View from the Loft 

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


Thursday, November 20, 2003

Protest Updates

BBC News has its reporters checking in, weblog style, from the protests. You can also get updates on the protests at UK Indymedia and a site called Chasing Bush.

Police estimate crowds at 70,000, while organizers estimate 150,000. This is in line with the whole "double whatever the police say" rule of thumb. The protestors marched past Downing Street earlier today, but Bush was slipped out the back door 5 minutes before the march reached that area-- the coward.

There are rumors (coming from the Metropolitan Police) of 1,000 anarchists expected to create havoc tonight, and of Muslim groups planning to protest outside Winfield House (where Bush will be giving the Queen dinner). So far, things have been peaceful, but the police have not allowed protestors near Buckingham Palace and have warned that anyone approaching the palace will be arrested. Not that there's an "exclusion zone" or anything! It's got nothing to do with keeping them out of earshot of Bush, I'm sure.

So far my favorite details are the samba band which seems to turn up everywhere, and that yesterday a women's peace group dyed the waters of the Trafalgar Square fountain red.

When It's Neocons vs. Generals, Neocons Win

From the NY Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 18 — The commanding general of the United States Army division that patrols much of Iraq's western borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that his men had encountered only a handful of foreign fighters trying to sneak into the country to attack American and allied forces.

"I want to underscore that most of the attacks on our forces are by former regime loyalists and other Iraqis, not foreign forces," said the officer, Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

His view was echoed by Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, which controls northern Iraq and parts of its borders with Syria, Turkey and Iran.

During a briefing on Monday for a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, he said that since May, his men had captured perhaps 20 foreign fighters trying to slip into the country from those three countries.
From the World Tribune:
The United States has deployed 20,000 troops along the Syrian border after Syria failed to stop militants from crossing into Iraq.

As late as October, U.S. officials said hundreds of Islamic insurgents were crossing into Iraqi from Syria. They said Syrian authorities had failed to respond to U.S. appeals to stop the flow of insurgents.
Well, we don't need those 20,000 troops anyway, right? We've got 20,000 to spare on useless gestures to intimidate Syria, don't we? I mean, what would we use those extra guys for-- securing take-off and landing sites for helicopters so they aren't shot out of the sky?


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Somehow, I'm Not Surprised

US's 'Iron Hammer' code name 1st used by Nazis
The U.S. military's code name for a crackdown on resistance in Iraq was also used by the Nazis for an aborted operation to damage the Soviet power grid during World War Two.

Just Like the Israelis

"This is something Sharon would do," said 41-year-old farmer Jamel Shahab, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. "What's happening in Iraq is just like Palestine."
So it's come to this: the United States is now reducing homes to rubble and leaving women and children homeless.
In a tactic reminiscent of Israeli crackdowns in the West Bank and Gaza, the U.S. military has begun destroying the homes of suspected guerrilla fighters in Iraq's Sunni Triangle, evacuating women and children, then leveling their houses with heavy weaponry.
What in the world can the military leaders be thinking? Do they really believe that turning families out into the cold is a great way to "send a message"?

Apparently. Not only that, but they declare such actions to be "within the rules of war":
"We don't just destroy their homes for no reason," Tate said. "I don't want to say they (military commanders) are cold-hearted. But if your house is used to make IEDs (homemade roadside bombs) or house Saddam loyalists, that's within the rules of warfare."
Yeah, and no doubt the guerillas will find it absolutely impossible to find sanctuary elsewhere, or find another spot in which to make IED's ...

The shortsightedness of this tactic beggars belief. If anything will strengthen the resolve of the guerillas, this will. It will also add to the ranks of the guerillas, or at least of their sympathizers. Turning a man's family out into the street is highly unlikely to make him stop short and say, "Oh dear, I'd better get with the program and start supporting the U.S."

And what is accomplished, strategically, by taking such actions? The only consequences I can see are those with grim outcomes for the U.S. Has the military really learned nothing at all from such costly mistakes as Vietnam? Have they not learned from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The world has condemned the Israelis' bombing of the homes of suicide bombers, yet now the United States joins with Israel in undertaking to punish the families of those involved in the insurgence.

It is simply impossible to bomb enough buildings, enough warehouses, homes, or factories, to deny the guerillas a venue for their activities. Well, actually, it probably is not impossible.

There are always those newly approved mini-nukes.

UPDATE:But Riverbend expresses the outrage so much better than I ever could.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Massachussetts OKs Gay Marriage

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has struck down the state's ban on gay marriage.
Massachusetts' highest court ruled on Tuesday that the state must give gay and lesbian couples the legal rights of marriage, granting them broader rights than same-sex couples in any other state.

In a 4-3 ruling that could make Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage, the Supreme Judicial Court stopped short of ordering the state to start issuing them marriage licenses. It said the state may not deny the rights conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry.

"Barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution," the court said in its ruling.
The court gave the state 180 days so that the legislature can take any action it deems necessary.

Read the entire decision here.

We can expect the usual suspects to exhibit their usual frothing at the mouth. Expect trouble.

