the Rational Radical  

No Ipod Needed!  Listen on your computer.     






The Daily Diatribe
November 16-30, 2001

U.S., Afraid to Use Its Own Soldiers to Guarantee Food Aid to Starving Millions, Also Refuses to Let Europeans Do So

November 30, 2001

While many thought that the conquest of northern Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance and the resultant end of U.S. bombing there would allow food shipments to resume in significant enough quantities to prevent mass starvation of millions of Afghans, the opposite has been happening.

According to The New York Times, the level of tonnage being delivered has actually dropped by 50% in the last two weeks.

The main problem is insecurity. Towns and cities are so chaotic that relief agencies cannot safely operate. Many roads are off limits because of lawlessness and banditry.

Most foreign aid workers have yet to return to Afghanistan because their organizations fear for their safety, a fear underlined by the killings of eight foreign journalists.

"Our expectations for returning quickly and resuming our work were certainly not met," said Oliver Ulrich of the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "The general lawlessness is a huge problem — not knowing who is in control and who can assure your safety."

Instead of new supply routes opening up to fleets of trucks, old routes are shutting down.

The U.S. bombing campaign forced a halt to the truck convoys carrying food aid at a crucial time, right before the harsh Afghan winter.  The U.S. has a moral obligation to quickly establish law and order so that millions don't starve because of our bombing.

What is completely and absolutely disgusting is that not only won't the U.S. send its own troops to do the job, but it won't let anyone else do it either!

Several European nations have been eager to send thousands of troops to parts of Afghanistan no longer controlled by the Taliban to bring order and ease aid shipments, but American officials so far are resisting.

The Bush administration said today that it was too soon to send international peacekeepers to Afghanistan, calling the conditions there too uncertain and too dangerous for that mission.

Huh?!  Conditions are "too uncertain and too dangerous" for soldiers?!

The European nations understand that "uncertain" and "dangerous" areas are precisely where soldiers are supposed to go.  That's what they're trained for.

Early in the war, aid groups asked for a short bombing halt to allow food shipments in.  The U.S. refused.

Then after the Taliban fell, the British started landing troops near Mazar-i-Sharif to establish security in that area.  The Northern Alliance objected, and the British scuttled the idea.

Since then, the Northern Alliance has shown that it either cannot establish order or doesn't want to.  And it won't let anyone else do so either.

It's almost like the United States and its best new friend, that band of human rights abusers and former dictators of Afghanistan known as the Northern Alliance, actually want to see mass starvation.

It's really quite incomprehensible.  Unless, of course, the explanation is that we have some "evil-doers" among those leading us.

Surreal Scene as Russians Re-enter Kabul To Set Up a Field Hospital: Where Is U.S. Emergency Medical Aid?

November 29, 2001

After the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 1979, many leaders of the Northern Alliance sided with the Soviet Union, and fought alongside the Soviets against the mujahideen "freedom-fighters" and the main benefactor of the freedom-fighters, the United States.  Now, of course, the Northern Alliance is our great friend. 

According to a report in The New York Times, the Northern Alliance -- without notifying the U.N. or anyone else -- recently invited the Russians into Kabul to build a field hospital, as well as to prepare a new embassy.  The Russians arrived earlier this week.

While the Northern Alliance insisted that there would be no lingering hostility towards the Russians based on the Soviet Union's brutal occupation of Afghanistan, many Afghans have expressed continuing intense hatred for the Russians, and have vowed to kill them if they can get away with it.

Inviting such a reviled force into the capital indicates that the Northern Alliance is quite tone-deaf concerning the sentiments of the vast majority of Afghans, who strongly opposed the Soviet occupation of their nation.  Time will tell if this is an isolated faux pas by the Northern Alliance, or the beginning of a consistent pattern of conduct, which would create a huge obstacle in the way of establishing a broad-based government to rule post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The presence of the Russians to set up a field hospital raises another important question: where is the United States?

As I wrote earlier, we have a moral obligation to provide medical care and other assistance to innocent bombing victims as soon as practicable.

Yet such does not seem to be happening at all. 

For example, after the liberation of Kunduz, the hospital there was essentially non-functional, able to provide no health care at all.  A report describes a 12 year-old girl dying from shrapnel wounds in her stomach:

The child rested on her back on a dirty bed, looking trance-like at the ceiling and biting a green scarf.

Her abdomen had been pierced by shrapnel in the morning when an unexploded bomb in her neighborhood suddenly detonated, and now, as evening approached, her belly was swollen from the bleeding inside. Dr. Abdulhadi Jawid pressed his finger lightly near the trickling wound, causing tears to run from the child's eyes. He pulled back his hand.

"We have no medicine for this patient, and no way to operate to take out the pieces of bomb," the doctor said.

Why hasn't the U.S. set up a field hospital in Kunduz, or at least airlifted this poor girl to a hospital ship for treatment?

