Recently in Warblogging Category

I just saw a screening of the film "The War Tapes", a documentary about soldiers in Iraq by soldiers in Iraq. The director Deborah Scranton is telling the story now. She was asked by the National Guard to do a documentary as an embedded journalist. Instead, she suggested that they give cameras to the soldiers and let them shoot the film. Soldiers were given cameras and she directed coordinated the editing via IM and email. The result is an amazingly candid and real film and it gave me a better view of what it is like to be a soldier in Iraq than anything else I've ever seen. Regardless of whether you support the war or not, I suggest you see this film.

It also gives me another perspective on the soldiers and the spouses of soldiers that I have met in our World of Warcraft guild...

UPDATE: She directed the film by IM and it was edited when the soldiers returned from Iraq.

MetaFilter
U.S. soldiers videotaped desecrating Taliban corpses.

U.S. soldiers videotaped desecrating Taliban corpses. The bodies were positioned to face Mecca and burned -- an act of desecration that violates Islamic burial rites and the Geneva Conventions. A U.S. PsyOps specialist broadcast an inflammatory message to the nearby town in order to incite an attack. "Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be."


The video aired last night in Australia, but hasn't surfaced yet in the U.S. It won't be long, though.. "Wow, look at the blood coming out of the mouth on that one, fucking straight death metal."

I'm just re-blogging this in case you haven't seen it yet. I don't have much to add at this point.

If the last link doesn't work, try copy/pasting the URL into the browser.

Interfax China
PowerNet and China Communist Youth League develop "Anti-Japan War Online" game

Shanghai. August 23. INTERFAX-CHINA - PowerNet Technology, a Chinese online gaming firm, has developed a new online game in cooperation with the China Communist Youth League (CCYL) named "Anti-Japan War Online," which will begin commercial operation by the end of 2005, a PowerNet official said Tuesday.

"The game will allow players, especially younger players, to learn from history. They will get a patriotic feeling when fighting invaders to safeguard their motherland," a PowerNet Project Manager, surnamed Liu, told Interfax.

The background for "Anti-Japan War Online" is the Japanese invasion of China during World War II, from 1937 through 1945. Players are able to play simulations of key battles, but will only be able to play as the Chinese side...

The CCLY said in statement that few games on the Chinese market today generate a "national spirit" that can educate young players. As a result, the CCYL will actively partner with online gaming companies to jointly develop "patriotic" online games.

"'Anti-Japan War Online' is a patriotic online game that is both interesting and instructive, and can attract and guide young players," Chen Xiao, the CCLY official in charge of partnerships with online gaming firms, told Interfax...

I can imagine this game will be very popular. I wonder if they will let Japanese register to play. Is there any news about this in China? Do most people in China think this is a "good" thing? I'm very curious to see how the history is portrayed.

via Metafilter

Menezes Tube Afp
Earlier, I blogged about the Brazilian man who was shot by officers in the UK in the Stockwell subway who suspected him of being a suicide bomber. The reports has said that he was wearing suspicious clothing, that he ran away from the polices, etc. We had a lively discussion in the comments of that blog post. Mike B, just posted a link to an article in Scotsman.com. I don't know this publication so don't know the accuracy of their reporting, but they tell a different story.
Scotsman.com
Blunders led to police killing of an innocent man

Key points
• Leaked documents claim suspect was not running away when shot
• Earlier claims on suspect's dress and vaulting of barrier also challenged
• Revelations will add to embarrassment of Met Police over killing

Key quote
"As he walked out of my line of vision I checked the photographs and transmitted that it would be worth someone else having a look. I should point out that, as I observed this male exiting the block, I was in the process of relieving myself." - SURVEILLANCE OFFICER

According to this article, the man was not properly id'ed leaving the house by either the officer taking a pee or the next one. Somewhere along the way, they upgraded it to code red. According to interviews in the article, the victim didn't jump the gate and had actually sat down in the train before the police came and shot him 7 times in the head after grabbing him.

If this is true, this is pretty awful process on the police side and shoddy reporting by the media who tried to cast him as some sort of guy who was so suspicious that it was HIS fault and not the fault of the police.

Has this been reported anywhere else? I'd like to see any other reports. Also, does anyone know the reputation of scotsman.com?

UPDATE: Some coverage by the BBC.

In the middle of my slightly insane two sleepless days at OSCON, I got an email from the New York Times asking me to write an op ed. They wanted me to write about my thoughts about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the bombing. They said the deadline was Friday. "You mean next Friday?" "No, the day after tomorrow." "Oh."

My mind was full of open source and the future of the Internet. The atomic bomb and World War II were definitely not on my mind. It would be an interesting challenge and it's not every day that the New York Times asks you to do an op ed, so I accepted.

Let me just say I'm glad I'm not a professional writer. I sat down a few times during the conference and tried to write something while sitting in the hall and chatting with people. It didn't work. At midnight, I sat down in front of my computer and stared at my screen and tried to forget about open source and think about the atom bomb. I was supposed to write about impressions from my generation and from a Japanese perspective. I first went on IM and interviewed a bunch of my Japanese friends to confirm my suspicion. No one was really thinking about the bombing of Hiroshima and didn't really have much of an impression.

Then, I remembered a few papers I had read recently and Googled around for recent articles. After about 30 minutes, my head was "in the space" and I was able to start writing. It only took about 30 minutes to finish the draft. Afterwards, I went to #joiito and had the channel help me edit it. (Thanks everyone.)

Initially, I had thought that I would only be able get this done if I disconnected my computer from the Internet. In fact, the Internet turned out to be a valuable resource in getting my head around my thoughts and then getting feedback from a bunch of eyeballs on the text.

The story will run in the New York Times on Sunday in the Op Ed section. If I'm lucky, the International Herald Tribune will pick it up. If you have a chance, let me know what you think. I'll post a link here as soon as I get it.

UPDATE: The article is now online.

UPDATE 2: The International Herald Tribune picked it up too...

The War on Terror - As viewed from the Bourne shell.

Some geeky fun for a serious issue.

via MetaFilter

AP via Yahoo
Man Killed in London Not Linked to Blasts

By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press Writer Sat Jul 23, 7:16 PM ET

LONDON - Police identified the man who was chased down in a subway and shot to death by plainclothes officers as a Brazilian and expressed regret Saturday for his death, saying they no longer believed he was tied to the recent terror bombings.

[...]

The man shot at the Stockwell subway station was identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, 27. Witnesses said he was wearing a heavy, padded coat when plainclothes police chased him into a subway car, pinned him to the ground and shot him in the head and torso.

[...]

Police initially said the victim attracted police attention because he left a house that was under surveillance after Thursday's bungled bombings, in which devices planted on three subway trains and a double-decker bus failed to detonate properly. Stockwell is near Oval station, one of those targeted.

"He was then followed by surveillance officers to the station. His clothing and his behavior at the station added to their suspicions," police said Friday.

Adds new meaning to "false positive". He attracted attention, behaved in a way that added to their suspicions, and was pinned to the ground and shot in the head and torso. Police express regret. I don't know the details, but I sure hope the this isn't just swept under the rug. It reminds me of a particular line from Kofi Annan's speech in Madrid in March. "Upholding human rights is not merely compatible with a successful counter-terrorism strategy. It is an essential element in it."

And speaking of false positives, I read in an aviation magazine today that the US is proposing to force all flights that fly through US airspace to require clearing their passenger manifests with the notoriously noisy and full of false-positives US no-fly list even if the flights do not take off or land in the US. Obviously, some airlines are upset.

Note to self: Don't wear baggy clothes in London, don't associate with people who have names that might sound scary, and don't go to flight school.

via Boris

Anyone who is tuning in right now... about 2 hours ago a series of explosions were reported in London involving the Underground and a bus. The BBC reports "Large numbers of casualties have been reported after at least six explosions on the Underground network and a double-decker bus in London."

UPDATE: Most big media sites are slow or down. You can get to many of the blogs post via Technorati for queries such as "London explosions". Lots of pictures on the Flickr London Explosions Group / Flickr Bomb tag. Wikinews article. (Note: I think Wikinews has had the fastest and most substantive news so far. Good job folks.)

UPDATE 7/7/2005 10:50 UTC

#joiito @ irc.freenode.net
antoin - there's someone on the irish radio says there were warnings about bomb scares as early as 7am.
JoiIto - Can I quote that on my blog Antoin?
antoin - sure. i should stress that it's a person who rang into the station, recounting
antoin - so it's a bit third-hand
We're having a real-time global discussion on #joiito on Freenode if you want to join us.

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:03 UTC: Blair says G8 will continue.

I notice that the Japanese news has just started picking this up. I just remembered that I was listening to a Japanese radio station just about when this was happening. They were reporting about how GW Bush ran into a policeman on his bike and fell over and was saved from injury by his red helmet. Doh.

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:08 UTC:

jbond - heard on radio4. "sources who follow Al Qaida, are saying it's likely they were involved"

UPDATE 7/7/2005 11:32 UTC:

[11:32] felix - we are jammed in between aldgate station and whitechapel hospital it's a bit like a war zone
[11:32] felix - RJ and mischa live right above aldgate station they are not allowed to leave the house
[11:33] felix - seems like the carefully crafted emergnecy plan works smoothly
[11:35] felix - like I said london is cool
[11:35] felix - everybody is really calm.
[11:36] felix - as the shut the whole public transport down
[11:37] felix - it's kinda weird how everything is so business as usual
[11:38] felix - I would have thought there would be more panic

UPDATE 7/7/2005 13:10 UTC: They have just closed the bathrooms on BART. (The California Bay Area Rapid Transit.)

UPDATE: Lots of good links on Boing Boing.

