Thursday, June 26, 2003
Politics is only one aspect of life. You must have a care for the spiritual world, oh, my half-dozen readers. Embrace the New Faith and prosperity simultaneously! Spread the use of helpful religious technology, help the preclears achieve true livingness, and start a profitable new business! Remember, all the old religions have been corrupted and made to serve the ends of violence and chaos! There is only one truly effective regimen of spiritual traning! All questions will be answered, all problems resolved, all ways made smooth, all hidden malevolent third parties dragged into the light for all to see. Can you afford NOT to join us?
Via my friend Paul, who will no doubt raise his newborn son up to be a big, strong Auditor someday.
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Sweet weeping Jesus.
Most in U.S. back use of force against Iran
WASHINGTON, June 24 — Most Americans would back U.S. military action against Iran to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons but concern was growing over U.S. troop casualties in Iraq, said an opinion poll released on Tuesday.
The Washington Post/ABC poll found 56 percent of respondents endorsed the use of the U.S. military to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons while 38 percent opposed it.
The United States has accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, supporting ''terrorist'' organizations and of meddling in the affairs of neighboring Iraq where U.S. troops toppled the government of Saddam Hussein in April.
The poll found growing concern over the number of casualties among U.S. forces in Iraq. Since the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 46 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile circumstances there. Since President George W. Bush declared major combat over on May 1, the death toll stands at 19 killed in combat.
About half of the 1,024 people surveyed said the current level of U.S. forces killed was ''acceptable,'' down from two-thirds with the same view in early April.
Overall support for the war in Iraq was still strong but the Post said it might be ebbing slightly. Two in three people said they approved of the way Bush was dealing with Iraq but this was down from 75 percent in late April.
About 64 percent said the benefits of the war outweighed its cost, a drop from 70 percent in a survey late April.
The poll found seven in 10 people were concerned the United States would become involved in a long and costly peacekeeping mission in Iraq.
In addition, about one in four respondents incorrectly believed Iraq had used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces during the conflict.
More than six in 10 people said the decision to go to war in Iraq was justified even if the United States did not find weapons of mass destruction, the reason cited by the Bush administration for going to war in the first place.
The margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points for the poll and interviews were conducted June 18-22.
Monday, June 23, 2003
What is and isn't a WMD scandal. Josh Marshall has clarified an important dimension to the current simmering WMD-intelligence questions that it will be important to keep in mind when considering the future progress of this scandal. This column in The Hill points out that in one sense, Bush is completely entitled to the benefit of the doubt; in another sense, however, Bush (or at least Cheney) is already guilty of a cynical and scandalous deception:
There were really two WMD debates. One was about chemical and low-end biological weapons. The other was about smallpox, nukes, al Qaeda and pretty much everything else under the sun.
On the former, the White House didn’t hoodwink anyone, since virtually everyone in the foreign policy mainstream figured that Iraq at least maintained a chemical and biological weapons capacity. I certainly thought so.
At a minimum, there was solid circumstantial evidence to believe that they did. Frankly, there still is.
The Iraqis stubbornly resisted and stymied the U.N. inspectors until the old inspections regime collapsed in 1998 — and at a very high cost. Back then the inspectors still believed that vast stocks of chemical and biological agents remained unaccounted for. It made no sense to believe that with the inspectors gone the Iraqis would not only shutter their weapons program but ditch the goods they’d expended so much effort to conceal.
Debate No. 2 was an entirely different story. Here, the administration was clearly in kitchen-sink territory. The Iraqis were close to getting a nuke. (Remember Condi’s line — “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” — and Dick Cheney’s wild-eyed predictions.) They were tight with al Qaeda. They were developing horrible and unimaginable new bacteriological agents. They might be doing this; they might be doing that. Might, might, might!
It’s not so much that the administration was lying — as in saying things it knew to be false — as it was happy to pass along or credit almost anything anybody said no matter how speculative the theory or how flimsy the evidence: uncorroborated tales from defectors, crackpot theories from think-tank denizens, worst-case-scenario speculations, anything.
