199 Bay Street, suite 4440
This email includes :
- latest information available
- Spanish model letter to distribute and send off
- Various contacts to send letter
The Toll of Friday the 27th: Three People Assassinated, Eleven Wounded, Two
Missing The APPO Installs 1,000 Barricades in Broad Daylight; PRI Militants
and Police Respond with 21 Armed Attacks
By Diego Enrique Osorno
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
October 28, 2006
OAXACA CITY: In the face of a renewed civil strike established in this
capital city yesterday by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca
(APPO), groups of gunmen linked to three municipal mayors from the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) launched a “cleansing” of the
barricades and building occupations that opponents of PRI Governor Ulises
Ruiz Ortiz have been maintaining for months.
The result: three people killed, eleven wounded, two disappeared, one
detained by the Ministerial Police and hundreds of shell casings left
scattered along the streets as a testimony to the 21 shootouts that occurred
yesterday in the city.
This capital city has already been under a sort of siege for 154 days, but
since 6:00 yesterday morning the city was now truly besieged, just as the
APPO leadership collective had warned would happen as part of their attempts
to win the ouster of the PRI governor.
And so around 1,000 barricades were installed in broad daylight throughout
the city, as part of the dissident strategy seeking to demonstrate that
“ungovernability” is a fact in the southern state.
Just before 10 a.m., the first of the twenty-one armed attacks on the
rebels’ self-defense fortifications (and more were coming out as this
article went to press) was reported.
There were four main points attacked almost simultaneously at 4:00 in the
afternoon: one was San Juan Chapultepec, another was Colonia del Maestro,
the third the around the State Prosecutors’ office, occupied more than three
months ago by the dissidents, and finally, the barricade on Calicanto
Street, in the nearby city of Santa Lucia del Camino.
It would be in this last site where the most violent confrontation of the
afternoon would take place, when a group of PRI militants showed up to tear
down the barricades together with officers of the Santa Lucia del Camino
municipal police, who carried R-15 rifles.
Repelling the attack with sticks and rocks, the APPO neighborhood group sent
out an alert to the rest of the neighborhood residents, who started to
arrive. Journalists did the same, and did not stop their coverage of the
shooting, which continued for more than an hour.
During one incursion by protesters trying to set fire to one of the houses
that the neighbors were being attacked from, U.S. documentary filmmaker Brad
Will was mortally wounded in the pit of his stomach.
In the municipality of Santa Maria Coyotepec, two hours later, another group
of “neighborhood residents,” also armed with high-powered firearms, arrived
at the area surrounding the state capital building and police facilities to
“remove” a hundred teachers who had been camped out in the occupied state
buildings for three months.
Two other people died from gunshots: a teacher, Emilio Alonso Fabián, from
the Los Loxicha region; and a neighborhood resident named Esteban López
Zurita. Upon hearing of the violent events, National Peasant-Farmer
Federation (CNC in its Spanish initials, a PRI organization) leader Elpidio
Concha denied he had been present but admitted to having spoken with Santa
Lucía del Camino residents about the necessity of defending and rescuing the
He claimed that among the people who intervened, “there had been PAN
militants as well as PRI, as well as common citizens,” and stated his desire
that after this event “federal forces come in at last and restore peace.”
Meanwhile, the mayor of Santa Lucia del Camino, Jaime Martínez Feria,
acknowledged that the armed men in civilian clothes were “police acting in
legitimate defense against the threat of an occupation of City Hall.”
For its part, the state government criticized the fact that, “a few days
away from the agreed upon return to classes by the teachers’ union, members
of radical APPO groups led by Flavio Sosa Villavicencio would unleash a day
of violence and provocation against residents of the capital and neighboring
communities with the clear goal of blocking the changing course of the