UPDATE: Roundup of Muslim bloggers responding to London Blast on Global Voice by Rebecca MacKinnon. Dedicated page on Technorati for posts about the London Bombings.

UPDATE: Loic blogs about John Gibson from Fox News saying that he wished it had happened in Paris. Ugh.

UPDATE: Julio points us to David Horovitz writing "And now as then, one suspects, the response of the targeted nation will be resilience and a determined response, rather than capitulation. London is not Madrid." in the Jerusalem Post.


Technorati Tags:

I wrote earlier about the origin of the Japanese the ritual of chopping off pinkies. In Japan, the ritual comes the importance of the left pinkie in the grip of a Japanese sword. Removing the left pinkie is literally disarming and was used to punish people in the past. This has been ritualized and continues to be used by small number of Yakuza and others in Japan as a form of punishment or taking responsibility.

This is why I didn't understand why the Koreans were severing their fingers in protests against the Japanese. Two Koreans chopped their little fingers off in in front of the Japanese embassy in March to protest Japanese comments about the Dokdo islands and in 2001, 20 Koreans chopped their off their little fingers in protest against Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine.

I was beginning to understand the issues that the Koreans were protesting against, but I didn't see how this finger chopping was involved. I decided to get to the bottom of this and asked friends during my trip to Korea.

Although it is an ancient custom, if I understand correctly, one of the most famous incidents was An Jung-geun, a legendary leader in the armed resistance against the Japanese occupation, chopping off parts of several of his fingers and writing "Korean Independence" in blood on the Korean national flag. Later he assassinated Japanese politician Hirobumi Ito in 1910. Hirobumi Ito was a key figure in the Meiji Restoration of Japan, former prime minister and former Resident-General of Korea. Using the blood from severed fingers to write such statements became a sign of solidarity in the resistance against the Japanese and I believe the recent finger chopping is a continuation of this.

I am not trying to make a statement about or a judgement on the anti-Japanese protests or the actions by the Japanese, but trying to clarify something that was confusing for me.

PS I found this article about the protests that ran in today's Korea Herald insightful on the relevance of these protests.

UPDATE: Edited post to reflect comments that An Jung-geun chopped his fingers before the assassination and that it's an ancient custom which didn't start with An Jung-geun.

Rony Abovitz blogged that Eason Jordan of CNN accused the U.S. military of murdering journalists in Iraq during a panel at Davos. The official summary does not reflect these comments. Rebecca MacKinnon, former CNN journalist who worked for Jordon corroborates the assertion by Abovitz. Little Green Football is tracking this in detail.

UPDATE: A MUST READ update from Rony Abovitz.

UPI via The Washington Times

Tenet calls for Internet security

[...]

The way the Internet was built might be part of the problem, he said. Its open architecture allows Web surfing, but that openness makes the system vulnerable, Mr. Tenet said.

Access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously, he said.

If the Internet were not open, it would no longer be the Internet. it is exactly the "vulnerabilities" that Tenet refers to that allows the Internet to promote free speech, innovation and growth without asking permission, getting licenses or being controlled by governments and monopolies. Shutting down or closing the open Internet in the name of fear and terror would do more damage to global democracy and innovation than any real damage it would have on terrorists. Of course terrorists use the Internet, but so does everyone else. I think people underestimate how much damage certain types of "control" can have on the future of the Internet. Either Tenet was ignorant of the nature of the Internet or it is yet another calculated push towards turning the Internet into another version of the telephone networks or cable TV...

Does Tenet have any influence on policy anymore?

Susan Crawford mentioned this during her remarks at the public forum at ICANN. Are there any other news agencies reporting this story?

I'm sorry I'm a bit late in picking this up, but blogger and journalist Kevin Sites is all over the news for the video he took of a US Marine shooting what appeared to be an unarmed prisoner in Falluja. There is a post on his blog that you must read about his position and the circumstances around his taking and releasing the video. There is article on the front page of today's IHT about this as well, but I can't seem to find it online.

via Xeni @ Boing Boing

There is an interesting discussion going on on MetaFilter about a very graphic video of what appears to be French soldiers shooting at civilians in Cote d'Ivoire. The discussion starts with understandable outrage, but some people begin to question the authenticity of the video and question whether it might be propaganda from the Gbagbo government. There is more and more political video on the Internet and it clearly is more emotional than text. Well respected groups such as Witness have been using video to expose human rights issues for awhile now. It will be interesting to see if/when/how not so respectable groups begin using video on the Internet for political issues or to spin the truth.

I can't conclude either way about exactly what is going on after watching this video. (Warning 100MB and very graphic.)

via Ethan

UPDATE: tao posts a link to an interview of French military on Swiss TV in Real Video format. http://clubidf.free.fr/rm/CI-carnage.rm Can someone who speaks French tell us what they are saying?

die puny humans
More members of Russia's armed services committed...

More members of Russia's armed services committed suicide or died in accidents than in the line of duty this year..

In October, Human Rights Watch published a detailed study of what it called "horrific violence" against new conscripts in the Russian army.

The international organisation highlighted a ritual of organised bullying known as "dedovshchina", which allegedly involves senior soldiers being able to treat juniors as little more than slaves.

The report claimed hundreds of soldiers were killed or committed suicide as a result. Tens of thousands ran away, while thousands more were left physically and or mentally scarred...

I just had dinner with a friend who served in the Russian army awhile ago. He said that at the time, they started recruiting from prisons so "prison rules" were common. Basically, new recruits had to listen to the old-timers or they got the shit beat out of them. People regularly were killed or died and accidents were unreported. When he had first been recruited, a somewhat senior recruit got upset and and threw a bayonet at him which pierced his leg. He was patched up, but the assailant was not reprimanded nor was he taken to a hospital. (He showed me his scar.) On another occasion, a young recruit was told to remove a rope between two armored vehicles. The vehicle being towed popped the clutch and crushed the head of the young recruit. There was a funeral, but no formal investigation or report. His theory was that suicides and deaths have been common in the Russian army forever and recent transparency is just beginning to reveal the extent of the abuse.

Donna Wentworth @ EFF Deep Links
Govt. Responds; Indymedia Seizure Order May Have Come from Italy

The US government has responded (PDF) to EFF's motion to unseal the mysterious government order that resulted in the seizure of two servers hosting more than 20 Independent Media Center (IMC) websites. The reply, which argues that the order should remain secret, contains details that suggest that the order may have originated in Italy.

In the reply, the government contends that the seizure order should be kept sealed because (1) EFF and our Indymedia clients lack standing to contest the seizure, (2) the request for confidentiality came from an unnamed foreign government pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), trumping the Bill of Rights, and (3) disclosure would imperil "an ongoing criminal terrorism investigation."

EFF strongly disagrees.

So do I. Read the entire EFF post for lots of good details. I have been fighting against MLAT and other transborder law enforcement treaties for years arguing that cases just like this would occur. Most of the arrangements seem to assume that all law enforcement can be trusted and call for special powers to combat cybercrime because it is particularly multinational. These special powers often trump local laws, including in the case above, the Bill of Rights. I can imagine a future where agencies "share" databases of citizen activities and use these databases to create profiles for immigration border protection purposes. That's one of the reasons why I am so against the National ID in Japan. There are people who believe the government should have more central databases of consumer transactions for things like tracking down tax fraud. The risk to the people is that a centralized database would be a very obvious target for foreign agencies. The point is the government can't "share" what it doesn't have.

merkinofbaphomet posts on AnandTech that he just noticed that no abuse images show up on Google Images when you search for Abu Ghraib. The same search on Alta Vista produces a bunch of images.

I DO know that Google Images doesn't refresh their image database that frequently. Is it just that the images haven't made it into the database yet? Does anyone have more info on this? Can someone from Google shed some light?

via metafilter

Why are they going to run WMD drills on election day? Some strong allegations on the Citizens for Legitimate Government page with links to a variety of sources.

I blogged earlier about the very negative reaction that the Japanese taken hostage in Iraq received in Japan. The main reason was that when the parents asked for their release, they didn't apologize to the Japanese government and even denounced the war. I believe it was a rather unfortunately, but understandable reaction in the context of Japanese culture for the Japanese to say, "we told you to stay away from there, and how dare you cause such shame on Japan without even apologizing."

I recently talked to someone involved in the Arab press and learned that if the parents had apologized and sucked up to the Japanese government, there was a good chance that the hostages would not have been released. So if I had to choose between whether my children were released alive or whether they would be happily received by the Japanese government, I think I'd choose to have my children live. Whether it was done on purpose or not, their parents made the right decision.

Then there is the story of the Australian journalist who was freed because a Google search revealed he was not CIA or a US contractor.

I don't think that all of the kidnappers are smart and politically motivated and ethical, but they are clearly sending a signal that their targets are not all random.

Mark Frauenfelder @ Boing Boing
WSJ reporter confirms authenticity of her letter to friends about horrific conditions in Iraq

Farnaz Fassihi, a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Iraq, confirmed that a widely-redistributed letter she emailed to friends about the nightmarish situation in Iraq was indeed written by her. Too bad the WSJ doesn't allow this reporter to write these kinds of stories for the paper.

"Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity," Fassihi wrote (among much else) in the letter. "Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler." And: "Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

...Making clear what can only, at best, appear between lines in her published dispatches, Fassihi concluded, "One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle."

Link

Unlike the US Army in my previous post, the WSJ stood up for her.
Editor & Publisher
After she confirmed writing the letter on Wednesday, Paul Steiger, editor of the Wall Street Journal, stood up for her, telling the New York Post that her "private opinions have in no way distorted her coverage, which has been a model of intelligent and courageous reporting, and scrupulous accuracy and fairness."
Continue reading to see a copy of the email.

