9 August 2003

The CEO-in-chief

The similarities between Bush and his business contemporaries could always be seen in his reflexive first-to-take-credit, last-to-take-responsibility ethic, common in today's crooked crony capitalism. He was the first to take credit for passing a giant tax cut for the wealthy, but refuses to take responsibility for the fact that it provided little relief for the average American and created huge deficits. He was first to take credit for bombing the Taliban after September 11th, yet refuses to take any responsibility for the security failures that allowed September 11th to happen. He was the first to take credit for supposedly winning the war in Iraq, yet now he's refusing to take any responsibility for the poor planning that could lose the peace.

But if faulty salesmanship on these issue is run-of-the-mill, Bush's recent conduct on the Iraq-nuclear issue shows us the real downside of having a pass-the-buck CEO in the White House. When his claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons was debunked by almost every credible source on the planet, Bush deployed a 3-step defense that could have come right out of Ken Lay's playbook:

  • Step 1: Deny That There Is Even a Problem

  • Step 2: "I Didn't Get the Memo"

  • Step 3: Get Angry

Sound familiar to anyone? No-one told our own man of steel, Prime Minister John Howard, about the children in the water. Who weren't. Or the Nigerien uranium that did not exist. Or the aluminium tubes that also did not exist. It must be terrible being a CEO Prime Minister, so many memos, so little time.
Salt of the Earth
In dynastic China, one of the signs that a dynasty had lost the mandate of Heaven was widespread flooding. At one level, flooding can be taken to mean that heaven is turning its face from the dynasty. At another, it meant the dynasty had lost the administrative clout to manage the extensive system of dikes and canals that kept China's rivers in check. Like a lot of things in dynastic China the flooding theory worked. Naturally a failing dynasty would go to great lengths to assail the reports of hydraulic disasters because even failing dynasties prefer to postpone the inevitable if they can.

Paul Krugman writes today:

When archaeologists excavated the cities of ancient Mesopotamia, they were amazed not just by what they found but by where they found it: in the middle of an unpopulated desert. In "Ur of the Chaldees," Leonard Woolley asked: "Why, if Ur was an empire's capital, if Sumer was once a vast granary, has the population dwindled to nothing, the very soil lost its virtue?"

The answer � the reason "the very soil lost its virtue" � is that heavy irrigation in a hot, dry climate leads to a gradual accumulation of salt in the soil. Rising salinity first forced the Sumerians to switch from wheat to barley, which can tolerate more salt; by about 1800 B.C. even barley could no longer be grown in southern Iraq, and Sumerian civilization collapsed. Later "salinity crises" took place further north. In the 19th century, when Europeans began to visit Iraq, it probably had a population less than a tenth the size of the one in the age of Gilgamesh.

Salination is a major problem in Australia.

Approximately 5.7 million hectares of Australia's agricultural and pastoral zone have a high potential for developing dryland salinity through shallow watertables. Predictions based on groundwater trends, field surveys and landscape characteristics indicate that unless effective solutions are implemented, the area could increase to 17 million hectares by 2050 (Table 1, Figure 1). Most is agricultural land (more than 11�million�hectares).

We face the prospect of river collapse in the Murray-Darling Basin. The MDB ministerial council is considering three options in November for restoring environmental flows to the basin's rivers. Restoring 1500 gl to the rivers, the most radical option the council will consider has only moderate chances of ensuring living rivers. The basin holds % of all Australia's croplands.

Ozplogistan is just now suffering one of its periodic convulsions over global warming. I am not a scientist so I will not try and contribute to argument over science beyond noting, as Krugman does, that 'Very few independent experts now dispute that manmade global warming is happening'. Gummo Trostsy has done an excellent appreciation of the Veizer/Shaviv theory. I can comment on the politics and I think it's instructive to look at the public policy being pursued on salination, the Murray-Darling and global warming.

In all three cases, the official solution is to question the science and adopt half-measures which do not meet the crisis.

