The Friends of California Libre...

05 August 2003

The Holidaymakers

Greetings, friends,
Yeah, the whole month of August should be a holiday, eh? Well, either you're out there traipsing around (but still picking up your e-mail in some exotic cafe, lucky you) or you're hunkered down in the candle-lit dark, enjoying a respite from the crowds at work.

Actually, we like tourists at the Central Library. Breaking their accents is a specialty of the Literature Department, and their requests pedestrian compared to the usual riff-raff. But we don't let them borrow reference books or smoke hash in the bathrooms.

Anyway, for all you hunkerers and traipsers, I've got my usual bag of goodies, and plenty of them this time. Yeah, August is a big month for summer shenanigans. All the regular folks go to the beach, but the government goes into stealth mode. Take this little gem, for example, a wonderful bit of hubris:
Wolfowitz Warns Foreigners Keep Out of Iraq
Sun July 20, 2003 08:31 PM ET
MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the war that toppled Saddam Hussein, warned foreigners on Monday not to interfere in Iraq but said outside help would be welcome.

That traitor! Did he not just help plan this business, and now we're not to interfere? Wait, we're not foreigners, are we? Maybe Iraq is going to be the next Puerto Rico...just imagine the great TV commercials. "Princess Cruise it right up the Persian Gulf, bay-bee..." And then the new version of "West Side Story, with Iraqis instead of Puerto Ricans (and Christian rednecks instead of New York street punks.)

Okay, here's a much nastier little bit. Seems that at the airport now, they have the terrorist "no-fly" list, but they've added the left-winger "hassle you" list:
US Anti-war Activists Hit by Secret Airport Ban
By Andrew Gumbel
Independent Digital

And if that didn't give you a flashback to the Eighties (and I had a good one last weekend), try this on for size:
Poindexter to Quit Pentagon Post Amid Controversy Over "Terror Market"
Thursday 31 July 2003

I mean, Admiral Poindexter? The only one dumb enough to take the fall in Iran-Contra? HE thought up the "terror market"? What a gas...and what's a felon doing in the Pentagon anyway? How stupid do these people think we are?

Pretty stupid:
Woman Banned from Border's for Criticizing Bush's Legs

But we get our "dubious" revenge with this punk tune, "George Bush Is an Idiot" (thanks, Mike):

It opens up a whole philosophical dumb can people truly become? Take, for example, this Asian Prince (thanks, Geri, but I hope this is somehow a genius fake):
Subject: The real Prince Charming...

And the denial only gets deeper:
Drunk Admits Driving on '20 Beers at Most'

And deeper:
Bank Robber Writes Holdup Note on Resume

It's the American pastime, let's get stupid!
'Redneck-A-Palooza' Features Music, Hair

Voices yell out to us, "Look out, because you might start electing stupid people as a consequence." And everyone's getting mad...I mean, this guy is an economist! How hard is it to piss one of them off?
US Nobel Laureate Slams Bush Gov't as "Worst" in American History

But some people were born to be pissed off. If you like your vitriol straight, check out this journalist in San Francisco:
George W. Bush Means Nothing
Note to self: The demons of sour conservatism cannot touch anything that truly matters. Just FYI
By Mark Morford
San Francisco Gate Columnist

And behind it all, the really perfect stupidity of the world entire. How many people are waiting to see the videotape of this absurdity:
Lightning Kills Giraffe at Disney Park

And how much will people take before they join a union?
Argentine Cashiers Diapered to Avoid Breaks

Or give up a rather unhealthy interest in celebrity?
JFK's Boxer Shorts on Display in Ireland

Okay, forget all the goofy shit. The rest of this screed will howl. Continue if you have the true devotion of the "policy wonk". For the rest of you, call me up and we'll have cocktails...and maybe a movie.

Maybe a French movie? Hey, my mom liked "Swimming Pool", so don't laugh. Besides, we've got to encourage the French. They're starting to smart from all our late-night TV host bullshit (sorry, Mom.)
JULY 24TH 2003
Stand firm against the United States? Try--not too hard--to make friends again? France's leaders are divided, and debating

Maybe they'll join our righteous battle against Iraq...but they'd better move quick...looks like all the excuses are drying up.
Iraqi Scientists Still Deny Iraqi Arms Programs
U.S. Interrogations Net No Evidence
By Walter Pincus and Kevin Sullivan
The Washington Post

But our oil supplies are safe...that much is sure for now.
Executive Order Grants Oil Companies Legal Immunity in Iraq

And we've got our eye on their neighbor too...a country which has long made the U.S. out as their number one bad guy...and which we have surrounded. Wouldn't you want an A-bomb?

Maybe if they're lucky they'll discover their own "inner democracy" before we force one on them.
Khomeini grandson denounces religiious "dictatorship" in Iran: report

If you know anything about Iranian history, that's a big deal. The poor Ayatollah's grandson is provoking a new revolution...from the same town in Iraq that his granddad was exiled to, Najaf.

