"The wealthy, not only by private fraud but also by common laws, do every day pluck and snatch away from the people some part of their daily living. Therefore, when I consider and weigh in my mind these commonwealths which nowadays do flourish, I perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men in procuring their own commodities under the name and authority of the commonwealth.

They invent and devise all means and crafts, first how to keep safely without fear of losing that which they have unjustly gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and labor of the people for as little money and effort as possible."

Thomas More, Utopia

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Onward Soldiers

So you thought our forces were mired in a quagmire of Team Bush's choosing in Iraq? According to a recent article in the The New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, if "Vice" President Dick Cheney has his way Iran, a nation with three times the population of Iraq and with a viable military infrastructure, is next.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Censoring The Unpalatable Truth

Recently the moderator on the SCC blog refused to publish my response to a True Believer in the "Hidden Homicides?" thread who described those of us, particularly in law enforcement, who held principled objections to the US war of aggression in Iraq as "cowards".

This Super-Patriot then went on to challenge us to tell returning veterans, "that they did not accomplish anything to help the Iraqis". To this I reasonably responded that the opinions of American veterans were entirely irrelevant to the issue. What should concern us is what do Iraqis think of our (unasked for) "assistance"? According to recent polls of Iraqi public opinion--not much. Frankly, most Americans aren't overjoyed either.

What prompted this challenge alert, however, was the moderator's amazing rationale for censoring my post after I alluded to the number of Iraqis killed as a result of the US invasion, destruction, and occupation of the rubble that is now Iraq. His explanation serves as an instructive example of what happens when conventional wisdom is challenged by clear evidence to the contrary within a highly regimented intellectual culture. Particularly in a culture were propaganda has become the unassailable Truth.

Challenge Alert #2

For those who have not been following this soap opera, it has long been my habit when discussing or writing about the number of Iraqi civilian dead as a result of the March 2003 US invasion of that country to reference the peer-reviewed mortality survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2004 and, most recently, in October of 2006. Both reports were published in the highly respected British scientific journal, the Lancet. Their latest estimate published on October 11, 2006 places the number of Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of the US invasion at 655,000 deaths in excess of what would have occurred had the US not invaded the country. The SCC moderator and other apologists for Team Bush war crimes, however, prefer the useful fictions reported by the British research group Iraq Body Count (IBC), which has consistently under reported Iraqi civilian deaths as a result of the invasion by at least a factor of six. What follows is the SCC moderator's stunning reply to my post:

"We aren't publishing your comment for a couple of reasons, first of which is we said to STOP publishing the bullshit numbers from the Lancet". He then goes on to remind me that he has provided me with information regarding a website (IBC) "that is non partisan and mostly accurate".

What a startling admission on your part SCC. You are in essence stating that you are qualified to pass judgment on the work of leading epidemiologists whose work has been published in a respected peer-reviewed scientific journal (Lancet).

I am happy to report that I was quite aware of the IBC and its work well before I ever became aware of the Second City Cop blog.

Are you aware that the IBC has no epidemiologists on its staff?

Are you aware that the IBC uses primarily western media reports from the conflict zone to determine their estimations?

Are you at all aware of the background and experience level of the distinguished scientists who conducted the study published in the Lancet?

In what way are you qualified to dismiss as "bullshit" the work of the following: Dr. Les Roberts PhD, Dr. Shannon Doocy PhD, and Dr. Gilbert Burnham MD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Dr. Riyadh Lafta of Al Mustansiriya University Baghdad? These were the authors of the Lancet report, and they have conducted similar studies in war zones as far flung as Kosovo, Darfur, and the Congo using the standard accepted methodology in each example--cross-sectional cluster sample surveys.

This is what John Sloboda, co-founder and director of the IBC admitted to David Edwards of Media Lens in an e-mail on 14 January 2006,

" Our work is, and always has been, to systematically record civilian deaths reported by two or more recognized media sources which conform to the basic criteria set out in our methodology. (My emphasis)
This means that deaths unreported in these media are not in our data base. We have always publicly acknowledged that our numbers must underepresent (sic) the true figure".

Need I remind you SCC that the vast majority of western media personnel are, for obvious safety reasons, restricted almost exclusively to the Green Zone and have almost no independent access to the rest of the country.