When a dynasty failed in traditional China the ecological effects did not reach beyond the empire's borders and eventually a new dynasty rebuilt the dikes. It is doubtful the Earth can be restored if global warming is real and our global civilisation takes no action to reduce greenhouse emissions. The science of global warming is close to certain. The risk of ignoring global warming, like the risk of ignoring salination or the Murray-Darling, is unthinkable. The widespread northern hemisphere drought and heat wave has already called almost 2000 people, dozens in Europe and hundreds in India. The numbers will soon exceed 911. Why is this crisis so much less urgent than the War on Terror?

8 August 2003

Two good speeches

Ideas to save our withering democracy

Reliance on donations may also create a strong inducement for political parties to bias their policies toward business and high income earners who provide the bulk of the funding, thus conspicuously undermining the promise of democracy that we all share equally in political power. The threat by the mining industry earlier this week that they would withdraw campaign contributions to both major parties unless they made changes to native title and other policies indicates just how blatant the exercise of such influence has become.

As I have said elsewhere, I believe it is time to reign in the exponential growth of corporate donations and to curtail the proliferation of content free, coercive media advertising that passes for policy debate during elections. The retention of public funding of elections should be accompanied by measures to limit the size of individual private donations to $1500, or thereabouts, and to proscribe any donations from corporations and large organisations. An extension of free-to-air radio and television could accompany these changes.

There are other reasons to scale down paid political advertising, particularly given the increasing tendency of Australian parties to emulate the negative tactics of our American cousins. As many have suggested, such advertising is one of the corrosive influences in our political system. To paraphrase an analogy used by Paul Simon:

'If Qantas ran regular 30 second commercials saying 'Don't fly Virgin Blue and showed a plane crashing into Mt Kosiosko and Virgin Blue ran a similar commercial showing a plane blowing up and urging travellers not to fly Qantas, it would not be very long before fear of flying became endemic.'

This is an extract from a speech given at the University of WA in Perth last night by Dr Carmen Lawrence, MHR and former premier of Western Australia, who is a candidate for the ALP presidency.

The President's Ideologically Narrow Agenda has Seriously Divided America...

The Bush Administration routinely shows disrespect for that whole basic process, and I think it's partly because they feel as if they already know the truth and aren't very curious to learn about any facts that might contradict it. They and the members of groups that belong to their ideological coalition are true believers in each other's agendas.

There are at least a couple of problems with this approach:

First, powerful and wealthy groups and individuals who work their way into the inner circle -- with political support or large campaign contributions -- are able to add their own narrow special interests to the list of favored goals without having them weighed against the public interest or subjected to the rule of reason. And the greater the conflict between what they want and what's good for the rest of us, the greater incentive they have to bypass the normal procedures and keep it secret.

That's what happened, for example, when Vice President Cheney invited all of those oil and gas industry executives to meet in secret sessions with him and his staff to put their wish lists into the administration's legislative package in early 2001.

That group wanted to get rid of the Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming, of course, and the Administration pulled out of it first thing. The list of people who helped write our nation's new environmental and energy policies is still secret, and the Vice President won't say whether or not his former company, Halliburton, was included. But of course, as practically everybody in the world knows, Halliburton was given a huge open-ended contract to take over and run the Iraqi oil fields-- without having to bid against any other companies.

Secondly, when leaders make up their minds on a policy without ever having to answer hard questions about whether or not it's good or bad for the American people as a whole, they can pretty quickly get into situations where it's really uncomfortable for them to defend what they've done with simple and truthful explanations. That's when they're tempted to fuzz up the facts and create false impressions. And when other facts start to come out that undermine the impression they're trying to maintain, they have a big incentive to try to keep the truth bottled up if -- they can -- or distort it.

Extract from speech by Former US Vice President Al Gore to MoveOn.org New York University August 7, 2003
The Bush Administration on WMD:

A list worth reading. Thereis no point compiling a similar Australian list because no-one in Australia's intelligence community ever tells the prime minister anything. It must be frustrating always being the last to know.

Link via Atrios

Christian Science Monitor | Rise of Iraq's Shiites could pose threat to Iran's clerical rulers:
While Ruhollah Khomeini was alive, doubts about his doctrine of clerical rule were tempered by his clerical credentials. The same is not true of his successor Ali Khamenei, only a middle-ranking cleric when he was appointed supreme leader in 1989. 'Senior clerics treat his theological pronouncements with disdain,' says Nadeem Kazmi, of the London-based Al-Khoei Foundation, a charity with close links to the apolitical Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf.

