Saturday, December 30, 2006

Satan's so Old School....

As George Bush far and away bests Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim-il Jong and Satan COMBINED as America's most reviled villian, we learn he's been giving consideration of Iraq the old college try -- unfortunately, we're speaking of George Bush's idea of a college try.

But I, for one, will certainly sleep better nights knowing His Royal Heinous (rhymes with "anus") has spent the better part of a chatty brunch furrowing his simian brow over the apocalypse he's unleashed in the Middle East.

Among the other New Year's gifts he's bestowing on We the Useless Eater Class is a nifty lynchin' (fear not, America, there's a madness to the method) and a little jailtime for a certain grieving war Mom.

Thanks Bush, for nuthin'. Now please go back to playing cowboy at "home" and let us get back to repairing the damage.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Rah rah rah


If you haven't yet had the pleasure, check out NBC's Heroes, which features some of the best fantasy writing we've seen in years. And stunning supercheerleader Claire Bennet, played by (yes-we-know-she's-jailbait-but-let's-be-honest-she-smokes) up-and-coming star Hayden Panettiere certainly has us rooting for the home team.

Woof.

Great acting, directing, sets, special effects and an engaging, complex storyline. Not to be missed.

Lord knows the world needs its heroes in this day and age.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Drop Dead Hilarious

20 years ago, during Operation National Embarrassment the First, when an "aw shucks" chuckleheaded, nickle-and-dime fascist wrapped himself in the flag while committing treason (selling arms to a national enemy), I posted a giant spray-painted banner over our university communications hall which read "OLLIE FOR KING".

Apparently campus security didn't appreciate the clever irony, and within the hour, my masterpience found its way into the dustbin. Unfortunately, America wasn't lucky enough to have North's career suffer the same fate.

Two decades later, we're shown again what an arrogant, self-serving, double-dealing, callous, opportunistic, smug prick North is and will always be. This time, three men and women in uniform died in service to his monstrous ego, and didn't even warrant a mention as he used the occasion of their deaths to deliver a self-aggrandizing joke.

Joke's over, North. Now shut the fuck up and get out of the way of the people trying to save a few lives.

From Attytood:

Fox's Ollie North yuks it up from Ramadi, say things better in Iraq...and never mentions his escorts were killed by a roadside bomb



Oliver North was in a joking mood on the night of Dec. 12, when the Iran-contra scandal figure turned faux journalist for Fox News Channel appeared on FNC's highly rated "Hannity & Colmes" show. By then, the former Marine colonel had been on the ground in the insurgent-filled Iraqi city of Ramadi for roughly a week. North's reputation among his right-wing fans is based largely on the ultra-macho aura he's created for himself, and so if North had any concerns about reporting from one of the most dangerous places on the globe, he brushed them off with a joke.

North -- who now hosts a show for Fox called "War Stories with Oliver North" -- was interviewed by FNC's token moderate liberal, Alan Colmes. He said (via Nexis), watchable on Crooks and Liars:

I'm standing next to Lance Corporal Andrew Colon. Earlier today, we went with the Marines of 1-6, First Battalion, Sixth Marines, into Ramadi to look at a civil affairs project. Andrew Colon is a combat correspondent with the civil affairs group that is responsible for winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. It was interesting yesterday, because while we were out there, Iraqi troops -- some character who apparently had been trained by the French, perhaps the French Girl Scouts or by one of your friends, Alan -- took a pot shot at us. The outcome might have been different if he'd been trained to shoot by Dick Cheney, but he missed.

Heh. Of course, Cheney made the news as a bad shot, not a good one, but we hate to step on Col. North's punchline. The joke's lameness -- the obligatory swipes at French and liberals in the same fell swoop! -- didn't prevent North from repeating it later in the broadcast to like-minded co-host Sean Hannity. Anyway, all potshots aside, North's main message that night was a familiar one to Fox viewers, who turn there to get all "the good news" out of Iraq that all the other media outlets ignore.

