Bob Herbert: Rendition Program

Three cheers for torture, the new American way!

No Justice, No Peace
Published: February 23, 2006

If you talk to Maher Arar long enough, even on the telephone, you’ll get the disturbing sense that you are speaking with someone whose life has been shattered like a pane of glass.

“Sometimes I have the feeling that I want to go and live on another planet,” he told me. “A completely different planet than planet Earth. You know?”



David Brooks: Port Hysteria

I tend to agree with Brooks. The hysteria is nutty. But there’s no denying Bush handled this atrociously. Refreshing to see him getting battered by the right-wing harpies like Michelle and Rottweiler and their goons, who see every brown person as a terrorist.

Kicking Arabs in the Teeth
Published: February 23, 2006

It’s come to my attention that many of the foreign goods we import into our country are made by foreigners who speak foreign languages and are foreign. It’s come to my attention that many varieties of hummus and other vital bread schmears are made by Arabs, the group responsible for 9/11. Furthermore, it’s come to my attention that the Chinese have a menacing death grip on America’s pacifier, blankie, bunny and rattle supplies, and have thus established crushing domination of the entire non-pharmaceutical child sedative industry.



And so, civil war it is

shiite rage.jpg

There’s no denying it: Iraq is on the cusp of civil war. It seems to have started already, and there’s probably no way to stop it. Even the most optimistic Iraqi bloggers concede the situation is desperate, thanks to the bombing of the golden-domed Shiite shrine.

The quality of the target and the timing of the attack were chosen in a way that can possibly bring very serious consequences over the country.

The situation in Baghdad is so tense now, it wasn’t like this in the early hours of the morning as it took a few hours for the news to spread but on my way back from clinic I saw pickup vehicles with loudspeakers roaming the streets calling on people to shut their stores in the name of the Hawza and join the protests after the noon prayer to condemn the attack on the holy shrine.

Remember all the promises of beacons of democracy, of peace and liberty? Remember the jubilation over the purple fingered voters? The assurances that the insurgency was “in its last throes”? Well, say goodbye to all that.

“This is as 9/11 in the United States,” said Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shiite and one of Iraq’s two vice presidents.

In Baghdad, Shiite boys and men abruptly abandoned classrooms, homes and jobs to muster outside the headquarters of the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the heart of Sadr City, the slum named for the cleric’s father.

“This is a day we will never forget,” said Naseer Sabah, 24, who had left his job at a pastry factory without changing clothes to join the black-clad Shiite militia fighters clutching pistols, Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenade launchers outside Sadr’s headquarters. Thousands converged on the Sadr offices, on foot or in buses and pickup trucks packed with armed men hanging out the windows.

“We await the orders of our preachers,” teenagers around Sabah cried.

“We are the soldiers of the clerics,” Shiite protesters chanted in Karrada, another of Baghdad’s Shiite neighborhoods. Demonstrators there shouted a warning to their enemies: “If they are up to it, let them face us.”

Other protests were reported in the predominantly Shiite cities of Najaf, Karbala, Basra and elsewhere.

Sunni political leaders said retaliatory attacks hit more than 20 Sunni mosques across Iraq with bombs, gunfire or arson. Authorities reported at least 18 people killed in the aftermath, including two Sunni clerics. In one incident, in Basra in southern Iraq, police said gunmen in police uniforms broke into a jail, seized 12 Sunni men and later killed them, according to the Reuters news agency.

Many of Baghdad’s millions shuttered shops and left work early, rushing home to tense neighborhoods where gunfire rang out overnight. In one neighborhood, families lay on the floors of their houses to evade bullets as militiamen loyal to Sadr confronted Iraqi troops backed by U.S. military helicopters outside a Sunni site.

Wednesday’s attack hit Samarra’s Askariya shrine, also known as the Golden Mosque. The mosque holds the tombs of two revered 9th-century imams of the Shiite branch of Islam, including Hassan al-Askari, father of the “hidden imam,” al-Mahdi. Many Shiites believe that Mahdi is still alive and that his reemergence one day will signal the beginning of the end of the world.

The Sunni insurgents’ determined efforts to push the Shiites into an all-out civil war appear to have been sucessful. And the Shiites place equal blame for the attack on the Americans. Al Sadr’s militias are mobilized, and we are the enemy, too. Sorry to sound apocalyptic, but there is nothing happy to report at the moment. The momentum has begun, it can’t be turned the other way. Imagine, after 911, trying to placate Americans with words alone. This is Iraq’s 911, and just as we had to invade Afghanistan, so too must the Shiites now go to war against the Sunnis. And anyone who stands in their way. Like Americans seeking to keep the peace.

Is anyone still thinking we achieved any sort of victory in Iraq? If so, what would defeat in Iraq look like? One by one, every worst-case scenario has materialized. Mission Accomplished, indeed.