But what Ayatollah Khamenei lacks in credentials, he has made up for in surveillance, such as increased attempts to bring Qom's independent seminaries under state control. Nobody knows how many dissenting clerics have been executed by special clerical courts, although some sources put the figure at 60 since 1989.

'If Qom remains under the same kind of oppressive atmosphere, everyone will come to Najaf,' Seyyed Hussein Khomeini said on Tuesday.

In a recent book on Iran's ruling elite, German Iranian scholar Wilfried Buchta goes further. 'A Shia grand ayatollah from outside the Iranian system of power..., could issue fatwas [legal judgments] on religious-social matters that run counter to Khamenei's political line,' he writes. 'If this should happen, it could bring the whole system to the verge of breakdown.'

Following a series of high-level clerical defections in recent years, some Iranian analysts see signs that dissatisfaction in Iran has spread to traditionally pro-regime clerics. But most Iranians doubt the clerics will transform passive opposition into active revolt. 'If we're going to depend on them, we have a long wait on our hands,' says Davoud Hermidas Bavand, law professor at the Supreme National Defense University in Tehran. The political editor of reformist daily Etemad, Rouzbeh Mirebrahimi, agrees. 'Even if Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani stood up in Najaf and criticized the Iranian regime, which he won't, nobody would listen to him.'

But this is north Tehran, where students brandish copies of Nietzsche and whisper 'God is dead' behind closed doors. While their more secular reform movement seems deadlocked, more traditionally minded Iranians may be willing to listen to clerics in Iraq who advocate separation of mosque and state.

I have blogged several times on the monolithic view of the Shi'a. If there is a Shi'a monolith its centre is in Najaf, not Qom or Tehran, and its leaders are people like Grand Ayatollah Sistani. the intellectual tradition in Najaf is different. I do not see any serious prospect f someone very junior in the hierarchy, such as al-Sadr, converting his family name into real standing among the Iraqi Shi'a. I do however, see real prospects of disagreement between the Najaf authorities and Khamenei.

In today's Age we read:

Professor Carlyle Thayer, from the Australian Defence College, in a paper two weeks ago to the Institute of South-East Asian Studies, expressed concern that the public debate on global terrorism had been dominated by international terrorism experts rather than by country specialists. This had led to adoption by regional security specialists of a homogenised framework for dealing with terror threats, he said.

The debate on Iraq is not even being dominated by global security views against country specialists. It is dominated by US neoconservatives who know little about Iraq and nothing about Shi'a history. If these people are confronted by facts on the ground they spin them away. If they are confronted with their own previous statements they spin those away as well.

In The unconscious civilization John Ralston Saul wrote:

Here was the beginning of modern ideology and absolutism. The Jacobins of the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks, the Fascists, and now the free marketeers, are all the direct descendants of predestination and the Jesuits. They are the chosen few � the minority who have the truth and therefore have the right to impose it by whatever means

The neoconservative policy now being executed in Iraq takes no account of the history on the facts on the ground because even admitting that culture or opinion can make a difference would destroy their nonsensical farrago of half-truths and whole lies. Their purpose is not the truth but quick victory in glib debate. They are the sole possessors of truth and even admitting argument about their case destroys it.

7 August 2003

The Jakarta Post | Another side of Hiroshima:
In this context, Indonesia's honesty would likely be tested over her role as a former colonial power. It would likely be too bitter for Indonesia to concede the historical fact that it colonized East Timor. From the expressions and stories of many East Timorese, we can gather that their perception of the brutality and atrocities suffered under Indonesian occupation was no different from the perceptions of those Indonesians who suffered under Japanese rule.

Still we insist that we liberated East Timor in 1976 from imperialism. Does Indonesia still not feel any shame in insisting -- as Japan also insisted in the 1940s -- that the East Timorese should thank us for our generosity in providing them with a better life? Indonesia needs to rewrite at least its historical version of East Timor. Denial only proves how immature and irresponsible we are as a nation.

One day, East Timor might build a museum to memorialize the nation's suffering during Indonesian oppression. If that happens, perhaps there will be a protest from the Indonesian government, insisting that Dili place a plaque in the museum 'speaking the truth about the role each country played in the war'.