Farnaz Fassihi
Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't.

There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

It's hard to pinpoint when the turning point exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a potential threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to imminent and active threat, a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess the situation. When asked how are things? they reply: the situation is very bad.

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war.

In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health, which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers-- has now stopped disclosing them.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.

For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods. The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it -- baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda -- are cooperating and coordinating.

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.

America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every dayÜover 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.

As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel.

Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?

Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the importance of voting. He said, "President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to salvage Iraq before all is lost."

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral.

The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.

The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months while half of the country remains a no go zone -- out of the hands of the government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they'd boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"

Salon
Operation American Repression?

An Army officer in Iraq who wrote a highly critical article on the administration's conduct of the war is being investigated for disloyalty -- if charged and convicted, he could get 20 years.

Sept. 29, 2004 | An Army Reserve staff sergeant who last week wrote a critical analysis of the United States' prospects in Iraq now faces possible disciplinary action for disloyalty and insubordination. If charges are bought and the officer is found guilty, he could face 20 years in prison. It would be the first such disloyalty prosecution since the Vietnam War.

The essay that sparked the military investigation is titled "Why We Cannot Win" and was posted Sept. 20 on the conservative antiwar Web site LewRockwell.com. Written by Al Lorentz, a non-commissioned officer from Texas with nearly 20 years in the Army who is serving in Iraq, the essay offers a bleak assessment of America's chances for success in Iraq.

The Essay, Why We Cannot Win is still on the LewRockwell.com.

I don't understand. How can writing an essay like this send you to jail for 20 years?

Gary Lerhaupt
Uncovered: The War on Iraq - Interviews Torrent

In a follow-up to the licensing of the Outfoxed movie under a Creative Commons license, Robert Greenwald has also agreed to release the interviews from his previous movie, Uncovered: The War on Iraq under the Creative Commons. The files can be downloaded directly (also available in higher quality format) from archive.org, or you can join the torrent hosted on Torrentocracy.com at uncovered_interviews.torrent.

Hopefully we can match the over 700 downloads of Outfoxed that its torrent has already generated. Either way, the truth is free.

(free as in beer AND as in freedom)

Yay! Thanks Gary! And hats off to Robert Greenwald for actually doing what Moore talked about with F 9/11. I think that P2P and political documentaries is an amazing new channel for political activism and free speech.

Here's another Iraq war video. This one appears to be a strike on a group of people walking down a street in Fallujah. Does anyone else have more information on this video? Has it been aired on any TV network?

If they are civilians, it's quite disturbing. The "aw dude" in the audio doesn't seem like a very appropriate reaction.

The embedded Windows Media Player window didn't work for me in Firefox on OS X, but worked fine in Internet Explorer. You can also use this link to view it directly in Windows Media Player.

Via Paul

aproval_vs_alert_chart_NEW.gif
Interesting chart showing how terror alerts in the US seems to coincide with drops in Bush's approval ratings.

via JuliusBlog

AP via CNN
9/11 toy found inside candy bags

Wholesaler recalls 14,000 bags it bought from Miami import firm

MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- Small toys showing an airplane flying into the World Trade Center were packed inside more than 14,000 bags of candy and sent to small groceries around the country before being recalled.

First NROjr and now this. For some reason, all of my posts today are about the US government and the last two are very weird messages to kids...

via Adam

The US Transporation Security Administration (TSA) announced that CAPPS II, the controversial passenger profiling system is back looking a bit more shy and sporting a new name, "Secure Flight." It still sounds bad and they'll start testing it within the next 30-60 days.

via Kevin @ EFF: Deep Links

Cryptome is one of my primary sources of documents that get released to the public through a variety of sources. I link to it quite often from my blog. ABC News questions the value of the public's right to know, vs the risk of "helping the enemy." I have a feeling that terrorists are pretty good at using the Internet and probably already have access to most of the stuff on Cryptome. I think that it could be argued that they are helping terrorists by making the information so easy to find, but I personally think that Cryptome and other sites like it are important in fighting against the natural tendency to hide behind secrecy.

Talking Points Memo
Just-in-time-production?

See CNN's Breaking News Alert: "Security forces have captured a high-level al Qaeda operative in a raid in central Pakistan, Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said."

Then, after you see that, remember that we noted in May and then The New Republic reported out extensively early this month, that this White House has been telling the Pakistanis for months that they wanted to see a big-time al Qaida leader -- hopefully bin Laden -- produced during the Democratic convention.

Coincidence?

via Glenn

Lessig writes an open letter to Bill O'Reilly from the FOX News show The Factor. Lessig has been blogging a lot about OutFoxed, Richard Greenwald's film criticizing FOX News. Lessig links to a clip from the film, the original interview with Jeremy Glick and the offending anti-war ad. He takes on point by point the series of false accusations that O'Reilly has been making about Glick in an unfair smear campaign against his Glick.

Lawrence Lessig
Mr. O'Reilly, please just stop.

Mr. O'Reilly,

You have declared a "war" on the New York Times. That's good for you, good for them, and good for our democracy: Strong opinions deserve strong spokesmen. Your battle will help sharpen a debate about matters important to the Republic.

But in waging this "war," you are continuing to abuse a man whom you have wronged, and to whom you owe an apology.

On February 4, 2003, Jeremy Glick was your guest on THE FACTOR. Glick had lost his father in the attack of 9/11. He had also signed an ad criticizing the war in Iraq. You were "surprised" that one who had lost his father could oppose that war. And so you had him on your show, presumably to ask him why. (Here's a clip from Outfoxed putting this story together.)

You might not remember precisely what you said on that interview, or more importantly, what Jeremy Glick said. So here's a copy that you can watch. Nor may you remember precisely what the ad that Jeremy Glick signed said. Here's a copy that you can read. And when you've watched what was actually said, and read what was actually written, I'm sure you will see that the statements you continue to make about Jeremy Glick are just plain false. Not Bill Clinton "depends upon what is is" false, but false the way most Americans learned growing up: just not true.

Please read Lessig's entire post.

Boing Boing
Evidence for Hersh's claims of child sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib?

Following up to this BoingBoing post on allegations by journalist Seymour Hersh of rape and sexual abuse of minors at Abu Ghraib prison Iraq -- there appears to be evidence for those claims in supporting statements that accompany the Taguba Report.

What most of us have seen of the report are excerpts from the 50-page summary. In fact, there are well over 6,000 pages in the report itself, including statements by and interviews with witnesses. Among them, testimony from an Iraqi prisoner that would appear to substantiate Seymour Hersh's claims that boys were sodomized at Abu Ghraib. Maj. Gen. Taguba evidently found these statements credible -- they supported statements from interviews with soldiers and other witnesses.

Xeni has some excerpts in her post on Boing Boing and here is part 1 and part 2 (PDF) of the documents supporting this hosted on the Washington Post site.

Boing Boing
Hersh: children raped at Abu Ghraib, Pentagon has videos

From Daily Kos' partial transcript of a video (link to stream) of Seymour Hersh speaking at an ACLU event. According to this transcript, Hersh says the US government has videotapes of children being raped at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror it's going to come out... a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher."

Link (via Warren).

There's also a piece worth reading in this week's Newsweek about new allegations of rape and sexual torture at Abu Ghraib. Feature includes details on the identities of the Iraqi prisoners shown in those widely-circulated photographs -- including Satar Jabar (charged with carjacking, not terrorism), whose iconic hooded figure with wires attached is derisively described by many Iraqis as the "Statue of Liberty." Link

Ted Turner also mentioned something about sodomy at Abu Ghraib last night, I think. I wonder if this is what he was talking about.

Some good quotes from Wesley Clark...

Wesley Clark: The responsibility of Abu Ghraib does not lie in the men and women in the armed forces. It lies in with the commander and chief.

Q: Why isn't the administration being held accountable for this?

Wesley Clark: They will be held accountable in the elections.

--

Wesley Clark: You can't win the war on terror by killing terrorists. You have to cut of the recruitment. It doesn't involve killing people.

Boing Boing
Fahrenheit 911 factchecks

Here are Michael Moore's extensive factchecking notes on Fahrenheit 911. Link (via Kottke)

What a good idea. Media sites should put factchecking notes online too.

Rock, Paper, Saddam! Pretty silly, but pretty funny.

via Metafilter

Andrew is trying to draft Bruce Springsteen, an outspoken critic of war, to perform at Giants Stadium (which he has reserved) September 1, the day of the Republican National Convention. Andrew wants you to sign his petition.

Bush vs Bruce live would be definitely be something worth watching.

via ejovi

Xeni @ Boing Boing
More on blocked sites for .mil websurfers

Following up on this BoingBoing post about rumors that access to TheMemoryHole is being blocked on military computers in Iraq...

[John continues:]If the request was denied due to the Content Filter configuration is a sentence fragment, but with The content category reported is Gen. News. and If you feel this site was blocked in error, please contact the Help Desk the meaning is clear enough. For whatever reason, "General News" is not fit for our troops. I've been meaning to send her a list of links and ask her if she'd be willing to try to access them (Newsweek? New York Times? Common Dreams? Freerepublic.com [a conservative site]? townhall.com [another conservative site]?) I'm also curious what other kinds of sites she can't visit (geek news? music news? yahoo? wikipedia?) and whether she's prohibited from visiting these sites at work because she's /at work/, or if she's encouraged not to pursue the news in general.

Zaku, can you or anyone in the military in Iraq corroborate this or look into this?

SpiritofAmerica
Spirit of America is a somewhat grassroots, and quickly growing project to promote humanitarian aid in Iraq. It's interesting to note that both people for and against the war have signed on with their support. Dan Gillmor says, "Marc Danziger, a.k.a. the 'Armed Liberal' Web logger, supported the war in Iraq. Britt Blaser, a Howard Dean campaign adviser, did not." Both Marc and Britt are supporting this effort.