I certainly have never doubted that Saddam had chemical weapons. Hell, I would have bet a fair amount of money on it. I wrote about it on this site, claiming that regardless of the utter incompetence of Bush's foreign policy "effort," the fact was (I thought) that Saddam was an unstable, power-mad loony wirh a big pile of nerve agent at his disposal. I thought that the nuclear stories were really unlikely, as I just didn't think you could hide a nuclear weapons factory from Blix's UN team. I figured what a lot of people figured, and what may yet turn out to be true - that there were carefully hidden, underground storehouses of "combat-munitions" type weapons (nerve gas, mainly), scattered across the country, but I considered the tales of Saddam's arsenal of true "mass destructive" weapons (nukes, smallpox) to be unlikely, if not certainly false.
So I completely agree with Marshall here, as it is so often hard not to. The scandal isn't particularly worsened if we don't find VX anywhere, nor does the scandal disappear if the 82nd Airborne finds 100,000 gallons tomorrow. The problem exists no matter what we find. The facts are already before us. Cheney's office knew the Nigerian nuclear documents were a fake. Option (1) his flunkies kept the data from the VP, and told no one else. Convenient for scapegoating, but, let's face it, pretty unlikely. Option (2) Cheney knew but didn't tell Bush, knowing that Bush was going to rely upon the original data in the SOU address. Option (3): Cheney knew, told Bush, Bush knew, said it anyway. Options (2) and (3) are, or ought to be, a scandal of major proportions, either for the VP or Bush himself. We don't need more information to know that something bad happened. We just need to know which bad thing happened.
But, in the end, I'm not holding my breath for public anger, as many of the mass delusions persistent before the war have been sustained and compounded. However, no less an authority as Fox news is reporting some lessening of this effect.
Friday, June 20, 2003
CalPundit looks in wonder at the latest book excerpt from Ann Coulter, describing Joe McCarthy thus:
Despite the left’s creation of a myth to defeat legitimate charges of treason, McCarthy had so badly stigmatized Communism, his victory survived him. In his brief fiery ride across the landscape, Joe McCarthy bought America another thirty years. For this, he sacrificed his life, his reputation, his name. The left cut down a brave man, but not before the American people heard the truth.
Mr. Drum chalks this up to a knee-jerk embrace and praising by the Right of anything anti-communist, especially at this convenient remove of history. I think that's partially right, but I also think there is something more deliberate at work. In my opinion, the McCarthy rehab is actually a strain of conservative triumphalism; the urge to take advantage of their current primacy in the public mind to go back and clean up some unfortunate messes in the past.
Coulter is simply trying to create a countervailing narrative in the brief window that has been granted her. For a long time, McCarthy has been an utterly discredited figure, and no fence straddling has been required to paint him in the light he so richly deserves: as a dishonest, abusive, unstable demagogue. It is Coulter's fervent hope to destabilize this unified narrative by introducing an alternative reading of history. She hopes to require waffling on-the-other-hand language to appear in the narrative of those days: "While some maintain that McCarthy's devotion to the anticommunist cause helped galvanize American awareness of the Soviet threat and firm American resolve in the Cold War, many decry the intrusive and indiscriminate methods he employed." or something like that.
Conservatives have chosen the right moment for such an assault on the undisputed historical record. Americans are feeling victimized by shadowy and difficult-to-identify outsiders, lurking conspiratorially behind every misfortune. Counternarratives like this can help to muddy lessons previously thought unforgettable, soften negative associations with past events, and thus gauze over the history of the conservative movement.
Don't get me wrong - liberals do it too. For example, most Liberal narratives regarding the rise of the labor movement focus on the deplorable conditions, and the brave, sooty Molly McGuires, fighting for their right to work hard and raise their families, but leave out the truly revolutionary, bombthrowing anarchists and pure communists of the Western IWW (see Coer d'Alene, and Western Colorado uprisings) who killed hundreds in bombings, fires, and random acts of mayhem, and whose leaders spoke loudly and publicly about killing the rich and overthrowing the government, replacing it with a worker's state.