conflict with these organizations.”
Toronto, 28 de octubre 2006
Gobernador del Estado de Oaxaca,
Ulises Ruiz Ortiz:
Tel. (951) 5470116 y 5690241;
Señor gobernador,
Por la presente queremos hacerle parte de nuestras inquietudes frente a La
crítica situación que los ciudadanos de Oaxaca enfrentan y solicitar Que
Usted y su Despacho tomen las medidas necesarias para poner termino a esta
situación. Queremos decirle que nuestros ojos ven lo que esta pasando y que
nuestro corazón esta con el pueblo en lucha.
Por eso tenemos el gobierno mexicano, tan al nivel federal, estatal y
municipal responsable de los hechos que ocurrieron en el día 27 de octubre
en la ciudad de Oaxaca y creemos que tienen la responsabilidad de proteger a
sus ciudadanos.
Denunciamos que en el día del 27 de octubre 2006:
-Al menos tres personas murieron de los disparos, incluyen a Will Bradley
Roland un periodista de Indymedia estadounidense
- Mas de treinta heridos, incluyendo los compañeros siguientes; Francisco
Ángeles de 25 años, hijo de un maestro de Cuicatlan. Martín Olivera Ortíz,
que fue herido en la pierna. Guillermo García de Zaachila, herido en la
espalda. Enedino Cruz Sánchez de 25 años de edad que recibió disparo en la
- Unas diez personas están detenidas.
- Un número indeterminado de personas están desaparecidas.
- La casa del Consejo Indígena Popular de Oaxaca-Ricardo Flores Magon en
Santa-Lucia del Camino esta rodeada por hombres armados, amenazando a sus
- grupos al sueldo de las autoridades están disparando a la población civil
en las calle y ustedes dejan esa situación crecer dando su apoyo implícita
para justificar la intervención de las fuerzas policíaca en la ciudad y
para impedir las actividades de la gente y de las organizaciones que
denuncian sus políticas anti-democráticas.
Por estas razones exigimos:
- La renuncia inmediata de Ulises Ruiz.
- La liberación de los presos políticos.
- El regreso inmediato de los desaparecidos
- Procesos penales contra los responsables de esos hechos.
- Que las autoridades mexicanas regresan a dialogar con la APPO para
encontrar una solución pacifica al conflicto.
- El fin inmediato de las agresiones en contra de la población Oaxaqueña.
Por obtener esas exigencias vamos a :
- Hacer campana par informar de la verdad implicación del gobierno mexicano
en la represión, los asesinatos, los heridos, las encarcelaciones ilegales y
los afrontamientos que hubieron en contra la población civil oaxaqueña.
- Hacer campana para informar a tod@s de los verdaderos intereses que
tiene su gobernó a desinformar los medios internacionales dentro de esa
- Hacer campana en contra del turismo en México.
- Llevar en corte penal a gente responsable cuando viajaran a nuestros
Agradecemos ser informados por escrito de las actuaciones que Usted emprenda
frente a estas solicitudes.
Ciudadano-a canadiense
Lic. Vicente Fox Quesada
Presidente de los Estados Unidos de México
Residencia Oficial de “Los Pinos”, Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, México, D.
F. Fax: (01152) 55-52-77-23-76 e-mail:
Lic. Carlos Abascal Carranza
Secretario de Gobernación, Secretaria de Gobernación
Bucareli 99, 1er. piso, Col. Juárez, Delegación Cuauhtemoc, México D. F., C.
P.06600, MÉXICO
Fax: (01152) 55-50-93-34-14 E-mail:
Lic. Daniel Cabeza de Vaca
Procurador General de la Republica, Procuraduría General de la Republica
Reforma Cuauhtemoc esq. Violeta 75, Col. Guerrero, Delegación Cuauhtemoc
México D.F., C.P. 06 500, MEXICO
Fax: (01152) 55-53-46-09-08 E-mail:
FAX: (01155) 56-81-71-99
Jaime Mario Pérez Jiménez, Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca, Tel. (01152) 951-104-4306 o envie un mensaje
al:(01152) 951-51-2-90-20 clave 956, Fax: (01152)(951) 51-3-51-85, (01152)
951-51-3-51-91, (01152) 951-51-3-51-97,
Marcar copia al Consejo Indígena Popular de Oaxaca “Ricardo Flores Magón”:
Calle Emilio Carranza # 210, Santa Lucia del Camino, Oaxaca, México.
Red Oaxaqueña de Derechos Humanos: E-mail: Calle
Crespo 524 Interior 4-E, Col. Centro, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, CP. 68000, MÉXICO
General Cnsulate of Mexico in Toronto
Commerce Court West
199 Bay Street, suite 4440
Toronto, Ontario, M5L 1E9
Tel: (416) 368-2875
Fax: (416) 368-8342
Trade Commission of Mexico
1 Dundas St. West Suite 2110
P.O.Box 11
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1Z3
Tel: (416) 867-92-92
Fax: (416) 867-18-47