Dan also writes, "'It seemed if you could essentially aggregate requests and syndicate those to potential donors, mainly using the Net and electronic outreach, you could respond with speed and on a scale to really make a difference,' Hake said," in an interview with the founder. Jeff Jarvis says, "I have been wanting to bring more citizens' media to Iraq -- blogging tools translated into Arabic and free blog hosting, for example. I now hope we can accomplish this via SoA," which I think is interesting.

I think this is an excellent example of the use of technology and grass roots organization to see if we can do right, something that top-down methods seem to be failing at. It's also an interesting attempt at citizen-to-citizen communications. Lets hope it works better than leader-to-leader communications.

Passion of the present is covering the genocide in Sudan.

See Jim's blog for more information on how you can help googlebomb to stop genocide.

RTMark
FBI ABDUCTS ARTIST, SEIZES ART Feds Unable to Distinguish Art from Bioterrorism Grieving Artist Denied Access to Deceased Wife's Body DEFENSE FUND ESTABLISHED - HELP URGENTLY NEEDED

Steve Kurtz was already suffering from one tragedy when he called 911 early in the morning to tell them his wife had suffered a cardiac arrest and died in her sleep.  The police arrived and, cranked up on the rhetoric of the "War on Terror," decided Kurtz's art supplies were actually bioterrorism weapons.

Thus began an Orwellian stream of events in which FBI agents abducted Kurtz without charges, sealed off his entire block, and confiscated his computers, manuscripts, art supplies... and even his wife's body.

Like the case of Brandon Mayfield, the Muslim lawyer from Portland imprisoned for two weeks on the flimsiest of false evidence, Kurtz's case amply demonstrates the dangers posed by the USA PATRIOT Act coupled with government-nurtured terrorism hysteria.

Kurtz's case is ongoing, and, on top of everything else, Kurtz is facing a mountain of legal fees. Donations to his legal defense can be made at http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/

It reminds me a bit of when the Secret Service came after etoy.

RTMark is nortorious for social hacking, but this story appears to have at least two supporting news stories.

WKBW Local News - Local Investigation Into Ub Artist Continues
WKBW Local News - Bio Hazard Or Art?

The weird thing is that these news articles are archived on RTMark's site and I can't seem to find them on the WKBW site. Having said that, a search on Google News shows an article about this, but it has "expired" and can't be accessed.

IF this is true, it's another example of patriotic stupidity, but it's often the role of artists to help us understand this stupidity.

Anyone else heard about this? Lately I'm becoming more wary of single source news stories. ;-) Any help in veting this story before I get really excited would be greatly appreciated.

via Scott

UPDATE: Email from artist, Steven Kurtz.

News24.com
Rumsfeld bans phone cameras

London - Cellphones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported on Sunday.

Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US defence department believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.

"Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," it said, adding that a "total ban throughout the US military" is in the works.

via Smartmobs

The increasing reliance of this administration on secrecy is really disturbing. When your government starts to strip the people of their privacy and civil rights and consistently marches forward with a variety of efforts to hides its own movements, you know you're in real trouble.

I've worked on whistleblower protection bills and thought a lot about the importance of the ability for people to come forward outside of the chain of command. It is an essential protection measure against coverups and corruption. I can understand arguments about why allowing random photos could be bad, but I'm sure the importance of having "eyes on the ground" outside of the "main channel" out-weigh the risks.

UPDATE: There are many media sites and blogs running this story, but they all seem to quote the same source. We still have no corroborating original sources. Please see comments on this entry for more.

UPDATE2

This morning, I asked a Defense Department spokesperson whether or not the reports of a phonecam ban were true. This spokesperson said that these reports were technically inaccurate -- that the Pentagon is not issuing a new ban on camera phones per se, but that a Directive 8100.2 was issued on April 14 establishing new restrictions on wireless telecommunications equipment in general. The text of this directive is available online here in PDF format: Link. The intent of this April 14 directive, and how commanders in the field will be expected to enforce it, are matters I'll be reporting on in more detail for the NPR program "Day to Day," later this week.
Lauren Weinstein
Report: "Rumsfeld and Rice Approved; Bush Knew"

Greetings. Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker, who exposed so many aspects of the Iraqi prisoner abuse story, now reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice secretly approved the expansion of a clandestine program that encouraged physical coercion, sexual humiliation, and blackmail of Iraqi prisoners, setting the stage for the abuses that these same officials have recently been condemning so publicly.

According to the report, President Bush was kept informed regarding this program. The Department of Defense called the accusations in the story "outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture."

How accepted is this view in the US now?

I'm sure most people have seen it, but the full Red Cross report on Iraqi Prisoner Abuse is online on Cryptome.

Red Cross Report on Iraqi Prisoner Abuse

The Japan Times
Kidnap crisis poses a new risk

In Japan's case, laws are being proposed to punish those entering designated "danger zones" without an official reason.

Victims -- or their families -- will foot the bill for their rescue, which will amount to airfare, if not more. "This is standard practice for mountain rescues," one line of reasoning goes.

But consider two things: One is that an aid mission to a danger zone is not a forest stroll gone astray. The very comparison indicates a misunderstanding of what aid missions do.

The second is policy overstretch and political abuse. This law would place a degree of government control over aid organizations, something many don't want. Particularly NGOs (by very the nature of their title) eschew government support, especially when they take on problems governments would rather avoid.

Under this law, they would effectively need official permission to work in some places overseas. Those "unsponsored" who get unlucky will face a "rescue fine" -- which could bankrupt the person or the organization. Thus this new system of rents will curtail Japanese volunteerism.

The Japanese government is taking this way too far and totally agree with the author of this article that this is a bad bad thing. As I've said before, legislation during emotionally charged times often ends up being stupid and poorly thought through. The ramifications of such a law would be devastating for NGO's and aid workers from Japan, just when such activity is becoming recognized. It almost feels like some stupid conspiracy to use this incident to squash the NGO's in Japan. Bah. I have less and less respect for the Japanese government every day.

Kathryn Cramer
Halliburton Pulling the Plug on GI Communications

A week after a scandal broke involving photos of American troops torturing Iraqi prisoners, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, & Root is pulling the plug on private electronic communications with the folks back home, apparently at the request of the Department of Defense.

via Jim

Oh right! If it weren't for that pesky Internet...

I haven't seen this in mainstream media so I may be jumping the gun. Anyone who finds any other information about this, please let me know so I can update.

edwardsaidorientalismJust finished reading the famous introduction to Orientalism by Edward Said. Said was a professor of comparative literature at Columbia University and was a well known Palestinian scholar who died in September of last year. Orientalism was written in 1978, but probably continues to become more relevant.

Basically, he argues that the whole notion of the "Orient" or "Orientalism" is a body of culture, academic work and politics that tries to identify the East as "them" in terms that have evolved through Western imperialism. He makes the point that even work that doesn't appear immediately political had political impact and was part of the larger process of the development of Orientalism. Reading it brings back memories of Trader Vic's and pictures from British Museum exhibits of "Headpiece from dead savage."

He points out some important issues which ties into the racism as stereotype discussion we had about Lost In Translation. The simplistic stereotypes and the images of the the East leads to a kind of fascination with the Orient, but also creates a false sense of understanding and fake academics upon which many ignorant, racist and imperialistic political decisions are made.

A version of the introduction is available on The Guardian Unlimited Books web site so I'll give you a few quotes from there.

Edward W. Said
...Orientalism is very much a book tied to the tumultuous dynamics of contemporary history. Its first page opens with a description of the Lebanese civil war that ended in 1990, but the violence and the ugly shedding of human blood continues up to this minute. We have had the failure of the Oslo peace process, the outbreak of the second intifada, and the awful suffering of the Palestinians on the reinvaded West Bank and Gaza. The suicide bombing phenomenon has appeared with all its hideous damage, none more lurid and apocalyptic of course than the events of September 11 2001 and their aftermath in the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. As I write these lines, the illegal occupation of Iraq by Britain and the United States proceeds. Its aftermath is truly awful to contemplate. This is all part of what is supposed to be a clash of civilisations, unending, implacable, irremediable. Nevertheless, I think not.

I wish I could say that general understanding of the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam in the US has improved, but alas, it really hasn't. For all kinds of reasons, the situation in Europe seems to be considerably better. What American leaders and their intellectual lackeys seem incapable of understanding is that history cannot be swept clean like a blackboard, so that "we" might inscribe our own future there and impose our own forms of life for these lesser people to follow. It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar. But this has often happened with the "orient", that semi-mythical construct which since Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the late 18th century has been made and remade countless times. In the process the uncountable sediments of history, a dizzying variety of peoples, languages, experiences, and cultures, are swept aside or ignored, relegated to the sandheap along with the treasures ground into meaningless fragments that were taken out of Baghdad.

[...]

The major influences on George W Bush's Pentagon and National Security Council were men such as Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, experts on the Arab and Islamic world who helped the American hawks to think about such preposterous phenomena as the Arab mind and the centuries-old Islamic decline which only American power could reverse. Today bookstores in the US are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, the Arab threat and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted by experts who have supposedly penetrated to the heart of these strange oriental peoples. CNN and Fox, plus myriad evangelical and rightwing radio hosts, innumerable tabloids and even middle-brow journals, have recycled the same unverifiable fictions and vast generalisations so as to stir up "America" against the foreign devil.

[...]

