Friday, April 18, 2003

Quality Blow Jobs Available. I checked my e-mail this morning to see an e-mail from my Moot Court Instructor informing his classes that I was among the "Best Oralist" winners for our class. Needless to say, this has produced predictable ribbing among my friends. I walked into a conversation just twenty minutes ago when several of my male friends were analyzing my "oral" skills, all of them claiming to be drawing on personal experience. The award, then, is as much a downer as anything else. I mean, it isn't any sort of "real" award. It something which has dubious resume value, at best. I mean, there isn't even a certificate. But it is encouraging to know that I'm pretty good at oral arguments, and it justifies my decision to pursue Moot Court rather than Law Journal in my second year.

Of course, friends of mine teasing me for being "gay" (which, if you care to know, I'm not) is nothing new. I always try to take it in good humor, but then, it is indicative of a pervasive kind of homophobia that homosexuality is applied to known heterosexuals as a form of insult. That's something that has concerned me for many years. But what can you do?

I'll try to do some real blogging later today. If you couldn't tell, this was a "Haven't-posted-in-a-while-but-I-don't-have-anything-to-say" post. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Consensus by Fraud. We all remember, or at least, should remember, those chilling polls showing that a shitload of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in 9/11, despite the utter lack of evidence to support this belief (and despite the fact that even the Bush Administration, which has no particular loyalty to truth, nevermade this claim). Billmon wonders if the same thing might be happening again, this time with regard to WMDs in Iraq.

This isn't entirely of the Administration's doing, but they are certainly benefitting from it. When suspected WMDs are discovered, it's a huge, huge story. When those suspicions are proved false, that's a minor, minor story. That's a simple reality of the news business (which the Republicans also exploited under Clinton: allegations, big news; exonerations, not news). The result is that we've all heard the breathless and tense stories about possible WMD findings, but only the most observant of us may have caught all of the retractions.

I've seen this myself at law school. Several of my friends are utterly convinced that WMDs were found in Iraq, thus justifying the war retroactively. [There are two errors in that view, I feel, but at the moment, I'm only interested in the error of fact.] No WMDs have been found in Iraq. The UN didn't find any, and so far, the US hasn't found any. The question is, do Americans know that? Do they care? [It isn't necessarily wrong not to care, after all.] But the rest of the world knows, and the rest of the world cares.

If WMDs are not found, it may not hurt Bush, but it will definitely hurt America. According to a partial transcript posted by Eschaton, Ari Fleischer said "I think our credibility is rather strong." It isn't. It's actually extremely weak throughout most of the world, and whether or not Bush gets blamed at the polls next year, that is a serious problem for us all.

UPDATE: For more on this, see Jake Tapper's over at Salon.com.
This was a Long Time Coming. A Venezualan general has accused the United States of taking part in the failed coup against President Hugo Chavez last year. According to this article, "Officials in Washington said they told opponents of Chavez they would not support any unconstitutional activity aimed at removing the leftist leader from power." Sorry, that doesn't pass the smell test. White House officials were talking to opponents of Chavez, but they didn't support unconstitutional means? Perhaps, but it looks pretty suspicious, especially in light of the fact that the United States certainly dragged its feet on condemning the coup, waiting until it was clear that their boys had lost before pointing out that military coups were just not a good thing, by the way.

There needs to be a Congressional investigation of this issue. There also needs to be a more aggressive attempt by the federal government to combat poverty. These two issues are utterly unrelated, but both have approximately the same probability of coming about.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

"How Could Anyone Possibly Be That Stupid?" Joe Conason asks this question after learning that U.S. troops were placed to guard the Iraqi Oil Ministry, and nothing else. No surprise, then, that the National Museum of Antiquities, housing quite literally the cultural heritage of all the world, was looted, causing the loss and destruction of 170,000 irreplaceable items, and the Iraqi Oil Ministry was not tampered with at all. Conason is even more concerned about the defensive, evasive, and downright belligerent attitude Secretary of Offense Donald Rumsfeld took to Tim Russert's questioning on Sunday's Meet the Press. "Bad things do happen in life and people do loot," he said, but people didn't loot the Oil Ministy.