SCC, I have enough respect for the intelligence and innate curiosity of the Second City Cop blog community to trust that they can determine for themselves whether or not the following series from Media Lens qualifies as competent journalism. They provide their correspondence not only with the director of the IBC and the authors of the Lancet report, but with other leading epidemiologists in the field as they investigated the validity of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report which was published in the Lancet to such controversy.

As investigators, most of us are comfortable with the process of sifting through evidence to determine the path to the truth. I ask you to approach the material that follows as though you were investigating a crime. Are the witnesses credible? What does the evidence suggest? Think independently.

Part I and Part II cover the initial western media response to the first report published in 2004 (that 100,000 figure).

The April 10, 2006 report features the challenge of IBC's methodology by journalist John Pilger and a leading epidemiologist.

The October 18, 2006 report covers the release of the updated Lancet study (that 655,000 figure) and its methodology.

The October 31, 2006 report featured Lancet report co-author Dr. Les Robert's response to questions about his work and that of his colleagues on the study.

Last but not least, I leave it to you the reader to judge for yourself the worth of the Lancet Report and draw your own conclusions.

SCC, the rest of your statements regarding the cost of the war, Iraqi public opinion (see link above), and my "attempts to tie Saddam's atrocities to the political winds of the 80's", will be addressed in turn. Stay safe.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Told You So

Sadly it appears that the fears and suspicions of progressives are being realized as the "opposition" party prepares to take the reins in Washington. Paul Craig Roberts explains.

In related news, Justin Raimondo explores the neo-con dilemma as the Disaster in Mesopotamia continues to unfold in a pattern long predicted.

Last but not least, I would like to recommend a book written by former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, a 22 year veteran of that agency. Scheuer led a task force at CIA charged with capturing and/or killing Osama Bin Laden at a time when the Bush administration considered the terrorist (and former client) a low priority. His book is Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. As the following excerpt makes clear, misrepresenting the valid grievances and consequences of massive Muslim populations living under US-backed tyrannical regimes as "islamo-fascism" will only deepen and prolong the misery that Team Bush ( with bi-partisan support) has unleashed.

Scheuer further expands on this theme in the following interview with Harper's Ken Silverstein back in August of this year.

Challenge Alert #1

Response to "Doubter":

In the "Let The Games Begin" thread of the Second City Cop blog, a poster going by the "Doubter" handle, wrote the following in response to my position that Bush administration policies such as warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, the blatant violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions regarding prisoners of war, and the ubiquitous "signing statements" the president attaches to legislation--in effect declaring that he will submit to laws as he sees fit--posed a clear threat to the Constitution and the rule of law:

"Wiretaps. The federal courts have already decided that the NSA wiretaps are legal . In Re. Sealed Case. The court not only rebuked the FISA court for its excesses--it noted that the FISA court 'may have exceeded the constitutional bounds'--but ruled that the president had 'inherent authority' under the Constitution to conduct needed surveillance without obtaining a warrant"

What "excesses" he refers to in regards to the FISA court--the court Team Bush bypassed in route to the illegal wiretapping of Americans--is a complete mystery to me. It would likely be a mystery to most legal scholars who've written extensively on the matter as well. For example, read the following essay which originally appeared in the August 10, 2006 issue of the New York Review of Books by David Cole, Professor of Law at Georgetown University on how the US Supreme Court "struck back".

When you finish that piece, read this essay by former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega and I think you will see why Bush scrambled to sponsor legislation granting retroactive immunity (again with critical bi-partisan support) for those responsible for clear violations of federal law and the Geneva Conventions.

The Challenger Series

I've been tossing around in my head a new concept for the Lair that will allow me to continue posting introductions to the work of various progressive writers, while occasionally responding to the assertions of posters and the moderators on that great sounding board better known here as the Second City Cop blog. These "challenge alerts", will comprise my detailed response to challenges from over there that will likely require more space than the SCC moderators are likely to allow. Often the alert will tie into the general theme of the post that day, but sometimes not. The inaugural challenge alert will follow shortly.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Free Trade Fantasies

Recently, a poster on my favorite antidote to writer's block, the Second City Cop blog, wrote a gushing endorsement of Vietnam's recent acceptance of a "free trade" agreement with the US. The fact that these neo-liberal "globalization" schemes have left utter devastation in their wake wherever they have been imposed is clearly beyond the awareness of this anonymous poster, which no doubt generalizes to a large portion of the American public.