Think of the line that starts with Napoleon, continues with the rise of oriental studies and the takeover of North Africa, and goes on in similar undertakings in Vietnam, in Egypt, in Palestine and, during the entire 20th century, in the struggle over oil and strategic control in the Gulf, in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Afghanistan. Then think of the rise of anti-colonial nationalism, through the short period of liberal independence, the era of military coups, of insurgency, civil war, religious fanaticism, irrational struggle and uncompromising brutality against the latest bunch of "natives". Each of these phases and eras produces its own distorted knowledge of the other, each its own reductive images, its own disputatious polemics.

My idea in Orientalism was to use humanistic critique to open up the fields of struggle, to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of polemical, thought-stopping fury that so imprison us. I have called what I try to do "humanism", a word I continue to use stubbornly despite the scornful dismissal of the term by sophisticated postmodern critics. By humanism I mean first of all attempting to dissolve Blake's "mind-forg'd manacles" so as to be able to use one's mind historically and rationally for the purposes of reflective understanding. Moreover humanism is sustained by a sense of community with other interpreters and other societies and periods: strictly speaking therefore, there is no such thing as an isolated humanist.

[...]

Speaking both as an American and as an Arab I must ask my reader not to underestimate the kind of simplified view of the world that a relative handful of Pentagon civilian elites have formulated for US policy in the entire Arab and Islamic worlds, a view in which terror, pre-emptive war, and unilateral regime change - backed up by the most bloated military budget in history - are the main ideas debated endlessly and impoverishingly by a media that assigns itself the role of producing so-called "experts" who validate the government's general line. Reflection, debate, rational argument and moral principle based on a secular notion that human beings must create their own history have been replaced by abstract ideas that celebrate American or western exceptionalism, denigrate the relevance of context, and regard other cultures with contempt.

[...]

The terrible conflicts that herd people under falsely unifying rubrics such as "America," "the west" or "Islam" and invent collective identities for large numbers of individuals who are actually quite diverse, cannot remain as potent as they are, and must be opposed. We still have at our disposal the rational interpretive skills that are the legacy of humanistic education, not as a sentimental piety enjoining us to return to traditional values or the classics but as the active practice of worldly secular rational discourse. The secular world is the world of history as made by human beings. Critical thought does not submit to commands to join in the ranks marching against one or another approved enemy. Rather than the manufactured clash of civilisations, we need to concentrate on the slow working together of cultures that overlap, borrow from each other, and live together. But for that kind of wider perception we need time, patient and sceptical inquiry, supported by faith in communities of interpretation that are difficult to sustain in a world demanding instant action and reaction.

Humanism is centred upon the agency of human individuality and subjective intuition, rather than on received ideas and authority. Texts have to be read as texts that were produced and live on in all sorts of what I have called worldly ways. But this by no means excludes power, since on the contrary I have tried to show the insinuations, the imbrications of power into even the most recondite of studies. And lastly, most important, humanism is the only, and I would go as far as to say the final resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.

I just picked out some paragraphs there were particularly interesting to me, but the whole thing is really interesting so I suggest you read the intro in its entirety.

lynndie

The Daily Telegraph
Good ol' girl who enjoyed cruelty

By SHARON CHURCHER in Fort Ashby

May 7, 2004

POINTING crudely at the genitals of a naked, hooded Iraqi, the petite brunette with a cigarette hanging from her lips epitomised America's shame over revelations US soldiers routinely tortured inmates at Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.

Lynndie England, 21, a rail worker's daughter, comes from a trailer park in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, which locals proudly call "a backwoods world".

She faces a court martial, but at home she is toasted as a hero.

At the dingy Corner Club Saloon they think she has done nothing wrong.

"A lot of people here think they ought to just blow up the whole of Iraq," Colleen Kesner said.

"To the country boys here, if you're a different nationality, a different race, you're sub-human. That's the way girls like Lynndie are raised.

"Tormenting Iraqis, in her mind, would be no different from shooting a turkey. Every season here you're hunting something. Over there, they're hunting Iraqis."

via boing boing

Canadian Broadcast Corporation
Convoy of Death

There’s only one war on our television screens now – that other war, the one from just a year ago, has been forgotten – but not by everyone. In Afghanistan, filmmaker Jamie Doran has uncovered evidence of a massacre: Taliban prisoners of war suffocated in containers, shot in the desert under the watch of American troops.

After screening the videotape last fall, the European Parliament called for an investigation. The United Nations has authorized an official investigation into the film’s allegations, but only if the security of its members can be guaranteed. And security is hard to find in northern Afghanistan. Since this documentary was filmed, eyewitnesses have been tortured. Others have disappeared or been killed.

52MB QuickTime Movie

via insert-coin and boing boing

U.S. Army report on Iraqi prisoner abuse

Complete text of Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba

[...]

6. (S) I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts:

a. (S) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet;

b. (S) Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees;

c. (S) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing;

d. (S) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time;

e. (S) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear;

f. (S) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped;

g. (S) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them;

h. (S) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture;

i. (S) Writing “I am a Rapest” (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked;

j. (S) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture;

k. (S) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee;

l. (S) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee;

m. (S) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees.

[...]

8. (U) In addition, several detainees also described the following acts of abuse, which under the circumstances, I find credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses (ANNEX 26):

a. (U) Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees;

b. (U) Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol;

c. (U) Pouring cold water on naked detainees;

d. (U) Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair;

e. (U) Threatening male detainees with rape;

f. (U) Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell;

g. (U) Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.

h. (U) Using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

via Cryptome

And on a related note...

David Weinberger
Aw, shoot, now torture may not be worth the paperwork
...the new head of the prison, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller... said that some interrogation techniques, such as sleep deprivation or stressful positions, will require a commander's approval.
Excuse me, but we are ok with torturing prisoners so long as it doesn't leave any marks?

John Perry Barlow
"Kicking butt is mandatory. Taking names is optional."

So runs the headline on a current U.S. Navy recruiting ad. This may sum up current U.S. military philosophy pretty neatly, whatever the branch of service. No one from the Pentagon knows, or seems particularly interested in finding out, how many civilians we have killed in Iraq so far. I would guess it exceeds many times over the number who died here on September 11. One of the liabilities of conducting a military operation that is so heavily based on "death from above" is that, even with our surgical new targeting abilities, we are dangerously abstracted from the consequences below.

Barlow rants about the situation in Iraq.

A War for Us, Fought by Them
by William Broyles Jr.
New York Times, 05/04/2004

If children of the political elite were fighting in Iraq, a resolution to the current military imbroglio would soon be found. The author, a Vietnam War veteran, proposes reinstating the draft to ensure the US military gets the support it needs and to relieve pressures on an over-extended volunteer force. Most importantly, he argues, a draft would also prove the ultimate test of Americans' support for the war in Iraq.

William Broyles Jr., the founding editor of Texas Monthly, wrote the screenplay for "Cast Away."

New York Times
A War for Us, Fought by Them

The problem is, I don't see the images of or read about any of the young men and women who, as Dick Cheney and I did, have "other priorities." There are no immediate family members of any of the prime civilian planners of this war serving in it — beginning with President Bush and extending deep into the Defense Department. Only one of the 535 members of Congress, Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, has a child in the war — and only half a dozen others have sons and daughters in the military.

[...]

This is less a matter of politics than privilege. The Democratic elites have not responded more nobly than have the Republican; it's just that the Democrats' hypocrisy is less acute. Our president's own family illustrates the loss of the sense of responsibility that once went with privilege. In three generations the Bushes have gone from war hero in World War II, to war evader in Vietnam, to none of the extended family showing up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I remember when I was living in the US with a Green Card (permanent residence card) and I had to sign up for the draft in high school. I thought it was strange that I couldn't vote, drink or buy a gun, but I could be sent to fight a war for the US. It definitely did make me think a lot about war. I think that reinstating the draft in the US is an interesting idea.

Opinion Source is an interesting site run by some of my friends that summarizes op-eds and editorials from around the world. I need to tell them they need better permalinks.

The Mirror ran a story about British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners with photos. There is a lot of question about the legitimacy of the photos. The BBC has a organized list of the claims against their authenticity and the rebuttals.

BBC News
What the papers say

The Express says soldiers who originally tried to sell the story of mistreatment were told it would be "worth a fortune if there were corroborating pictures and weeks later they produced them".

This sort of commercial and unethical behavior by the media is really disgusting. I guess The Mirror is still standing by their claims, but it seems like they are in a pretty weak position now.


Thanks to everyone on IRC for chasing this one down.

UPDATE:

Dan Gillmor
Fake Photos Editor Bounced

  • BBC: Editor sacked over 'hoax' photos. Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan has been sacked after the newspaper conceded photos of British soldiers abusing an Iraqi were fake.
  • Appropriately.

    In case anyone missed this, there is a detailed article on the torture at Abu Ghraib in The New Yorker. Unlike the sniper rumor, this one is pretty much documented fact. I realize that this is obviously not standard behavior, but it is not a single wacko, but a group of soldiers. It's really quite appalling. How can something like this happen? What is the mood like among American soldiers in Iraq? Is there a general hatred or is it really isolated behavior? I can't imagine an occupying force being very successful without some basic respect for the local citizens.

    I remember hearing that the occupying forces in post-war Japan were selected from soldiers who had not served in combat against the Japanese. Most of the stories you hear about the soldiers occupying Japan are good stories. I suppose it's easier to be nice when there is no resistance, but still... (My sister has a nice post about the story of our family's first interaction with the US occupation of Japan.)

    I also heard from a Spanish friend of mine that there is very little if no hatred towards Muslims after the 3/11 attack in Madrid. People realize that it is a splinter group and are not blaming the Muslims.

