View from the Loft 

war and peace, politics, books, rants, the passing parade ...


Saturday, September 13, 2003

Space to Be Completely Militarized and Under US Control

The US space program, flawed though it may be, has at least been undertaken in the name of science and with a spirit of adventure and discovery. In recent years, civilians have been included in space shuttle flights, carrying out experiments and sharing their expertise in scientific matters. Space exploration has seemed an area in which nations might act cooperatively for the purpose of expanding our knowledge about space, that vast, magical "out there" which has captivated our imaginations since the beginning of humanity.

No more.

The Pentagon will replace NASA's civilian administration:
Sean O’Keefe, the former navy secretary and current chief of NASA, has said that every NASA mission from now on will be “dual use” (have both military and civilian purposes at the same time).
Soon, when we look up into space, we will see US territory:
With no fanfare, the Bush Administration is taking military control of what it terms “near space,” thereby laying claim to the area of the Solar System that lies between the Earth and the Moon’s orbit.
The US will defend that area with an arsenal of space-based weapons that seem right out of sci-fi.

All this was made possible by George W. Bush's cancellation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia, which banned the testing of space-based antiballistic missiles. But that was just the beginning:
Peter Teets, a one-time president of Lockheed Martin, is the director of the agency that controls military satellites, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). He worries about a situation where “an adversary chooses to leverage the Global Positioning System or perhaps the Galileo constellation to attack American forces with precision.” To prevent such an occurrence, according to Teets, beginning in 2004, the NRO will draw up policies to deny other nations, allies included, the use of “near-Earth space”—a policy that goes by the term “negation.”
Is the rest of the world really going to let this happen? How can one nation just arrogantly claim for itself all of near space? I am outraged and sickened by the very notion that a single nation can lay claim to the skies. It seems like a violation of something magnificent and awe-inspiring. Is this to be the culmination of the adventure so well symbolized by human beings walking on the moon--turning space into nothing more than a war theater?

If so--and there have certainly been no howls of protest so far--what a sad day for humanity.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Don'tcha Feel Safer?

Well, two years after the horror of September 11, 2001, shouldn't we all feel much safer? After all, we've had Bush's "War on Terror" machine mightily spending money to keep the bad guys at bay, establishing the Deparment of Homeland Security, and above all, using that clever flypaper scheme using US troops as bait in Iraq to draw terrorists away from Boise (as I believe Rumsfeld put it).

If you do feel safer, you're apparently in the minority:
Poll after poll released on the eve of today's second anniversary of the terrorist strikes on New York and Washington find Americans more fearful and fatalistic than they were a year ago, when the need to honour the victims supplanted the recurring vision of another attack.
But we really shouldn't be surprised, since all Bush seems to be able to do is continue to frighten Americans by continually invoking 9/11 and repeating (and repeating and repeating) that we are all living in immediate danger of attack by "the servants of evil." That's really the only thing he can do, given the gross incompetence of his presidency on all fronts, but that's another story.

On the other hand, has anything been done to make our ports, airports, shipping system, etc., less vulnerable? Um ...
For a second year, U.S. government screeners have failed to detect a shipment of depleted uranium in a container sent by ABCNEWS from overseas as part of a test of security at American ports.

"I think this is a case in point which established the soft underbelly of national security and homeland defense in the United States," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has been urging the Bush administration to do more to enhance port security.
In the kind of "kill the messenger" reaction we've come to expect from this administration, the Department of Homeland Security's immediate response was to assign agents in at least four cities to investigate ABC personnel and news sources involved.

Senator Charles Grassley's (R-IA) response to this federal action was spot on:
In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft and Ridge, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he was concerned about "a chilling effect on legitimate investigative reporting" in the ABCNEWS case.

"If my neighbor told me my barn was on fire, my first instinct would be to thank my neighbor and get some water for the fire. I worry that the government's first instinct is to pour cold water on the neighbor," Grassley wrote.
Okay, so Americans who are scared might have a point.

Especially since the rest of the world hates us so much:
In the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, the view of the United States as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force.

... To some degree, the resentment is centered on the person of President Bush, who is seen by many of those interviewed, at best, as an ineffective spokesman for American interests and, at worst, as a gunslinging cowboy knocking over international treaties and bent on controlling the world's oil, if not the entire world.

... For many people, the issue is not so much the United States as it is the Bush administration, and what is seen as its arrogance. In this view, a different set of policies and a different set of public statements from Washington could have resulted in a different set of attitudes.
Sure glad Dubya's looking out for our interests and protecting you and me.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Arafat's Demise?

