The 'war on terror' licenses a new stupidity in geopolitics

The language loved by Bush and Musharraf has translated into a global disaster bringing death and misery to millions

Simon Jenkins
Wednesday January 30, 2008

Nothing and nobody can stop bombs going off. No citizen, no police force, no army, no government and no global military alliance can prevent a determined suicide bomber from blowing himself up. It will happen and innocent people will die as a result, horribly, as they do on the roads, from drugs and alcohol, or from natural disasters - again without responsible authority being able to stop it.

What is recent is the admission of this truism into the mainstream of government under the rubric of "terrorism". This week two outgoing presidents, America's George Bush and Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, defined their terms of office in relation to terror. Bush did so in his final state of the union message on Monday and Musharraf that same day in London during a charm offensive prior to next month's elections.

To Bush, the "war on terror" is the ruling mantra of his politics of fear. Since 9/11 gave a prop to his weakening presidency, his language has scaled new heights of alarmist rhetoric. It has validated every internal repression and every external war. "He who is not with us is against us," he cries. Terrorists everywhere are "opposing the advance of liberty ... evil men who despise freedom, despise America and aim to subject millions to their violent rule".

As the sociologist Ulrich Beck has written, "properly exploited, a novel risk is always an elixir to an ailing leader". By declaring a threat so awful as to be intolerable, a politician can limit the liberties of a free society in the name of risk-aversion. Musharraf utters hardly a sentence that does not contain the word terror. Pivotally close to the base from which 9/11 was apparently launched, his dictatorship has been indulged by London and Washington for a full seven years. This week Gordon Brown hailed him as a "key ally on terrorism", enabling him to take comfort in sacking his judiciary and curbing his media.

Had the war on terror been used only as a metaphor for better policing, like rhetorical "wars" on drugs, poverty and street crime, it might have passed muster. Bush and Musharraf have found the military metaphor too potent to resist and duly carried it into literal effect. The result has been a disaster for their countries, and incidentally for themselves.

The west's Afghan adventure is now devoid of coherent strategy. Soldiers are dying, the opium trade is booming and aid lies undistributed. Command and control of the war against the Taliban is slipping from the most bizarre western occupying force since the fourth Crusade to a tight cabal around the Afghan ruler, Hamid Karzai, who is fighting to retain a remnant of authority in his own capital.

Karzai's exasperation with the west has led him to refuse the services as "coordinator" of the former Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown. The latter may have cut a dash in the subsidy swamp of Sarajevo, but in Afghanistan he would have been a boy on a man's errand. Karzai knows well that his fate lies not with the patronising platitudes of western proconsuls but in the hard graft of provincial warlords, drug gangsters and Taliban go-betweens.

These go-betweens have had their status massively boosted by the war on terror. Bush's demand in 2001 that Musharraf "join the war" sent Pakistani forces into the border territories, breaking old treaties and driving the Pashtun tribes into the eager arms of Taliban leaders. This undoubtedly saved Osama bin Laden's skin from the fury of the northern Tajiks, committed to avenge his murder of their leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud.

Musharraf, at America's bidding and with $10bn of American money, has done what even his craziest predecessors avoided, and recklessly set the Pashtun on the warpath - increasingly in thrall to a revived al-Qaida. The result is a plague of suicide bombings and killings in the heartland of his benighted state. From the law courts of America to the mosques of west London and the mountains of the Hindu Kush, the war on terror has been lethally and predictably counter-productive. It embodies the new stupidity in international affairs.

Nobody disputes that there are killer cells at large in the world, most of them proclaiming various Islamist creeds. It is the job of intelligence agencies and the police to catch as many as they can. After a hesitant start, they appear to be quite good at it. Some bombs will get through but they will not be deterred by draconian laws, any more than by machine gun-toting policemen in Downing Street and Heathrow. Robust societies can handle this admittedly intermittent threat. Only weak ones will capitulate to it.

The menace of these killers lies not in their firepower but in their capacity to distort the judgment and commitment to freedom of politicians too cowardly to bear on their shoulders the burden of risk. In two weeks' time, the fragile democracy of Pakistan will defy the bombers and hold an election prior, it is hoped, to some version of democratic rule. Such communities will defy a probable burst of terror bombs only if their leaders stop setting "terrorists" on a pedestal and using language that exaggerates their capacity, as Bush puts it, "to oppose the advance of freedom".

It is leaders, not bombers, who have the power to balk the advance of freedom. Already those leaders have used the war on terror to introduce the Patriot Act, Guantánamo Bay and a $1.5 trillion war in Iraq. In Pakistan they have used it as an excuse for emergency rule, the imprisonment of senior judges, and the provocation of unprecedented insurgency in the north-west frontier territories. In Britain leaders have used the war as an excuse for 42-day detention without trial, the world's most intrusive surveillance state, and not one but two contested military occupations of foreign soil.