    I don't want to over-generalize, but trying to link Al Qaeda to Iraq and the increased racism directed at Muslims in the US really highlights the lack of racial sympathy or understanding on the US's part. I think the US really needs to figure out how to deal with this racial intolerance and ignorance if it's going to try do any kind of nation building.

    Before someone else says it, I think racism in Japan is also very bad, but we're not toppling regimes and trying to rebuild them. I wouldn't trust Japan with that either.

    An interesting article in The Guardian about what we should do in Iraq. She argues that the UN should not support the US in Iraq and should join the mutiny against the US and force the US out of Iraq.

    Naomi Klein, Saturday May 1, 2004, The Guardian
    Mutiny is the only way out of Iraq's inferno

    The UN betrayed Iraq by becoming the political arm of US occupation. Now it must redeem itself

    Can we please stop calling it a quagmire? The United States isn't mired in a bog in Iraq, or a marsh; it is free-falling off a cliff. The only question now is: who will follow the Bush clan off this precipice, and who will refuse to jump?

    More and more are, thankfully, choosing the second option. The last month of US aggression in Iraq has inspired what can only be described as a mutiny: waves of soldiers, workers and politicians under the command of the US occupation authority suddenly refusing to follow orders and abandoning their posts. First Spain announced that it would withdraw its troops, then Honduras, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Kazakhstan. South Korean and Bulgarian troops were pulled back to their bases, while New Zealand is withdrawing its engineers. El Salvador, Norway, the Netherlands and Thailand will likely be next.

    [...]

    There is a way that the UN can redeem itself in Iraq: it could choose to join the mutiny, further isolating the United States. This would help to force Washington to hand over real power - ultimately to Iraqis, but first to a multilateral coalition that did not participate in the invasion and occupation and would have the credibility to oversee direct elections. This could work, but only through a process that fiercely protects Iraq's sovereignty.

    via Martin Varsavsky

    MATTHEWS: Mr. Secretary, let me ask you about the war in Iraq and the boldest question I could put to you here in the Pentagon. Did you ever advise the president to go to war?
    [...]
    RUMSFELD: You ought to get a life. You could do something besides read those books.

    MATTHEWS: This is my life. Let me ask you about something a little more...

    RUMSFELD: Let me answer your question.

    MATTHEWS: Did you advise the president to go to war?

    RUMSFELD: Yes. He did not ask me, is the question. And to my knowledge, there are a number of people he did not ask.

    Woodward said he found that the administration quietly shifted money around to pay for early preparations for war in Iraq, without the approval of Congress. He said those preparations included building landing strips and addressing other military needs in Kuwait.

    The money, about $700 million, was taken in July 2002 from a budget item that had been approved for the war in Afghanistan, Woodward wrote.

    "Some people are going to look at that document called the Constitution, which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress," Woodward says in his CBS interview.

    Does this mean that the President didn't consult the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense or Congress on the decision to go to war?

    It appears he did consult God.

    I'm in Europe so I have no idea how much coverage this is getting in the US, but isn't this an important issue?

    The Scotsman
    Mystery group wage war on Sadr's militia

    In a deadly expression of feelings that until now were kept quiet, a group representing local residents is said to have killed at least five militiamen in the last four days.

    The murders are the first sign of organised Iraqi opposition to Sadr’s presence and come amid simmering discontent at the havoc their lawless presence has wreaked.

    The group calls itself the Thulfiqar Army, after a twin-bladed sword said to be used by the Shiite martyr Imam Ali, to whom Najaf’s vast central mosque is dedicated.

    Residents say leaflets bearing that name have been circulated in the city in the last week, urging Sadr’s al-Mahdi army to leave immediately or face imminent death. . . .

    "It has got some of the Mahdi guys quite worried, I tell you. They are banding together more, when normally you would see them happily walking on the streets alone. I think their commanders have ordered them to do that."

    via Instapundit

    For more on Sadr, see the article on the Christian Science Monitor.

    Several people have asked me to comment on an article in the NYT about the reaction of to the Japanese people to the three Japanese taken hostage in Iraq. The article describes how everyone including the politicians in Japan are angry at the hostages for causing trouble to the Japanese government and being irresponsible.

    There are many conflicting reports about whether they were reckless or not and what their motives were so I won't comment on that. I also don't feel strongly personally on this issue so I'm not going to make a judgmental point either. What I would like to describe is a bit more background on how Japanese think about responsibility and apologies.

    I think one of the things that made many Japanese I know upset were the parents of the hostages making public statements about how the government should help get the hostages back without apologizing first about causing trouble for the government. Even if they didn't believe it, it would be proper Japanese etiquette to say this first. It's quite cliche, but it's true that if you get into an automobile accident in Japan, even if you think it's probably the other person's fault, you apologize first. Japanese are warned not to do this in the US because apologizes imply responsibility. In many cases, apologies in Japan are a formality and skipping them is rather rude. I think many people thought these parents were "rude" on a national scale. Another example of a throw-away apology is that when you ask for a waiter in a restaurant, you say, "I'm sorry... or excuse me." We often apologize profusely when in doubt or are requesting any kind of favor.

    An important psychological element is that even though we are individuals, we often represent the group. I have something like 16 or so generations before me on my gravestone and I often feel like a mere blip in the history of my family. Taking risk or tainting my family name is not something that I can freely do without feeling the guilt and responsibility to my ancestors.

    It's also interesting to note that most Japanese children's cartoons have story lines where they are a team. Often one of the members get in trouble or drop out of the group and the whole show is about how the group tries to help the drop out get back in tune with the group. It's usually the group saving the single "problem" member. On the other hand, many American cartoons are super-heros who are independent and save the world through taking risk and being different. I know I'm generalizing here, but people who watch a lot of Japanese TV will understand what I'm saying I think.

    I once talked to one of the directors of the Sumo Wrestling association. She said she always had a great deal of difficulty explaining one of the core principles of Sumo to foreigners. Sumo wrestlers are not supposed to show anguish when they lose or happiness when they win. They are to be emotionless and stoic. "Like a rooster carved out of wood," she said. This is a very central theme to many of Japanese aesthetics. This Japanese stoicism is central to much of the Japanese lack of sympathy to heroics, I think.

    Although I understand what the NYT article is saying and I don't necessarily agree with the way the hostages are being treated and picked on right now, I think that lack of initial apologies and the feeling of Japanese to heroics in Japan is behind the reaction. Having said that, I think this attitude is what is hampering Japan's entrepreneurism as well as Japan's ability to participate as a leader in global affairs. It's a fairly deeply rooted cultural theme that won't change very easily though.

    As usual, I'm happy to hear dissenting opinions.

    There is genocide going on in Sudan. A must read essay about it and how you can help.

    via Jim Moore

    In case you haven't been keeping up with your Doonesbury, Gary Trudeau has crossed an interesting landmark: B.D. has been injured while on reservist duty in Iraq. And his helmet has come off.
    Today's Doonsebury
    An Iraqi man claiming to have spoken to the kidnappers says the hostages will be executed one by one from later tonight if the demands are not met.

    Via The Command Post

    Japan Today
    Abe wants to revise Constitution to use SDF in hostage crisis

    Monday, April 12, 2004 at 06:47 JST
    TOKYO — Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, called Sunday for amending the Constitution to enable the government to mobilize the Self-Defense Forces in such eventualities as the current hostage crisis in Iraq.

    Obviously the US doesn't have a monopoly on using tragedies and fear to push their political agenda. I personally am not against revising the constitution and I can see how it makes "political sense" to do it now, but it still bugs me. People make such stupid laws when they're emotional.

    The Command Post
    Hostages Released?

    Fox TV is reporting that at least eight hostages have been released and the three Japanese hostages are “safe.”

    No confirmation on this yet, will follow up.

    Aljazeera
    Fate of Japanese hostages uncertain

    Monday 12 April 2004, 4:44 Makka Time, 1:44 GMT

    The lives of three Japanese hostages in Iraq are still in jeopardy, with their captors apparently threatening to start killing them unless Japan withdraws its forces

    Aljazeera
    Eight foreign hostages freed

    Sunday 11 April 2004, 21:39 Makka Time, 18:39 GMT

    An Iraqi group says it has released eight foreign hostages following the intervention of Muslim scholars on their behalf.

    A videotape aired by Aljazeera on Sunday showed eight frightened captives holding their passports and giving their nationalities. The hostages were seen guarded by masked men with arms.

    The hostages were three from Pakistan, two Turks, an Indian, a Nepali and one from the Philippines.

    So the Japanese were not among the released, but I wonder what "safe" means. Does anyone else have any news on this?

    Japanese hostages 'to be freed' - BBCi

    Iraqi group to free Japanese hostages - Aljazeera

    The Japanese hostages in Iraq are supposed to be freed in a few hours. I'm watching the TV news for more information now.

    UPDATE: Japan awaits news about hostages - BBC

    The Japanese news has been suppressing the more vivid videos of the hostage situation in Iraq and continue the "we are not pulling out" line. One piece of news that even the West seems to be suppressing is that the Japanese hostages are being threatened with cannibalism.

    "We tell you that three of your children have fallen prisoner in our hands and we give you two options -- withdraw your forces from our country and go home or we will burn them alive and feed them to the fighters," the group said.
    Most reports are saying "killed" or "burned alive".

    via The Command Post

    A good op-ed by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times about the situation in Iraq.

    60 Minutes
    Did Bush Press For Iraq-9/11 Link?

    "Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

    "Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

    via Dan Gillmor

    Video clip of Rumseld on Face The Nation

    Face The Nation
    SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this. If they did not have these weapons of mass destruction, though, granted all of that is true, why then did they pose an immediate threat to us, to this country?

    Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, you're the--you and a few other critics are the only people I've heard use the phrase "immediate threat." I didn't. The president didn't. And it's become kind of folklore that that's--that's what's happened. The president went...