Does this excuse Coulter? Not really. First, she is dragging out of the backwaters of conservative resentment an apologia more suited to the lunatic fringe. Second, she is far too strident in her position to be merely engaging in wishful occlusion of undisputed facts. She is, I believe, intentionally engaged in a project of blurring a previously clear lesson of history which happened to reflect badly on her chosen faith. Calling her merely a knee-jerk anti-communist is, I think, letting her (and that pup Jonah Goldberg) off too easily.
For an excellent narrative of the labor movement in the West, see J. Anthony Lukas' Big Trouble.
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Jesse at Pandagon is really doing the Lord's work these days in his "Shorter TownHall.com" feature. Brave soul that he is, he heads over to TownHall.com, and reads every single column on the thing. He then reports back with summaries, complete with a helpful 5 star scale to indcate the, um, conservative rigor of the author. Overall, a valuable exercise in cultural cretinthropology. Here are links to recent entries, with a sample from each:
Suzanne Fields: Something that's really annoying about TownHall - they don't link to anything that's not entirely conservative, even when someone's directly quoting an article from a newspaper or a study. Maureen Dowd, the "liberal" pundit so influential that 9 out of 10 liberals have no idea what her last column was about, offends Fields' conception of the New Mom, who's brilliant and tough unless she's a single mom, in which case she need to find a man to throw herself on.
Wingnut Index: [4 out of 5]
Kathleen Parker: "Conversation" with Jessica Lynch, from the perspective of an elitist, out of touch conservative woman. Must-read, if you feel like hitting yourself in the head with a proverbial hammer. And she asks if Ja Rule and Ashanti are "people". A complete waste of time.
Wingnut Index: [5 out of 5]
Joe Scarborough: Did I mention there was a dead woman found in his office? Just in case you didn't know. The standard dumbassery. Sexuality of any sort will lead to Fred Durst boffing a goat at the MTV Music Video Awards 2008.
Wingnut Index: [5 out of 5].
One-stop shopping for all of your "confirmation-that-even-with-all-its-flaws-the-left-is-at-the-very-least-better-than-this-uptight-pack-of-Bible-thumping-tut-tutting-blithely-ignorant-asshats" needs.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Neal Stephenson's new novel Quicksilver is coming out on the 23rd of September, and I just pre-ordered it on Amazon. You should, too. If you haven't read Cryptonomicon, the book to which Quicksilver is some species of prequel, click the link, buy it and read it, then come back. I'll wait.
Okay, everybody back? Good. Having read that book, you are now no doubt as excited about the new one as I am, and as curious. Stephenson has said that the next book is related in theme and family history to Cryptonomicon, but takes place 250 years earlier (give or take).
The publisher's blurb on the Amazon page has some story details:
In this wonderfully inventive follow-up to his bestseller Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson brings to life a cast of unforgettable characters in a time of breathtaking genius and discovery, men and women whose exploits defined an age known as the Baroque. Daniel Waterhouse possesses a brilliant scientific mind -- and yet knows that his genius is dwarfed by that of his friends Isaac Newton, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Robert Hooke. He rejects the arcane tradition of alchemy, even as it is giving birth to new ways of understanding the world. Jack Shaftoe began his life as a London street urchin and is now a reckless wanderer in search of great fortune. The intrepid exploits of Half-Cocked Jack, King of the Vagabonds, are quickly becoming the stuff of legend throughout Europe. Eliza is a young woman whose ingenuity is all that keeps her alive after being set adrift from the Turkish harem in which she has been imprisoned since she was a child.
Daniel, Jack, and Eliza will traverse a landscape populated by mad alchemists, Barbary pirates, and bawdy courtiers, as well as historical figures including Samuel Pepys, Ben Franklin, and other great minds of the age. Traveling from the infant American colonies to the Tower of London to the glittering courts of Louis XIV, and all manner of places in between, this magnificent historical epic brings to vivid life a time like no other, and establishes its author as one of the preeminent talents of our own age.
So, there you go. Quicksilver is apparently 944 pages long. The blurb (and the sheer length of the thing) reminds me of John Barth's amazing and absolutely barkingly loony "Sot-Weed Factor." Given the resonances between Stephenson's first novel "The Big U" and Barth's "Giles Goat-Boy, or, The Revised New Syllabus" I'd have to say that it is likely that Stephenson is a fan of Barth. Right on, I say.
