Thursday, October 28, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The increasingly petulant John Burns

Documents from the latest Wikileaks release covering the Iraq War is available at the Guardian and the New York Times. A lot of the information that the New York Times did not see as fit to print in real-time is available in these documents. However, the pride of place in the Time's coverage goes to a hit piece on Julian Assange, the founder and face of Wikileaks.
New York Times:

The piece repeats the canard that Wikileaks previous document dump put lives in danger, despite the Pentagon's admission that no harm to anyone in Afghanistan could be tied to the Wikileaks release. As documented by the invaluable Glenn Greenwald:

It's been clear from the start that -- despite the valid concern that WikiLeaks should have been more vigilant in redacting the names of innocent Afghan civilians -- the Pentagon (and its media and pundit servants) were drastically exaggerating the harms, as The Associated Press noted on August 17:

The WikiLeaks leak is unrivaled in its scope, but so far there is no evidence that any Afghans named in the leaked documents as defectors or informants from the Taliban insurgency have been harmed in retaliation.

Some private analysts, in fact, think the danger has been overstated. "I am underwhelmed by this argument. The Pentagon is hyping," says John Prados, a military and intelligence historian who works for the anti-secrecy National Security Archive. He said in an interview that relatively few names have surfaced and it's not clear whether their present circumstances leave them in jeopardy.

And on August 11, even the DOD was forced to admit to The Washington Post the complete absence of any evidence to support its wild accusations: "'We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the WikiLeaks documents,' [Pentagon spokesman Geoff] Morrell said.
What is interesting in the hit piece is the petulant tone of John Burns. One would have thought the pride of place would have been a mea culpa from Mr Burns explaining why the picture painted by the Wikileaks document was so different than what was conveyed by his reporting. But then, Mr. Burns is a "serious" journalist.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Religious nut of the day

Rabbi Ovaida Josef, the religious leader of the Shas party which has four cabinet posts in the Netanyahu government again exposed the worst kept secret of all religious extremist - their contempt for the other. Thus spake the good Rabbi according to the Jerusalem Post:
“Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel,” he said in his weekly Saturday night sermon on the laws regarding the actions non-Jews are permitted to perform on Shabbat.

According to Yosef, the lives of non-Jews in Israel are safeguarded by divinity, to prevent losses to Jews.

“In Israel, death has no dominion over them... With gentiles, it will be like any person – they need to die, but [God] will give them longevity. Why? Imagine that one’s donkey would die, they’d lose their money.

This is his servant... That’s why he gets a long life, to work well for this Jew,” Yosef said.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

People don't like to be bombed

That the slaughter of loved ones leaves one somewhat upset at those who conducted, or facilitated, the slaughter should not come as a surprise. But perhaps it needs repeating. Chas Freeman has an article up at War In Context that you should really read. Here are some snippets, but do go read the whole thing - and remember, this is a hard boiled realist talking:
The Middle East is a constant reminder that a clear conscience is usually a sign of either a faulty memory or a severe case of arrogant amorality. It is not a badge of innocence. These days, we meticulously tally our own battlefield dead; we do not count the numbers of foreigners who perish at our hands or those of our allies. Yet each death is a tragedy that extinguishes one soul and wounds others. This deserves our grief. If we cannot feel it, we may justly be charged with inhumanity.

All that is required to be hated is to do hateful things. Apparent indifference to the pain and humiliation one has inflicted further outrages its victims, their families, and their friends. As the Golden Rule, common – in one form or another – to all religions, implicitly warns, moral blindness is contagious.
War is in fact not the spectator sport that the fans who watch it on television or on big screens in theaters imagine. Nor is it the “cakewalk” that its armchair advocates sometimes suggest it might be. War is traumatic for all its participants. Recent experience suggests that 30 percent of troops develop serious mental health problems that dog them after they leave the battlefield. But what of the peoples soldiers seek to punish or pacify? To understand the hatreds war unleashes and its lasting psychological and political consequences, one has only to translate foreign casualty figures into terms we Americans can relate to. You can do this by imagining that the same percentages of Americans might die or suffer injury as foreigners have. Then think about the impact that level of physical and moral insult would have on us.
No one knows how many Iraqis have died as a direct or indirect consequence of the U.S. invasion and the anarchy that followed it. Estimates range between a low of something over 100,000 to a high of well over 1 million. Translated to comparable proportions in the United States, that equates to somewhere between 1 and 13 million dead Americans. Over two-and-a-quarter million Iraqis fled to neighboring countries to escape this bloodbath. An equal number found shelter inside Iraq. Few Iraqis have been able to go back to Iraq or to return to their homes. In our terms, that equals an apparently permanent flight to Canada and Mexico of 24 million Americans, with another 24 million driven into homelessness but, years later, still somewhere inside the country. I think you will agree that, had this kind of thing happened to Americans, religious scruples would not deter many of us from seeking revenge and reprisal against whoever had done it to us.

Friday, October 15, 2010


And for something completely different (h/t Savage):

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Let's get stupider

Is the government in Pakistan corrupt. Most certainly. Should they do more to collect taxes from the rich and wealthy in their society. Clearly. Should the US attach strings to their aid in order to get more transparency and accountability. Assuredly. Should they do this with aid for flood relief. Are you out of your frickin mind! But that's exactly what Hillary Clinton is proposing. It seems that when Bill bonded with George, Hillary was learning a thing or two from Barbara.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested European Union leaders should follow the U.S. and withhold further flood-relief funding from Pakistan until Islamabad shows it is doing more to fight corruption and collect tax revenue from its wealthiest citizens.
Holding the flood ravaged refugees hostage for their government's corruption is beyond criminal. It is stupid. Though I doubt this will convince too many of the refugees to stop avoiding taxes, I am sure this statement will be received with gratitude by the Taliban.
Maybe it is something about Yale.