Monday, October 30, 2006

Tomgram: Ann Jones on Bush's Poppy Wars in Afghanistan

While the Iraqi catastrophe -- and whether we are about to be at a post-midterm election "tipping point" in that country -- preoccupies Americans, an older Bush administration Afghan "success" story has sprung enough holes to sink the Titanic and looks to be taking on water fast. The President has long claimed that Iraq is the "central front in the war against terrorism." Looking at Afghanistan, however, it's increasingly clear that Bush's Iraqi adventure is the literal motor for terrorism that the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate suggested it was. ("The Iraq conflict has become the ‘cause célèbre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world, and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.")

Iraq is proving the central training ground and testing field for the renewed Afghan rebellion. The Taliban, this summer and fall, returned to the battle in Afghanistan in force (with plans to continue their offensive well into that country's bitter winter) -- and with some techniques clearly imported from Iraq. So, the use of sophisticated IED or roadside explosive devices and of suicide bombers, as well as targeted assassinations of government officials, have been on the rise -- all techniques pulled directly off the Iraqi battlegrounds; while foreign jihadis are now, according to Sebastian Rotella of the Los Angeles Times, choosing Afghanistan over Iraq as the prime place to make a stand (as it was during the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s).

Meanwhile, NATO and U.S. forces in that country find themselves engaged in the kind of warfare that results, as in Iraq, in high body counts but also generates lots of enemies in the long run, fuelling the Taliban's war. (As one British officer put it, "For every Taliban you kill, you recruit three or four more.") From simple cultural ignorance to the slaughter of civilians from the air and even the desecration of the dead, not to mention the imprisonment of the living, western forces are acting in ways that can't help but bring events in Iraq to mind. NATO (and American) casualties have been on the rise; troops have been locked down and increasingly isolated in some Afghan cities for fear of suicide bombers; while unease, not to say disgruntlement, is growing among commanders who, as with Iraq, are starting to go public. Just this weekend, Prime Minister Tony Blair's most trusted military commander and confidant, General the Lord Guthrie "branded as 'cuckoo' the way Britain's overstretched army was sent into Afghanistan."

And then there are the drugs. Afghanistan is now the globe's prime narco-state. Ann Jones, whose vivid memoir, Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan, is riveting reading, plunges into the Alice-in-Wonderland world of drug-eradication efforts in that land and shows why our Afghan programs are headed for the nearest cliff. Tom

What Are They Smoking?

The Bush War on Afghan Drugs
By Ann Jones

On the fifth anniversary of the start of the Bush administration's Afghan War, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld wrote an upbeat op-ed in the Washington Post on that hapless country's "hopeful and promising" trajectory. He cited only two items as less than "encouraging": "the legitimate worry that increased poppy production could be a destabilizing factor" and the "rising violence in southern Afghanistan."