    SCHIEFFER: You're saying that nobody in the administration said that.

    Sec. RUMSFELD: I--I can't speak for nobody--everybody in the administration and say nobody said that.

    SCHIEFFER: Vice president didn't say that? The...

    Sec. RUMSFELD: Not--if--if you have any citations, I'd like to see 'em.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN: We have one here. It says "some have argued that the nu"--this is you speaking--"that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain."

    Sec. RUMSFELD: And--and...

    Mr. FRIEDMAN: It was close to imminent.

    Sec. RUMSFELD: Well, I've--I've tried to be precise, and I've tried to be accurate. I'm s--

    Mr. FRIEDMAN: "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world and the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."

    Sec. RUMSFELD: Mm-hmm. It--my view of--of the situation was that he--he had--we--we believe, the best intelligence that we had and other countries had and that--that we believed and we still do not know--we will know.

    via Steven Johnson via Center for American Progress

    While I'm at it...

    This reminds me that I was moved by Colin Powell's speech in Davos about WMD and he spoke convincingly about his belief in WMD. I was almost convinced about the need to go into Iraq based solely on the WMD argument.

    Also...

    Here is a trailer from The Truth Uncovered of a video they are making for distribution about this topic.

    via Wirefarm

    In case you're just waking up and reading blogs before reading the news. There has been a terrible terrorist incident in Spain.

    News on CNN.com.

    The last count I saw was over 170 192 people dead. Several commuter trains in the early morning to Madrid. Government says it was the ETA.

    Victor has compiled a lot of information on the attack.

    I think this is old news on the Net, but the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force has produced an ad that is has begun to show on big screens at major intersections now and will soon be on TV. It's a bit embarrassing as a Japanese, but I guess it makes us look less threatening...

    via Wirefarm

    See the JMSDF site for the movie.

    Interesting article by Mike Rogers describing the influence of the popular Japanese TV drama Oshin and mustached Japanese soldiers in Iraq. Also some interesting perspectives about the ability to identify with suffering and Japan's relationship with the Middle East.

    Alright, think about Oshin. Think about that story and that kind of suffering. I don't think Americans can relate to that. Of course Japanese can.

    And, get this: Oshin has been broadcast in most Middle Eastern countries for at least the last 12 years. Iran? Sure. According to the Nikkei Shimbun News Oshin scores a remarkable 82% viewer rating; Iraq? Of course 76.7%; Thailand? 81.6%; China!? I thought most Chinese people hate Japanese because of the war! Yeah, well, maybe so, but they love Oshin! 75.9% viewer rating in China; Poland? 70%.

    Gee, I wonder if the people in the Middle East can relate to this kind of starvation, suffering, and pain? Of course they can.

    Which brings me to the next part of this puzzle: The Japanese military has ordered all troops in Iraq to grow beards and moustaches. Weird, eh? Well, no... Smart. Besides understanding the ways of society in the Middle-East, Oshin's husband has a moustache. Don't believe me? Check this out:

    * Japanese army opts for new form of camouflage

    Via Bob

    I just received this by email from a friend.

    WELCOME TO THE WAR IN IRAQ

    Attached is actual night-vision footage shot from a U.S. Apache attack helicopter engaging Iraqis, whom allegedly were attempting to launch a Stinger missile at the Apache. The Apache responds with approximately one-hundred rounds of 30mm cannon fire, which is, ironically, the least powerful weapons system onboard the helicopter. The footage has been "dumbed down" to VHS resolution before conversion to MPEG, since the actual night-vision system on the Apache provides a much sharper and more detailed image.

    I realize that the targets were probably a threat to the helicopter and the actions within the rules of engagement, but it is disturbing none the less.

    UPDATE: The server load was getting to high so I removed the direct link to the file. You can get it via bit torrent. (4.65 MB mpeg bit torrent file) If you don't know what bit torrent is or don't have it, check out the web page.

    UPDATE 2: The video was aired on abc news and is available on their site. via davee

    UDPATE 3: Here is a torrent of the full mission.

    November 5, 2003 - Wednesday

    The following is from Information Clearing House today.

    "Note: Unconfirmed Report"
    Can any of our Scottish readers verify the following report:

    Since Saturday, people in the Highlands of Scotland have been witnessing large movements of US warplanes overhead. Experienced observers say the large numbers are reminiscent of those that preceded the bombing of Iraq in 1998 and military strikes against Libya in the 1980's, as well as the first Gulf War.

    It is thought that the planes have flown on a route over the North Pole to bases in Europe and the Mediterranean. The size and scale of the movement suggests that the US may be preparing to strike against a country in the Middle East in the next week to ten days. I have been getting a lot of email referring to this report. If you have information in relation to the above, please email me at email@cox.net"

    Has anyone seen this or know of any other information about this? Is the US about to attack someone else?

    Via Markoff

    I'm sure most of you have already seen this news, but 27 pilots including a brigadier general and two colonels, nine in active duty, signed a letter saying that the Israeli air strikes were "illegal and immoral" and that they refused to take part in such missions.

    Reuters
    Israel Reels at Pilots' Refusal to Go on Mission

    An F-15 pilot who signed the letter, identified only as Captain Alef, told Israel's Channel Two television: "If dropping a bomb on a seven-storey building only to find out 14 innocent civilians were killed, of them nine children and two women, if that is not an illegal order, then what is?" Israel drew international condemnation last year when 16 civilians died after an F-16 warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on a residential neighborhood in Gaza City to kill Salah Shehada, a top commander in the militant Islamic group Hamas.

    This is truly a significant issue. If upstanding members the Israeli military feel that the justification of the attacks on the Palestinians is weak, it's clear that the extremists who are pushing for the continued attacks are on fairly weak moral ground.

    This reminds me of the work that Peaceworks is doing to try to amplify the voice of the silent majority in Israel and Palestine who are against the continued conflict.

    CNN
    BREAKING NEWS

    State Department warns of "increased indications" that al Qaeda is preparing attacks on U.S. interests to coincide with 9/11 anniversary. Details soon.

    Ahh... OK. What do I? Run away?

    Thanks for the link Gabe

    UPDATE: More details on State Department warning on CNN.

    Doc links to a "Girl Blog from Iraq", Baghdad Burning by Salam's friend Riverbend.

    According to the Swedes on #joiito, a Japanese space probe just crashed in Sweden. I can't find anything about on English or Japanese language sites. Anyone know anything about this?

    Erista has blogged about it in Swedish with a link to the to the original article. Manne first discovered the link.

    I first heard about Salam Pax on March 11 from John Monasch who sent me an email about him. Since then, he has gathered a great deal of attention from bloggers everywhere as the war approached. He was silent for quite awhile since the bombings. He finally came back, and now he's writing for the Guardian! Wow!

    Guardian Unlimited

    Salam's Story

    The most gripping account of the Iraq conflict came from a web diarist known as the Baghdad Blogger. But no one knew his identity - or even if he existed. Rory McCarthy finally tracked him down, and found a quietly spoken, 29-year-old architect. From next week he will write fortnightly in G2.

    I've been tuned out of the warblogging these days, but I have a question for the warbloggers. Did they find any WMD? Because... if they didn't I've lost a great deal of respect for Colin Powell. It was his passionate argument about how he was convinced beyond doubt that Iraq had WMD that moved me to say I was "more supportive" of the US.

    The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today report NBC News fires Arnett Over Iraqi TV Interview. Via The Command Post, here is the official word from National Geographic which co-fired him.

    Update from The Command Post: "Peter Arnett, the American reporter fired by MSNBC and National Geographic earlier today has reportedly (Fox News) been hired by the Daily Mirror."

    Short flash animation about the liberation of Afghanistan. Turn up the sound an take a look at this link.

    Via Tom Hammer

    I blogged earlier that I thought that CNN telling Kevin Sites to stop blogging sucked. I recently talked to a friend of mine who works at a major US TV Network and was presented a more balanced view on the issue. I have received permission to quote the following from an email exchange.

    All U.S. TV networks have a script approval process and frankly I think overall it leads to better, more focused, and more accurate reporting, not the opposite. We have script approval for the same reasons newspapers and magazines have editors. If you're going to call script approval censorship then you'll have to call the whole editing process censorship.

    Its also standard that a news organization has legal rights by contract to all "works" produced by its journalists. this is a basic market reality. Why should we expect a news company to pay us a decent amount of money and then not retain the rights to our news related "works"?  If we want total "freedom of speech" to write or say anything, anywhere at any time - especially on the same subjects that we cover as journalists - then we should expect to work for free.

    How to watch Iraqi Satellite TV on the web: The Saddam Show Paul Boutin has all the details in Slate, right here.
    [...]
    UPDATE: Oops. Too bad we just blew it up. AP reports one version of the story, and CBS reports another, as follows

    CNN MENTIONED SALAM PAX -- and gave his URL. This isn't cool.

    More reason to hope the troops get to Baghdad soon, and keep Saddam's goons busy in the meantime.

    IMHO, I think that Iraqi intelligence probably already reads Salam's blog so the CNN coverage MIGHT increase his risk, but at this point, I think the more people who read Salam's blog, the better.

    Frank Boosman is pro-war and he and I have had several debates/discussions about this. On the issue of the treatment of POW's, he's on Al Jazeera's side and provides good reasons which I agree with and couldn't have said better.

    Salam, our blogger in Baghdad was out of touch for a few days and I was getting worried. He's back online and says his Internet access was down, but it's back up.

    Christiaan van der Valk posted a thoughtful item about mutual respect and the Arab world on the GLT list.

    Christiaan van der Valk
    It goes without saying that Iraq and its people need all the help they can get short term.