I'm not talking here about caring for every sick person in the world (although there would be nothing wrong with that idea!).  I'm addressing our moral obligation to help those innocent civilians in this one country whom we have directly and severely harmed.

Given how easy it would be to accomplish that goal, our failure to do so is appalling.

Is One Purpose of Secrecy of Bush Military Tribunals to Hide Incompetence of Intelligence Work?

November 28, 2001

William Safire has reported that when eight German saboteurs were tried by a military court during World War II, at least part of the reason those trials were held in secret was to keep an embarrassing law enforcement foul-up in that case from becoming known.

It seems that those German saboteurs had landed on U.S. shores from U-boats.  Immediately, one of them called the FBI to alert them about the mission.  The FBI, however, wrote the guy off as a crackpot.  The guy called again and this time convinced the FBI he was for real.  That is the chain of events that Safire says was being hidden by the secrecy of the military trials of the saboteurs that followed.

Many Americans are familiar with the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested by federal authorities

on Aug. 17 on immigration charges after a Minnesota flight school contacted the F.B.I. to report that he had been acting suspiciously. Instructors were especially alarmed by his request to learn how to fly large jet aircraft but not how to take off or land.

American law enforcement officials say they suspect that the man, Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, was meant to be the 20th hijacker in the attacks...

Federal investigators wonder whether a closer look at Mr. Moussaoui before Sept. 11 might have prevented the attacks.

As my detailed timeline points out, top FBI and Department of Justice officials repeatedly refused the requests of field agents for search warrants to continue their investigation of Moussaoui.

Now, lo and behold, Bush administration officials are considering making Zacarias Moussaoui the very first suspected terrorist to be tried by military tribunal.  Might that have anything to do with the desire to hold a secret trial and thus prevent further embarrassing details of their incompetence from being divulged?

Bill O'Reilly Is Guilty Once More of  Sloppy, Misleading Journalism, This Time About the United Way

November 27, 2001

Bill O'Reilly, in his November 26 Talking Points memo which always opens his program, charged that the United Way had misled contributors to a TV telethon which raised money to aid victims of the September 11 attacks and their families. 

O'Reilly charged that while contributors were told all the money would go to the victims and their families, in fact, some of the money was being diverted to other uses:

[W]ith your donations, the United Way has lent the Brooklyn Philharmonic, for example, $200,000. The Institute for the Development of Earth Awareness got a grant for $5,000.

The Jennifer Muller Dance Troupe got a grant for $25,000. And the New York Scandia Symphony got as much as $20,000. The Mothers' Voice AIDS prevention program got a grant for $100,000.

After giving more such examples, O'Reilly makes his accusation.  His language is so strong that it is worth quoting at some length:

Now, the United Way says that these and other organizations like them were all adversely affected by the terror attack, and we have no argument with that. But that's not what Americans were told by the Hollywood celebrities who pitched us on TV. We were pitched helping the families...

[T]hese organizations may be very worthy of support, but they should be under the banner of the 9/11 fund. Should they be under that banner?

The fact is that the United Way has changed the mandate in midstream, saying now the entire 9/11 fund will not go directly to the grieving families, as was the telethon pitch. In the new turn, the fund will go toward, quote, "immediate and longer-term needs of the victims, their families, and communities affected by the tragedy."

So now the canvas is much wider, and some Americans believe they've been snookered. So the right thing to do is for the United Way to give refunds if people want them. A canceled check or credit card slip would be proof.

If the United Way is not willing to do that, it will be forever marked as an outfit that cannot be trusted.

And that's the memo.

Before utilizing such strong language, one would assume that a journalist, especially one with as large an audience as O'Reilly, would be responsible enough to check his facts and be sure of them before making any accusations.  As it turns out, O'Reilly -- not so unusually -- had no idea what he was talking about, as became evident when later in that program, he interviewed Joshua Gotbaum, the CEO of the United Way's September 11 Fund:

O'REILLY: What say you, Mr. Gotbaum?

GOTBAUM: The telethon money was specifically reserved for victims and their families, and not one dime of that money is going to cultural institutions.

...There is the General September 11 Fund, whose doors were opened on September 11. There is a separate fund, also administered jointly by the United Way and the New York Community Trust, that was set up specifically to receive the contributions...

O'REILLY: No telethon money's going into that general fund.

GOTBAUM: The telethon money is not going into the general fund. The telethon money is reserved specifically for the victims and their families.

O'REILLY: All right. Now, is all of it going to go to the victims and their families?

GOTBAUM: One hundred percent...

O'REILLY: I'm just hearing tonight now there's two funds. I just thought there was one. Everybody else in my organization just felt there was one fund. Now you're telling me there's two. This is confusing, very confusing to people...

GOTBAUM: Well, then I think it's very important that we set the record straight.

