Wednesday, November 09, 2005

WHEN A WMD IS NOT A WMD - IT'S AMERICAN!

Really...What is all the uproar over American use of white phosphorus during the devastating assault on Fallujah in November 2004? It has been claimed by numerous sources - none of which have really received the time of day by major media or Congress - that its deadly and horrific use against civilian and insurgent populations was a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC): that the United States was using chemical weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention is an arms control agreement which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. Simple enough, right? Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. 174 nations ratified the agreement which went into effect in April 1997.

Guess what? White phosphorus is not one of the substances - or weapons - listed anywhere in the CWC. So how do parties come to their conclusion? Really. Aren't they working overtime trying to stretch facts for their own cynical purposes?

OK, so how about the claim that its use violates the United Nations Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects? It's part of the famous Geneva Conventions. The United States has never agreed to to this. The treaty's "Protocol III" reads as follows:

Protocol III on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons prohibits, in all circumstances, making the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects, the object of attack by any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat or a combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target.

So where does this white phosphorus stuff fit in?

Alright, I'll admit. White phosphorus is bad news.

White phosphorus is a colorless, white, or yellow waxy solid with a garlic-like odor. It does not occur naturally, but is manufactured from phosphate rocks. White phosphorus reacts rapidly with oxygen, easily catching fire at temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above room temperature. White phosphorus is used by the military in various types of ammunition, and to produce smoke for concealing troop movements and identifying targets. White phosphorus has been used commonly by the military as an incendiary agent or as an igniter for munitions. It commonly is found in hand grenades, mortar and artillery rounds, and smoke bombs. It's military slang name is "Willy Pete." How romantic.

Munitions-quality white phosphorus commonly is found in solid form. When exposed to air, it spontaneously ignites and is oxidized rapidly to phosphorus pentoxide. Such heat is produced by this reaction that the element bursts into a yellow flame and produces a dense white smoke. Phosphorus also becomes luminous in the dark, and this property is conveyed to "tracer bullets." This chemical reaction continues until either all the material is consumed or the element is deprived of oxygen. (Source: eMedicine)

It is also used by industry to produce phosphoric acid and other chemicals for use in fertilizers, food additives, and cleaning compounds. Small amounts of white phosphorus were used in the past in pesticides and fireworks. (source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)

But just how bad is this stuff? It burns like hell - literally. The burning particles imbed in the skin. Burning white phosphorus cannot be extinguished simply by flushing it with water, either. It creates second- and third-degree burns right down to bone and melts skin. To simply breath it in can be severely harmful if not fatal. It is bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But hey! The United States has not agreed to its ban, no way, shape, or form. So what's the harm eh? It's just another weapon. Albeit a really really deadly one. Now some folks have confused Willy Pete with napalm. That IS a banned weapon according to the Chemical Weapons Convention. And while the effects of Willy Pete might be confused with napalm, well it's just NOT napalm. So the U.S. military cannot be accused of violating any international treaties to which it is a party.

Tadahhhhh!

The United States does not torture. The United States does not violate international weapons treaties either. Hey we're the good guys, remember?

Trust me. After all, I am George W. Bush, that good-hearted Evangelical Christian guy that you all elected, not once, but twice. Well sort of. Hehehehehehe.










Tuesday, November 08, 2005

LET THERE BE LIGHT!

To paraphrase the immortal words of President Ronald Reagan, "Here we go again."

To paraphrase the mortal words of President George W. Bush, "Yep."

The state Kansas Board of Education approved science standards for public schools today that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.

It looks like Intelligent Design, which holds that some aspects of the universe are so complex that their development must have been directed by a superintelligent agent, will now make its way into the science curriculum of Kansas public schools.

Finally!!!! It's about time, I say! And while Kansas is on another roll - they journeyed down this path in the last century - they might as well amend some other public school agendas.

Let's begin with slavery in America. Our kids should all learn how happy dem slave folk really were woikin' for da Masta.