That rising violence -- a full scale onslaught by the resurgent Taliban -- put Afghanistan back in the headlines this summer and brought consternation to NATO governments (from Canada to Australia) whose soldiers are now dying in a land they had been led to believe was a peaceful "success story." Lt. General David Richards, the British commander of NATO troops that took over security in embattled southern Afghanistan from the U.S. in July, warned at the time, "We could actually fail here." In October, he argued that if NATO did not bring security and significant reconstruction to the alienated Pashtun south within six months -- the mission the U.S. failed to accomplish during the past five years -- the majority of the populace might well switch sympathies to the Taliban.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tomgram: Truths of a Lost War

[Note to Tomdispatch readers: This is part 2 of a dispatch on the Bush administration and Iraq. Part 1 was Losing the Home Front. One of the sections below is devoted to Riverbend, the pseudonymous "girl blogger" of Baghdad. For it, I read the collection of her blog entries that the Feminist Press at CUNY published in 2005, Baghdad Burning, Girl Blog from Iraq, and then the newest volume, Baghdad Burning II, More Girl Blog from Iraq, just now being published. These represent an unparalleled record of the American war on, and occupation of, Iraq (and Riverbend writes like an angel). The two volumes are simply the best contemporary account we are likely to have any time soon of the hell into which we've plunged that country. I can't recommend them too highly. Tom]

Fiasco Then, Fiasco Now

Why Baghdad Will Keep Burning
By Tom Engelhardt

Are we now officially out of our minds? On Tuesday, General George W. Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and Zalmay Khalilzad, our ambassador to Iraq, gave a joint press conference in Baghdad that was all for home consumption. By home, I mean Washington DC. I mean Indiana. I mean Texas. Baghdad's Green Zone was essentially a stage set for a political defense of the Bush presidency.

If the news hadn't been quite so grim, this tandem's act might have qualified as an Abbott and Costello comedy routine, including the moment when the lights went out -- while "gunfire and bomb blasts echoed around the city" -- thanks to our inability to resuscitate Iraqi electricity production. In fact, the New York Times just reported that, on some projects, more than 50% of U.S. reconstruction dollars are being spent on "overhead" as, for months at a time, whole reconstruction teams sit idly with the meter going waiting to begin work.

Some Democratic critics had been calling on the Bush administration for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. Well, a timetable they got (though Ambassador Khalilzad preferred to call it a "timeline"). The catch was: The hopeless, essentially powerless Iraqi "government" inside Baghdad's Green Zone was to deliver that timeline as a pre-election present to a disgruntled American public. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki himself would produce it with genuine "benchmarks" for upping oil production and splitting oil revenues, for disarming and dismantling Shiite militias and police death squads, and for negotiating with Sunni rebels.

Not only that, Maliki would have his "plan" in place (perhaps for the Iraqis to withdraw from their own country) "before the end of the year" -- and this was just one of a welter of mini-schedules offered by the ambassador and general that would shove Iraqi matters at least beyond November 7th, if not into the relatively distant future. The ambassador, for instance, assured Americans that all those benchmarks would be met and "significant progress" achieved "in the course of the next twelve months" -- the slight catch being: "assuming that the Iraqi leaders deliver on the commitments that they have made."

General Casey chimed in with his own timeline: "And it's going to take another 12 to 18 months or so until I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security." ("Still probably with some level of support from us.") Probably? These are the same forces some of whose battalions "demobilized" rather than accept transfer assignments to work with Americans in the dangerous streets of distant Baghdad. These are battalions that can have 30-50% of their troops either on leave, AWOL, or perhaps as ghost soldiers for whom commanders receive pay?

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

Tomgram: Playing the Numbers Game with Death in Iraq

[Note for Tomdispatch readers: In my recent post, George Bush's War of the Words, while highlighting the virtues of the new Tomdispatch book Mission Unaccomplished, Tomdispatch Interviews with American Iconoclasts and Dissenters, I wrote about what the Bush administration had done to our language. Now, in this first of a two-parter on our Iraq disaster, I consider how imagery became part of the President's war to pacify the home front. Let me take this opportunity again to urge all readers who, in the winter evenings to come, would like a little splendid company and freewheeling conversation with eleven of our more provocative thinkers to pick up a copy of the new book and, if you're in the mood to give this site a special vote of confidence, perhaps an extra copy or two as prospective presents for the holiday season. Tom! ]

Losing the Home Front (Part 1)

The Bush Administration's War of the Images
By Tom Engelhardt

Recently, speaking of his war in Iraq, George Bush put the Vietnam analogy back in the public eye. He was asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos if New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was on the mark in suggesting that what "we might be seeing now is the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet Offensive."