O'Reilly immediately switched issues, and berated Mr. Gotbaum for not having yet set up a data base identifying all the victims.  O'Reilly also pointed out that while Mr. Gotbaum was saying that the United Way would take no administrative costs out of the telethon money, that was misleading, since the United Way operates by giving grants to grass roots charities who actually distribute the funds to victims, and those grass roots charities may retain a small portion to cover their own administrative costs.

On both those latter points, O'Reilly raises valid issues concerning which the United Way can be validly criticized.

But after opening his program with what amounts to an accusation of fraud against the United Way, O'Reilly never once apologized for his erroneous charge.

Shouldn't he have checked with Mr. Gotbaum or another United Way official before making his charge?

Compounding the matter, O'Reilly's Talking Points memo from yesterday which makes the charge is today posted on O'Reilly's web site.  Why is O'Reilly still publicizing that charge when he knows it's untrue?

Let's even give the benefit of the doubt to O'Reilly, and assume that he reasonably tried to ascertain the facts from the United Way before his broadcast, and was unable to get from that organization the kind of clarification that Mr. Gotbaum later provided.  Even so, why, again, does O'Reilly continue to publicize the charge in his posted Talking Points memo? 

O'Reilly does provide a transcript of the Gotbaum interview, but under the misleading banner "Why is some of the money that was raised for families of terror victims being funneled to arts groups?"

To top it all off, in today's Talking Points memo, O'Reilly broadcast a snipped of yesterday's Gotbaum interview, but not the portion which makes clear Gotbaum's correction of O'Reilly's erroneous charge.

Talk about a No-Spin Zone!  O'Reilly runs an All-Spin Zone.

[more about Bill O'Reilly]

Thank Goodness the Marines Have Landed in Afghanistan

A Life-long Anti-War Activist Intends No Sarcasm By These Words

November 26, 2001

Many of us who support military action to eliminate the threat of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist group have been highly critical of the specific military policies the Bush administration has employed to accomplish that end.  Foremost among my criticisms has been the reliance on high altitude bombing which has had as its reasonably expected and inevitable outcome many civilian deaths and injuries from mistargeted or malfunctioning bombs and missiles, even the "smartest" ones. 

A second great concern of mine has been our reliance on the Northern Alliance to do our fighting for us, given that loose coalition's horrific past human rights record.

So it is with great relief that I greet the arrival of the Marines in Afghanistan.  Let me count the reasons:

1) The Marines are far less likely to commit human rights violations against captured Taliban prisoners, or innocent civilians for that matter, than the Northern Alliance.  I think the captured Taliban soldiers, certainly the non-Afghan ones, should be imprisoned for a long period of time so that they cannot simply go to another country and commit terrorist acts there.  Such of them as may be guilty of torture or murder during their time as Taliban soldiers should be tried by the new Afghan government.  All that being said, I would not want the Northern Alliance torturing or summarily executing them, since whatever the Northern Alliance does we are, given our enabling of them, morally responsible for.

2) If the Northern Alliance does start committing atrocities against civilians or others, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld can no longer use as an excuse that we do not have troops on the ground to stop such occurrences.

3) If the Northern Alliance, or local warlords, or anyone else should interfere with the critical efforts now underway to bring in and distribute enough food to prevent up to 7.5 million starvation deaths this winter in Afghanistan, the Marines could be used to end such interference and guarantee that the starving men, women and children will be fed.

4) Last but not least, these and other U.S. ground forces which may follow will be able to more quickly eradicate the remaining pockets of Taliban and Al Qaeda resistance, as well as bring the hunt to find Osama bin Laden himself to a relatively quicker conclusion than would otherwise be the case.  One of my big complaints about the Bush administration strategy, especially during the early days of the war, was the glacial, we-have-all-the-time-in-the-world pace of the effort.  Prolonging the war meant prolonging and increasing the amount of civilian casualties from bombing and starvation.  Prolonging the war also meant that the period of time in which we were under serious threat from Al Qaeda was extended.  So a quicker end to the war will allow the bombing to halt, help to be given to the beleaguered Afghan people, and the rebuilding of the country to begin -- and for our country to be safer from terrorist attack.

After being opposed to virtually every use of U.S. military force from Vietnam to Central America, it feels a bit unusual to be celebrating the arrival of the U.S. Marines in a Third World country.  I certainly would not have been celebrating had the Marines landed in Nicaragua in 1988 to overthrow the Sandinistas!

But a fair, and yes rational evaluation of events must admit that the proper use of military force is sometimes required, and it is with such a hope for the proper use of military force that I write these words of support for the arrival of U.S. Marines on Afghan soil.

It is worth noting that it is just such sentiments -- acknowledging that in some circumstances, the use of military force is required to avoid even more bloodshed -- that animated the German Green party to vote to support the German government's decision to commit their troops to the Afghan war effort.

