Friday, October 27, 2006

tormenta de toca, a no-brainer for Cheney:

Oh, this is rich, the WaPo reports:

"Vice President Cheney said this week that dunking terrorism suspects in water during questioning was a 'no-brainer,' prompting complaints from human rights advocates that he was endorsing the use of a controversial technique known as waterboarding on prisoners held by the United States."

Apparently in an interview with Scott Hennen, a Fargo ND right wing talk show host, Cheney was asked if he would "agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives." Cheney replied "Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."

Tony Snow-job was asked if Vice was endorsing waterboarding, he said: "You know as a matter of common sense that the vice president of the United States is not going to be talking about water boarding. Never would, never does, never will. You think Dick Cheney's going to slip up on something like this? No, come on." [AP]

Yeah, the very idea is just crazy, isn't it? I mean, he's a real smart guy, he wouldn't slip on something like Iraq reconsituting its nuclear program, or say that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes" or shoot his friend accidentely, or anything like that. Maybe, he really doesn't care what Congress said about cruel and ununsual punishment.

Didn't the Congress just say that 'waterboarding' was off the list of things the US could do to terrorism suspects? Didn't John Mccain say on the Today show a while back that after the Military Commissions Act is passed, "There will be no such thing as waterboarding…You will never see that again. We stood up and said that cannot be done." [Mediamatters]

See, this is what happens when you give the administration the green light ot so whatever the hell they feel like diing. Trusting that they'll do the right thing isn't enough.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

real nice guy that Putin

Vlad "the Impaler" Putin is really on a roll these days. Last week when he met Israeli PM Ehud Olmert he made another one of his characteistically thugish comments this time involving Moshe Katsav, Israel's president, who is soon to be charged with "rape, aggravated sexual assault, indecent acts without permission and offenses under the law to prevent sexual harassment," by Israeli police. [Boston Globe]

Putin is reported to have said to Olmert, as they wrapped up their meeeting: "Say hi to your president. He turned out to be quite a powerful person! He raped ten women! We’re all amazed. We all envy him." [MoscowNews]

This is the same guy who W. said "he looked in the eye" and got a "sense of his soul."

This isn't the first time Putin has made off-color "jokes" which really show what kind of soul he really has. When he's not pulverizing neighboring countries, threatening to pulverize neighboring countries, killing journalists, jailing political opponates or cutting off energy supplies to neighboring countries in the middel of winter he's shocking his "partners" by saying things like, "We all know that African countries used to have a tradition of eating their own adversaries."

Last week in Finland he defended Russia's nortorious crime ridden buisness climate by saying "The word mafia was born in Italy, not Russia." [MN]

Is this guy really our friend?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Timelines and cut and run?

The WaPo reports:

"More than 100 U.S. service members have signed a rare appeal urging Congress to support the 'prompt withdrawal' of all American troops and bases from Iraq, organizers said yesterday."

The "Appeal for Redress" reads simply: "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."

Boy, you know when soldiers in uniform begin risking their careers, or arrest, by publicly petitioning Congress to get them the hell out of Iraq, you know there's a tipping point a' comin' round the bend.

And all you brave souls who who signed that petition, W. wants you to know he feels your pain. He said at a press conference today that, "I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. I'm not satisfied either. And that is why we're taking new steps to help secure Baghdad and constantly adjusting our tactics across the country to meet the changing threat." [WaPo]

Of course, the guestion is why, up until now, has he been fine with the whole thing. I mean, they've been at this securing-Baghdad-thing since June and he's just now goeeting around to noticing it isn't woking? And if we really are "winning" like he says we are, shouldn't the insurgents be the ones forced to adjust to our tactics, not the other way around? Especially, after three and a half years and 2,800 dead soldiers?

Call me crazy, but despite the happy talk coming from W. and Rove about who they're going to sweep into power again in November, something tells me the upcoming elections, and the looing possibility of a major defeat for the GOP, has finally forced W. & Co. to stop using their "stay the course" rhetoric and start talking about "timelines and benchmarks" again. Isn't talk of timelines the 'cut and run' stuff the GOP accuses the Dems of wanting to do? (Seems to me I've heard all this before, back when L. Paul Bremer was running the show over there.

Ambassador Khalizad is talking about Timelines and Benchmarks, too. He said yesterday that. "Iraqi leaders have agreed to a timeline for making the hard decisions needed to resolve these issues. . . The United States and its coalition partners will support Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders in their effort to meet these benchmarks."

That's great and it sounds like the administration is finally getting tough with the the dithering Iraqis, which I guess is what the voters want, but the BBC reports that al-Maliki has "denied that the Iraqi government had accepted a US time-frame for curbing the violence. 'I affirm that this government represents the will of the people and no-one has the right to impose a timetable on it,' Mr Maliki said. The BBC's Andrew North in Baghdad said the Iraqi prime minister appeared to be directly contradicting US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who said on Monday that the Iraqi government had agreed to develop a timeline for progress by the end of the year."

Sound like a probelm, stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Israel Beiteinu: Israeli's Hamas?