The President's reply: "Mm-hmm. He could be right. There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence. And we're heading into an election."

The nationwide Tet Offensive has, of course, long been seen as the turning point in the Vietnam War, the moment when the American political establishment lost both the media and the American public in its Vietnam venture. That's what the President is certainly alluding to, though the present chaos in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq hardly qualifies as a "Tet Offensive" and, as the polls indicate, the American public had already been lost to his war.

Nonetheless, for Bush, who (like the rest of his administration) had previously avoided Vietnam-analogy admissions like the plague, it was certainly a sign that he feared the loss of the war he had fought most fiercely since September 12, 2001 -- the war to pacify the American public and the media. No administration in memory has devoted more time to thinking out and polishing its language, its signature phrases and images, in the pursuit of that war; so, for instance, the announcement that the President is now "cutting and running" from his own signature phrase "stay the course" -- one-half of the linguistic duo (the other being, of course, "cut and run") on which he and Karl Rove had clearly planned drive the Democrats into retreat in the midterm election period -- is no small matter. (White House Press Spokesman Tony Snow: "[Stay the course] left the wrong impression about what was going on. And it allowed critics to say, well, here's an administration that's just embarked upon a policy and not looking at what the situation is, when, in fact, it's just the opposite.")

If this is, in any sense, a turning-point moment, then it's important to take another look at aspects of the war on the home front that this administration has fought so relentlessly these last years and is now losing -- the first being its image wars in regard to Iraq and the second, the numbers games it's played when it came to deaths in that country.

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Tomgram: Bill McKibben on Our Planetary Fate

The pronghorn antelope, "the prairie ghost," is capable of running at up to sixty miles an hour, twice as fast as any predator in its environment. That extra mileage might seem odd until you realize that, before the last great mammalian megafaunal die-out in North America, some 13,000 to 16,000 years ago, there were evidently creatures (perhaps lions or wolves) which could power along at something close to such speeds. So all those thousands of years, encompassing significant parts of our prehistory and the totality of recorded history from the first days of Ur to the latest disasters in Iraq, and the pronghorn still outraces its ghostly companion. So much time, in human terms, and it still hasn't "registered" its loss; so much time and that niche in our environment remains empty.

It's an evolutionary blink of the eye for the antelope (and its ghost partner). It's not even an evolutionary blink for planet Earth. For us, it's everything. If we wreck our planet, we can't wait another 13,000-16,000 years, no less the millions of years normally involved, to forge a new, well-stocked Earth. For us, when it comes to our environment now is forever.

So, it continually surprises me that this supposedly can-do country, transformed recently into a "homeland" focused on "security," can't lift a finger to do a thing about the environmental degradation going on all around us. The title of Bob Woodward's new bestseller, State of Denial, might have been far better applied to the Bush administration's reaction to our melting planet, or to their complete lack of interest in getting us ready for our "wild" weather ride to come. The odd thing is that, even for those not ready to take global warming or climate change (or whatever name you care to give it) for the staggering danger it is, betting on preparations for it should still be a no-brainer, if not the only sure-fire wager in town. The worst that happens, after all, is that you've put real money into energy conservation and the development of alternative energy sources -- and so into future ! energy independence, the very thing this energy-drunk country obviously needs and, if we are to believe the polls, most American want. Imagine where we'd be now, if we hadn't laughed Jimmy Carter out of the room in 1979 when he suggested investing in a big way in alternative energy R&D. Instead, as Bill McKibben notes below, we've largely ceded the development of wind power -- in fact, the lead in all sorts of alternate energy paths -- to other countries. Haven't we learned anything from the disastrous take-the-money-and-run SUV strategies of GM and Ford in recent years?

Bill McKibben has made something of a career of being ahead of the learning curve in this country on a variety of issues. He's energetic and he's a resource for us all. Thanks to the kindness of the editors of the New York Review of Books, you can check out his latest state-of-the-planet update below. (It will appear in the November 16th issue of the magazine.) Tom

How Close to Catastrophe?