Let AARP (and Congress) Know How You Feel

I don't know how many of you are members of AARP, or perhaps have parents or other relatives who belong, but you should know that the GOP just got a real boost and probably passage of their Medicare legislation because of AARP's endorsement.

I visited the AARP message boards today, and I think it's safe to say that while the leadership has endorsed the legislation, the rank-and-file are hopping mad about it.

Call 1-800-424-3410 and let them know you don't support the legislation, or urge any relatives who are members to do so. You can also e-mail AARP by following the link here and then clicking on the appropriate topic. I suggest clicking on "Membership" and informing them that you're cancelling ... but that's just me.

Please also urge your legislators to vote against this compromise bill. Go here to find your legislators' names and e-mail addresses or phone numbers.

Feel free to send this page (or forward the URL) to anyone you know who might be interested. It's a crime that the Repugs can claim that they have the support of such a large organization that purports to represent the interests of older Americans.

(For the reasons why this legislation should not pass, read this.)

Bush Determined to Alienate Our Last Ally

Oh that Georgie. Not content with stirring up a hornet's nest in Britain by just showing up there, he continues to inflame our only major Western ally with the threat of trade wars:
GEORGE Bush's administration has called on US companies in Britain to relocate jobs to America in an astonishing move that could trigger a major trade war.

US-based multinationals have been told they will receive compensation from American trade authorities if they cancel contracts in Britain and take jobs home, according to CBI director-general Digby Jones.

[Jones continues:]'Whether flouting international law with their steel tariffs or telling their companies to come home, this bullying affects Britain and British jobs.

'We are America's biggest trading partner, but if this escalates into an international trade war it hits us worst because we are such a big player in the world market.'

Unilever chairman Niall FitzGerald said: 'There is a mid-Atlantic trade storm whipping up. There will be retaliation and then retaliation to that retaliation, which could lead us to a 1930s decline.'
The bottom line here is that nothing, and I mean nothing, will be allowed to affect Bush's chances for re-election:
FitzGerald said it was unlikely Bush would back down over steel as Presidential elections take place next November.

If this is true, the effects on Britain would indeed be severe. American companies employ over a million people in Britain.

A British response is already forming:
On the eve of Mr Bush's state visit to Britain, Mr Byers, an arch-Blairite, will set out proposals to help Democrats in key swing states if the White House refuses to abandon punitive trade sanctions against the UK.

Acting with the tacit approval of Blair supporters, who were enraged when Mr Bush imposed tariffs on imports of British steel to shore up his vote, the former trade and industry secretary will call for sanctions to be imposed on four key marginal states which the president will need to win.
Kind of a novel idea for the Democrats: get some foreign involvement to help force Bush out of office.

The latest report may not be true. If it does turn out to be true, then it really is frightening to see the lengths to which Karl Rove and his pliant client will go to stay in power.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Excerpts from the British Press

From the Observer:
Home Secretary David Blunkett has refused to grant diplomatic immunity to armed American special agents and snipers travelling to Britain as part of President Bush's entourage this week.

In the case of the accidental shooting of a protester, the Americans in Bush's protection squad will face justice in a British court as would any other visitor, the Home Office has confirmed.

The issue of immunity is one of a series of extraordinary US demands turned down by Ministers and Downing Street during preparations for the Bush visit.

These included the closure of the Tube network, the use of US air force planes and helicopters and the shipping in of battlefield weaponry to use against rioters.

From the Independent:
The police are set to make a dramatic U-turn and allow more than 100,000 anti-Bush protesters to march past Downing Street and Parliament this week, in a major concession to avoid violent clashes with hardline activists.

The Metropolitan police last week banned Thursday's Stop the War Coalition (SWC) march from Whitehall, partly because of security fears that al-Qa'ida terrorists could use the march as cover for an attack and partly because of demands for tight security by the White House.

But as popular support for the march escalated last week, leading the organisers to double the numbers expected, they warned police that the ban could provoke uncontrolled protests and clashes with hardline activists.


However, anarchist groups, anti-globalisation protesters and radical environmentalists are also planning to stage unofficial blockades and sit-down protests, including attempts to break through the security cordon around Buckingham Palace, where the Bushes will be staying, and the American embassy in Grosvenor Square.

I have also read that Bush's motorcade will consist of 35 to 40 cars, while Blair typically travels with one limo, one staff car, one police vehicle and two motorcycles. Bush's motorcade includes top-notch medical equipment and a blood bank. 5,000 police will be on duty in London (all leave has been cancelled).

Originally, the White House hoped to supplement Buckingham Palace security with American military staff. The Queen turned down that request, along with an additional request to strengthen walls and install bullet- and blast-proof windows.

London is on its highest security alert, and security at the American Embassy is what it was just after 9/11. I've seen the word "nightmare" used frequently by various British officials in describing security preparations. You would think Bush was visiting Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Blair said today that Bush's opponents in the UK were "rubbing their hands at the scope for embarrassing him." Not much of a pep talk for his old buddy George.

The fiasco will be coming to you late Tuesday through Friday. Stay tuned.

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