North did not disappoint them:

There's a lot of hard, hard work being done out here to get the Iraqi police, that didn't exist when we were here the last time, to get the Iraqi army to work with them. It's a Shia-led army, a Sunni police force, and working with the U.S. military personnel here. It's working on the ground.And the number of events and incidents, as they call them, have dropped by about 50 percent since we've been here. It's still a very dangerous place, but it's working.


Of course, what North said on Fox just eight days ago is demonstrably wrong: In fact, attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi forces have increased sharply during 2006. But the worst error that North made in his reports from Ramadi was an error of omission, an omission so stunning and so unbelievably callous that it exposes not just North -- a transparently fake reporter from the git-go -- but the entire Fox enterprise as something that no longer bears any relation to real journalism whatsoever.

Just six days before North giggled on camera about "potshots," and boasted that things were really improving in Iraq, a high-ranking Marine officer and two other U.S. soldiers who had just escorted North and his Fox crew to Ramadi moments earlier were killed by a roadside bomb. The Marine who died in the Dec. 6 blast was Maj. Megan McClung, the highest-ranking woman killed in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003.

Editor and Publisher recently broke the story that went unreported on Fox News Channel:




McClung, 34, had just left North, a Fox contributor, and his crew at the Ramadi Government Center following a 10-minute escorted drive from Camp Ramadi, a U.S. Army base there, Salas said. "It was her first and only escort with him," Salas told E&P. "He was covering the Marines in Ramadi." Many journalists go out without any military escort, even in dangerous areas.

Salas said McClung, who has been widely praised by former embeds since her death for her efforts to help reporters and others involved in coverage of the war, offered such escorts for a wide variety of media representatives, not just the more high-profiles such as North. "It wasn't uncommon for her to escort different types of journalists," Salas said. "She made her own decisions on who and where and when to escort."


Now, it should be noted that North did not ignore the incident altogether. He mentioned it in a syndicated newspaper column that he writes, sent out on Dec. 8, before McClung's identity had been made public. The column is headlined as "Winning the War." Here's what he wrote:

"A proffered hot cup of coffee was gratefully accepted as the Major helped us load our backpacks, camera gear and satellite broadcast equipment aboard a dust-encrusted Humvee. Just hours later, this widely respected and much admired Marine officer and two brave U.S. Army soldiers were dead, killed by an IED -- an improvised explosive device -- the insidious weapon of choice for terrorists in Iraq."


A tad cold, but it's something -- something that was seen by a handful of newspaper readers (I didn't even know that Oliver North wrote a syndicated column...did you?) but not shared with the millions more who watch the Fox News Channel, which is not only still the highest rated cable news operation in America but is the prime source of news, especially about Iraq, for many of those viewers

In fact, here's what North had to say on FNC on Dec. 8, the very same day he sent out his column mentioning the incident.

They will stand and fight, as evident every day. Gun fights are down, but IEDs are up both in number and lethality. The big Iraqi problems are logistics, administration, pay, maintenance, medical treatment, what I call the five B's of this war for the Iraqis, Greta. It's bullets, Band-aids, beans, bucks, and unfortunately, Baghdad. Ramadi is still a very dangerous place. It's deadly, but it is getting better.


The mentions of "lethality" and "deadly" were North's concessions to "journalism," I guess. But apparently North didn't consider it newsworthy that the vibrant young women who's given him a cup of coffee and helped macho-man North with his heavy backpack had died a horrifically violent and premature death. That fact, so dramatic and so heart-wrenching to anyone with a heart, would have completely overshadowed and in fact ruined "the story" that North had been sent to Ramadi to "report," that on the whole things are getting better in Iraq.

Equally appalling, maybe more so, is the way that the inconvenient truth of McClung's death just completely plunged into the memory hole of Fox News Channel. The highest ranking woman to die in combat in Iraq was considered big news in many other places, including on competitor CNN.

I've searched Fox News Channel as a source on Nexis, and checked Google as well. I can't find any evidence that McClung or the circumstances of her death was ever mentioned on FNC (their Web site carried this AP story, which mentions McClung at the end in type that requires a magnifying glass). Meanwhile, Fox News tries to position itself as the troop-friendly network, with stories like North's and lots of greetings sent home from solidiers. (For the record, I have no problem with "good news" stories from Iraq, as long as they're accurate.) But apparently Fox News is only friendly to troops who are still alive.