This so-called war on terror has filled the pockets of those profiting from it. It has killed thousands, immiserated millions and infringed the liberty of hundreds of millions. The only rough justice it has delivered is to ruin the careers of those who propagated it. Tony Blair was driven to early resignation. Bush has been humiliated and Musharraf's wretched rule brought close to an overdue end. It may be an ill wind that blows no good, but it is hardly enough.


Orchestrated Deception On The Path To War

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.

"The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

Center For Public Integrity
Fund For Independence in Journalism


Lawyer Reveals Secret, Toppling Death Sentence

For 10 years, Leslie P. Smith, a Virginia lawyer, reluctantly kept a secret because the authorities on legal ethics told him he had no choice, even though his information could save the life of a man on death row, one whose case had led to a landmark Supreme Court decision.

Mr. Smith believed that prosecutors had committed brazen misconduct by coaching a witness and hiding it from the defense, but the Virginia State Bar said he was bound by legal ethics rules not to bring up the matter. He shared his qualms and pangs of conscience with only one man, Timothy G. Clancy, who had worked on the case with him.


But the situation changed last year, when Mr. Smith took one more run at the state bar’s ethics counsel. “I was upset by the conduct of the prosecutor,” Mr. Smith wrote in an anguished letter, “and the situation has bothered me ever since.”

Reversing course, the bar told Mr. Smith he could now talk, and he did. His testimony caused a state court judge in Yorktown, Va., to commute the death sentence of Daryl R. Atkins to life on Thursday, citing prosecutorial misconduct.


Executions in Virginia usually occur within seven years of the imposition of a death sentence, legal experts there said. So in a typical case — without the intervention of the Supreme Court — Mr. Atkins would be dead by now and Mr. Smith’s revelations would have done him no good.

An individual stands up to the terrible power of the state.


Happy Birthday, Monicagate!

Slate, bless its little heart, reminds us that
It was 10 years ago on Jan. 12 that Linda Tripp notified Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's office that she had audiotapes of Monica Lewinsky telling her that she'd had an affair with President Bill Clinton, and that he'd urged her to lie if asked about it under oath.

and offers this suggestion:
Are there any lessons to draw from Monicagate? Not a lot. But there are a few:

1. Never ask about a politician's sex life, because someone just might tell you.

2. The sky does not fall when a newspaper prints the word penis.

3. Ditto vagina, which Eve Ensler couldn't have freed from its taboo status in the mainstream media if Monicagate hadn't freed penis first.

4. All politicians commit adultery. There are exceptions, but they're statistically insignificant and not worth investigating.

5. Guilt is but one consideration when a nation undertakes to expel a president from office before his term ends.

6. If you have or had an "inappropriate" relationship with the president of the United States, don't tell your best friend.

One Slate commentator (NickD) nails it:
So Linda Tripp betrayed a friend about an affair. That's a very Republican thing to do, betrayal that is.

How many of the high level Republicans who shoved Americas face into Clinton's crotch for two full years were having affairs of their own at the very same time?
Answer. Almost all of them.

That these hypocritical bozo's could get away with wasting over 80 million dollars on such a horse manure witch hunt is unimaginable. [...]

Here's a simple fact the so called family values republicans overlook all the time. The Clinton's are not perfect people but despite their problems they are still married to each other. That's something the divorce crazy republicans do not seem to be able to do. Its easy to walk away from ones problems, GWB has done that to every problem he has ever had and is preparing to walk away from his mess in Iraq. But at least the Clintons stand up and take their lumps like adults.

Just for fun, take a look at "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" and "What Do These Guys Have In Common", below.


American Weapons in the hands of Islamic Fundamentalists!

White House Tape Recycling May Have Erased Controversial Emails

The White House has acknowledged in a new court filing that it routinely recycled computer back-up tapes containing its e-mail records until October 2003, a practice that could mean that many electronic messages from the first two years of the Bush administration are lost forever.

The only 'lesson' Republicans took from Watergate is that 'next time, DESTROY THE TAPES!' And they did.
href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/16/AR2008011602202.html">White House Tape Recycling May Have Erased Controversial Emails



Quiz: What do these guys have in common?

They're all nominees for the GOP Adulterers Hall-of-Fame!

I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal"

"If by a 'Liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad; if that is what they mean by a 'Liberal', then I'm proud to say I'm a 'Liberal'.