It looks like Ehud Olmert has decided he needs an Israeli version of Hamas in his government to make absolutly sure no way is found to make peace with the Palestinians. Negotiations are under way to bring Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) party and its 11 seats into his cabinet in order to sure up his teetering government. There's really nothing like cozying up to the far right-nut-job-wing to show how tough you are. Lieberman will be the deputy PM and strategic threats minister, focusing on Iran.

There is still some question as to whether Olmert's government will survive this new arrival, as the more liberal parties are up in arms about this. Defence Minister Amir Peretz, is taking a lot of guff from his own Labour party. YNET reports:

MK Shelly Yacimovich asked party members not to support the addition of Israel Our Home to the coalition. 'I turn to you not as a sector, but as an ideological arrow head in the Labor movement, and ask you to so 'No' to Lieberman. Having Lieberman in the government would mean having an extreme right economy, showing Bibi as a socialist in comparison, and an end to every dream of political moves and tough messages for Israeli Arabs,' she said."

Olmert, for his part frames, this deal as a way to create a stable government. He pointed out that since 1948 Israel has had 31 governments: "In other words, the average term of office for an Israeli government has, for a very long time, been less than two years. Is this reasonable? Is this evidence of stability? Does it promise continuity." [Well, there have been plenty of other more stable governments,like in Iran or Kazakhstan, but I don't know if that was particularly appealing...]

The problem with this arrangement is that as disunctional as the PA is, they have been trying to get themselves together enough to stop killing each other and make a deal with Israel. Bringing Lieberman into the Isreali government will render all of that null and void. There's no way crazy Hamas will even think about doing business with Abu Mazen, if he insists on working with Olmert and crazy Lieberman.

The NYT writes that this expansion of the cabinet means that "Mr. Olmert’s new government would span the ideological spectrum, including liberal, centrist, right-wing and religious parties. With such divergent factions in the government, Mr. Olmert would have little or no chance of building consensus about political solutions to the continuing struggles with the Palestinians." But why worry about that, when your political ass is on the line. The Palestinian thing will work it self out, one way or the other, right?

How bad is Lieberman, you ask? I don't know, I haven't heard much about him, except that he want to move Arab/Israelis out of Israel and take more occupied territories.

Serfing around a little, though, I see that Shai Tsur writes for the Guardian that "Lieberman has a rather fearful reputation. Part of that comes from his bear-like physique and his creepy, Vladimir Putin-like emotionlessness. Although definitely rightwing politically, he is more of a brutalist than an ideologue. The issue of greater Israel is important to him (he is one of the few Knesset members who actually lives in a West Bank settlement), but less important than issues of demography."

Whereas other Israeli right-wing parties want all Arabs thrown out of Israel, Lieberman proposses just redrawing a few maps and the Arabs out of Israel. Sounds fairly reasonable (ff you're nuts), but then there's the whole killing Arab-MKs-who-met-with-Hamas-thing.

Back in May, according to I'lam,

"Lieberman expressed the hope that Arab legislators who met with the Hamas leadership be put on trial and executed 'exactly like Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials and collaborators under the Vichy regime in France'. He urged: 'All those who collaborate with terror from within this House [the Knesset] must face sentencing.' He included in the list Arab MKs who meet members of Hamas, including those now in the Palestinian government, those who travel to Lebanon, and those who commemorate the Nakba instead of Independence Day."

Just when you think things can't get any worse in the Middle East they do, it never fails.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Willy Pete goes to Lebanon part II:

Here's a little update on the Lebanese/Israel war:

Back in July I spent pretty much the whole month writing about this war and I commented on the IDF's use of Willy Pete, cluster bombs, and some sort of other weapon that turns people's skin into paper. Naturally, Israel deied it used any of these WMDs.

I haven't figured out which WMD the one that turns skin into paper was, but Israel has finally admited that it used White Phosphorous. The BBC reports that "Cabinet minister Jacob Edery confirmed the bombs were dropped 'against military targets in open ground. . . The Israeli army made use of phosphorus shells during the war against Hezbollah in attacks against military targets in open ground." Yeah, right. (The use of Willy Pete on civilians is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, by the way.)

According to Haaretz (via, an Israeli battalion commander has condemned the carpet bombing of Souther Lebanon in the waning hours before the UN cease-fire took hold.

"'In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs, what we did there was crazy and monstrous,' testifies a commander in the Israel Defense Forces'MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) unit. Quoting his battalion commander, he said the IDF fired some 1,800 cluster rockets on Lebanon during the war and they contained over 1.2 million cluster bombs. The IDF also used cluster shells fired by 155 mm artillery cannons, so the number of cluster bombs fired on Lebanon is even higher. At the same time, soldiers in the artillery corps testified that the IDF used phosphorous shells, which many experts say is prohibited by international law. According to the claims, the overwhelming majority of the weapons mentioned were fired during the last ten days of the war."

The UN reports that there are perhaps a million cluster bomblets littering S. Lebanon that are killing about 1 person a day sionce the war ended.
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