    Seeing US soldiers paint a message for Saddam on a missile saying "9/11" was a sad confirmation of US public opinion of the reason for this war. While of course inspired by a fear only those in combat have a right to judge, seeing troops cheer as missiles are fired off (a commander explains: "they know the devastation these things bring") was as revolting as seeing people in the Muslim world celebrate after 9/11. I am sure the US and UK are serious about bringing peace and stability to the region (albeit certainly without a sufficient understanding of what the region really wants) but a little PR briefing of the troops would have helped. I did some introspection this weekend and concluded that I, too, as probably most Westerners, have a level of sub-conscious fear and resentment against the Arab world -- as much as rationally I would like things to be different, I could not conclude otherwise. Why? Because apparently some primitive part of my brain says "they hate us" and "they threaten our way of life". Even if one has been educated (as I think I have) to always question such feelings and try to understand them and counter them through rationalization, it does not take a lot for these these feelings to take the upper hand. I am pretty sure most people in the Arab world have not been sensitized to signal and deal with such dangerous emotions -- in many cases rather the opposite. Try to imagine against that background how this war and its preparation feel. There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people in the Arab and Muslim world are convinced the West hates them. And as much as Bush and all of us are sure we're doing all the right things to inspire confidence, we haven't began to do what is needed to get there. It is this mindset we're up against. You can pump a hundred billion into post-war Iraq, if you do not address this basic issue it will not be interpreted as positive. We have to learn mutual respect and we have to accept compromise. Showing decency in every aspect of this war, which is now a fact of life, must be a first step.
    quoted with permission

    Washington Post
    We Begin Combing in Five Minutes
    By Lloyd Grove
    Friday, March 21, 2003; Page C03

    The White House is vowing a strong retaliatory response after the BBC aired live video of President Bush getting his hair coiffed in the Oval Office as he squirmed in his chair and practiced on the teleprompter minutes before Wednesday night's speech announcing the launch of military operations against Saddam Hussein.

    The footage available on The Smoking Gun.

    If you haven't seen it already, Lisa has video footage of police hitting protestors in San Francisco.

    Kevin Sites
    Pausing the warblog, for now. Dear readers: I've been asked to suspend my war blogging for awhile.
    That sucks. I wonder if CNN thought he was getting too much attention. He was the only professional journalist on the inside blogging that I know of. Now we have to hope that Christopher of Back to Iraq 2.0 gets his stuff in order and actually makes it into Iraq and hope that Salam stays alive and keeps on blogging.

    Via Instapundit

    I'm sure everyone knows about "Where's Raed?" a blog by a guy in Baghdad which I wrote about here and here. (Thanks again John for the original link.) Paul Boutin does some great investigative blogging about where Salam Pax, the Baghdad Blogger, is. His conclusion?

    Paul Boutin
    Q: Is the Baghdad Blogger for real?

    A: Probably.

    Check out his thoughts if this question has been on your mind.

    There is a great deal of debate in the Diet recently about Japan's military capability. The constitution of Japan states:

    Japanese Constitution
    CHAPTER II. RENUNCIATION OF WAR

    Article 9.

    Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

    In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

    The interpretation of this is that Japan can not attack another country and in fact can not even shoot at anything until someone dies. So, if North Korea shoots a missile at Japan and it hits an unpopulated area, Japan can do nothing. If the missile kills someone, Japan can shoot the next missile down when it is over international waters. The military is pushing to have this law changed and the constitution amended.

    In the Diet testimonies, the military said that they are currently not equipped to strike anyone anyway. The Aegis destroyers only have sea-to-air and sea-to-sea missiles and the fighter jets only have air-to-air missiles.

    I currently do not know what my position is about rearming Japan, but interesting facts since Japan has quite a large military these days, but for what?

    Good rant from Salam, a blogger in Baghdad about the war.

    Salam
    What is bringing on this rant is the question that has been bugging for days now: how could "support democracy in Iraq" become to mean "bomb the hell out of Iraq"? why did it end up that democracy won't happen unless we go thru war? Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful.
    I hope my efforts get support for democracy in Japan doesn't mean that we want someone to bomb us. Someone joked with me yesterday that the US should bomb Japan to democracy since Japan seems to be re-arming and we have a rogue regime. (Once again, this is only a joke...)
    Salam
    The entities that call themselves "the international community" should have assumed their responsibilities a long time ago, should have thought about what the sanctions they have imposed really meant, should have looked at reports about weapons and human rights abuses a long time before having them thrown in their faces as excuses for war five minutes before midnight.
    [...]
    To end this rant, a word about Islamic fundis/wahabisim/qaeda and all that.

    Do you know when the sight of women veiled from top to bottom became common in cities in Iraq? Do you know when the question of segregation between boys and girls became red hot? When tribal law replaced THE LAW? When Wahabi became part of our vocabulary?

    It only happened after the Gulf War. I think it was Cheney or Albright who said they will bomb Iraq back to the stone age, well you did. Iraqis have never accepted religious extremism in their lives. They still don't. Wahabis in their short dishdasha are still looked upon as sheep who have strayed from the herd. But they are spreading. The combination of poverty/no work/low self esteem and the bitterness of seeing people who rose to riches and power without any real merit but having the right family name or connection shook the whole social fabric. Situations which would have been unacceptable in the past are being tolerated today.

    Salam also thinks the human shields should go home.

    I've posted a two movies clips I took at the anti-war parade in Shibuya. The first one is a 1.7MB QT movie of the Japanese drummers and the second one is a 780K QT movie of the big black flags of the anarchics waving in the air walking down Koendori in front of the Marui department store. I imagined that we were marching for the overthrow of the Japanese government for a moment. ;-)

    It was dark so I used the infrared nightvision mode on my Sony video camera to capture the scene
    Went to the anti-war parade in Shibuya today. It was the biggest protest of its type that I've been to. (Although I think the gay and lesbian parade I went to with Kara and Megan was bigger and more fun...) I heard that it was the first protest that circled through the Shibuya route completely before the last team had left, making a full circle.

    We were the bloggers against war. We were stuck between the semi-left wing Asian group and a bunch of strange folks with messages on their umbrellas. Later, we ended up next to the Japanese drummers, which was much better. I guess they wanted to do this at the same time all over the world so Japan got stuck after dark. We were a pretty diverse group. I liked the Japanese drummers, the anarchists with the BIG black flags and the "Love not War" folks.

    It was pretty interesting and mayb 20% of the people were really having fun. Regardless of the logic, I think it is definitely more fun to be against the war than for it.

    Recently I've been getting email and comments in my blog pushing me to try to elaborate on my position on the war or to engage in the debate. I don't want to right now. I have several reasons.

    1 - The War with Iraq is very important, but I have many things that are important to me and committing to taking a strong position and defending it would undermind my ability to cause a revolution in Japan, think about North Korea, run my business and try to understand democracy.

    2 - Most of what can be said is being said. It reminds me of high school debate. We had hundreds of note cards supporting or debunking various positions. Debate was about choosing and presenting a variety of positions about certain points. Both teams had 99% of all of the arguments already worked out. It was just a matter of hashing things out. I read the war blogs and it seems like just recycling of the same information over and over again. I'm not interested in hearing about the war unless it is new information. Calling me names and pushing me harder will not change my position on the war. I also do not have much to add at this point. I don't have much first hand information and it would be reiterated arguments already made. I don't see the point.

    3 - Most of the sources of information are not trustworthy and have a variety of complex agendas. The issue itself is VERY complex. I think that ANYONE who is completely convinced either way either has access to information that I do not have or is a fool. I do not take strong positions on issues where I don't know the facts for sure and where it is too complex to predict the outcome.

    I have decided to be against the war after listening to a variety of people who I trust and who have thought about this a lot. I had the opportunity to meet Colin Powell at the World Economic Forum in a small group with the Global Leaders for Tomorrow two years ago. I developed a great deal of respect for him. His speech at Davos this year was the most convincing argument for the war that I've heard. All of the pro-war folks are not nearly as convincing and I've already heard the argument about the UN resolution from Powell so I don't need to hear it again and again. I've also spent time with a journalist who I respect very much who is also pro-war. He was also very convincing. I've talked to experts on foreign policy, university professors, bloggers and a variety of people who I trust. My feeling after hearing all of the arguments is that there is no obvious position. So, when in doubt, my position is, don't kill people. Also, I believe that the US one of the best democracies in the world and that we should all push the US to hold the link and maintain its integrity. Judges face cases where they KNOW the defendant is guilty, but throw it out due to technicalities. Rules are rules. First-strike, torture are bad no matter what the reason. Due process should be protected no matter what the reason. If you let these principles slip, you're losing what you're fighting for. I'm not going to go into any more specifics in this entry because for every argument, there is a counter-argument.

    So my fear in taking the anti-war position is that we may be allowing another Hitler to happen. Having said that, Sadaam does not have nearly the support or the power the Hitler had so we still have time. We are allowing the bin Laden to unite the Arab/Islam world against the US with this war and strange bedfellows are united. This is dangerous. We are also pushing Sadaam to strike first. The cost of a long war on the global economy and the difficulty of "running Iraq" is immense and I dread the thought of a drawn out US occupation of Iraq. That's what's on my mind.

    So my humble position is to let the inspectors continue, work through the UN, get the rest of the world on board with a "smoking gun" and talk to the rest of the Arab nations more for ideas about hot to unseat Sadaam.

    PS If you are going to warblog spam my blog, please comment on this item if possible. I won't delete or censor war comments to other entries, but I think it's bad taste to turn EVERY discussion into a discussion about Iraq.

    Frank Boosman's rather lucid arguments FOR the war.
    Interesting cross-blog debate

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