John F. Kennedy


Conservative Student Wages Culture War On Himself

In a shocking development sure to fan the flames of the "culture wars" so dear to the hearts of so-called conservatives, Princeton student Francisco Nava undertakes war on himself for espousing conservative views:

Francisco Nava '09 admitted yesterday to fabricating an alleged assault on him that he said occurred Friday evening and to sending threatening emails to himself, other members of the Anscombe Society and prominent conservative politics professor Robert George. He admitted the falsification while being questioned by Princeton Township Police.


Nava had claimed that, at 5:45 p.m. Friday, two assailants accosted him when he was on his way to the home of a youth he tutors in the Township, pounded his head against a brick wall until he became unconscious, continued beating him with a glass bottle and told him in parting to "shut the fuck up," echoing the wording of the emailed threats he, George and the three other Anscombe members had received.

Around 7 p.m., George said, Nava called and said he had been attacked. "His speech seemed slurred, and he said he was calling from the emergency room at Princeton hospital," George said.

George said that when he visited Nava at the University Medical Center at Princeton (UMCP), Nava told him he was afraid to return to campus. "He didn't want to go back to his room; he said he was not comfortable in his room," George said. "I offered to let him come stay at our house and stay with me and my wife."

George added that Anscombe vice president Jonathan Hwang '09 — one of the four student recipients of the emailed threats, who was also visiting Nava at the hospital — offered to stay at George's house that night to awaken Nava every four hours, a protocol UMCP had advised in case Nava had suffered a concussion. George agreed.

But the next morning, Nava approached George and asked to talk to him in private about an incident from his past, which another threat recipient, Anscombe president Kevin Staley-Joyce '09, had discovered in the middle of the night and informed other Anscombe members about, and regarding which Hwang had then confronted Nava.

This apparently is not Nava's first time as a culture-warrior:
When he was a student at Groton School in Groton, Mass., Nava said, he had fabricated a threat against himself and his roommate, writing "Die Fags!" outside their door and reporting the message to school officials. "He told me he was friendless and very homesick and wanted out of Groton," George said. "In that condition he fabricated a threat against himself and was caught by Groton officials."

As of this writing, our editors are closely monitoring the internets in anticipation of impassioned support for Nava from the fuzzy-headed knee-jerk conservative KoolAid-quaffing web-bloggers. We will keep you posted as this terrifying story develops further.

Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

Richard Mellon Scaife, billionaire bankroller of conservative crusades, spent heavily to expose Bill Clinton’s “Troopergate” misbehavior. Now Scaife’s divorce from his second wife, Ritchie, is providing another unsavory saga—adultery! addiction! assault! dognapping!?!—as both parties let loose to Vanity Fair in the February 2008 issue.

Ho ho ho - ha ha ha: it couldn't happen to a bigger f**king hypocrite.

Ron Paul and Fox - take 2

There is some confusion on the web as to whether Fox invited Ron Paul to participate in the GOP debate. "Miss Beth" [http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=
3948590733023128436] suggests the exclusion is a hoax to stir up controversy and keep Paul's name in the news. "Left Coast News" [http://www.nolanchart.com/article797.html and http://www.nolanchart.com/article825.html] attribute this to different misunderstandings engendered by the use of the words "debate", "forum", and now "private round-table discussion".


random thoughts about abortion, contraception

"Opposition to abortion is primarily about opposition to sex before marriage, repulsion against the sexual revolution, and hostility to the notion that girls would put careers before babies, and thereby have their own power and money. It's punitive and hateful, those sluts should suffer. It is not inconsistent with not caring about the babies after they are born because its not about the babies to begin with."

Comment # 26 to GROUNDWORK FOR THE JUSTIFICATION OF ROE V. WADE (See http://lawandpolitics.blogspot.com for January 25, 2005)

This in essence is (part of) my position on the abortion issue. Additionally, I think that any serious opponent of abortion (who would have her/his opposition be seen as something more than "primarily about opposition to sex before marriage") must acknowledge and accept the importance of unfettered access to contraception by all regardless of age, no questions asked (i.e., with no parental consent required).

See "What Roes v. Wade Should Have Said: The Nation's Legal Experts Rewrite America's Most Controversial Decision", ed. Jack M. Balkin (New York University Press 2005) for discussion of alternative legal justifications for (and against) the Roe decision.

[to be continued]

"Fair and Balanced" Fox News Excludes Ron Paul From Debate

Ron Paul said the decision to exclude him from a debate on Fox News Sunday the weekend before the New Hampshire Primary is proof that the network "is scared" of him.

"They are scared of me and don't want my message to get out, but it will," Paul said in an interview at a diner here. "They are propagandists for this war and I challenge them on the notion that they are conservative."

Most recent polls of New Hampshire Republicans show him leading Fred Thompson, who has been invited to participate in the debate.

Fox News has not so far explained its decision to exclude the libertarian, antiwar Mr. Paul from the debate