Back to Japan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected to attend on Wednesday an annual memorial service in Hiroshima. Japan is the only nation that has directly felt the horror of nuclear weapons. Japan was changed by the experience and now she consistently plays a pivotal role in building world peace.

And we hope that Japan will continue to play its role as the world's second most powerful economy for world prosperity and peace. However, it is not easy to face up to a moment of truth in history, even in our individual lives.

I had planned a longish Hiroshima Day essay, but in the end I thought this Indonesian perspective was more interesting.

6 August 2003

Slate | He Saw It Coming - The former Bushie who knew Iraq would go to pot. By Fred�Kaplan:
Among the many remarks that [US] Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz no doubt wishes he hadn't made, the following, from prewar congressional testimony last February, stands out:

It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and secure the surrender of Saddam's security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.

It's one thing to be wrong. It's another to be incapable of imagining yourself wrong. Much of what has gone wrong in the Bush administration's postwar Iraq policy can be attributed to a failure of imagination. But there was no excuse for this particular failure. In the previous dozen years, U.S. armed forces had taken part in five major post-conflict nation-building exercises, four of them in predominantly Muslim nations. There is a record of what works and what doesn't. Had Wolfowitz studied the record, or talked with those who had, he wouldn't have made such a wrongheaded remark.

Margaret Thatcher was founding of saying there is no alternative. Clearly the inner circles of the war party believe there is no alternative to their policy. Mere reality is not going to interfere with that opinion. The only interesting question is whether it is ego or simple intellectual cowardice that makes these people refuse to even consider they might be wrong.

Guardian Unlimited | Dark days ahead for Tongan press:
Dodgy goings-on of this sort are no longer a novelty in Tonga. The country is sometimes described as the world's last autocracy. Its 85-year-old king Taufa'ahau Tupou IV runs an administration peopled by his cronies: 12 of Tonga's 30 parliamentarians are directly appointed by him, and a further nine are nominated by a council of 33 hereditary nobles.

Six out of the nine MPs elected by Tonga's 58,000 ordinary voters are aligned with the human rights and democracy movement (HRDM), a faction committed to bringing democracy to the country; but they are worth nothing next to the 21 representatives of the ruling class.

This unbalanced polity makes for some questionable decision-making, and political mismanagement in Tonga is legendary. There was the scheme to sell passports to Chinese businessmen of questionable integrity, or the bizarre plan to sell life insurance to the terminally ill. The latter idea was cooked up by Jesse Bogdonoff, an American peddler of magnetic backache cures whom the king had made his official court jester. The irony of the appointment seems to have been lost on Tonga's royals.

The Tongan legislative assembly has just passed a bill which bans foreign media proprietors. The bill's target is a Tongan stripped of his citizenship by a recent act of the same assembly. Tonga was (naturally) a member of the coalition of the willing.

Behind the Solomons Crisis: A Problem of Development:
The Malaita-Guadalcanal Conflict

In 1999, the explosive mix of economic stagnation, social tensions and political decay was detonated by conflict between people from the islands of Malaita and Guadalcanal. This conflict dates back to the creation of Honiara on Guadalcanal as the new capital of the Solomons after WWII. When the capital moved to Guadalcanal (to take advantage of infrastructure left by the US military), so too did most indigenous government employees from the old capital on Malaita. Malaitans had a history of working for Europeans, first on whaling ships, then as indentured labourers overseas and on local European-owned plantations. They became the main labour force in the growing town of Honiara and also began to lease land around the capital for agriculture. Malaitans made up 75 per cent of the police force. Rivalry and jealousy between Malaitans and the local people of Guadalcanal grew over the decades, often taking the form of disputes over inheritance and use of leased land and other divergent social customs.

The final spark came in 1999 when the Premier of Guadalcanal province made a claim to the national government for compensation for land occupied by Malaitans and for alleged crimes by Malaitans. This precipitated a wave of attacks on Malaitans and the formation of a militia calling itself the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army, which went on a spree of destruction, rape and murder. In response, Malaitan youths formed the Malaitan Eagle Force (MEF) and stole high-powered weapons from a police armoury. The resulting conflict caused over 200 deaths. 20,000 Malaitans and people from other islands fled Guadalcanal. In June 2000 the MEF took control of Honiara and forced the government of Prime Minister Bart Ulufa'alu to resign.