And thanks to my brother, who first turned me on to Cryptonomicon.
A mere speck in the ocean, thousands of miles from nowhere, the Grand Duchy of Short Hope and it's happy, slightly tipsy population begins another busy day.
Link to NationStates site via Norbizness, of course.
Friday, June 13, 2003
Still no time for anything substantial, but I thought you'd like to know that the Swedish news agency Nettavisen is reporting that the Swedish Minister for Migration has gone, um, a little bit off the reservation.
"That fucking Texas Geezer"
Jan O. Karlsson, the Swedish Minister for Migration, has got himself into trouble after calling the American President "that fucking Texas geezer".
The rather impolite description of George W. Bush was presented by the Swedish minister during a meeting with the press this week. According to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, Mr. Karlsson called Mr. Bush "that fucking Texas geezer".
News bureau TT asked Mr. Karlsson if these were in fact his words, and the minister responded: "Well, I have read in the newspaper that I have said something like that, but I can not remember exactly which words I used".
The Swedish Prime Minister, Gran Persson, is not happy about his Minister’s language and told Aftonbladet that he takes the incident seriously and wants a word with the Minister.
The Prime Minister thinks the Jan O. Karlsson can continue as a member of the Swedish government, but reportedly only if the Mr. Karlsson “sorts this out”.
Jan O. Karlsson said he used the coarse description of the President in connection with criticising US politics on AIDS and abortions and criticising the fact that that the US has withheld financial means from the UN.
Mr, Karlsson said he had repeated the criticism to the American Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson:
"I repeated my criticism in the same severe manner. I even told him about the commotion in connection with the words I reportedly used to describe the President".
Asked what the American Secretary thought about the description "that fucking Texas geezer", Mr. Karlsson said:
"He did not comment on that in particular, but after I had finished my criticism, he did say 'You are quite a sincere one, aren’t you?'".
Good lord. Imagine what they're saying when the mics are off. I'm just trying to imagine an America where Tom Daschle could stand on the capital steps and say "Screw that fuckwitted Bible-thumper. Yeah, I said it. He's got a problem, he knows where my office is." Or Joe Lieberman could quaver, in that insubstantial squeak of his "I will not engage in the politics of personal destruction, unlike that fucking douchebag in the White House." Ah, a man can dream. Via Amygdala.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
More amen blogging:
BUDGET TIMELINE: THE ABBREIVATED VERSION
May 2000: President Clinton makes a $216 billion payment on the national debt (the principal, that is).
President Bush, March 2001: 'Even if the slowdown were to turn into a recession similar to that of 1990 and '91, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the 10-year surplus would shrink by only 2 percent, from a little more than $5.6 trillion to a little less than $5.5 trillion.' As for that pesky debt, he comments here: 'And we can also pay down debt. I know a lot of folks around America are worried about national debt, as am I. We pay down $2 trillion of debt over the next 10 years.'
November 2001: After OMB Director Mitch Daniels says 'whoops, I mean deficits until 2005', Ari Fleischer explains that all we really need to do is pass the stimulus package.
July 2002: Oh, I'm sorry. It's up to $165 billion now. I'm pretty sure we can pin this on the vaunted trifecta, maybe throw in a "DAMN YOUR EYES" for Kenneth Lay.
March 2003: OK, we can't officially blame the costs associated with the Iraq War yet. However, the deficit will be $287 billion for 2003 and $338 billion for 2004. And as for paying down $2 trillion in debt over the next 10 years, we meant ADD $2 trillion. Your White House transcripts will be thusly altered.
May 31, 2003: Democratic budget analysis (backed up by a former Bush Administration economist, of all people) predicts further doom-- $416 billion deficit for 2003, $489 billion for 2004. Fucking awesome! That is bold beyond bold, a sort of daring boldness only detectible in the ultraviolet spectrum!
