May 25, 2006

William Arkin: Apologist

Dear Laura Flanders,

I like your show, but on 5/23/06 Christy Harden-Smith displayed herself as a hack for praising William Arkin's work. Although he is trying to come off as "balanced," he has the effect of being an apologist, "There Is No Enemy's List"

In his effort to dissect the distinctions of three "programs," he misses the bigger picture. Arkin fails to acknowledge a serious erosion of the rule of law, replaced by the rule of brute power, to say nothing of civil liberties. The World is heading into dark times, and the Bush Administration is helping to push it that direction.

First, according to Brian Ross, chief investigative reporter at ABC News, the USA PATRIOT Act has been used by the FBI to obtain phone records without a warrant (this would not have been possible before the PATRIOT Act). These records are being obtained, not to fight terrorism or protect National security, but to suppress media efforts to expose excesses of the Bush administration that the American public has a right to know (secret CIA detention centers, kidnappings, extrajudicial executions (killing people with Predator vehicles), etc.). DemocracyNow! Link

Second, Arkin uses demeaning phrases to deminish those who question the motives of the Bush administration. Examples include, "a Hollywood trailer of government omniscience," "partisan posturing, narcissistic hand wringing, and Hollywood imagery," and asking, "So how is it that these three programs have turned into one?"

Some concern (hand wringing) is warranted, given our government's history of using secret surveilance and worse, and recent evidence of domestic surveillance, expanded on below. It's about time some "partisans" (AKA spineless Democrats) have taken a stand, though a bit late. Further, I've been tracking the three issues Arkin feels are being conflated, and I don't conflate them into one from a technical standpoint. I do, however, recognize that the Bush Administration is conducting domestic surveillance and intimidation to supress legitimate dissent. In other words, we have evidence that Bush's motives are not pure, leading one to legitimately conflate the "motive" and thereby conflate these surveillance activities into one broad and worrisome trend. This leads to my third point.

Third, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others, are uncovering widespread domestic surveillance activities by the Defense Department of Defense (DOD) and the FBI. The DOD admits it may not "collect" domestic intelligence, but it may posess it (If I have a beer bottle collection, but didn't drink any of the beers, have I collected beer bottles? According to the DOD, the answer is "no"). Peace groups, social justice groups, animal rights groups, the list is long, are being tracked by the federal government. Are we to have faith-based trust in the Bush government? Are we to believe that these NSA programs, and others yet to be exposed, are not currently or potentially useful in suppressing legitimate dissent by domestic groups and individuals? Remember, the Bush World is one in which might makes right. They have the might, the laws and the eavesdropping tools.

It would be fine if Arkin simply discussed the distinctions between the three programs. However, his, "be happy, don't worry, you're dumb hand wringning partisans who watch too many Hollywood productions," has no place being promoted on your show. For that matter, Christy Harden-Smith has no place on your show... she's a celebrity journalist. We need less of them.

May 21, 2006

Generals, Stop Making Political Speeches

It's inappropriate for active-duty military officers to make polictical speeches. In our democracy, civilians make policy, and generals follow civilian orders.

General Tommy Franks recently spoke at the National Rifle Association's annual banquet. Where, according to AP's Conlin Fly, he said, "Terrorism is a thing that threatens our way of life. It doesn't have anything to do with politics." AP Article on Franks

First, not to defend the technique, terrorism is a long-standing tactic used to gain political ends. A famous case-in-point was the 1946 zionist Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel, killing British, who used the hotel as a headquarters, as well as Arab and Jewish civilians. In otherwords, terrorism typically has a lot to do with politics.

Second, many arguments support the contention that US-led corporate globalization, and the violent methods used to opress foreign resistance to the US infringements, spawn terrorism.

While this second point can be debated, it is not the proper role of an active-duty military officer to propagandize on either side of the issue. That's the role of civilians in our society.

So, a message to General Franks, and others like General Bantz Craddock who has been propagandizing against Venezuelan President Chavez, Stop it. It is contrary to our democratic principles for active-duty military leaders to promote policy, particularly through propaganda speeches.