The situation stabilised after the formation of an interim government, which signed an agreement with the two militias in Townsville in October 2000. Under the agreement the militias agreed to surrender their weapons in return for compensation for loss of property and promises of development aid. Elections in December 2000 led to the formation of the current government under PM Allen Kamakeza.

Open conflict was brought to an end, but large numbers of weapons were not surrendered and have remained in the hands of ex-militia members and criminal elements. A corrupt and divided police force, with linkages between criminal elements, corrupt police, some MPs, loggers and businessmen, have led to the collapse of effective government and an uncontrollable law and order situation(1).


The conflict in the Solomons is not an ethnic or separatist insurgency, nor is the country in the state of near civil war that briefly prevailed in mid-2000. It is rather a severe crisis of the ability of the Solomon Islands government to enforce its rule and to maintain security across the country. The crisis is principally a crisis of economic and political development: in its short post-independence history, successive governments have been unable to establish the conditions for sustainable economic growth which are essential for political stability and personal security.

5 August 2003

The Jakarta Post | Jakarta blast might have been directed against U.S. interests: VP:
JAKARTA (AFP): The bombers of the five-star hotel in Indonesia might have aimed at destroying U.S. interests here, Vice President Hamzah Haz said Tuesday.

'Marriott is American. Whether this (blast) is aimed at destroying US interests, I think there may have been such an aim,' Haz told journalists before attending a cabinet meeting.

JW Marriott is a U.S. hotel chain and the hotel has in the past hosted many major U.S. functions, including this year's July 4th celebration.

Haz did not elaborate but he quickly warned that it was much too early to make any conclusion.

'Let us allow the investigators to act first,' he said, adding that he hoped the police will quickly find a lead and prevent further attacks.'

The current estimate, which is rising bulletin by bulletin, stands at 14 dead and over 150 injured. Eyewitnesses describe 4 blasts. A senior police general has said it was a suicide bomber using a Kijang car.

The admirable Chao Phraya River Rat blogs:

Investors have been aware of the risks in Indonesia for many years, but like Bali, the sheer magnitude and targeting of the blast may shock many. Various reports at present are estimating up to double figures in deaths and over 100 in injuries. This incident is the first to target a high profile public facility in Jakarta with such violence, despite various smaller bombings and incidents over several years in government buildings, the airport and shopping centers.

This time however, the target moved closer to home, attracting comparisons with September 11 and the focus on symbols of Western business, influence, and wealth. It bears the mark of Al Quaeda, so no doubt the sister Jemaah Islamiyah group is the most obvious suspect.

The incident comes at a time when the Indonesian economy has been showing strong improvement and the government is being praised for their own war against terrorism since the Bali terrorist attack.

Most are assuming the act is terrorist related. The signs are just so obvious. But whether it is the work of Jemaah Islamiyah [JI], Aceh separatists, or of any of the other destabilizing groups working in Indonesia remains an open question. It also came on a day when the Abu Bakar Ba'asyir and East Timorese trials of military generals were taking place and prior to some preliminary verdicts being handed down in the Bali trials.

Whatever the cause, the incident is an untimely reminder of the widespread discontent and the ongoing and pervasive security situation in Indonesia.

Sydney Morning Herald | Water's no worry in a nation drinking itself dry:
Australia's rivers are in dire shape and we need to know why, writes Ian Cordery.

Water crisis? What water crisis? This is the reaction of most Australians when the desperate situation in Australia, and particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin, is mentioned.

In our coastal cities, where 80 per cent of Australians reside, every time we turn the tap we have as much high-quality water as we care to use and it is supplied so cheaply as to be virtually free. We pay about one-tenth of a cent a litre. So where is the crisis?

Inland the reality is very different. Over a very large proportion of our continent, competition for the finite (and unlikely ever to increase) water resource grows by the day. At the same time the salt content of the water is rising. Water drawn from the lower reaches of the Murray River often has a distinctly salty taste. In a few years Adelaide's water supply, about 50 per cent of which is drawn from the Murray, will be undrinkable.