I hope with all my being that the landing of the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan will be a blessing, not a curse for the people of that nation.  Such a course of events could begin to make up for the harm done by the U.S. military in so many Third World nations since World War II.

Afghan Children Being Maimed and Killed As They Pick Up Unexploded U.S. Cluster Bombs

November 25, 2001

The food packets being dropped on Afghanistan are yellow.  The cluster bombs being dropped on Afghanistan are designed to break up and disperse dozens of smaller bombs, which are yellow.  A concern immediately expressed by humanitarian officials was that children looking for food would see a yellow unexploded cluster bomb and think it was a food package. They would grab the bomb and be killed or maimed.

That is what is now happening.  Even The New York Times, a newspaper which has been notoriously averse to doing any serious investigations of civilian casualties, just reported that a 10 year old, mistaking a cluster bomb for a food package,  lost three fingers and is expected to lose his whole hand.

A 16 year-old was decapitated after picking up a piece of that same bomb.  Two other children were also injured.  This is just in one neighborhood.

[It can't help but be noted that the "parent" cluster bomb in question, when it initially landed, killed twelve people, most from the same extended family.  This was not reported by The New York Times until now, in the context of the yellow color issue.]

Of course, even children not looking for food can pick up these and other types of unexploded ordinance.  Not to mention the fact Afghanistan is strewn with millions of land mines from its previous wars.

Now that the fighting is almost over, the United States must take responsibility to spend whatever it takes to rid the country of all this unexploded ordinance, certainly that portion of it resulting from our present bombing campaign.

Addressing the immediate issue of the common yellow color of cluster bombs and food packages, one must ask, what is wrong with the U.S. government? 

They said they would change the color of the food packages to blue, after the supply of yellow food packages ran out.  That's obscene!  Why didn't they immediately change the color of the food packages?

Certainly they can find a use for the yellow packages. They can be utilized the next time we distribute food to hungry people on whom we are not also dropping cluster bombs.

When the Soviet Union was fighting the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, it scattered land mines disguised as toys.  Our actions now are not much better.  Every yellow cluster bomb dropped after the U.S. military became aware of the confusion-with-food-packages issue is akin to a war crime!

Every child who loses an arm or a foot, we cut it off.  Every child who is killed, we cold-bloodedly executed.

It would have been the simplest thing in the world to have switched the color.  But we didn't.  And we still haven't.

All that blood is on our hands.

U.S. Media Silence On Civilian Casualties Is Deafening

November 24, 2001

The U.S. media has carried sporadic reports of "accidental" bombings where civilians have been killed, but has ignored many other incidents reported in the foreign press.  Moreover, there has been no systematic investigation by the press of the entire bombing campaign in Afghanistan to determine and evaluate the overall extent of civilian deaths and injuries caused directly by U.S. bombs and missiles (the number of starvation deaths caused indirectly by the chaotic conditions resulting from the bombing campaign will never be known).

The Bush administration claims there have been few civilian casualties, but has not provided any details, has not made available their figures on the total number of civilian dead and injured.

Instead, the administration officials have complained about the reporting of civilian casualties by Al Jazeera, the independent Arab news network based in Qatar.  Again, if the Bush administration has counter-evidence that the Al Jazeera reports are false, let administration officials present it.  Instead, Colin Powell tried to convince the emir of Qatar to muzzle the station, and a U.S missile destroyed the Kabul office of Al Jazeera, an attack the U.S. says was accidental, but which Al Jazeera claimed was deliberate.

The U.S. media seem fully capable of investigating and reporting on the intricacies of Northern Alliance infighting:  we'll read that a Northern Alliance official offended the nephew of a tribal chieftain, which led to complications in a nearby village when the cousin of the chieftain... you get the idea.  Details ad infinitum about this, but self-censorship about civilian casualties.

The situation is reminiscent of mass media coverage of U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980's.  U.S. and foreign human rights organizations screamed as loud as they could about torture and mass murder being committed by forces supported by the United States, such as the Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments, and the contra terrorists in Nicaragua.  Yet by and large, the media ignored these atrocities.

Then decades later, institutions such as The New York Times would report that, hey, a mass grave was found in this village, and a massacre did occur back then.  But the newspaper could have found the mass grave and reported on it just as easily back then.

Since the Bush administration has repeatedly stated that the war in Afghanistan is just the first phase in a military campaign to destroy terrorist networks around the world, it is especially incumbent upon the U.S. mass media to undertake now the type of systematic investigations which can establish clearly whether the warfare methods adopted by the Bush administration are or are not killing innocent men, women and children in a manner that could easily be avoided by a change in tactics, for example, bombing only from low altitudes, and relying more on ground troops who can actually see whom they are firing upon.