To give you an idea of the Bush Administration's brief and lamentable history in balancing the nation's checkbook, that's a bottom-line swing of $9,000,000,000,000 in accumulated debt over a 10-year period. Divided by 290 million people in America, every man, woman and child is looking at financing a debt of approximately $32,000 with no hope of currently paying down the principal. Can somebody please invent a curse word for me to use here?
Amen! And pretty fucking funny, too. Arg. It is raining broken glass and Barbary pirates indoors where I am, so I must return to my work-hole. Will the sun never shine on me again?
Friday, June 06, 2003
I linked to this article in yesterday's post about black holes, but I just had to return to it, because it connects with an old habit of mine - attempting to identify possible sites for the headquarters of a James Bond villain. This now looks like a leading contender:
Superconducting Super Collider Site Eyed for Counter-Terror Training Camp
A cavernous building where workers once constructed the world's most powerful magnets now stores thousands of Styrofoam cups. Miles of tunnels that were designed to contain one of the loftiest missions in science lie forgotten and filled with gravel.
But, if two former Marines have their way, the sprawling site of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) in Waxahachie, Texas, will soon become home to a large, privately-run counter-terrorism training camp.
"It's an extremely flexible site with great training opportunities. Everything on the site is big and sturdy," said Ron Reid, vice president of the Allen, Texas-based firearms training company, ProTac Global, Inc.
[. . . .]
In the largest building on the site, the magnet development lab, Reid wants to use a crane that once transported heavy magnets to move various training sets in and out of the building.
"We could literally have people training on a set of a small building, like a bank, in the morning and then during lunch break we could lift the building out and move in the fuselage of an aircraft for the afternoon," he said.
Another building would be used as a "killhouse" — a place for shooting practice. Reid adds that by shooting indoors, they won't need to worry about littering the environment with lead bullets.
Once the tunnels are excavated, Reid says they would make ideal models for soldiers training for battle in cave networks. They could also be used for training police and fire officials who might need to practice maneuvers inside situations like sewer systems or subway tunnels.
"There's a site where officers now practice rescuing hostages from a subway car, but it's parked in a parking lot," said Reid. "We could put a car in a tunnel and that would force them to practice in more realistic circumstances."
Any training inside the buildings or tunnels would carry the added benefit of being shielded from spy satellites — a criterion the Department of Defense has emphasized as critical.
A previous lead candidate was the proliferation of abandoned missile silos dotting the great plains. But the supercollider site - now that's a winner. Look at that picture again - you could fit a moon-cracking laser in there, easy.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
Black holes on demand. Scientists have long known that the key to the long-posited relationship between classical (i.e. relativity) and quantum physics may lie within the event horizon of a black hole. In fact, one of the reasons Steven Hawking is such a big deal is that he proposed a theory regarding how a principle of classical physics, i.e. the event horizon, interacts with a quantum phenomenon, that is, the instantaneous creation and destruction of bonded pairs of particles and antiparticles. These pairs are essentially placeholders in quantum equations, albeit necessary ones. Quantum uncertainty occurring like a skin around the sphere described by the event horizon affects the normally somewhat innocuous, certainly instantaneous life of these particles.
According to Hawking, the bonded pair emanates from within the event horizon, a supposed impossibility, except here made possible by quantum uncertainty. The remorseless pull of the singularity buried within the black hole rips the newly fledged pair apart, absorbing one, and spitting the other outwards in a flare of radiant energy known as Hawking radiation. (Go here for a useful and extremely cool primer on the relativistic underpinnings of event horizons and the consequences of Hawking radiation. Space bends! No, I'm serious, it bends! This is why massless light can be captured by a black hole - gravity doesn't act directly upon a photon, but rather is so strong that it acts upon space itself, and creates a vortex where there are no paths leading anywhere but down.) The consequences of Hawking radiation are twofold: (1) we can see exactly where black holes are, and they are, ironically, right smack in the middle of extremely luminous areas, most recently and notably in the hearts of galaxies, and (2) Hawking's theory, which has been at least preliminarily confirmed over the two decades since he posed it, would mean that all black holes are constantly losing mass.