Indeed, the appalling treatment of McClung (left) and her death is another piece in the broader puzzle. The right-wingers and their pajama-clad "warbloggers" have been engaged in keyboard kombat against much of the media in Iraq, especially the Associated Press, which they claim is distorting the news and giving the world an inaccurate picture of our success in Iraq. In a case that parallels Fox's silence over the killing of its escorts, the "warbloggers" have been completely mute about the murder of an AP photographer by insurgents, since that also-inconvenient truth demolishes their case against the AP. (Eric Boehlert tracks this sordid tale in a great column at Media Matters this week.)

Maj. McClung was a true hero of an American free press, risking and ultimately sacrificing her life to make sure that the U.S. public could continue to get news from our military efforts in Iraq. She died seeking to help reporters like those from Fox News get a real fair and balanced picture of what was happening in Ramadi, and now Fox has both disgraced and diminished her sacrifice by giving out false information on attacks and then ignoring both the very fact, let alone the circumstances, of McClung's death.

Here's something else that Fox didn't cover: McClung was buried yesterday in Arlington National Cemetery. The story of her death but mainly her life -- energetic and outgoing, a gymnast and triathlete who created a marathon for the troops in Iraq -- is a compelling one that has been and should be recognized by real journalists, if not by the posers at Fox News. Megan McClung was a true patriot and a true Marine -- things that Ollie North cannot claim today. Where is the "Semper Fi" is his willful TV ignoring of his comrade's death?

The truth is that Oliver North has been forgiven for many things on his life, including a central role in a scandalous assault on the U.S. Constitution and an overturned felony conviction that only slowed his march to a life of affluent comfort as a right-wing pundit. But now, Lt. Col. Oliver North has left behind a fellow Marine, in the consciousness of her country, where she belongs. And that is truly unforgivable.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Iraq is Vietnam-and You'd Better Believe It

by John Graham

I was a civilian advisor/trainer in Vietnam, arriving just as US troops were going home.

I wasn't there to fight, but I hadn't been in country a week when I learned that the word "noncombatant" didn't mean much where I was posted, fifty miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that then divided South Vietnam from North. I got the message when a sniper's bullet whistled past my ear on the main highway twenty miles south of Hué. Joe Jackson, the burly major who was driving, yelled at me to hold on and duck as he gunned the jeep out of range, zigzagging to spoil the sniper's aim.

Snipers or not, in 1971 it was the U.S. Government's policy not to issue weapons to civilian advisors in Vietnam, even to those of us in distant and dangerous outposts. The reason was not principle, but PR-and here begin the lessons for Iraq.

Sometime in 1969, the White House, faced with unrelenting facts on the ground and under siege from the public, had quietly made the decision that America couldn't win its war in Vietnam.

Nixon and Kissinger didn't put it that way, of course. America was a superpower, and it was inconceivable that it could lose a war to a third rate nation whose soldiers lived on rice and hid in holes in the ground. So the White House conceived an elaborate strategy that would mask the fact of an American defeat. The US would slowly withdraw its combat troops over a period of several years, while the mission of those who remained would change from fighting the North Vietnamese and Vietcong to training the South Vietnamese to carry on the fight on their own. At the same time, we would give the South Vietnamese a series of performance ultimatums which, if unmet, would trigger a total withdrawal and let us blame the South Vietnamese for the debacle that would follow. This strategy was called "Vietnamization." Implementing it cost at least 10,000 additional American and countless more Vietnamese lives, plus billions of dollars.

It was a rigged game from the start. All but the wildest zealots in Washington knew that the South Vietnamese would not and could not meet our ultimatums: an end to corrupt, revolving-door governments, an officer corps based on merit not cronyism, and the creation of a national state that enjoyed popular allegiance strong and broad enough to control the political and cultural rivalries that had ripped the country's fabric for a thousand years.

During the eighteen months I was in Vietnam, I met almost no Americans in the field who regarded Vietnamization as a serious military strategy with any chance of success. More years of American training could not possibly make a difference in the outcome of the war because what was lacking in the South Vietnamese Army was not just combat skills but belief in a cause worth fighting for.