What a wonderful opportunity this is to introduce to you a very important contributor to this debate! Noam Chomsky has been writing, virtually non-stop, on American foreign and domestic policy for 40 years--all while (simultaneously) forging groundbreaking discoveries in the field of linguistics. As perhaps America's foremost dissident, Chomsky has suffered the slings and arrows that befalls anyone who walks against the flow of the stampeding herd. A virtual icon in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, much of Chomsky's work is studiously ignored (or vilified) in the country of his birth. As the author of over 80 books and thousands of articles and essays which have appeared in many of the leading academic journals and publications of popular opinion, Chomsky is listed in the Arts & Humanities Index as number 7 behind a short list that includes Freud, Marx, and Jesus, as the most cited intellectuals alive (or dead).

It would behoove you to read carefully Chomsky's analysis of the "free trade" phenomenon, then in its infancy when he wrote this essay back in 1993. The subject of his attention was the North American Free Trade Agreement which at the time had been ravishing the Mexican economy for nearly a year. By the following year, the Mexican economy had completely collapsed and led directly to the spectacle of millions of Mexicans flowing north of the Rio Grande in order to survive. The strictures of NAFTA virtually de-populated the countryside as the local oligarchy transformed their land holdings to agro-export crops better suited to the American market and not for local consumption. Millions faced starvation. Naturally, worker protections evaporated overnight as the NAFTA treaties virtually outlawed unions.

Most Americans are only dimly aware of what Chomsky details in his essay, Notes of NAFTA: The Masters of Man. It's time for that to change, most critically because if Team Bush and its principal supporters amongst the owners of our society have their way, we will all get a taste of what has befallen Mexico, Argentina, Haiti, (soon Vietnam) and a host of other nations that have accepted (with little public input) neo-liberalism's chilly embrace.

In a related speech from 1997, Chomsky sketches a broader outline of the neo-liberal agenda, what it ultimately holds in store for this country, and how it relates to the so-called free-trade agreements. The speech was titled, Market Democracy in a Neo-Liberal Order: Doctrines and Reality, and is perhaps the best summation of the so-called globalization phenomenon that I have yet to encounter. Think of it the next time a frothing neo-con extols the virtues of "globalization".

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Aftermath

I've had so much fun amusing myself reading the lamentations of GOP supporters throughout the blogsphere that I've neglected my own site. What an interesting turn of events! None of what occurred to the GOP on Tuesday came as much of a surprise to those who've been paying close attention to the poll figures over the past nine months or so, but for the True Believers who had insisted that those poll numbers were liberal distortions and not truly reflective of public sentiment, well... no amount of tissue can stem the flow of their tears.

As I stated in my "Election Time" post, a Democratic majority in one or both houses of Congress is not cause enough to celebrate. What follows are observations along this theme from some of the leading progressive voices in the US--one of whom may be new to you.

As always, the Lair welcomes analysis from Tom Englehardt whose blog is linked on this site. Read his latest missive on the" fall of the New Rome" as Bush The Decider's Outlaw Empire Meets the Wave.

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting covers the post-election debate among the news readers and pundits of the corporate media who desperately tried to put the results in "proper perspective" for us rubes.

Finally, I'd like to introduce you to Professor Brian Leiter (PhD, JD Univ. of Michigan, AB Princeton), whose blog the Leiter Reports, is now on my link list. Leiter holds the Baker Chair in Law at the University of Texas and is also a professor of Philosophy there. He has been a visiting professor of law at Yale and is currently serving in that capacity at the University of Chicago Law School. I think you will find his Post-Mortem Election Thoughts as informative as I did. I strongly encourage you to explore his blog further. Enjoy.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Paul Street On The Kerry "Controversy"

How could I possibly have missed this?

Election Time!

No, the choices aren't great, but there can be no question about the urgent need to send a message to the dangerous reactionaries who are hurdling this nation towards the precipice. Hold your nose and vote, but don't stop there. Those whom we elect to serve us must do just that--serve us rather than kneel at the altar of corporatism.