Next, that whole Holocaust thing. We all know there are some folks that believe that it really didn't happen, that it is all fiction of the "Jewish lobby" that, of course, controls everything in the United States. That Zionist conspiracy we always hear about. Hmmm...they don't seem to control Congress or the Presidency. And while we're at it, most leading bankers aren't Jewish either, nor are the heads of most Fortune 500 companies. Last time I checked, the Christian fascist right seemed to have the most influence, and THEY are BIG supporters of Israel. Hmmm.

OK, how about whether or not the Earth is really a great big ball or simply flat? Come on, there must be some folk that still think it's flat....right?

Or that women witches caused the Black Plague that killed millions of people in Europe, and their burning at the stake was scientifically justified.

We can go on and on with this...but we won't. Well I won't.

Creationism by whatever name is a theological concept. There is no "evidence" for it except in the Book of Genesis. Last time I checked into this, Genesis was part of Hebrew scripture. Hah! Not even Evangelical Christians can lay claim to it! Everything they claim to know about creation and "science," they stole from the Jews! How about that.

Regardless, Intelligent Design, aka Creationism, is religion, not science. If the Christian Right wants to squeeze religion, aka their own version of religion, into our kids' heads, school is not the place. I considered the thought that perhaps schools should have classes on religion. You know, so our new generations could have the opportunity to learn about all religious paths, not just the one that their parents believe in and force upon their pliable little minds. I rejected that because I am not trusting enough of teachers to present all religious paths fairly and with equity. Sadly, most everyone seems to struggle with their own biases when it comes to religion.

So I am left with only one alternative. That religion be left to a) churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, ashrams, televangelists, etc., and b) people who can still read books. And no NOT the folks that get their religion from Hollywood or commercial TV dramas. Even last year's ballyhooed The Passion couldn't be faithful to the stories told by the Christian Gospels; they couldn't even get the Aramaic dialect correct according to one important Aramaic scholar. But I won't go on about that.

So this is the deal I have for the insecure Christian Fascist Right. If you don't like what evolution theory has to say to your children - who hopefully form the core of future generations of scientific minds that will keep the United States in the forefront of discovery ('cause nobody else will) - have the teachers give you forwarning when it is taught and take your kids out of school during those classes. That way, they can fail their science tests and you can own the responsibility for ruining their futures.












Monday, November 07, 2005

"WE DO NOT TORTURE"...A NOSTALGIC RETROSPECTIVE

"We do not torture," Unelected President Bush stated in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas. He was in Panama City, of all places, at the time. You know, the Panama City in the banana republic of Panama where the United States had its way for decades thanks to our government's support of fascist tortures and drug dealers.

"We’re working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible, to do our job," Bush said. "There’s an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law."

VPOT, or Vice President of Torture, Dick Cheney is seeking to persuade Congress to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from a proposed torture ban that is winding its way through Congress.

Surely it is not an easy task to document the U.S. sanctions of, and use of, torture. Who would be foolish enough to actually maintain records?

But for decades, our government has supported fascist regimes throughout the world, including our own lil' hemisphere, that practice torture, murder, and repression as open policies. In fact, just a few miles off the coast of Jeb Bushland, Florida. Haiti and Cuba, that is.

Oh we can talk about such wonderlands of freedom as South Africa, Phillipines, South Vietnam, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and many others. But how about our own backyard?

In 1991, Haiti's first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown by the military in a coup d'etat. A president, by the way, who was elected by 67 percent of the vote while running against nearly a dozen candidates.

Refugees flooded out of Haiti. You might recall "the boat people?" Anyway, many of these refugees, found their way into U.S. waters and were kindly escorted to Guantanamo Cuba. And many of whom remained for as long as two years.

According to one account by former detainee, Yolande Jean, as quoted by Paul Farmer in his passionate and well-documented book "Pathologies of Power," -

"We were in a space cordoned off with barbed wire. Wherever they put you, you were meant to stay right there; there was no place to move. The latrines were brimming over. There was never any cool water to drink, to wet our lips. There was only water in a cistern, boiling in the hot sun. When you drank it, it gave you diarrhea...Rats crawled over us at night...When we saw all these things, we thought, it's not possible, it can't go on like this. We're humans, just like everyone else."