Such an investigation is needed right now to influence policy for the immediately upcoming additional military actions; we don't need ex post facto exposés a decade from now.

Latest estimates are that the United States lost about 4200 innocent people in the horrific September 11 terrorist attacks.  The United States has 11 times the population of Afghanistan.  So if more than 381 Afghans have been killed by U.S. bombs and missiles, Afghanistan would have suffered, proportionally, a greater loss than the U.S. did on September 11.  And of course, Afghanistan is a terribly poor nation, beleaguered by hunger and incipient famine, so it has far less capacity to rebound from the destruction wrought upon it than do we.

The mass media, at least some of them, need to prove that they are more than mouthpieces reading aloud or printing the latest Bush administration press release.

[UPDATE:  study shows over 3500 bombing deaths!]

It's About Time!  Tobacco Smokers Can't Blow Smoke Into Someone Else's Home Under Local Law

November 23, 2001

Under a law just passed in Montgomery County, Maryland, if a neighbor's tobacco smoke wafts from their home into yours, you can file a complaint with the county's Department of Environmental Protection.  

If it is found that the smoke in question poses "a health hazard to humans, plants or animals" or unreasonably interferes "with the use or enjoyment of residential or non-residential property," that neighbor would have to mitigate the problem, or face fines of up to $750 per violation.


Opponents of this long overdue measure, including, of course, the tobacco companies, are all atwitter, assailing what they call an unprecedented attempt to interfere with "what one does in one's own home."

A few points they conveniently ignore:

1) You already can't do whatever you want in your own apartment without regard to its effect on neighbors.  If you play your stereo too loud "in your own home," neighbors can force you to lower it if the volume they hear in their home unreasonably interferes with their use of their apartment. 

2) Tobacco smoke presents an even stronger case.  With the stereo, only sound waves enter the neighbor's unit.  With smoke, the actual odor and carcinogen molecules enter the neighbor's home.  And to the extent those molecules alight on the neighbor, an "assault," defined as an "unwanted touching," has actually been committed.

3) Worse, while the sound waves vanish after the stereo is shut off, tobacco odor (and, for all we know, the carcinogenic effects) linger on for hours or even days.

4) Turning the smokers' argument around against them, the neighbor is doing what he wants in his own apartment -- breathing non-polluted air -- so the smoker is actually preventing the neighbor from doing what the neighbor wants in the neighbor's own apartment.

5) This entire notion of "in my own apartment" just doesn't make any sense.  Can I fill a water pistol with urine and every time you walk by, squirt you?  After all, I'm doing what I want in my own apartment.  Of course, what I'm doing in own apartment is also extending beyond my own apartment, and that's precisely the point the smokers ignore about their own activities.

6) Civil libertarians who warn about Big Brother and related blather are way off base.  The law doesn't prevent you from smoking in your house.  Smoke 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Smoke ten cigarettes and twelve cigars at once.  Invite all your smoking friends over to do the same.  You're free to do all that and more.

Just don't let any of that stinking, carcinogenic smoke escape out of your house to get the rest of us sick in our homes.


UPDATE: The county executive vetoed the bill.  It's unclear whether the board will be able to override the veto.

Thanksgiving Admonition: Don't Be So Stingy, America!

"More people are going hungry in the richest city in the richest country in the history of the world."

November 22, 2001

One way to show one's thanksgiving for being blessed with unprecedented abundance would be to share some of that abundance with others less fortunate.  Unfortunately, while in their own minds Americans consider themselves to be a generous people, in reality they are proving to be anything but.

I'll just briefly mention here the fact that the United States devotes far less a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product to foreign aid than any other industrialized nation.  Many of those other countries, for their size, actually give several times as much as we do, and one is literally ten times more generous than we are.

What is particularly galling in this post-9/11 period, is hearing the continual drumbeat from the media about how wonderfully generous we Americans have been in rallying to contribute $1.5 billion to the victims of the terrorist attacks.

As I wrote five weeks ago, what's been contributed is a lot of money, but for our population size, does not represent a heck of a sacrifice on most people's part.  There are about 105 million households in the United States.  So the average donation per household is about $15.

What's worse is the "robbing Peter to pay Paul" trade-off.  In other words, as the previous column detailed, people were simply taking the charitable donations they would have made to other charities, and sending them instead to 9/11-related funds.  Those other charities were left wanting and unable to help the needy ones who depended on them.

It was hoped that as the weeks went by, people would dig a little deeper and also send desperately needed contributions to those charities unrelated to September 11.  Unfortunately, the New York Times reports that organizations that provide food to hungry people in the New York region continue to suffer drastically reduced donations:

Interviews with food pantries and soup kitchens around the region indicate that several are forgoing the free turkeys for Thanksgiving, and many others are warning that they may have to eliminate year-round meal programs and other services for the poor if things do not improve.

Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said some of the city's 1,000 soup kitchens and food pantries had reported turning away hungry people more often since Sept. 11...

"As a result, more people are going hungry in the richest city in the richest country in the history of the world."

Could it be said any more clearly: in the richest city in the richest country in the history of the world, more people are going hungry.

Hopefully between now and Christmas, Americans suffering from "donor fatigue" can perhaps "cure" themselves of this affliction by foregoing one or two doodad purchases and transferring the money they thus save to the less fortunate among us.

Americans see themselves as a deeply religious people.  All religions stress the need to give generously to those in need.  Perhaps nowhere is this ethical injunction stated more powerfully than in Matthew 25:32-46.  Asked on Judgment Day by those condemned to Hell the reason for their punishment, Jesus replied:

42... I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44. Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45. Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'

As we treat the least of those among us, is how we treat God.  Would any religion deny that teaching?

America, wake up!

[related article]

[articles on economic injustice]

George Bush, Feminist

November 21, 2001

What are those incredibly strange noises we hear coming out of the White House?  When cats start barking and dogs begin meowing, you know something's amiss.

George Bush, Colin Powell and even Laura Bush, among others, have a new big cause, loudly proclaiming their deep concern for the rights of women in Afghanistan.

Of course, they said nothing about this issue in the five years prior to the Afghan War.  And even after the Afghan War started, they waited several weeks to bring up the subject in any meaningful way.

Why the sudden interest in the human rights of Afghanistan's horribly beleaguered women? 

First, it's one element of the Bush administration's just recently expanded effort to win the propaganda war, which they feared they were losing to the Taliban.  The Taliban mistreatment of women is so universally condemned that merely raising the issue is an easy way to score points.

Second, there's not a little hope among the White House's re-born suffragists that as a byproduct, this pro-women's rights rhetoric will help shrink the gender gap in the U.S. electorate between Republicans and Democrats.

Does anyone seriously believe that had the events of 9/11 not taken place, Laura Bush would be taking over one of her husband's weekly radio addresses to announce her solidarity with the suffering women of Afghanistan?

All this being said, I'm not complaining... yet.

Better that Bush does the right thing for the wrong reasons, than -- as is most often the case -- the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. 

Put another way, Bush and his cohorts never do a damn thing for anyone other than themselves and those in their wealthy, ruling class-type circles -- unless they themselves will benefit at least as much as those they are purporting to help.  So if the Bush administration can ensure that women's rights are guaranteed in post-Taliban Afghanistan, more power to them, regardless of whether such a success also narrows the U.S. electoral gender gap. (I would hope that no one would be fooled by this transparently non-heartfelt policy, but assume that many people will be.)

The operative word is if.  Talk is cheap.  Let's see what type of treatment is accorded women in Afghanistan after a new government takes over.

Beyond that, let's see whether Bush's newfound concern for women's rights extends beyond just where it's politically expedient, and continues to where it's not, e.g., Saudi Arabia, where women face some of the same drastic restrictions the Taliban imposed on them.

I suspect George Bush, feminist will quickly disappear.  I could be wrong.  And I hope I am.

Freed Christian Aid Worker Admits They Were Guilty of Proselytizing

November 20, 2001

In the midst of celebrating the rescue of the eight Christian aid workers imprisoned in Afghanistan, not much mention was made of the fact that one of them -- American Dana Curry -- has now admitted that they were guilty as charged.

"Eighty percent of the charges against us were false," Ms. Curry said, acknowledging that some accusations were correct.

She said they had gone into an Afghan home and that she had given one Afghan family a photocopy of a book of stories about Jesus in Persian and English. She also said Afghans had been shown a film about Jesus.

I certainly believe that the Taliban law against teaching any religion other than Islam is unjust, violating the fundamental human right of freedom of religion.

That being acknowledged, one would hope that the happy ending to this episode will not encourage similarly reckless behavior by other religious aid workers or missionaries.

The eight foreigners, including two Americans, probably felt a bit protected by their Western status in Afghanistan and assumed they would not face any severe punishment if caught.

The problem is that their illegal preaching endangered their indigenous co-workers and those whom they were proselytizing.  Sixteen Afghans who worked with them at Shelter Now, a German-based Christian organization, were arrested along with the eight foreigners.  Many observers felt that the sixteen Afghans would likely receive the death penalty after being found guilty.

Their illegal proselytizing endangered not only the lives of their co-workers, but countless others: the aid workers were there are part of an international effort to feed starving Afghans, and the Taliban could well have halted the entire aid effort in retaliation.

This is not just my supposition, it is the conclusion of their fellow aid workers:

"These laws were well-known to everyone," said Fayaz Shah, head of the United Nations World Food Program in Kabul. "It's like walking in a minefield, and when one blows, you yell, 'Why did this happen?' But you should know. You were in a minefield."