But none of that was the point. Vietnamization was not a military strategy. It was a public relations campaign.

The White House hoped that Vietnamization would keep the house of cards upright for at least a couple of years, providing what CIA veteran Frank Snepp famously called a "decent interval" that could mask the American defeat by declaring that the fate of South Vietnam now was the responsibility of the South Vietnamese. If they didn't want freedom badly enough to win, well, we had done our best.

To make this deceitful drama work, however, the pullout had to be gradual. The plan (Vietnamization) had to be easily explained to the American people. And the US training force left behind had to be large enough and exposed enough to provide visual signs of our commitment on the 6:00 news. Pictures of unarmed American advisors like me shaking hands with happy peasants would support the lie that Vietnamization was succeeding.

Living in the bulls-eye, we understood the reality very well, especially when, as public pressures for total withdrawal increased in 1971-72, most of the "force protection" troops went home too.

That left scattered handfuls of American trainers left to protect themselves. As the very visible US advisor to the city of Hué, I was an easy target for assassination or abduction, anytime the Viet Cong chose to take me out. I kept a case of grenades under my bed, I slept with an M-16 propped against the bedstead, and I had my own dubious army of four Vietnamese house guards whom I hoped would at least fire a warning shot before they ran away.

In April 1972, North Vietnamese forces swept south across the DMZ, scattering the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) defenders and driving to within six miles of Hué. I and a handful of other American trainers and advisors could only watch as a quarter-million panicked people gridlocked the road south to Danang, in a terrifying night reverberating with screams and explosions. We knew that any choppers sent to save us would be mobbed by Vietnamese eager to escape. I'm alive because American carrier jets caught the advancing North Vietnamese just short of the city walls and all but obliterated them.

Now we have the Iraq Study Group Report, advising that the mission of US forces shift from fighting a war to training Iraqi troops and police. The Report calls for the US to lay down a series of performance conditions for the Iraqis, including that the Iraqis end their civil war and create a viable national state.

I've lived through this one before.

Deteriorating conditions on the ground soon will force President Bush to accept this shift in mission strategy. It is Vietnamization in all but name. Its core purpose is not to win an unwinnable war, but to provide political cover for a retreat, and to lay the grounds for blaming the loss on the Iraqis. Based on what I saw in Vietnam, here's what I think will happen next:

The increased training will make no difference. It could even make things worse since we will be making better fighters of many people who will end up in partisan militias. What the Iraqi military and police need is not just technical skill but unit cohesion and loyalty to a viable central government. Neither can be taught or provided by outside trainers.

When US troops pull back from fighting the insurgents, most Iraqi units will lack both the military skills and the political will to replace them. More soldiers and police we've trained will join the militias. Violence and chaos will increase across the country.

As the situation continues to deteriorate in Iraq, anti-American feelings will increase. Cursed for staying, we will now be cursed for leaving. Iraq will become an ever more dangerous place for any American to be.

At home, political pressure to get out of Iraq completely will increase rapidly as the violence gets worse. The military force left behind to protect the US trainers will be drawn down to-or below-a bare minimum, further increasing the dangers for the Americans who remain. Military affairs commentator General Barry McCaffrey issued this sober warning in the December 18 Newsweek: "We're setting ourselves up for a potential national disaster in which some Iraqi divisions could flip and take 5,000 Americans hostage, or multiple advisory teams go missing in action."

Nothing destroys troop morale faster than being in a war you know is pointless. At this same stage in Vietnam, drug use among Americans became a serious problem.
Our ultimatums and conditions won't be met. As the situation gets worse, whatever remains of a central government in Baghdad will be even less able to make the compromises and form the coalitions necessary to control centuries of factional and tribal hatreds. The civil war will spiral out of control, giving us the justification we need to get out, blaming the Iraqis for the mess we've left behind. Then we will face the regional and global ramifications of a vicious civil war whose only winners will be Iran and al-Queda.

US leaders may decide, as they did 37 years ago, that we must again create a "decent interval" to mask defeat and that the PR benefits of that interval are worth the cost in lives and money. If they do, however, they should-unlike the Iraq Study Group-not lie to us that such a strategy has any military chance whatsoever of success.

