Candide’s Latest: Wednesday, September 13, 2006
George W. Soprano
Pierre Tristam/Candide's Notebooks
The American word for gulag, remember, is "black sites"
Bush lies, Part 2,042: “there are now no terrorists in the CIA program,” Bush said a week ago. Not true, says a British charity: “While the president said last week the CIA’s secret jails had been emptied, there remain “dozens” of important terrorist suspects who have “disappeared completely”, according to Clive Stafford-Smith, legal director of Reprieve, a UK charity that provides legal support for death row prisoners. ‘We know who is in Guantanamo, but where have the others gone?,’” the UK Times reports. “Reprieve believes many detainees are being held in a form of joint custody, where countries such as Afghanistan provide jail facilities and guards and the CIA supplies the interrogators. It says there are several hundred detainees still at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, none of whom has been named by the Pentagon. Among the ‘disappeared’ is Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who is said to have managed one of Osama Bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan. He was captured in 2002, questioned by the CIA and transferred under America’s programme of “extraordinary rendition” to a jail in Egypt. By 2003 he was back in CIA custody and was spotted by several prisoners at Bagram. Since then he has vanished.” Maybe he’s gone the way of 3,000 other “suspects” that Bush had “disappeared” by 2002. Here’s what President Bush said at one point in his 2003 State of the Union message: “To date, we've arrested or otherwise dealt with many key commanders of al Qaeda. They include a man who directed logistics and funding for the September the 11th attacks; the chief of al Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf, who planned the bombings of our embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole; an al Qaeda operations chief from Southeast Asia; a former director of al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan; a key al Qaeda operative in Europe; a major al Qaeda leader in Yemen. All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way -- they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.” Read those italicized lines again. That’s not a Soprano talking. It’s our president. To a joint session of Congress and 100 million Americans (assuming that the other 200 million had better sense that evening). The man told the world that he ordered a mob hit on those “many others” who “met a different fate.” They are no longer a problem. When, in the history of States of the Union, in the history of executive speeches, has a president ever announced that he ordered the execution of prisoners without trial, without so much as facing charges? Our chief executive is our executioner in chief, and proud of it. The White House transcript of that 2003 State of the Union message, by the way, had one more word at the end of that lethal paragraph, descri9bing the reaction of the assembled House and Senate, the Supreme Court justices, the cabinet and whoever else was in the Capitol that evening: Applause.
For the late-night joke circuit: “The White House today dismissed charges by prominent Democrats that President Bush sought to capitalize politically on the Sept. 11 attacks when he addressed the nation on Monday night. ‘The president was not making partisan remarks,’ Tony Snow, the chief White House spokesman, said at a briefing. He said the president’s address, marking the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, was ‘not a speech designed to single anyone out for partisan reasons.’” Right. And Osama is an annual guest of honor at the Crawford ranch. And Nixon wasn’t a crook. And Reagan read Camus, too.
Le Monde only very rarely puts editorials or columns on its front page. When it does—as with the “We Are All Americans” editorial by Executive Editor Jean-Marie Colombani I referred to in yesterday’s Latest—the subject is usually of considerable import. On September 6, Le Monde front-paged a column by John Le Carré, the thriller writer, on Israel’s war on Lebanon, called “Interpellation.” It began: “So answer me this one, please. If you kill a hundred innocent civilians and one terrorist, are you winning or losing the war on terror? "Ah", you may reply, "but that one terrorist could kill two hundred people, a thousand, more!" But then comes another question: if, by killing a hundred innocent people, you are creating five new terrorists in the future, and a popular base clamouring to give them aid and comfort, have you achieved a net gain for future generations of your countrymen, or created the enemy you deserve?” And the piece concluded, “the people of Lebanon have become the latest victims of a global catastrophe that is the work of deluded zealots and has no end in sight.” [The French and English versions in full here.] It isn’t the most earth-0shattering piece of literature on the Lebanon war. But the question is: why not a word, not even a whisper, of it in the American press?
The Fickleness of Empire: Niall Ferguson’s latest on America’s delusion with empire-building: “Imperial rule is not just about boots on the ground,” he writes in Foreign Policy. “[…] An empire, then, will come into existence and endure so long as the benefits of exerting power over foreign peoples exceed the costs of doing so in the eyes of the imperialists; and so long as the benefits of accepting dominance by a foreign people exceed the costs of resistance in the eyes of the subjects. Such calculations implicitly take into account the potential costs of relinquishing power to another empire. At the moment, in these terms, the costs of running countries like Iraq and Afghanistan look too high to most Americans; the benefits of doing so seem at best nebulous; and no rival empire seems able or willing to do a better job. With its republican institutions battered but still intact, the United States does not have the air of a new Rome. Although the current president has striven to empower the executive, he is no Octavian.” Characteristically for this uncharacteristic British optimist, Ferguson reserves a few final lines to say all is not lost just yet if only… what? He doesn’t say. He only says empire may just become the next cool thing after all. Not convincing, that little tailspin of cheer, especially in light of this:
9/11 Profiteer: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has made millions from his Sept. 11 grandstanding and has positioned himself for a presidential run based on his 9/11 persona. How much longer will he get away with it? Dan Collins and Wayne Barrett of The Nation tell the story.
Yet another bomb in Turkey, the new suburb of terrorism, and Harper’s reposts a 2004 piece on the rising cost of fear itself.