Merely exchanging one group of corporate shills for another will do little to alter our nation's course. In his latest essay, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) founder Jeff Cohen demonstrates why a "victory" by the Democrats on Tuesday will not be cause for voters with progressive values to pat themselves on the back. The battle will only have just begun. Remember, the big guns still hold the high ground in Washington. Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Finance, the major media corporations, and the "defense" industry, among a host of other well financed special interests groups have battalions of lobbyist with which to seduce the new arrivals. If they succeed, then all we will have managed to accomplish on Tuesday is exchange the deck chairs on the Titanic. There is a great deal of work to be done. Read on.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Response To "Old Grey Guy"

On November 2nd at the Second City Cop blog under the post, "We Couldn't Have Said It Better", the moderator(s) fell all over themselves in praising a post by a Vietnam War veteran and retired Chicago Police officer who blogs under the "Old Grey Guy" moniker. The target of Old Grey's attack was frequent SCC Blog contributor Leftisthebest, who, like yours truly, has often been the target of abuse on that site for ( to borrow from Orwell) "thought crimes" , i.e espousing positions which flaunt conventional wisdom regarding American foreign and/or domestic policy.

Lefty had the temerity to point out that most of the desk-warriors in Congress and Bush's administration who've sent America's sons and daughters off on various imperial ventures around the globe, have never served in the armed services. And of those who did "serve", many, like The Decider, managed to land cushy state-side National Guard assignments during the Vietnam War.The focus of my response will be on this issue of the Vietnam conflict for it seemed to dominate the thread after Old Grey's diatribe.

Let's begin with the moderator's estimation of Old Grey's comments that they "couldn't have said it better". That struck me as rather odd because immediately after reading this veteran's comments, another narrative became apparent to me. It went something like this:

The people of Vietnam posed the exact same threat to America in 1961 (the year the US began its assault on South Vietnam) that the people of Iraq posed to this country in 2003--that is to say none at all. It thereby stands to reason that the US assault on Vietnam and the bordering nations of Indochina was--like the war of aggression in Iraq--unjustified and fundamentally immoral.

How about that? Sound better? Sure does to me. Furthermore, what I have just written reconciles with the historical record.

Let me first be perfectly clear. I have nothing against those who served in Vietnam. Most of those young men were draftees and, like soldiers everywhere, went where they were told to go and killed whom they were told to kill. The American servicemen in Vietnam were in many ways as much victims of our government's criminal policy as those they had been sent to slaughter. Almost.

The servicemen may have my sympathy, but I have an abiding respect for those who refused to partake in America's imperial adventure in southeast Asia. These young men understood at the time that their nation had neither the right or the competence to decide--by force of arms--how another people should organize their society. It takes moral courage to resist the State, particularly where the elite classes and their institutions have determined that acts of aggression and the war crimes that follow are in the "national interest".

It's important to recall that between 2 to 3 million Vietnamese would perish during the 21 year US assault on that country--17% of the population. An equivalent ratio of American deaths would have represented 25 million souls. More ordinance was dropped on this Third World country, than in both the European and Pacific theaters of the Second World War combined. All that because the people of this largely agrarian, peasant society, refused to submit to Western colonialism.

A Brief History

After a bloody struggle that would span a century, the Vietnamese finally broke free of their shackles following their defeat of the French Army on May 7, 1954 at Diem Bein Phu. But did America, the self-proclaimed champion of self-determination for all people, acknowledge and accept the hard-earned liberation of the Indochinese? Of course we know the answer don't we Old Grey Guy? The Eisenhower administration moved at once to undermine the 1954 Geneva Peace Accords--specifically Chapter III Articles 16 through 19. These Accords called for general elections to be held in 1956 which would re-unify the northern and southern provinces of Vietnam--at the time temporarily divided along the 17th parallel. It was clear to all that the irredeemably corrupt regime of Ngo Dinh Diem stood no chance of winning a popular election (Diem along with his cohorts had collaborated with the French colonials for decades). Likewise, it was equally clear which party had the support of the overwhelming majority of the population; the same force that resolutely resisted the French occupation for over half a century--the National Liberation Front (NLF).