In recent days several Israeli government ministers have publicly called for Arafat's exile. The rumor was that Arafat might be deported as soon as Sharon returned from India.

But al-Jazeera quoted an unnamed Western diplomat as saying: "What concerns me is that Yasir Arafat may not even be around in 24 hours." That was yesterday.

Another article claims that the Israeli Defense Minister wants Arafat to be "targeted" by the army, and reports that today's Jerusalem Post editorial argues for Arafat's death.

Israeli soldiers have now surrounded Arafat's compound.

I certainly hope they vote for exile, because if they kill Arafat, all hell could break loose.

Meanwhile in Europe...

Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, widely expected to be the next Prime Minister of Sweden, has been assassinated. She was stabbed in the abdomen and arm yesterday while shopping in Stockholm, and died early this morning. Her unknown attacker escaped.

Early this summer Ms. Lindh likened Bush to the Lone Ranger.

Let There Be ... a Department of Peace (you can help)

This via Cindy Harrison:
Throughout the next week, we need your help as we prepare for a lobbying blitz at the Capitol in support of the Department of Peace legislation (H.R. 1673) introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich. The bill is currently in the House of Representatives ... Many of us will be traveling to Washington DC to lobby our representatives in person on Sept. 16th, in conjunction with the Global Renaissance Alliance's Democracy Conference If you want this legislation to become a reality, it is critical to our grass roots campaign that we have your support.
For information about the Department of Peace legislation, go here. Contact your legislators and urge them to support the establishment of a Department of Peace. (And let's hope, if we ever get one, it doesn't take a 1984-ish turn!)

Help Roll Back Media Monopoly--It Just Takes a Click

The House of Representatives has already voted, through an appropriations bill, to reverse some of the changes brought about by the FCC's rule changes last June that threw out curbs on media monopolization. The House action would keep in place the rule that keeps a single company from owning TV stations that reach more than 35% of all American households.

Now the Senate will take up the issue, offering two additional initiatives:
Senator Byron Dorgan (ND) is expected to push forward on a "resolution of disapproval" in the Senate that would overturn all of the new rules. Finally, a bill that would reverse many of the changes, S. 1046, the "Preservation of Localism, Program Diversity, and Competition in Television Broadcast Service Act of 2003," currently has 44 co-sponsors in the Senate.
Click here to send an e-mail to your senators urging them to support all efforts to roll back the FCC's rule changes. We can't let the media become even less independent than they already are.

MoveOn also weighs in on this issue. Yesterday's e-mail brought me this:
In the last 48 hours, over 200,000 people have called on the Senate to roll back the FCC rule change. Four months ago, most people would
have placed the likelihood that Congress would roll back the rule change at near zero. When I talk to folks in the media reform movement, they give enormous credit to the phone calls and emails that MoveOn members have sent. The momentum we have on this issue is largely due to your involvement.

Phone calls work, and that's why we need you to make one today. On Monday, the Senate will likely vote on a "resolution of disapproval" to turn back the rule change. It's not the final vote, but if we lose it, we likely lose the most important parts of the rollback. The vote could be 50-50 -- every Senator, and every phone call, helps.
Please, call your Senators! A phone call packs a bigger punch than e-mail or faxes (although they're important, too). For those of you here in Michigan, those phone numbers are

Senator Carl Levin
DC Phone: 202-224-6221

Senator Debbie Stabenow
DC Phone: 202-224-4822

Others, please go here to find out your senators' phone numbers.

"But I did it for you!"

That's what Dubya might think if he read the poll commissioned by the conservative American Enterprise Institute to discover Iraqis' feelings about the United States:
John Zogby, president of Zogby International which completed the poll last month, summed up the findings on Wednesday, saying that, like most Arabs, Iraqis want to "control their own destiny", without the intervention of outside forces, and are confident in their own ability
Some of the findings:
  • 58.5% felt that the US and UK should stay out of the process of setting up a fair government
  • 50.2% agreed with the statement that "democracy is a western way of doing things and it will not work here" (gee, I guess Condi would call them self-hating racists)
  • 50% felt that in the next 5 years the US would hurt Iraq (35.3% said the US would help)
  • 50.2% felt that in the next 5 years the United Nations would help Iraq (only 18.5% thought it would hurt)
  • 65.5% want US/UK troops out of the country within a year

Dubya might react similarly if he knew about the 9/11 families calling for peace. September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows has issued a statement, which you should really read in full, that says in part: "Today we pause to mourn the Iraqi dead and all the casualties of the war, and to call upon our leaders to bring our troops, who have put their lives on the line, safely home from this misguided mission and to turn control of Iraq’s rebuilding to the authority of the United Nations."