There is sporadic interest in the approaching water crisis among our political leaders and the media. Some funds have been allocated to salinity control programs, but the amounts are ludicrously small. We live on the driest inhabited land mass on Earth and need to recognise that the future wellbeing of our nation depends on wise management and care of our very limited water resources. However, because most of us live where excellent quality water is supplied at very low cost, we are unaware of the reality of the problem, and our 'leaders', being reactionary, see no need to take initiatives on areas of low public concern.

The blogosphere is doing a little better than trad media in reporting this issue. At least no-one's called for any river diversions lately and the Paroo basin has been preserved.

BBC | General found guilty over E Timor

A senior Indonesian general has been found guilty of failing to prevent violence during East Timor's independence vote.

Major-General Adam Damiri was sentenced to three years in jail by a special human rights court, for what Judge Marmi Mustafa described as "gross human rights violations".

General Damiri is the highest-ranking Indonesian to face the special tribunal, which was set up to investigate abuses committed during the 1999 independence vote, when more than 1,000 people died.

The verdict has surprised analysts, who widely expected that the general would be acquitted, since the prosecution itself had requested that the charges be dropped due to lack of evidence.

But Judge Emmy said: "The panel of judges does not share the opinion of the prosecutors who said the defendant was not guilty."

When the verdict was read out, General Damiri threw his arms in the air and shouted loudly.

"I feel very disappointed with this decision," he said afterwards, adding that he would appeal.

I'm astounded. In its previous cases this court had convicted junior officers and acquitted anyone senior. Damiri made himself famous when TNI rolled into Aceh by failing to appear for his trial over East Timor. The excuse he gave was urgent military duty in Aceh.

Whether Damiri is a sacrificial lamb that TNI has decided to throw to international opinion or the powers-that-be in Jakarta decided that reform is necessary remains to be seen. During the Indonesian occupation, human rights groups estimate that 1 in 4 East Timorese died at TNI's hands. 3 years does not seem a heavy sentence to expiate that.

4 August 2003

Guardian Unlimited | British temperatures set to soar:
In Europe, the heatwave and strong winds have stoked a series of forest fires that have been raging through Spain and Portugal.

In Portugal, the government was preparing to declare a state of public calamity today as almost 3,000 firemen struggled to contain more than 70 wildfires raging across the country.

Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso said his Cabinet would hold an emergency meeting to discuss measures aimed at halting the country's worst forest fires in decades, which have killed nine people.

'This is the worst tragedy in living memory in terms of fires,' Mr Barroso said. About 400 soldiers, 780 firefighting vehicles and dozens of aircraft, some of them provided by Spain, Italy and Morocco, were deployed to help fight the blazes.

A similar but smaller operation has been taking place in southern Spain, where 500 people have been evacuated from their homes. Authorities there said two out of three active fires were under control today.

There were no reported casualties in the forest fires but RNE state radio cited health authorities in the southern region of Andalucia as saying seven people had died since Thursday of heat-related illnesses.

Health officials said cases of heat stroke had risen 10% year-on-year as temperatures in some southern cities topped 46F, according to RNE. In the last few days several towns, mostly in Andalucia, have recorded their highest temperatures since records began.

In Canada, 8,500 people have been evacuated as emergency crews battle to contain the worst fires to ravage British Columbia for 50 years.

The winds that have been fuelling three large fires near Kamloops, about 170 miles northeast of Vancouver, have died down, but heavy smoke hampered efforts to move firefighters and aircraft into some areas, officials said.

British Columbia - about the size of France and Germany combined - is under a state of emergency. About 80 Canadian military personnel are being brought in to assist more than 700 civilian firefighters already in the Kamloops area.

The Pacific nation of Tuvalu is suffering desperate water shortages because of saltwater infiltrating its water table and rising tide levels and is considering the possibility of evacuating the entire nation to Australia or New Zealnd. Inland Australia is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. The extreme weather events this month are catalogued by the US government.

As This is not a blog commented a while ago:
Good thing the earth isn't warming
snark of the week.
As Teresa remarks: 'That's the creepy thing about George W. Bush--he's not even up to the standards of feudalism.'