Yolande Jean's crimes? She was Haitian (black), she was fleeing a violent non-democratic regime, and she had AIDS.

Despite the unbearable conditions under which Haitians had to live in Haiti, with political repression heaped on top of severe poverty, lack of any opportunity, and a virtual absence of social and medical services, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service considered Haitians as "economic refugees." Therefore refugees were forcibly returned to Haiti. This remained American policy for several decades. In fact during one recent ten year period, of 24,559 Haitian refugees that applied for political asylum, eight were granted the privilege. Eight...that's three one-hundredths of one percent in case you're counting.

The statistics, by the way, were compiled under the fascist governments of our beloved Ronald Reagan and George Bush the first.

Oh and who trained the violent Haitian military that conducted the coup and engaged in ongoing and routine torture and murder of civilians? The United States. Murder, rape, torture, and repression were the food of the day in Haiti under dictators and military, all with the support of our United States.

Oh sure, it's not like we stated publicly our condoning of systematic and institutional violence against a nation's own people whose only crime was their support of freedom and democracy. You know, wink wink. Just like our current policies in Iraq and as they pertain to dealing with known, or simply suspected, terrorists. Revelations about current abuses in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other Iraq prisons, in Afghanistan, and in the shipping of prisoners to "friendly" countries for "interrogation" may not overtly reveal institutional policies for torture's implementation, but once again it's the "wink wink."

Shortly after 9/11, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the war against al Qaida.

You may recall the case of two American citizens, Bill Barloon and David Daliberti. They were tortured, ironically in Abu Ghraib prison, back in 1995 while they were "guests" of Saddam Hussein. They were guests of Saddam Hussein for close to half a year after they were arrested for allegedly crossing the Kuwait-Iraq border. They won a $6.7 million verdict in a U.S. court in 2001. This thanks to the TVPA or Torture Victims Protection Act which allowed them to sue foreign governments in U.S. courts.

The judge considered as torture a number of deplorable conditions that they endured during their stay in Saddam's Motel 6. Such as being kicked and threatend with electric prods to their gentalia, and being held in their cells without food and water.

Barloon and Daliberti are not the only ones that have won verdicts in U.S. courts.

No one has received payment against these verdicts, by the way. The U.S. intervened to trump up excuses for nonpayment.

U.S. policy regarding its sanctioning of torture can be noted in a memorandum written in August of 2002 by Jay Bybee, Assistant U.S. Attorney General, under Alberto Gonzales, then Counsel to the President (and now U.S. Attorney General). Bybee reinterpreted a U.S. court judgment under the TVPA in the case of Mehinovic vs. Vukovic by claiming "the court's determination that a beating in which 'Vuckovic hit plaintiff Subasic and kicked him in the stomach with his military boots while Subasic was forced into a kneeling position' constituted torture. To be sure this beating caused Subasic substantial pain. But that pain pales in comparison to the other acts described in this case. To the extent the opinion can be read to endorse the view that this single act and the attendant pain, considered in isolation, rose to the level of 'severe pain and suffering,' we would disagree with such a view based on our interpretation of the criminal statute."

Mr. Bybee's "interpretation" of the case has been used as a basis by the Bush administration to draw a ridiculous line between "substantial pain" and "severe pain" when "interrogating" a prisoner, claiming that "substantial" pain was not "severe" pain and therefore kicking and beating, for example, apparently does not rise to the standard of torture.

Bybee continued, "even if an interrogation method were to violate USC 2340 (the torture statute under U.S. Code), the statute would be unconstitutional if it impermissibly encroached on the President's constitutional power to conduct a military campaign... [since] the information gained from interrogations may prevent future attacks by foreign enemies."

Bybee later says, "Even if an interrogation method might arguably cross the line drawn in Section 2340 and application of the statute was not held to be an unconstitutional infringement of the President's Commander-in-Chief authority, we believe that under the current circumstances certain justification defences might be available that would potentially eliminate criminal liability."