Editor's Note: General Craddock is responsible for overturning the military investigators' report that recommended punishment for the commanding officer of the Guantanamo Bay jail at the time, Army Major General Geoffrey Miller. Miller later went on to "Gitmoize" the interrogation operations at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.ARTICLE

May 14, 2006

Time for Cheney to Resign

As of May 14, 2006, a Google search of the exact phrase "time for cheney to resign" finds about 26 posts. With Cheney the focus of a recent court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in the CIA Leak case, we can expect that number rise.


26 posts as of May 14, 2006
32 posts as of May 21, 2006
791 posts as of September 18, 2006
85 posts as of December 31, 2006
43 posts as of January 23, 2007
1,310 posts as of April 28, 2007

I suppose that trend will give Cheney's heart some relief... for a while. Google it yourself.

AP's Pete Yost and Supposed Intelligence

An Open Letter to:

Jack Stokes
Director of Media Relations
Associated Press

Dear Mr. Stokes:

In an article of May 14, 2006, entitled "Cheney the Focus of CIA Leak Court Filing," AP writer PETE YOST wrote the following in regard to Bush administration claims that Iraq had made attempts to acquire uranium yellowcake from Niger:

"The Bush administration used the intelligence on supposed efforts by Iraq to acquire uranium from Africa to bolster its case for going to war."

I ask, to which "intelligence" is Mr. Yost referring? It has been established that, at the time, the Administration knew the documents regarding yellowcake were highly dubious. Many people suspect that the Administration had a hand in having the documents created by a third party.

I hope you will draw this critique to the attention of Mr. Yost. Perhaps the sentence should have more accurately read, "The Bush administration used the supposed intelligence on supposed efforts by Iraq to acquire uranium from Africa to bolster its case for going to war."

Thank you for your consideration.

May 13, 2006

AP's Jack Stokes and the Salvador Option in Iraq

An Open Letter to:

Jack Stokes
Director of Media Relations
Associated Press

Dear Mr. Stokes:
In an article of May 13, 2006, entitled "Son of Top Iraqi Judge Killed in Baghdad," AP writer BUSHRA JUHI wrote the following:

"It could also be part of a series of killings by death squads and militias, who have kidnapped and killed hundreds of Sunnis and Shiites, often motivated by sectarian hatred."

I would appreciate receiving justification for the last phrase of that sentence, "often motivated by secarian hatred."

I'm of the understanding that Iraq does not have a history of sectarian division, or hatred. Marriages between Sunnis and Shiites are very common.

I would greatly appreciate the AP taking the time to determine if the phrase used by Bushra Juhi was included on the basis of supportable fact, or whether the phrase is simply a "throw-away" claim, which is potentially an echo of propaganda being generated by forces that seek to engender sectarian strife.

It is my understanding that a greater division exists between forces struggling to keep multinational corporate domination out of Iraq, and forces seeking to profit from enabling the country to be overtaken by foreign commercial power. That division might happen to fall along sectarian lines; however, I'd urge you to dig deeper into the fundamental rationales behind the death squad killings.

As a model, you might refresh AP's institutional memory of the death squads that were active in Central America in the 1980s. Is it coincidence that John Negroponte was deeply involved in those operations, and then served as Ambassador in Iraq during the period that Iraqi death squad activity arose? Many well-informed people speak of the "Salvador Option," including Newsweek among others.

I hope you will take the time to assess whether or not "momentum of habit," and article deadlines, are leading to phrases like "often motivated by sectarian hatred" being used in AP articles. I hope that you will caution your writers to resist potential over-simplifications, which can have a profound effect on the beliefs of readers. I do not believe the killings are primarily motivated by religious infighting. Unfortunately, the phrase used by Juhi would lead most readers to that conclusion.

Thank you for your consideration.

May 12, 2006

Open Letter: Georgetown and Feith

James O'Donnell
Georgetown University

Dear Professor O'Donnell:

I'm writing to register my dissapointment with your involvement in selecting Douglas J. Feith to serve on the Georgetown faculty. I understand the rationale of hiring a government practitioner; however, given the many alternative options and Mr. Feith's record, your unfortunate decision reflects poorly on Georgetown as an institution.

It would help place Georgetown University in better standing in my mind if you would conduct a retrospective poll of the faculty's views on the appointment of Mr. Feith.

Thank you for your consideration.