A good thing Lord Downer of Baghdad does not read Electrolyte.

A Closer Look At Rice's Statement

Note again that Rice stated, in explaining the August 6, 2001 Daily Brief, that it addressed Bin Laden's "methods of operation from a historical perspective dating back to 1997."

What exactly did it say? We cannot know. But the Inquiry's 9/11 Report lays out all such threats, over that time period, in thirty-six bullet point summaries. It is only necessary to cite a few of these to see the problem:

  • In September 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information that Bin Laden's next operation might involve flying an explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and detonating it. (Emphasis added.)

  • In the fall of 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information concerning a Bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas.

  • In March 2000, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information regarding the types of targets that operatives of Bin Laden's network might strike. The Statute of Liberty was specifically mentioned , as were skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plans. (Emphasis added.)

In sum, the 9/11 Report of the Congressional Inquiry indicates that the intelligence community was very aware that Bin Laden might fly an airplane into an American skyscraper.

Given the fact that there had already been an attempt to bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center with a bomb, how could Rice say what she did?

Certainly, someone could have predicted, contrary to Rice's claim that, among other possibilities, "these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon."

This extract from John Dean's piece is crucial. The White House defence of their performance on 11 September has always been that no-one could foresee the attack. That is untrue as shown by the Joint Inquiry.

Its untruth is also proved by the security planning for the Sydney Olympics which included the possibility of terrorist attack using a hijacked plane. A report from the Australian Parliament's library canvassed the use of a hijacked Jumbo as a weapon in 1998. If Australia and New South Wales have the resources to envisage such things, why not the White House?

Sometimes they pass like a meteor in the night:
The Single Bitter Announcement Weblog

July 18, 2003

I quit

You know, I've tried really hard to make this weblog interesting for you fucking people, and frankly, I've had it.

It's really sickening to me that after all this work, I've only gotten to post this one entry, and already I have to throw in the towel.

To my supporters, I say thank you. And to the rest of you goddamned naysayers, screw you!

This will be my last post.

Link courtesy of Troppo Armadillo. Now if the author only had the stamina required for The dullest blog in the world...

The Australian | Niger: No uranium sold to Saddam [August 04, 2003]:
President Tandja, in a speech today marking the 43rd anniversary of his state's independence from France, again rejected the claim.

He also noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, had cleared Niger of all suspicion.

'On the basis of convincing elements presented by the government plus the converging analyses of different experts and professional journalists, it emerges beyond question that our country did not sell uranium to Iraq,' he said.

Even 'the most competent authority in the matter, the IAEA, asked to look into the charge publicly cleared Niger of all suspicion before the United Nations Security Council,' added the president, a former army officer elected head of state in 1999.

A British newspaper meanwhile reported today the United States had warned Niger to keep out of the row over uranium.

Quoting senior Niger government officials, The Sunday Telegraph said Herman Cohen, a former US assistant secretary of state for Africa, called on President Tandja in the capital, Niamey, last week to relay the message from Washington.

Frankly I'm surprised to see this in a Murdoch publication, but there it is. Evidently the US diplomatic pressure (if any) did not work. It will be interesting to see if the British ever actually publish their alleged separate evidence of the Nigerien sale.

Blindly, a new empire strikes back:
But, as an empire, the US behaves much like other empires in the past. It's often said that it is a reluctant empire. That it wishes not to understand the world, but to insulate itself from it. Nevertheless, imperial thinking permeates its foreign policy, especially towards the Middle East.

Sadly, I fear the war on terrorism is likely to provoke more chaos than Muslim militants could ever have achieved. Without a broader, longer-term vision of forging harmony between our civilisations, the billions of dollars being poured into rooting out individual militants will disappear in the quicksand of Middle East and Central Asian anarchy.

This reluctant empire claim is getting dead boring especially when it is closely followed by a claim that US reluctance distinguishes them from all previous empires. The weakness of that argument is that all empires, without exception, proclaim themselves reluctant conquerors. For that matter, all empires, without exception, proclaim themselves different from all previous empires.

3 August 2003

Release of a "Web writer" urged by Journalist group
The Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to President Hu Jintao urging him to release, apparently, a blogger named Lou Yongzhong who writes for a web page called Secret China. I am unable to access the page due to the stupid firewall, but I'm assuming it's a blogger. Readers, please let me know if you could about the material currently on the web site if you could and send me an email of the content.