John Graham is the president of the Giraffe Heroes Project and author of Outdoor Leadership, It's Up to Us: The Giraffe Heroes Program for Teens, and Stick Your Neck Out; A Street-smart Guide to Creating Change in Your Community and Beyond. He can be reached at jgraham@whidbey.com
Copyright 2006 John Graham

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pu-RAZE th' LAWD. They Has SEEN th' LAHT....

Well, at least two of 'em anyway. Two church leaders wrote in to the United Methodist Reporter to weigh in on the admittedly perplexing stumper "Who would Jesus torture?"

An excellent read:

Methodism, torture and the Presidential Library
Methodism began as an 18th century spiritual renewal movement in the Church of England. At the time of the American Revolution only a few hundred Americans identified with Methodism.

By the Civil War, Methodism was by far the largest church in the United States with one in three church members calling it their faith community. No other institution has done more good in shaping the ethos of American religion and culture than the Methodist Church.

Southern Methodist University is one of 123 educational institutions that are related to the modern day United Methodist Church. SMU is the only major university that has Methodist in the name. Because of this fact we were particularly troubled to read the Nov. 27, 2006, report by United Press International that associates of George W. Bush are in the process of raising $500 million for his presidential library and think tank at SMU.

Anyone who thinks that the name Methodism or Southern Methodist University should be associated with George W. Bush needs to read the book, Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror by Dr. Steven Miles, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Professor Miles has based this volume on painstaking research and highly-credible sources, including eyewitness accounts, army criminal investigations, FBI debriefings of prisoners, autopsy reports and prisoners’ medical records. These documents tell a story strikingly different from the Bush administration version presented to the American people, revealing involvement at every level of government, from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to prison health-care personnel. The book also shows how the highest officials of government are complicit in this pattern of torture.

While much of the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Forces troops remains concealed, Dr. Miles documents how 19 prisoners have been tortured to death by American military personnel.

Up to 90 percent of the prisoners detained in the Bush “war on terror” have been found to be unjustifiably imprisoned and without intelligence value. In addition, much of the hideous work of torture is out-sourced by the Bush administration to countries like Uzbekistan, Syria and Egypt, where torture is a long-standing and common practice. In July 2004, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who grew up in a devout Methodist home, protested the Uzbek intelligence service's interrogation practices: "Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the U.S. and U.K. to believe. . . . This material is useless -- we are selling our souls for dross."

Torture is a crime against humanity and a violation of every human rights treaty in existence, including the Geneva Conventions which prohibit cruel and degrading treatment of detainees. Torture is as profound a moral issue in our day as was slavery in the 19th century. It represents a betrayal of our deepest human and religious values as a civilized society.

David Hackett Fischer describes in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Washington's Crossing, how thousands of American prisoners of war were “treated with extreme cruelty by British captors,” during the Revolutionary War. There are numerous accounts of injured soldiers who surrendered being murdered and Americans dying in prison ships in New York harbor of starvation and torture.

After crossing the Delaware River and winning his first battle at Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day, 1776, George Washington ordered his troops to give refuge to hundreds of surrendering foreign mercenaries. "Treat them with humanity," Washington instructed his troops. "Let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British army."

Contrast this with the Sept. 15, 2006, Washington Post lead editorial titled “The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture.” “President Bush rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly.”

If the Bush Library and think tank are placed at SMU, the United Methodist Church should withdraw its association from the University and demand that the good name of Methodism be removed from the name of the school. If the United Methodist Church cannot take a stand against the use of torture and those who employ it, including President Bush, what does it stand for?

Dr. Andrew J. Weaver, United Methodist minister, research psychologist and graduate of Perkins School of Theology, SMU New York City, NY

Fred W. Kandeler, Retired United Methodist pastor, former district superintendent and graduate of Perkins School of Theology, SMU New Braunfels, Texas

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Henry Rollins Tells it as it Is....

You'll wanna see this.

And let's not forget this, this, this and, of course, this.

On a more positive note, guess who's coming out swinging....

And that's my b-day post.