How often have we heard Bush invoke the tragedy of 9/11, even if he's talking about jobs, energy, or education? Yet these families immediately saw through the administration's attempts to use that tragedy as a justification for war, suspension of civil liberties, and dangerous foreign policies.

All I can say is, if Dubya ever tries to do anything for you, run like hell the other way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Oh, No ... Again

I've been waiting for this with great apprehension:
A suicide bomber killed himself and an Iraqi child and wounded more than 50 people, including six U.S. personnel, according to local people and the U.S. military on Wednesday.

In the fifth bomb attack in Iraq in as many weeks, a four-wheel drive vehicle stopped suddenly in front of a house in the Kurdish city of Arbil in northern Iraq on Tuesday evening and exploded with the driver inside, residents said.

They said the house was being used by U.S. intelligence agents. A military spokeswoman initially said it had been a "safe house." Later, military press officers became tightlipped, confirming only that a blast had taken place in Arbil.
This is in northern Iraq, the one area of the country that seem rather quiet and normal ... oh wait, except for that violence between the Turkmen and Kurds ... but anyway, this isn't in the heart of Ba'athist resistance.

And what's that about a "safe house"? And intelligence agents? If there were intelligence agents there, how did that become known to someone who could use that knowledge in a deadly way? Could it be an inside job?

Yes, let's use Hussein's former intelligence operatives, by all means. We've had great luck so far with training the Iraqis to be cops--remember that car bomb that went off in the police compound? was that not an inside job?--so we should be successful beyond our wildest dreams once we get the Mukhabarat to work for us. Any translator or other employee of occupation forces or administration could be passing information along. That's what happens to occupation armies and their civilian support operations.

And yet we're about to throw another $87 billion into the money pit, the first installment of many, I'm sure. We need to get the hell out of Iraq, the sooner the better. Nothing good is going to come from this.

March Against the Occupation of Iraq!

This is exciting. I've been hoping to see some anti-occupation marches, some visible manifestation of the growing disgust with BushCo's policies. That request for $87 billion, which the gutless Congress will no doubt hand over, was the last straw. Well, no it wasn't ... how many "last straws" have there been? But anyway--a march is being organized by ANSWER and United for Peace.

The march will be held on October 25 in Washington, D.C. I believe that marches are also being organized in Los Angeles and possible elsewhere.

I'm going to have to think seriously about going. How about you?

The GOP: What a Bunch of Whiners!

For an excellent rant against those who have the gall to cry "Racism!" at the whole Miguel Estrada affair (if you've been under a rock and don't know, Estrada withdrew his name from nomination for judge after months of Democratic filibustering in the Senate), see Steve Gilliard (scroll down). Steve then gets into an entire furious discussion of how Republicans cry "Unfair!" when they themselves are guilty of changing the rules every chance they get.

And national security is Bush's strength?

A new poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland shows that Americans now believe that BushCo's foreign policy is making terrorism more, rather than less, likely.


  • 64% of respondents said that the US military presence in the Middle East increased the likelihood of terrorism

  • 77% thought that there were widespread negative feelings towards the US in the Islamic world that enhanced terrorist recruiting

  • 54% thought that the US had been too assertive in its foreign policies

  • 81% thought a key lesson of September 11 was that the US needed to work more closely with other countries to fight terrorism (up from 61 per cent in a similar poll more than a year ago)

    An ABC news poll also found that Bush's insistence that invading Iraq was necessary to fight terrorism is beginning to meet with increased skepticism. In that poll, 48% of Americans now think that the war has increased the risk of terrorism, as opposed to 40% who believe the war has decreased that risk. Back in April, only 29% thought the war would make a terrorist attack more likely.

    Well, Georgie, there goes the ball game. You've been pushing that terrorism meme forever, especially in your speech the other night, but it doesn't look like the people are buying it. You said that we had to fight terrorism in the Middle East so we wouldn't have to fight it in our streets, but the common folk don't seem to find our presence in Iraq to be much of a guarantee that terrorism won't, in fact, land right on our own soil. Sayonara, Chimpy.

    Blood for No Oil

    Though it barely made the news, another oil pipeline in Iraq was bombed yesterday. A pipeline is bombed roughly once a week, now. Both the north-south pipeline that feeds into Turkey and the roughly east-west pipeline that joins it, connecting the main line to the Kirkuk oil fields, are out of commission. Guerrilla attacks in Mosul and Irbil suggest that stability in the north of Iraq is, like so many things, merely a figment of Bushco's imagination. We are about to allow Turkish troops in Kurdish areas, selling out the Kurds yet again, so why should they let us have the oil? No oil is leaving Iraq via Turkey anytime soon.