The blogosphere really should do what we can protect our own. The CPJ gives the address for protest letters as :

His Excellency Hu Jintao

President, People's Republic of China

C/o Embassy of the People's Republic of China

2300 Connecticut Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20008

Via facsimile: (202) 588-0032

Australians should use:

His Excellency Hu Jintao

President, People's Republic of China

C/o Embassy of the People's Republic of China

Coronation Drive Yarralumla, ACT

Canberra ACT 2600

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America silences Niger leaders in Iraq nuclear row
One said: 'Let's say Mr Cohen put a friendly arm around the president to say sorry about the forged documents, but then squeezed his shoulder hard enough to convey the message, 'Let's hear no more about this affair from your government'. Basically he was telling Niger to shut up.'

The dramatic American intervention reflects growing concern about the continuing row over claims that America and Britain distorted evidence to justify the war against Iraq.

It follows The Telegraph's exclusive interview with Hama Hamadou, Niger's prime minister, last week. Mr Hamadou said that the Niger government had never had discussions with Iraq about uranium and called on Tony Blair to produce the 'evidence' he claims to have to confirm that Iraq sought uranium from Niger in the 1990s.

American officials denied that there had been any attempt to 'gag' the Niger government. The Niamey official, however, said that there was 'a clear attempt to stop any more embarrassing stories coming out of Niger'.

He said that Washington's warning was likely to be heeded. 'Mr Cohen did not spell it out but everybody in Niger knows what the consequences of upsetting America or Britain would be. We are the world's second-poorest country and we depend on international aid to survive.'

Really, this whole WMD allegation is just becoming an exercise in spin control. If you go out to a party and don't check the news for 24 hours you discover a new justification for the invasion of Iraq has emerged. The latest, remaking the Middle East, has been around since the PNAC was founded and is precisely what the Bush administration denied was their agenda before the war. By adopting it at this late stage, it seems to me, the Bush people are actually admitting that previous justifications were a fabrication. Heavying the Nigerien government to shut up about any embarrassing factual errors is not going to help shore up that justification very much.

Link via This is not a blog.

Keke says he's become the fall guy for the Solomons Prime Minister:
HAROLD KEKE (Translation): Australia gives him money for aid to help the government, but instead the leaders themselves steal the money, then they lie to get more money so they can catch Harold Keke and so on. And then they say that Harold Keke is a thief and so on, and then they ask for money for help. So they just use my name, Harold Keke, to make money.

Even the police commissioner admits there are bigger fish to fry than Harold Keke.

[Solomons Police Commissioner] WILLIAM MORRELL: He is - to some extent he is just one element of the problems within the Solomon Islands and he is not the main element. The main element is the endemic corruption in the country and therefore government isn't functioning at all.

The intervention force needs to recognise that the ordinary people of Guadalcanal may not all support Harold Keke, but they clearly share his aspirations.

GUADALCANAL CITIZEN (Translation): People have lost confidence in the government, the government should be trusted to help us, but they failed us and people have lost trust in the government and the police. So they have given their support to the man in the bush, Harold Keke.

ARILEGO (Translation): Everyone wants a state government under which we own our country, our land, our rivers, our reefs, our fish and everything else. These are the resources of the Guadalcanal people, because Guadalcanal Island belongs to its people. It doesn%u2019t belong to any others, like the Malaitans or the Western Province, or whatever provinces.

This is in fact Harold Keke's message for John Howard.

HAROLD KEKE (Translation): But for now I want to tell you Howard, we are fighting for our rights, because we don't want the government to steal our land and resources because these are the root causes of the war. So please Howard, look at the law before you accept the request by Kemakeza to apprehend me and my boys who are standing for their right to the land on which we stand and fight. "

The real test for the Solomons intervention is whether excluded groups can be brought into the Solomons political process. Merely re-establishing order is necessary, but then there needs to be a major effort at reconciliation. Perhaps it would have been a better idea to support restoration of the Ulufa'alu government in 2000 rather than spending $150 million trying to make the Townsville Peace Agreement work without including Keke.