Maybe it's got the Iranian Government spooked:
** U.S. secretly negotiating with Iran **
The Bush administration is engaged in a secret dialogue with Iran to try to persuade Iran to hand over top al-Qaida operatives, U.S. officials say. NBCs Campbell Brown has the exclusive report.

But we're so dumb we'll blow it:
Protecting Iraq-based terrorist group may cost U.S. chance to negotiate with Iran
WASHINGTON - A terrorist group based in U.S.-controlled Iraq continues to broadcast propaganda into Iran, purchase equipment and move about the country without interference from American authorities, despite a White House order banning any U.S. support for the group, according to senior administration officials.

But who cares what they do? Because the old Cold War weaponry is back in business! Like my old schoolchum Dave Bigbee says, "Nuke 'em big!" (PS There are three articles after this long one, and one's a doozy...) US scraps nuclear weapons watchdog
Julian Borger in Washington
Wednesday July 30 2003
The Guardian
A US department of energy panel of experts which provided independent oversight of the development of the US nuclear arsenal has been quietly disbanded by the Bush administration, it emerged yesterday.

The decision to close down the national nuclear security administration advisory committee - required by law to hold public hearings and issue public reports on nuclear weapons issues - has come just days before a closed-door meeting at a US air force base in Nebraska to discuss the development of a new generation of tactical "mini nukes" and "bunker buster" bombs, as well as an eventual resumption of nuclear testing.

Ed Markey, a Democratic congressman and co-chairman of a congressional taskforce on non-proliferation, said: "Instead of seeking balanced expert advice and analysis about this important topic, the Department of Energy has disbanded the one forum for honest, unbiased external review of its nuclear weapons policies."

An NNSA spokesman, Bryan Wilkes said: "The advisory committee was created to assist the NNSA administrator during the creation of the NNSA, and it was not intended to go on beyond two years. Clearly the NNSA is up and running and it is not needed any more."

The typical lifetime of such federal advisory committees is two years. However the NNSA committee's charter stipulates "The Committee is expected to be needed on a continuing basis."

Former members of the advisory committee said they had the impression that the new administrator, Linton Brooks, appointed last year, was not interested in its work, and decided not to renew its charter.

Sidney Drell, a leading American physicist and a former committee member said: "It was not renewed. I presume they did not value us or found us a nuisance. An independent, tough advisory board is very important in having a strong (nuclear) stockpile programme."

The committee's charter said that it's meetings "will be held approximately four times each year". In fact, it was not summoned at all in the last year of its existence.

"They just didn't call us. We didn't hear from them," Prof Drell said.

Prof Drell and Raymond Jeanloz, a planetary science professor at the University of California at Berkely, co-authored an article earlier this year that was highly critical of the plans for new weapons.

"Rather than moving to develop new nuclear weapons, the United States should push to strengthen the nonproliferation regime through example and through stronger compliance measures directed at those who flout its basic purposes," they wrote in the March 2003 edition of Arms Control Today, a few months before the panel was disbanded.

The statute establishing federal advisory committees requires their dissolution to be officially gazetted in the federal register but in the end, the NNSA panel was abandoned quietly, by a simple email to its members.

Daryl Kimball, the head of the independent, Washington-based Arms Control Association, said: "This will make the Department of Energy and the NNSA even more opaque. It will be all the more difficult to understand what they are planning to do."

Hawks in the Pentagon and the energy department are pushing for the development of tactical nuclear weapons with yields of less than 5 kilotons and hardened "bunker buster" nuclear bombs, designed to penetrate deeply buried targets, where enemy leaders or weapons may be hidden.

According to the leaked agenda for the Omaha meeting in early August, Pentagon and energy department officials will discuss how to test small numbers of these new weapons, and whether this will require a break from the moratorium on nuclear tests.

Critics argue that the new weapons will blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear arms, and trigger a new arms race.

"The Bush administration is considering policy changes that will alter the role of nuclear weapons in national defence," Mr Markey said. "Given the importance and sheer complexity of the issues raised ... why was the only independent contemplative body studying nuclear weapons disbanded - and disbanded in such a surreptitious fashion?"

If that article didn't bother you, this one from Europe might:
When America goes it alone, we all pay
By Paul Keating

But here's some good news: stupidity isn't always considered a virtue. Kofi Annan isn't stupid and he should open his mouth more:
** UN looks to its future **
Kofi Annan signals a radical review of the body's role may be necessary in the light of Iraq and other conflicts.
< >

And last, but not least, the apex of national stupidity...if you read this article, you will light up a smoke...or start smoking. This one is amazing. With a cig in my mouth, I bid you adieu:
America is a religion
US leaders now see themselves as priests of a divine mission to rid the world of its demons
George Monbiot
Monday July 28 2003
The Guardian
"The death of Uday and Qusay," the commander of the ground forces in Iraq told reporters on Wednesday, "is definitely going to be a turning point for the resistance." Well, it was a turning point, but unfortunately not of the kind he envisaged. On the day he made his announcement, Iraqi insurgents killed one US soldier and wounded six others. On the following day, they killed another three; over the weekend they assassinated five and injured seven. Yesterday they slaughtered one more and wounded three. This has been the worst week for US soldiers in Iraq since George Bush declared that the war there was over.