So why should we care about black holes losing mass? Because within 5 years, they'll be making them in Switzerland:
Amazingly, scientists are becoming increasingly confident that they will be able to create black holes on demand, in quantity, using the new atom-smashers due to come online in the next five years. Some estimates suggest that the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN -the acronym is in French) will be able to create an average of one black hole each second. LHC will bombard protons and antiprotons together with such a force that the collision will create temperatures and energy densities not seen since the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. This should be enough to pop off numerous tiny black holes, with masses of just a few hundred protons. Black holes of this size will evaporate almost instantly, their existence detectable only by dying bursts of Hawking radiation.
What exactly are scientist looking for in the Hawking radiation? For one thing, it's a big mystery whether Hawking radiation contains any information about the particles that formed the black hole in the first place, or fell in later. Those particles had charge, spin, and other fundamental characteristics that may not have been erased by the black hole. Also, the exact manner in which a black hole dies may give us a view into higher dimensions in space. The most recent theories about the Big Bang and the earliest moments of our universe suggest that there were more than the four (three of space, one of time) we normally experience.
For some reason, the other dimensions didn't expand with our four, and remained "rolled up" at very small scales. These extra dimensions might still be important, and directly felt, in regions right around the central singularity of a black hole. In fact, these higher dimensions might solve the mystery of what a singularity really is. Instead of truly being an infinitively small and dense point, there might suddenly be a whole lot more room provided by extra dimensions that only act on tiny scales.
And that is certainly one of my favorite bend-your-head theories in physics: that black holes aren't just holes, but rather pipes, with their ends flushing vast streams of raw, shredded matter and energy into another dimension. A few discredited scientistshave even suggested that the vastly powerful galaxy-sized quasars which populate the outer fringes of the known universe are the reverse "white holes," plugged in from elsewhere in our dimension, or from other singularities hovering in other dimensions. But the point is that matter=energy, so compression of energy is just as good as compression of matter for creation of a singularity, and if there is one thing that the next generation of particle accellerators can do, it's smack together high energy photons really, really fast, and create moments of extremely dense energy, which may tip over the line, and collapse into a tiny singularity, a tiny vortex, busily flourescing Hawking radiation.
Which is why it's good that these buggers shrink. The scientists at CERN will create these tiny vortexes which will exist only long enough to create a brief nanosecond of Hawking radiation, before they wink out, as opposed to, say, growing ever larger until we all die in the boiling vortex of a cosmic maelstrom. The nanosecond window of observation is no sweat for CERN; they are used to that kind of thing. And, just as lagniappe, the CERN experiments may finally vindicate Hawking's theory and get him that Nobel Prize he's always wanted for the mantel.
Mainly this just makes me wish that we had just built the damn supercollider. Now, thanks to the 1993 Congress, we got the Swiss up there, practically French for God's sake, spittin' out a black hole a second and us just sittin' on our thumbs. It's a Black Hole Gap, I tell you! Curse you, Dale Bumpers!.
Via Kieran Healy.
Well, Howell Raines just resigned.
Okay, now this was probably a pretty stupid thing to say:
Look, the primarily difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil.
That's Paul Wolfowitz talking, and his point - that it is really difficult to successfully put economic pressure on a country that can essentially pull an unlimited amount of gold out of the ground, especially when you compare it to a country that can barely pull out rice - is, in fact, accurate, and not really that radical. But it was stupid, stupid, stupid to say this, because some media outlets are immediately bound to turn around and do this:
Oil was the main reason for military action against Iraq, a leading White House hawk has claimed, confirming the worst fears of those opposed to the US-led war.
The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz - who has already undermined Tony Blair's position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a "bureaucratic" excuse for war - has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil.
That's from the GuardianUK, a left-wing newspaper and website from, well, the UK. Now I don't like Wolfowitz. I think he is arrogant man with an inflated sense of his own prescience. But the manner in which his quote was portrayed in the Guardian quote was simply inaccurate. Worse, in the lead paragraph, readers were told how to interpret the story: i.e. as "confirming the worst fears of those opposed to the US-led war." (And they misquoted Wolfowitz as well - he said "floating" not "swimming.") They ought to give these guys lessons, or something. Yes, I know, the right wingers did it to Clinton and a thousand times worse besides. Doesn't make it right. I don't think I'll be trusting the Guardian again anytime soon.