By Bill McKibben

[This piece, which appears in the November 16, 2006 issue of the New York Review of Books, is posted here with the kind permission of the editors of that magazine.]

James Lovelock is among the planet's most interesting and productive scientists. His invention of an electron capture device that was able to detect tiny amounts of chemicals enabled other scientists both to understand the dangers of DDT to the eggshells of birds and to figure out the ways in which chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were eroding the ozone layer. He's best known, though, not for a gadget but for a metaphor: the idea that the earth might usefully be considered as a single organism (for which he used the name of the Greek earth goddess Gaia) struggling to keep itself stable.

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Tomgram: Robert Dreyfuss, Heck of a Job, Maliki!

In some ways, amid the internecine bloodletting, torture, spiking American casualties, death-dealing confusion, and general mayhem, here's all you need to know about the Iraqi "government" of Nouri al-Maliki. When the Prime Minister wanted to check on whether he was going to hang onto his position, he didn't go to parliament or to the Iraqi people, he checked in with the President of the United States. What he needed, it turned out, was George Bush's vote of confidence.

Here's the exchange as White House Press spokesman Tony Snow described it:

"Q So he [Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki] is concerned about talk of a timetable for withdrawal, or any specific –

"MR. SNOW: It's not -- no, no, no, it's not a timetable for withdrawal. The way it was portrayed is, we're giving them two months, or we'll go for somebody else. This was a timetable for his government, not for withdrawal. So thank you for positing that.

"Q Tony, is this stuff that came out of the [Senator John] Warner visit or –

"MR. SNOW: No, I think it's -- the answer is I'm not entirely sure, but I believe it refers to the report that said -- that there was a rumor that there were going to be attempts to replace him if certain things didn't happen in two months. And the President said the rumors are not true; we support you.

"Q The President initiated the call?

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Tomgram: Grandin, Democrats Snatching Defeat from Victory's Jaws

Presidential approval polling figures, so ripe and upward moving in September, are as off-a-cliff-steeply in the first half of October. The likes of the polling gap between Americans likely to cast a generic Democratic and a generic Republican vote in the upcoming midterm elections hasn't been seen since 1994 -- and then in reverse, of course. The intensity gap (think: throw-the-bums-out mood) between Democrats and Republicans, when it comes to this election has a similar look to it. The Republican Party is reportedly pulling money out of races previously considered winnable and throwing money into last-stand bulw! arks in Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia (where its Senate candidate is nonetheless surprisingly embattled), while the Democrats are calling up polls and considering dropping money into races nationwide that previously were imagined as unwinnable. Republican "sure bets" in states like Florida, Ohio, and Indiana are now no such thing. You are starting to see possibly over-optimistic online election-day maps of a Democratic Senate; the respectable Rasmussen polling organization is already suggesting nearly as much; and the respected National Journal has just enlarged its House compe! titive races, only a few months ago in the 25-30 range (out of! 435 sup posedly available seats), to 60 with this tagline: "At this point at least that many are in play and, frankly, we could have gone to 75."

Like those famed sugar plums, visions of a Democratic House, and even Senate, are dancing in the heads of Party activists; while, for so many other Americans, simple hopes are rising for what the power of Congressional "oversight," the power to investigate, the power of a subpoena, might do to Bush administration dreams of endless domination. But sometimes -- even assuming all this came true -- a little dash of cold history in the face is a salutary thing. So let Greg Grandin, Latin American expert and author of the superb Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, bring back to life the last time the Democrats found themselves in such a mood. Let him take you back to a previous, scandal-ridden era when another formidable President over-reached himself with off-the-books ventures of every sort. Tom

Still Dancing to Ollie's Tune

Will the Democrats Blow It Again as They Did in 1986?
By Greg Grandin

A Republican Party on the ropes, bloodied by a mid-second-term scandal; a resurrected Democratic opposition, sure it can capitalize on public outrage to prove that it is still, in the American heart of hearts, the majority party.