And speaking of terror, here’s one zealot who doesn’t mind proving it out loud: “If anything, liberals are even more dangerous than Islamacists [sic.],” writes Don Feder. “The terrorist attacks with bombs and bullets. The liberal saps our will to resist. He rationalizes evil. In the name of civil liberties, he constantly seeks to undermine national security and make it impossible to safeguard our people from another 9/11.” Yes. And Thomas Jefferson was more dangerous than Hitler, one assumes from that line of thinking?
In Other Worlds
Remember those Cuban-American journalists the Miami Herald fired after the paper “found out” that they were in the pay of the U.S. government’s wide-ranging program of buying news and disseminating propaganda, from Iraq to North America? One of the journalists says the Herald knew of the payments all along. Published materials prove it: “''I have never in my life done anything that would cause a conflict of interest or that could be viewed as a lack of ethics,'' Connor wrote. ``I totally reject the accusation of breach of ethics. My work in Radio and TV Martí was so well known . . . that two articles about this station and my involvement [were published] in 2002.''A March 31, 2002, article published in The Miami Herald -- and a separate article in El Nuevo Herald on that same date written by another reporter -- identified Connor as a paid contributor to TV and Radio Martí.”
California’s minimum wage bumped to $8 an hour. Is Arnold still a Republican?
If you miss hearing some classic lines delivered by Clint Eastwood, check out the immediate-graticifaction collection at Eastwood Audio Clips. Find out for example how President Bus plagiarized his address to the nation on Sept. 11, from Josey Wales: “When things look bad, and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb mad dog mean. Cause if you lose your head and you give up, then you neither live nor win, that's just the way it is.”
- Video of the day: In case you missed Keith Olbermann’s going Zola on Bush’s dry fuss, here it is. The cadenza: “When those who dissent are told time and time again — as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus — that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American… When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"… look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me: Who has left this hole in the ground? We have not forgotten, Mr. President. You have. May this country forgive you."
- Tristero at Hullabaloo: “Y'know the fake term "Islamo-fascism" used to justify the invasion of Iraq for an attack perpetrated primarily by Saudis? Guess what? Al Qaeda thinks the same way about "the Jews and the Crusaders." New York, Madrid, London - they're all in it together, if we attack Indonesia we send a message to Paris not to fuck with us. America's support for Israel, Western-style nightclubs in Bali - it's transnational, an ideology of hate. These are people who simply want to destroy us. The West - we're all the same to al-Zawahiri, all responsible. The US bombs us? Hit Spain. The awful tragedy of this time, and what makes it radically different than Lincoln's or FDR's, is that Osama is facing an enemy even more ignorant. narcissistic, and insecure than he is. Ignorant armies clashing by night, indeed.”
- It all started with a flight attendant urging passengers to, “for your convenience… now disembark the aircraft using the forward steps.” Random Burblings then had enough of “the insidious way that management bullshit-speak has been allowed to insinuate itself into our daily lives. They didn’t open the aircraft door for my convenience. The girl on the telephone isn’t trying to help me find a better deal on my phone tariff. My company isn’t trying to create a better workplace through employee engagement.”
A hold-over from yesterday: The philosopher and animal rights activist Peter Singer answers such questions as “Are zoos immoral” (mostly), whether he’d kill a disabled baby (yes), what it feels like being compared to a Nazi (frustrating), how often he washes (once a month) and much, much more. From the UK Independent.
On Peter Singer
While I don't agree with Singer on some issues where he considers consequences as the most important criteria for moral evaluation, I admit that he scores some important points in regard to animal rights.
Three major factors are contributing to a shift in the way we view animals:
- Paradoxically, scientific research on animals, which he condemns, is the first contributor to this shift. It is mainly thanks to Neurosciences that we know which animals feel emotions and 'think' and which ones have an integrated nervous sytem and could feel pain and which don't. But this is a paradox that he does not seem ready to confront.
- Industrial farming is cruel to animals and I try not to think of this when I eat my steak. Although, I tried hard to shift my family to a complete vegetarian diet, it didn't work, but we have a semi-vegetarian diet. There is no reasonable solution to this problem, changing habits, and especially eating habits, is the most difficult task to achieve for humans as humans tend to eat practically everything that is in the food chain. And I believe that changing this habit can represent a new landmark for our civilisation but requires not only individual will but also policies. Most British and American thinkers often overemphasize the power of the individual over the community or the state but the reality is diffferent.
- Our relation to domestic animals is changing. From work companions and a useful help, dogs and cats are becoming just companions, sitting with us during our meals, sometimes sleeping in our beds (I never allowed my dog this privilege but most dog owners do) silent witnesses to our daily lives in misery and happiness. They are becoming our alter ego. What humans do best is virtual imitation (only imitation in the brain and not actual imitation) of other's actions and interchangeable identification which means they can imagine the mental states of others and imagine what others imagine about their mental states in return. This is called empathy and it works as well with the animals we live with. It does not matter if what we imagine about others is false, we correct it during an active exchange or communication from the feedback we get from others. As animals don't speak, they are never able to correct our perceptions about them and we can attribute mental states as ours to them and we can never be disappointed. That does not mean that they don't have mental states but that the mental states we attribute to them are not actually the ones thay have. Here again, science was able to offer us a useful insight into these mental states.
Philosophy and moral philosophy was made for a part of ancient Greece, roughly 15 % of the population within a political perspective excluding animals and even children and women from what was to be applicable only to nobility or real citizens. Since then we were including more and more human beings in the process (with the declaration of human rights) and it is a natural thing to start to inlcude animals in our moral thinking since we now believe, and science (and Darwin) has shown it, that there is continuity between animals and men. The question is where do we stop ? Nobody has yet the answer, not even Singer.
Visit Sophia at Les Politiques...