...The potential of more arrests has left the aid agencies in fear. People say the Shelter Now episode could eventually lead to a huge withdrawal — or expulsion — of the agencies. That would be catastrophic for the needy.

That dreadful prospect complicates the moral judgments of aid workers who would ordinarily ache with sympathy for their jailed colleagues. As it is, commiseration often is coupled with anger. Many people here presume that the arrested foreigners were guilty of reckless proselytizing; however well-intentioned the preaching, that forbidden endeavor to save a few dozen souls has imperiled thousands of lives.

"Why did they break the law, especially this law?" asked an American who insisted on anonymity. "Worse yet, they dragged their Afghan workers into this. After some political games, the foreigners will probably be kicked out of the country as their punishment. But the Afghans, I am afraid they are going to be killed."

Happily, the 16 arrested Afghans also escaped.

It is interesting to note that the same law against proselytizing that is so properly condemned when instituted by the Taliban, is also enforced by our great ally, Saudi Arabia.  But that's a whole other story.

In any event, one can both be glad the eight foreign aid workers and their 16 Afghan co-workers are free, and still trust that the next time, they -- as well as others in similar circumstances -- will consider the consequences more carefully before they start proselytizing where it's forbidden.

Media Ignores Al Jazeera Charge that U.S. Deliberately Destroyed Its Offices in Kabul

November 19, 2001

As I wrote earlier, the mass media virtually ignored the story last week that a U.S. missile destroyed the Kabul offices of Al Jazeera, the only independent television station in the Arab world.

Since then, the media have also ignored a serious accusation by Al Jazeera, and the pro forma denial by the United States.

Ibrahim Hilal, chief editor of Al Jazeera, charged that the Kabul office had been deliberately selected as a target by the Pentagon since the Afghan War began.  He believes it was not hit until last week because "the US did not want to bomb it while the broadcaster was the only one based in Kabul."  By last week the BBC had reopened their office there.

Hilal added that his network had passed on its location coordinates to the U.S. military several times.

Replying to Halil's accusation, U.S. military spokesman Colonel Brian Hoey denied that Al-Jazeera was a target:

"The US military does not and will not target media. We would not, as a policy, target news media organizations - it would not even begin to make sense."

He said that the bombing of Serb television in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict was a different issue - the targets in question "appeared to have government facilities associated with them."

Col. Hoey denied that the Pentagon even had the location coordinates of the Al Jazeera Kabul offices.

The Bush administration has reportedly been very unhappy with Al Jazeera for broadcasting Osama bin Laden's videos, and for giving voice to those in the Arab world opposing the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan.  Secretary of Defense Colin Powell even tried to convince the emir of Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, to modify the network's news reporting.

A number of journalists at last week's News World conference in Barcelona agreed with Al Jazeera's charge that the station's office had been deliberately targeted.

This past Sunday, The New York Times Magazine cover story was about Al Jazeera.  The Table of Contents summary of the article (repeated in the newspaper's web page description of the piece) reads as follows:

The Bush administration is trying to figure out how to combat Al Jazeera, the incendiary Arabic news station. But as an extended viewing makes clear, this is one war that can't be won.

Apparently the New York Times, in concluding that the Bush administration couldn't win a war of words with Al Jazeera, hadn't contemplated that the U.S. might substitute violent destruction for mere counter-information.

More disturbingly, if the station merits a Magazine cover story, why hasn't the missile attack on the Al Jazeera Kabul office even been mentioned in the newspaper?

The New York Times, like the rest of the U.S. mass media, seems to feel this story is too hot to handle.

Bush's Military Tribunals: The Ultimate Global Arrogance

How Would the U.S. React Were Another Nation to Authorize Itself To Conduct Secret Trials of U.S. Citizens?

November 18, 2001

Imagine if Saddam Hussein, after declaring an extraordinary emergency caused by attacks on his country, issued an order which purported to give him the legal authority to:

  • utilize Iraqi agents to abduct U.S. citizens from the United States
  • have those U.S. citizens tortured by a third country until confessions were extracted
  • set up an Iraqi military tribunal with judges of his own choosing
  • appoint lawyers for those U.S. citizens of his own choosing
  • try those U.S. citizens in secret
  • use the torture-induced confessions to convict the U.S. citizens
  • deny any right of appeal to any Iraqi court or to any international body
  • execute those U.S. citizens

The U.S. government would react with barely contained outrage!

Well, the powers hypothetically ascribed to Saddam Hussein above are the powers actually now enjoyed by George Bush with respect to non-U.S. citizens under his November 13 military order.

Upon what principles of law or equity can we argue against other nations having the right to take the same actions in their self-protection that we deem suitable to take in our own?  That we're the good guys, and they're the bad guys, and therefore they shouldn't have such rights?