    The other option is to send oil south, load it on ships in the Persian Gulf, and send it on, eventually, to the Indian Ocean. It's a much longer trip back to the states or to Europe, going that route, though. Also, the northern part of the Gulf involves a tense dividing line between Iraqi and Iranian territory, and there has already been at least one boundary dispute there. At the southern end, ships must past through a narrow shipping lane to traverse the Strait of Hormuz, which is only about 25 miles wide and which is surrounded on three sides by Iran. Given the escalating tensions over Iranian nuclear capabilities and the pre-existing neocon lust for an Iranian invasion (remember "Real men want to go to Tehran?"), shipping oil via the Gulf is not a long-term option.

    Then there's Syria. There was an oil pipeline that ran from the Kirkuk oilfields west into Syria, and then to a Mediterranean port. Some oil was exported, some was used to power the Syrian electrical power grid. There was an oil pipeline, that is, until we blew it up in April. Even if we repaired the line and sent oil out through Syria, the Syrian people would see this as complicity in the theft of Iraqi oil wealth, and it's hard to predict the degree of civil unrest which might result. Then there are the Syrian Black Flags, which may or may not exist, but which are supposedly a terrorist group dedicated specifically to blowing up oil pipelines. Aside from these problems, I do not think Israel would allow it. Oil for Syria would boost their economy, whereas another alternative, the Mosul-Haifa pipeline, would boost Israel's economy. This proposed line would go from Iraq's northern oil fields, through Jordan, and allow oil to be exported from the Israeli Mediterranean port of Haifa. Israel predicts that its energy costs would fall by 25%. Obviously, they will push for the Mosul-Haifa deal.

    Israel didn't like it, a few months back, that we were becoming dependent on Syrian intelligence. These are the guys who frog-marched all those deck-of-cards Ba'athists out of Damascus and across the Iraqi border, then let Centcom claim we'd captured them. Actually, Syria gave them to us, at least some of them. Israel didn't like that (Dickie and Dougie promised bombs on Damascus!), so they fed us misinformation about a Syrian convoy that turned out to be merely smuggling petrol. We chased these Syrian citizens inside the border of Syria and killed perhaps 30. Syrian leaders reportedly ordered their ground troops to fight and monitored the skirmish from their war room, ordering a halt to all Syrian air traffic when they spotted US warplanes inside the Syrian border. The planes were providing air support to Task Force 20, the US Special Forces who carried out the raid on the convoy. This was a far more serious skirmish than it seemed at the time, and I think it was one more case of the Mossad (the Israeli CIA) being smarter than we are. (I've also read that the disinformation came from Sharon's offices, not from the Mossad. It's all very black helicopter, so who knows for sure?)

    The Mossad has an illustrious history of all sorts of underhanded skulduggery, and they may find ways to stymie all other exit routes for Iraqi oil except the Mosul-Haifa pipeline. Compared with other past operations, digging holes and setting off explosives to rupture any alternative oil lines should be a walk in the park. Of course, Mosul-Haifa is also doomed, Israeli efforts notwithstanding. The Jordanian monarchy could dissolve in the ensuing civil unrest. During the start of the Iraq war, Jordan had to declare martial law in Amman to control protests that were turning into riots. Furthermore, it seems like Hamas and other groups can bomb whatever they want, whenever they want. Given that Israel's economy will greatly improve if the Mosul-Haifa line goes through, it is clearly not in the interests of Hamas, Hizb Allah, or any of those groups to allow the pipeline.

    So I don't see any way of getting the oil out. This means that Bushco, who always intended to loot the Iraqis via war profiteering, are instead looting Americans. It's now our money being stolen, when a US company charges $50 million for a bridge repair that actually costs $300,000. First it was the Iraqis they were going to rob blind, now it's us. I only hope people figure this out before the election.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2003

    New Blood

    Daughter Hannah has thought for some time about joining the Blogosphere, but has had a few misgivings. So I invited her to post to Let There Be Peace in order to get her feet wet. (While I was at it, I sent my son, Ethan, an invitation, but I don't hold out much hope that he'll join us.)

    Hannah's posts will be entirely her thoughts, opinions, and expressions. I welcome a second (and if Ethan joins, a third)voice here on the blog and hope that after a little practice, Hannah will strike out on her own. Until then, I hope you'll enjoy multiple voices here. Now ... when will the first guest post appear?

    This page is powered by Blogger.