48% of S. Korean youth would support NK if US attacks

This would have surprised me, if I hadn’t seen a BBC special on Korea while living in Singapore on how supportive many young South Koreans are of North Korea and Dear Leader. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

I just watched in astonishment a piece on the BBC on how many in South Korea believe they were brainwashed with anti-Communist propaganda, and that North Korea is a better, more fair model of government than that of the repressive Americans. They interviewed college students who, with a straight face, praise their northern divided half.

This reflects an apparently growing mindset that the American troops should leave the peninsula so reunification can be achieved.

I don’t have to go into the surreal brutalities and psychoses of the DPRK. All I can say is, Be careful what you wish for — it just might come true. I can understand wanting to get foreign troops off your soil. I can’t understand anyone seeing any redeeming qualities in the living, breathing hell created by Dear Leader and his goons.

Based on this new alarming article, I’d have to sadly conclude that most young South Koreans missed my earlier post.

Almost half of juniors surveyed, who will get their first voting rights in the 2007 presidential election, said in a recent poll that South Korea should side with North Korea if Washington attacks nuclear facilities in the North without Seoul’s consent.

In the survey of 1,000 youngsters aged between 18 and 23, conducted by The Korea Times and its sister paper the Hankook Ilbo on Feb. 16-19, nearly 48 percent of respondents said that if the U.S. attacked nuclear facilities in North Korea, Seoul should act on Pyongyang’s behalf and demand Washington stop the attack.

But 40.7 percent of them said Seoul should keep a neutral stance in the event of such attacks, while 11.6 percent said South Korea needs to act in concert with the United States.

A political expert in Seoul said that the poll results should not be interpreted as meaning young South Koreans are anti-American.

Yeah, whatever. Then again, this is the Age of Bush, and just about everybody is anti-American, and it’s not very hard to understand why. Still, to think that so many in a country that’s supposed to be one of our strongest allies would harbor such thoughts…. You’d think if anyone on the planet would be cognizant of the evils of Kim Jong Il it would be the South Koreans. I wondered about it when I wrote my original post, and I wonder about it now.


A complete and utter failure

No, I’m not referring to this blog, but to what our codpiece in chief refers to as our “War on Terror.” This excellent article drives home just how vast our failure on the terror front actually is, and how Bush continues to lie about it, making grandiose claims of success when the reality on the ground is altogether different. One by one, it picks apart the “success stories” so loudly touted by the government’s noise machine and exposes the myths. For all the noise, there are no convictions to speak of, no proof of Al Qaeda cells in America, no evidence of any benefits derived from the “War on terror.”

[T]he only criminal convicted for a terrorist act since September 11 is the shoe bomber Richard Reid, captured not through any preventive initiative of the government but because an alert flight attendant noticed a strange-looking man trying to set fire to his shoe. Three people have been convicted of conspiracy to engage in terrorist conduct. Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty in April 2005 to six counts of conspiracy to attack the United States—but of course he was captured not through any post–September 11 “preventive paradigm,” but one month before those attacks occurred. Iyman Faris, an Ohio truck driver, allegedly an associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, pleaded guilty to conspiring to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a single acetylene torch, a plot that raises more questions about Faris’s sanity than about US national security. And Ahmed Abu Ali was convicted in November 2005 of conspiring to kill President Bush while Abu Ali was studying abroad in Saudi Arabia. The only person with whom he allegedly discussed the plot was killed by the Saudis, and Abu Ali’s conviction rested solely on a confession that he claims was extracted from him by Saudi security services through torture, a practice for which they are well known….

What can be known is that the administration’s tactics—a curious amalgam of outmoded thinking and dangerous new ideas—have created unprecedented levels of distrust toward US law enforcement within the Arab and Muslim communities here as well as intense anti-Americanism abroad. The administration is accurately perceived as unfairly targeting innocent Arabs and Muslims, using coercion against them preemptively and without a solid case, and disregarding fundamental principles of the rule of law and human rights. In the long run the resentment provoked by these measures is the greatest threat to our national security, and the most likely source of the next attack.

Lots of details about stories that were announced with much fanfare only to disintegrate later on. And oh, that government web site. A sea of talking points and vacuous slogans, with some slippery half-truths thrown in for good measure. Thank you very much, Karen Hughes.


Pressure on Hong Kong’s Middle Class

Memories of those glorious, heady pre-1997-crash days must seem awfully sweet to many of HK’s increasignly pinched middle classes. Just like memories of America before the crash of 2000 and the election of Bush shortly afterwards seem to me. It was a way of life that, in a flash, was gone with the wind, and I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it again in our lifetimes. Hong Kong’s middle class is still hurting, and it’s not getting better anytime soon.