Paging Spinsanity. Via Norbizness.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Norbizness (of Happy Furry Puppy Story Time with Norbizness fame) has a proposal for some alternative roles for some of today's better-known media figures. It's a funny post, but dont forget to click the links - the real punchlines are in the pictures. His tag for the George Will picture had me stifling chortles for a good ten minutes.
Though he is clearly a thoroughgoing misanthrope, and he especially doesn't like you, you should go read it anyway.
Monday, June 02, 2003
Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, and supporter of the war in Iraq, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
U.S. has gained little if Bush lied about reason for war
By Mark Bowden
For The Inquirer
It has been two months since the United States and Britain went to war against Saddam Hussein, and coalition forces have yet to discover convincing evidence of the weapons programs that President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair said were its primary cause.
Some of those who supported the war beforehand did so solely on the basis of ending tyranny. The mass graves found throughout Iraq, and widespread stories of torture and atrocity, come as no surprise to those who had studied or endured the Baathist dictator's regime. Those who opposed the war for any reason ought to be doing some soul-searching about the kind of horrors they were prepared to leave in place.
But it is true that Hussein represented only one of many thuggish regimes, and that the United States is not about to go to war against them all. I supported this war because I believed Bush and Blair when they said Iraq was manufacturing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons in the hands of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that shared Hussein's hostile designs made such a threat a defense priority - or so the argument went.
Early this month, the U.S. military announced that it had found three mobile laboratories that were most likely designed to manufacture chemical or biological weapons, the types of labs that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell referred to in making his argument for war before the U.N. Security Council. The discoveries were suggestive but hardly convincing evidence of the specific, tangible threat repeatedly outlined by the President. With the authors of Iraq's illicit-weapons program now in custody, we should expect to see soon, or to have seen already, the facilities and stockpiles we and most of the rest of the world believed Hussein possessed.
They may yet be found, but it is beginning to look as though the skeptics in this case were right. If so, I was taken in by this administration, and America and Great Britain were led to war under false pretenses.
Events have moved so swiftly, and Hussein's toppling has posed so many new pressing problems, that it would be easy to lose sight of this issue, but it is critically important. I can imagine no greater breach of public trust than to mislead a country into war. A strong case might have been made to go after Hussein just because he posed a potential threat to us and the region, because of his support for suicide bombers, and because of his ruthless oppression of his own people. But this is not the case our President chose to make.
Truth in public life has always been a slippery commodity. We expect campaigning politicians or debating journalists to pitch and spin. Facts are marshaled to support arguments and causes; convenient ones are trumpeted and inconvenient ones played down or ignored. This is the political game.
But when the President of the United States addresses the nation and the world, I expect the spinning to stop. He represents not just a party or a cause, but the American people. When President Bush argued that Hussein possessed stockpiles of illicit and deadly poisons, he was presumably doing so on the basis of intelligence briefings and evidence that the public could not see. He was asking us to trust him, to trust his office, to trust that he was acting legitimately in our self-defense. That's something very different from engaging in a bold policy of attempting to remake the Middle East, or undertaking a humanitarian mission to end oppression. Neither of these two justifications would have been likely to garner widespread public support. But national defense? That's an argument the President can always win.
I trusted Bush, and unless something big develops on the weapons front in Iraq soon, it appears as though I was fooled by him. Perhaps he himself was taken in by his intelligence and military advisers. If so, he ought to be angry as hell, because ultimately he bears the responsibility.
It suggests a strain of zealotry in this White House that regards the question of war as just another political debate. It isn't. More than 100 fine Americans were killed in this conflict, dozens of British soldiers, and many thousands of Iraqis. Nobody gets killed or maimed in Capitol Hill maneuvers over spending plans, or battles over federal court appointments. War is a special case. It is the most serious step a nation can take, and it deserves the highest measure of seriousness and integrity.
When a president lies or exaggerates in making an argument for war, when he spins the facts to sell his case, he betrays his public trust, and he diminishes the credibility of his office and our country. We are at war. What we lost in this may yet end up being far more important than what we gained.