Is it any wonder that the American troops, just one week after the fall of Baghdad, are already wearing out their welcome? For the 1700th time so far, Bush's incompetence is standing in the way of achieving his own stated aims, but magically, doesn't seem to be getting in the way of him achieving any of the things that he denies being motivated by, like oil. How 'bout that!

Monday, April 14, 2003

Fear Factor. Steve Gilliard, sitting in for the big guy at DailyKos, has today posted this tremendous essay on the impact of fear on American society post 9/11. It's pretty clear to me that fear is driving a lot of the things that are happening in America today. On one hand, the Bush Administration continuously employed fear in arguing for its war in Iraq. The spectre of chemical and biological weapons, linked with the spectre of terrorism, created a compelling (though ultimately fraudulent) argument. [The fear of nukes was even more compelling, before the U.N. inspectors let the cat out of the bag that Saddam had no nuke program to speak of.] Moreover, fear has allowed the governmet to get away with things that, I think, never would have flown pre-9/11. Like the USA PATRIOT Act. To be sure, 9/11 required several substantive shifts in policy, most of which have yet to occur, but also, 9/11 has justified policy changes which are not necessary or even desirable.

Gilliard's comments regarding "supporting the troops" are also well taken. It's all well and good to send the troops wetnaps and copies of Maxim (which are, I'm reliably informed, much sought after), but it would be much better if we gave them a better life, better job, better home, when they returned. The first thing we could do, for instance, is stop cutting veterans' benefits to save money for more tax cuts for the wealthy. Just a thought.

Anyway, it's a provacative essay, worthy of your consideration.
Looting History. Joanne Mariner, human rights attorney and columnist for FindLaw.com, argues that the Pentagon (specifically Secretary of Offense Donald Rumsfeld) has been altogether too dismissive about concerns of looting in Baghdad. Today's column makes the point that the United States was obligated by international law to protect the cultural treasures of Iraq, that the National Museum of Iraq pleaded with American troops to protect the Museum (saying it would have taken two troops and a tank, that's it), American forces flat-out refused to help, and as a result 170,000 priceless artefacts, some dating back to the earliest days of human civilization, have been stolen or destroyed.

This is a huge tragedy to anthropology, archeology, history, and art. It was totally preventable, but the United States didn't prevent it. Rumsfeld, who surely had bigger things to worry about, might at least have the decency to feign regret.
If It Has to be Said, There's a Problem. Courtesy of Ruminate This, here's a great headline from The Mirror: We Will Find WMD, Powell Says. Ok, now I've been against the war since since late last year. I always assumed that Iraq had lots of nasty chemical and biological weapons. I also assumed that Iraq had a thriving nuclear development operation, and would, if unhindered, have nukes within couple of years. Even still, I opposed war, because I thought that UN inspectors could ably handle each of these problems without the necessity of killing thousands of Iraqis and more than 100 brave American soldiers. Of course, now we know, from Hans Blix, that Iraq had no nuclear development program. Also, after having been in Iraq for nearly a month, and after controlling very nearly the entire country, we've found nada on the chem/bio weapons front.

My question, aimed specifically at pro-war people, as well as those of my friends who have beens somewhat ambivalent about the whole time, is this: does the continued failure of the U.S. to find WMDs shake your faith in the wisdom of this war? Assuming we never find and WMDs, and it eventually becomes clear that, despite Saddam's public muscle-flexing, he actually never had any at all: then what?

Personally, I think it's likely that, at some point, we will find some WMDs, probably not very many, prossibly not weaponized, and probably in a condition of severe disrepair. At this point, is there any likelihood that they could turn public opinion retroactively against the war? I doubt it. Americans love wars, I'm sad to say, and they especially love relatively quick ones in which very few American troops are killed. But still, I'm curious how pro-war people would respond to the eventuality that, just as those dirty treasonous peaceniks have been saying all along, Iraq was absolutely no threat to us at all, ever, and this war was therefore sold to the American people on the back of a huge fraud.