Here is what the statute defines as torture, by the way:

As used in this chapter—

(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from -

(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;

(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;

(C) the threat of imminent death; or

(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

(3) “United States” includes all areas under the jurisdiction of the United States including any of the places described in sections 5 and 7 of this title and section 46501(2) of title 49.

As appealing as resorting to torture in "defense" of the United States might be to some folks, by doing so, we revert to the lowest common denominator of humanity. Our willingness to inflict violence on our fellow human beings in order to get our own way. Our willingness to conveniently set aside our standards of moral behavior that were given us by the Abrahamic stream of wisdom - Judaism, Christianity and, yes, Islam.

Just because "they" did something is no justification for us doing it to them. What would our seemingly God-fearing parents do with us if we were but little children behaving in such a manner? At some point, you must draw lines. Perpetual retaliation NEVER resolves anything. It doesn't. Rarely are people violent and greedy simply because they are what we label as purely "evil." Almost without exception, their behavior is a direct result, perhaps simmering for decades or even centuries, of real or perceived injustices heaped upon them. But too often one side or the other fails or simply refuses to see it. It's like playground fighting. He said/he said, he did it first/no he did it first behavior, well quite often we just don't grow up do we?














WHAT PART OF LIAR DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND, MR. PRESIDENT?

As reported in the media over the weekend while I was peacefully at a spiritual retreat, declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document dated February 2002 said it was likely that a captured al Quaeda prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was intentionally misleading debriefers about Saddam Hussein's support for al Qaeda's work with chemical and biological weapons.

He was identified as a probable liar. This was, of course, months before W and friends began the public drumbeat leading to the Iraq War

"Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest," said document excerpts obtained by Reuters on Sunday.

“You can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror,” President Bush said on September 25, 2002,

“We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases,” said Bush on October 7, 2002.

"Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control," the excerpts further said.

In February 2003, our beloved Fuehrer, Unelected President George W. Bush said, “Iraq has provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training.”

But wait. Didn't he and his friends read the Defense Intelligence Agency report from February 2002? Well didn't they?

The declassified report additional stated, I think quite clearly:

"This is the first report from Ibn al-Shaykh in which he claims Iraq assisted al-Qaida’s CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear] efforts. However, he lacks specific details on the Iraqis involved, the CBRN materials associated with the assistance, and the location where training occurred. It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers (emphasis added). Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest."

Despite the DIA's conviction, Bush, Cheney, and many other administration officials - our TRUSTED leaders - cited the likely baloney flowing from an "unnamed source," now confirmed as Libi, as credible. Credible.

Incredible! But that's just me thinking to myself.

Oh, did I neglect to mention that Libi character recanted his story in January 2004? Haha! Guess we know who got the last laugh.

Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "It was an absolute lie, and yet they used that very substantially to leave the American people to say, 'This is al Qaeda and Iraq hooked up.'"

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said, "This newly declassified information provides additional, dramatic evidence that the Administration’s pre-war statements were deceptive.'"

Sen. Levin added, "The underlying DIA intelligence simply did not support the Administration's repeated assertions that Iraq had provided chemical and biological weapons training to al-Qaeda. More than a year before Secretary Powell included that charge in his presentation to the United Nations, the DIA had said it believed the detainee’s claims were bogus. The Administration's use of this intelligence was disingenuous and misleading."

You know, I am not one for name-calling. Nothing is accomplished and it only smacks of childish playground mentalities. But why can't we agree to call a lie a lie? They lied, they lied, they lied, nyah nyah nyah! And now over 2,000 fine Americans that served in our military are dead, along with dozens of coalition members, and tens of thousands of Iraqi military AND civilians. And we won't forget to mention the injured and maimed on all sides.

And instead of the Iraq War for Oil, or rather Operation Iraqi Liberation - which is what the operation was called before they realized they had stuck their proverbial foots in their mouths - leading to reduced basis for conflict with militant (anti-)Islamic extremists, we not only have bunches of dead people that shouldn't be dead, and tens fo thousands of families permanently wounded, and a nation whose infrastructure and environs have been flattened, but we have even greater, more determined enemies. Goes to show that you can't fight fire with fire. Well you can, but you see the result. Don't you?