But before House Democrats start divvying up committee assignments and convening special investigations, they should consider that they've been here before, and things didn't turn out exactly the way they hoped.

It was twenty years ago this November 3rd -- exactly one day after the Democrats regained control of the Senate after six years in the minority -- that the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa reported on the Reagan administration's secret, high-tech missile sale to Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, which violated an arms embargo against that country and contradicted President Ronald Reagan's personal pledge never to deal with governments that sponsored terrorism.

Democrats couldn't believe their luck. After years of banging their heads on Reagan's popularity and failing to derail his legislative agenda, they had not only taken back the Senate, but follow-up investigations soon uncovered a scandal of epic proportions, arguably the most consequential in American history, one that seemed sure to disgrace every single constituency that had fueled the upstart conservative movement. The Reagan Revolution, it appeared, had finally been thrown into reverse.

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Tomgram: Schwartz, 9 Paradoxes of a Lost War

Here's how the President described the enemy in Iraq at his press conference last week. "The violence is being caused by a combination of terrorists, elements of former regime criminals, and sectarian militias." "Elements of former regime criminals," aka "bitter-enders," aka "Saddamists." The "sectarian militias" may have been a relatively recent add-on, but this is essentially the same list, the same sort of terminology the President has been using for years.

In the last two weeks, however, rumblings of discontent, the urge for a change of course (or at least a mid-course correction) in Iraq have been persistently bubbling to the surface of already roiling Washington. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner recently returned from Iraq to rattle the Bush administration by saying that policy there was "drifting sideways" and if it didn't improve, "all options" should be on the table not long after the mid-term elections.

Suggestions are rife for dumping the President's goal of "democracy" in Iraq and swallowing a little of the hard stuff. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, for instance, reported last week (as did Middle Eastern expert Robert Dreyfuss at a week earlier) that in two desperate capitals, Washington and Baghdad, rumors about possible future Iraqi coups are spinning wildly. People of import are evidently talking about the possibility of a new five-man "ruling commission," a "government of national salvation" there that would "suspend parliament, declare martial law and call back some officers of the old Iraqi army." Even the na! me of that CIA warhorse (and anti-neocon candidate) Ayad Allawi, who couldn't get his party elected dogcatcher in the new Iraq, is coming up again in the context of the need for a "strongman."

This was, of course, the desire of the elder George Bush and his advisors back at the end of Gulf War I, when they hoped just such a Sunni strongman -- one who could work with them -- would topple a weakened Saddam Hussein. Dreams, it seems, die hard. And, as if on cue, who should appear but former Secretary of State and Bush family handler James A. Baker III, a Bush Elder kind of guy. While on the talk-show circuit for his new book, he also spent last week plugging (but not revealing) the future findings of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission he co-heads whose aim is to suggest to a reluctant President new policy possibilities in Iraq. They too are putting "all" options on the table (as long as those options involve "continuing the mission in Iraq"). The group, according to a leak to the New York Sun, has, however, ruled out t! he President's favorite option, "victory." One option it is considering, according the Sun, involves skipping "democracy," minimizing American casualties, and focusing "on stabilizing Baghdad, while the American Embassy should work toward political accommodation with insurgents."

A political accommodation with the insurgents? Curious how word gets around. Sometimes a small change in terminology speaks volumes for future mid-course corrections. The other day, Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, gave a press briefing with Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. As part of his prepared introductory remarks (not in answer to some random question), he offered this list of "groups that are working to affect [the situation in Iraq] negatively":

"The first, the Sunni extremists, al Qaeda, and the Iraqis that are supporting them. Second, the Shi'a extremists, the death squads and the more militant militias. In my view, those represent the greatest current threats in Iraq. The third group is the resistance, the Sunni insurgency that sees themselves as an honorable resistance against foreign occupation in Iraq."

"The resistance"? "An honorable resistance against foreign occupation in Iraq"? Where did those bitter-enders, those Anti-Iraq Forces go? Take it as a small signal -- noticed, as far as I could tell, by not a single reporter or pundit -- of things to come.

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