Hong Kong’s economy might have grown by an estimated 7 percent last year and outshone many others in the region, but for insurance agent Ngai Wai-wang, that is immaterial.

Ever since the Asian economic crisis of 1997, his earnings have fallen sharply and he can only afford to eat out with his wife and two sons once a week. Exotic vacations are now just a memory in their photograph albums.

“We choose cheaper destinations in Asia now, like Thailand. My mortgage eats away half my salary, and my two sons, 12 and 14, are growing up and they need more money,” said Ngai, 51.

Ngai takes home around HK$50,000 (US$6,400) a month and is a middle-income earner in Hong Kong. Unlike 40 percent of wage earners in this city who pay no income tax, he pays taxes but has not seen his wages rise appreciably since the late 1990s.

“I don’t see any improvement in our lives. We have few benefits and we are taxed very heavily. The recovery is superficial and due to more Chinese tourists arriving. That’s good for the retail sector. But no one else benefits,” he said.

“If the economy was benefiting us, we would spend lavishly like before, but we count every penny now. The government should cut taxes. That way we consume more and that’s good for society.”

Hong Kong is set to announce a second straight budget surplus for the 2005/06 fiscal year on Wednesday, thanks to strong economic growth and higher asset prices.

I think about how different my own life is compared to those days in the late 1990s, when flying economy class would have been just too humiliating. The good side to the story is that after the fall, we all grew up fast, adapted to our new reality and realized we could still have our dignity and value, even if we had to sit in the back of the plane. Life may be harder, but there’s still plenty to savor.


Thomas Friedman: Poor and Angry

Something “excessive” about the way Moslems reacted to the Danish cartoons? Oh, really?

Look carefully for analogies to Chinese rage against Japan. The parallels jump out at you.

Empty Pockets, Angry Minds
Published: February 22, 2006

I have no doubt that the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad have caused real offense to many Muslims. I’m glad my newspaper didn’t publish them. But there is something in the worldwide Muslim reaction to these cartoons that is excessive, and suggests that something else is at work in this story. It’s time we talked about it.

To understand this Danish affair, you can’t just read Samuel Huntington’s classic, “The Clash of Civilizations.” You also need to read Karl Marx, because this explosion of Muslim rage is not just about some Western insult. It’s also about an Eastern failure. It is about the failure of many Muslim countries to build economies that prepare young people for modernity — and all the insult, humiliation and frustration that has produced.



Maureen Dowd: GOP to W. – You’re Nuts!

You go, girl.

G.O.P. to W.: You’re Nuts!
Published: February 22, 2006

It’s enough to make you nostalgic for those gnarly union stevedores in “On the Waterfront,” the ones who hung up rats on hooks and took away Marlon Brando’s chance to be a contend-ah.

Maybe it’s corporate racial profiling, but I don’t want foreign companies, particularly ones with links to 9/11, running American ports.

What kind of empire are we if we have to outsource our coastline to a group of sheiks who don’t recognize Israel, in a country where money was laundered for the 9/11 attacks? And that let A. Q. Kahn, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, smuggle nuclear components through its port to Libya, North Korea and Iran?



Google CN to replace

Very distrubing, if true. The availability of in China has been a major selling point for bloggers who say the Google arrangement with the CCP will have little to no effect on users in China. That’s been a key argument Google itself has been using (see the link above) to justify its policy.

Another blogger in China writes (via CDT):

But the thing really sucks. I have noticed increasing instances in which my searches turn up dead using,, and It would be a total nightmare if one cannot access in China, especially for journalists. True, we have Factiva and LexisNexis as a last resort, but those things cost…

I only wish Google’s latest ass-kissing is only about itself — I never use it anyway, but set my IE Google Toolbar to search via But if they reroute all China traffic to, then I am screwed.

Any comment, Google?

Update: Rebecca looks at this issue and observes that Google is facing increasing pressure over its China Policy. Noting all the looming questions about what exactly is going on with Gogle in China, Rebecca concludes “the plot thickens.”


Another look at bloggers in China

Philip Pan has done it again, offering us a mammoth overview of blogging in China and the obstacles popular bloggers face, including obstacles put up by US internet companies. It looks in detail at the story of how Anti’s blog was deleted by Microsoft, and other alleged sins committed by Bill Gates’ juggernaut as it sought to capture the world’s most coveted market. You won’t feel very warm and fuzzy toward MS after reading Pan’s article. Perhaps most interesting is the reaction Pan describes of some Chinese bloggers who gushed vitriol over Anti’s pleas for openness and freedom, branding him as a traitor and the greatest threat to China’s future. I’m sure these same angry bloggers were in the front lines of the marches last April attacking all things Japanese.

This is a true must-read article and one you’ll want to keep on hand for reference.