Few people believe that the resistance in that country is being coordinated by Saddam Hussein and his noxious family, or that it will come to an end when those people are killed. But the few appear to include the military and civilian command of the United States armed forces. For the hundredth time since the US invaded Iraq, the predictions made by those with access to intelligence have proved less reliable than the predictions made by those without. And, for the hundredth time, the inaccuracy of the official forecasts has been blamed on "intelligence failures".

The explanation is wearing a little thin. Are we really expected to believe that the members of the US security services are the only people who cannot see that many Iraqis wish to rid themselves of the US army as fervently as they wished to rid themselves of Saddam Hussein? What is lacking in the Pentagon and the White House is not intelligence (or not, at any rate, of the kind we are considering here), but receptivity. Theirs is not a failure of information, but a failure of ideology.

To understand why this failure persists, we must first grasp a reality which has seldom been discussed in print. The United States is no longer just a nation. It is now a religion. Its soldiers have entered Iraq to liberate its people not only from their dictator, their oil and their sovereignty, but also from their darkness. As George Bush told his troops on the day he announced victory: "Wherever you go, you carry a message of hope - a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'To the captives, "come out," and to those in darkness, "be free".'"

So American soldiers are no longer merely terrestrial combatants; they have become missionaries. They are no longer simply killing enemies; they are casting out demons. The people who reconstructed the faces of Uday and Qusay Hussein carelessly forgot to restore the pair of little horns on each brow, but the understanding that these were opponents from a different realm was transmitted nonetheless. Like all those who send missionaries abroad, the high priests of America cannot conceive that the infidels might resist through their own free will; if they refuse to convert, it is the work of the devil, in his current guise as the former dictator of Iraq.

As Clifford Longley shows in his fascinating book Chosen People, published last year, the founding fathers of the USA, though they sometimes professed otherwise, sensed that they were guided by a divine purpose. Thomas Jefferson argued that the Great Seal of the United States should depict the Israelites, "led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night". George Washington claimed, in his inaugural address, that every step towards independence was "distinguished by some token of providential agency". Longley argues that the formation of the American identity was part of a process of "supersession". The Roman Catholic church claimed that it had supplanted the Jews as the elect, as the Jews had been repudiated by God. The English Protestants accused the Catholics of breaking faith, and claimed that they had become the beloved of God. The American revolutionaries believed that the English, in turn, had broken their covenant: the Americans had now become the chosen people, with a divine duty to deliver the world to God's dominion. Six weeks ago, as if to show that this belief persists, George Bush recalled a remark of Woodrow Wilson's. "America," he quoted, "has a spiritual energy in her which no other nation can contribute to the liberation of mankind."

Gradually this notion of election has been conflated with another, still more dangerous idea. It is not just that the Americans are God's chosen people; America itself is now perceived as a divine project. In his farewell presidential address, Ronald Reagan spoke of his country as a "shining city on a hill", a reference to the Sermon on the Mount. But what Jesus was describing was not a temporal Jerusalem, but the kingdom of heaven. Not only, in Reagan's account, was God's kingdom to be found in the United States of America, but the kingdom of hell could also now be located on earth: the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union, against which His holy warriors were pitched.

Since the attacks on New York, this notion of America the divine has been extended and refined. In December 2001, Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of that city, delivered his last mayoral speech in St Paul's Chapel, close to the site of the shattered twin towers. "All that matters," he claimed, "is that you embrace America and understand its ideals and what it's all about. Abraham Lincoln used to say that the test of your Americanism was ... how much you believed in America. Because we're like a religion really. A secular religion." The chapel in which he spoke had been consecrated not just by God, but by the fact that George Washington had once prayed there. It was, he said, now "sacred ground to people who feel what America is all about". The United States of America no longer needs to call upon God; it is God, and those who go abroad to spread the light do so in the name of a celestial domain. The flag has become as sacred as the Bible; the name of the nation as holy as the name of God. The presidency is turning into a priesthood.

So those who question George Bush's foreign policy are no longer merely critics; they are blasphemers, or "anti-Americans". Those foreign states which seek to change this policy are wasting their time: you can negotiate with politicians; you cannot negotiate with priests. The US has a divine mission, as Bush suggested in January: "to defend ... the hopes of all mankind", and woe betide those who hope for something other than the American way of life.

The dangers of national divinity scarcely require explanation. Japan went to war in the 1930s convinced, like George Bush, that it possessed a heaven-sent mission to "liberate" Asia and extend the realm of its divine imperium. It would, the fascist theoretician Kita Ikki predicted: "light the darkness of the entire world". Those who seek to drag heaven down to earth are destined only to engineer a hell.

George Monbiot's books Poisoned Arrows and No Man's Land are republished this week by Green Books.

Vive le Screed!

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