The hallmark of valid legal authority is reciprocity.  If we maintain that no other nation can abduct, try in secret and execute U.S. citizens, then there is no way for us to maintain that we should have those rights with respect to their citizens.

What if in 1989 President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua had issued such an order and used it to "authorize" the kidnapping, secret trial and execution of Oliver North for organizing, funding and directing the terrorists -- the contras -- who were at that time killing thousands of Nicaraguan civilians?

Get the point?

Such international terrorism trials need to be conducted in the open so that the world can judge the fairness of the proceedings and the strength of the evidence presented. 

As to which entity should conduct such trials, international tribunals are best, since however much faith we may have in the integrity of the U.S. courts, others don't.  And we -- quite often with great justification -- have no faith in the integrity of the judicial systems of many other nations.

So the use of open trials conducted by international tribunals would protect not only non-U.S. citizens whom we want to try, but would also afford protection to U.S. citizens charged with terrorism by other countries.

This is all admittedly hypothetical, since no other nation would likely dare assert such global dictatorial rights as Bush did in his military order.

The arrogance of the United States is, admittedly, in a class by itself.

[more on Bush Military Tribunals]

Prior Use of Military Tribunals Involved Wars With Clearly Ascertainable Endings

Bush Has Set Himself Up to Retain His Dictatorial Powers Forever

November 17, 2001

Imagine a system where the prosecutor -- in his sole and non-reviewable discretion -- can decide to bring charges, empanel a jury composed of people who work for him, select the defendant's attorney, and use hearsay evidence.  The defendant has no right of appeal to any court, only to the prosecutor.

That prosecutor is George Bush under his decree establishing military tribunals.  Even right-wingers like William Safire agree that the decree gives Bush "dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens."

Military tribunals have been utilized in many prior wars the United States has fought.  The justification for the use of such tribunals is that when a nation is at war, certain civil liberties must be modified in the interest of national security. 

But those prior wars were formally declared, against a finite number of clearly identifiable enemies.  In all those instances, the American public would know that the war was over when all of the enemies had surrendered.  Then the justification for the use of military tribunals would vanish, and so would they.

With the war on terrorism, in contrast, the enemies are terrorist groups which don't occupy defined territory and are invisible unless sought out and uncovered by law enforcement.  These are groups, according to Bush's criteria, with worldwide reach, some of which, like Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, have cells in some 60 countries.  New groups can be formed, or previously unknown groups can surface, and they would be enemies in our war on terrorism also.

The American public has no way of independently determining when the war on terrorism will be over.  There won't be a nation physically overrun, like Germany in World War II.  There won't be a formal surrender ceremony, as with Japan in World War II.

We're totally dependent on the government telling us that all terrorist groups with worldwide reach have been effectively dismembered and no longer have the capacity to do us harm.  That would, in the Bush administration's war framework, constitute victory.  Only when such victory is achieved would the justification for the military tribunals be removed.

The critical problem is that Bush, should he choose not to, never has to tell the public that such conditions constituting victory have been achieved.  Bush, or a successor, can always claim, without fear of definitive contradiction, that some of the terrorist groups are still alive and well, or that a new group has been formed which presents a danger to our national security.

For as long as he wants, therefore, Bush can keep his dictatorial powers to try any non-U.S. citizen he says is a terrorist.

Even worse, who knows what expansion of such powers Bush will decree as the potentially endless war on terrorism extends months and years from now? 

Could Bush even apply his kangaroo court military tribunals to U.S. citizens whom Bush claims are enemy agents?  For example, protesters against the war, or critics of the methods being used in the war?

Very scary indeed.

Bush's Military Tribunals: He's Judge, Jury and Executioner!

November 16, 2001

If George Bush wants to get rid of any non-U.S. citizen in the world, he can now

  • order that person's abduction by the U.S. military
  • have that person tortured by a third country to extract a confession
  • set up a military tribunal with judges of his (or his Secretary of Defense's) own choosing
  • try that person in secret
  • use that torture-induced confession to convict the person
  • execute that person.

There is no judicial review at any stage of the process.  The accused cannot select their own attorney.  No one need be told that the abduction, torture, trial and execution ever happened: not the person's family, the U.S. press, the U.S. public-- no one!

The above totalitarian scenario is perfectly permissible under George Bush's order establishing military tribunals to try suspected terrorists.

Bush has been roundly criticized for using the terror attacks on the United States as a cover to foster adoption of some of his pet causes -- e.g., a missile shield, and tax refunds to the wealthy -- that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

Now a reasonable person could well fear that Bush is using the war on terrorism as a cover to establish a police state.

Once when Bush was discussing difficult relations with Congress, he "joked" that "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have been joking.


the Rational Radical: Spit Drool Pablum: George Bush Needs to Get Tested!
Latest Updates on my BLOG!!




























 Copyright 2001-05    All rights reserved