Friday, March 21, 2003

It is almost scary how accurate this satirical news story from The Onion ( 1/18/01) has turned out: Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."
Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.
During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.
"You better believe we're going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration," said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. "Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?"

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Sales of Dixie Chicks albums have not suffered too much despite boycott attempts after lead singer and Lubbock native Natalie Maines dissed President Bush during the group's current European tour.

"Although radio airplay subsided about 20 percent, Home's sales remained strong relative to other current releases. Overall, the album finished the week ended Sunday by selling 124,000 copies, down 21,000 copies from the prior week, according to SoundScan data. However, when compared to the other top-selling albums, the Chicks fared pretty well. Home experienced about a 15 percent drop-off, while the top 5 holdovers from the previous week's charts averaged nearly a 26 percent decline.
With Home holding up better than its competition, the Grammy-winning disc actually climbed two spots to number four and remained number one on the country sales chart. (Of course, the fairly stable sales stats could be attributed to those fire-loving yokels stocking up on Home for the next burning.) "

While I think that Maine's comment was ill advised (She said she was embarrassed that George Bush is from Texas), I also think the whole issue is being blown far out of proportion by our nation's right-wing propaganda machine -- talk radio yakkers, Faux News, etc. There were a lot of other ways she could have made her point without fanning so much controversy, but that's what happens every once in a while to people who have microphones stuck in the faces everyday as part of their job without the benefit of professional handlers to tell them what to say and how to say it. At least Maines issued a sincere apology and I think that should be the end of it. Unfortunately, forgiveness is not one of the strong points of the right wingers here in the U.S. And many on the far-right love nothing better than the opportunity to work themselves up in a fit of self-righteouss indignation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

My jaw dropped the other night when Bush spoke about the "broad coalition" that is supporting his war in Iraq. Now the State Dept. has come out with a list of 30 countries that they say are backing the war effort:

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan. The State Department listed Japan as available for "post-conflict" support.

Of course, the only ones backing up their stated support with actual troop deployments is the UK along with a "token 2,000 troops" from Australia. It is kind of a stretch to include Turkey on the list as well, since they are not allowing U.S. troops to use bases in that country and is also sending its own troops into the Northern Iraq/Kurdish territory in in spite of repeated U.S. requests that they stay out.

The real story, however, is how world opinion of the U.S. has fallen sharply in recent months. The NYTimes is reporting today that opinion polls by the Pew Charitable Trust show "a serious disconnect" between Americans and their traditional allies. While 59 percent of Americans say they support a war against Iraq, only 39 percent of Britons and 13 percent of the Spanish favor military actions. Gee, aren't those our two biggest allies and they don't seem to have anywhere close to majority support of their home populations. The survey also showed that favorable opinions of the U.S. have fallen sharply in many countries including Germany where just 25 percent had a favorable opinion of the U.S. compared to 61 percent last June. In France, the numbers have fallen from 63 percent a year ago to 31 percent today, and in Italy it fell from 70 percent a year ago to 34 percent today. Wow! Just imagine what they will think if things don't go exactly as planned during the next several days.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

From the resignation speech of Robin Cook, who stepped down as leader of the House of Commons in the UK to protest the Iraq situation.

"The threshold for war should always be high. None of us can predict the death toll of civilians in the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq. But the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at the very least in the thousands. Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size at the time of the last Gulf war. Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate invasion. And some claim his forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the basis that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a seri ous threat. Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of that term - namely, a credible device capable of being delivered against strategic city targets. It probably does still have biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions. But it has had them since the 1980s when the US sold Saddam the anthrax agents and the then British government built his chemical and munitions factories.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped to create? And why is it necessary to resort to war this week while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is frustrated by the presence of UN inspectors?"

On the one hand, Saddam is so weak that we are predicting a quick and easy military victory. On the other hand, we are being told that Saddam is an imminent threat to U.S. security and therefore we must embark on a pre-emptive attack with or without the support of international allies.

Last night in his speech, Bush spoke of a "broad coalition" that will use military force to disarm Saddam. But that coalition includes just two nations - the U.S. and Great Britain - Spain is not even providing any troops, just diplomatic cover such that it is. Bush went on to criticize France for its opposition to the war, but Cook makes it clear that France is not alone in its opposition.

"In recent days France has been at the receiving end of the most vitriolic criticism. However, it is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany is opposed to us. Russia is opposed to us. Indeed at no time have we signed up even the minimum majority to carry a second resolution. We delude ourselves about the degree of international hostility to military action if we imagine that it is all the fault of President Chirac.
The harsh reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading member. Not Nato. Not the EU. And now not the security council. To end up in such diplomatic isolation is a serious reverse. Only a year ago we and the US were part of a coalition against terrorism which was wider and more diverse than I would previously have thought possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition. "

I think that "diplomatic miscalculations" is putting it rather mildly.

Monday, March 17, 2003

The United States has ordered the U.N. inspectors to leave Iraq. It is the first clear signal that the diplomatic charade that the Bush administration has been trying to orchestrate is over and the war is set to begin. It now occurs to me that the rightness or wrongness of this war will now be judged on two factors -- the number of U.S. casualties (Iraqi casulaties are irrelevant) and whether or not the U.S. economy will bounce back after it is all over. The stock market already shot up 200 points today in eager anticipation of a quick war. I can only hope that the war does go well, that Iraq's army scatters at the first hint of confrontation and that Saddam either flees or is quickly dispatched. But even if that is the case, the aftermath is still likely to be an ugly, drawn-out and expensive affair.
I have never been convinced that this war is necessary. Perhaps if Bush were capable of defending his position in a one-on-one interview with an aggresive reporter the way that Britain's Tony Blair does here, then I would feel a little better. But I can't even imagine a U.S. TV reporter being that tough and/or knowlegeable in any case, so maybe it is not entirely Bush's fault.