Diem frankly warned Eisenhower that if he didn't assist in halting the '56 elections, then the communists (NLF) would win in a landslide, for he was completely devoid of popular support. The masses had fully embraced the domestic platform of the NLF which included a massive land reform program and a more equitable distribution of the nation's rich natural resources. It was readily apparent that, left to their own devices, the people of Vietnam would have organized a society based upon socialist principles. For the Cold Warriors of the Eisenhower administration, however, that would just never do.

Here's the part where you come in Old Grey Guy.

You were not "defending America" during your tour in Vietnam Old Grey. Was the NLF planning to row their canoes across the Pacific and launch an attack on California? How would a Third World, agrarian society without benefit of a navy or air force, invade, conquer, and occupy the most powerful nation in all of recorded human history?

No Old Grey, what you were doing was "draining the swamp". What does that mean? Well, you see it was understood by the American architects of the war (much like the French before them) that the NLF relied on massive support from the peasants in the southern provinces of Vietnam (particularly the countryside) in order to survive and conduct operations. What does one do when the overwhelming majority of the population supports the "enemy"? It was lost on no one but the American public that the southern peasants of Vietnam and the NLF were one and the same. No guerrilla movement can survive much less succeed without a powerful undercurrent of popular support.

"To kill the mosquitos one must first drain the swamp", or so the saying goes. The "mosquitos" in our example were of course the NLF, and the "swamp" were the peasants of South Vietnam--their base of support. This explains why you and your fellow soldiers concentrated all of your efforts on controlling the "swamp". Massive US exercises such as Operation Wheeler Walla (of which the My Lai massacre was but a small footnote) were designed to herd the peasants into "pacification camps"--or if we are to accept their conventional definition--concentration camps. This was the ultimately unsuccessful attempt by US planners to deny the NLF its lifeline--the people themselves. So in essence Old Grey, you were "defending" South Vietnam from its own population.

I read your words with a mixture of sadness and pity Old Grey. Sadness because it was clear that you were used by your government like toilet paper in pursuit of elite interests that never concerned you or most Americans for that matter. That sadness, however, turned to pity when I realized that you still believe, and will likely go to your grave believing, that you were defending your country.

Although it will probably make no difference, I'll state the obvious:


The NLF in the South, and the NVA in the North were defending their country from foreign aggressors, of which you were one. The Vietnamese had a long history of fighting off invaders before you arrived in 1965 Old Grey. The French before us, the Japanese before them (briefly taking over from the Frogs during WWII), and the Chinese (for millennia) before them all.

Did the NLF, the only force defending the peasants of the South, launch an attack on the United States of America? Pure nonsense. Did the NLF/NVA take on all comers in defense of their sovereignty? You bet. Wouldn't we? How would you respond Old Grey, to the presence of foreign troops on American soil, "standing up" leaders of their choosing to manage our affairs. Would you turn the other cheek to the spectacle of those same troops turning our wives, daughters, and sisters into their "comfort whores" to pass the time (tell us all about Da Nang buddy). How many of your children would you bury before you took up arms against the forces of another power, whose unrequested attempts to "help" us, require that they "kill us to save us"?

I was also fascinated by your blistering attack on those you condemn as "unpatriotic" for their opposition to the war in Vietnam and now in Iraq. What makes your position so fascinating is that you are genuinely oblivious to the fact that neither of these countries posed a threat to your own. Would anyone be sympathetic to similar complaints from say, a German soldier who served his nation faithfully during the atrocities in Poland in '39 through the siege of Stalingrad in '44? Or for a Russian soldier's fulminations about the lack of support on the home front during his rampage through Afghanistan? Somehow I doubt it.

It is a testimony to the level of our society's indoctrination that a sizable portion of the American public note no sense of irony when the very people responsible for the most aggressive foreign policy in our nation's history, claim to be peacemakers.

Other Voices

I couldn't help but notice Old Grey, that you cast doubt on the accounts of Kerry and other veterans who admitted that they either witnessed or participated in war crimes during the Vietnam War. I'm curious to know what your reaction is to this series of stories on just that very subject by Deborah Nelson and Nick Turse of the Los Angeles Times. Stay safe.