Friday, September 22, 2006

Handmaidens to torture

Much is being said about Democrats' abysmal failure in stopping the White House's plans to proceed with torturing people suspected of being terrorists, and for good reason. As Digby (in a typically definitive take) points out, the supposed forces of liberalism have simply been rolled by the machinations of the Bush administration.

But equally abysmal has been the performance of the press in making clear to the American public just what is going on here -- from the get-go. Indeed, for the most part, the press has looked the other way, burying stories that should have been atop their front pages, and treating what should have been monstrous scandals as simply politics-as-usual.

It began, in reality, back in 2002, with the abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan. Eric Umansky in Columbia Journalism Review has an in-depth look at how the story was handled by the press, particularly the New York Times, which broke the story -- and then buried it:
Gall filed a story, on February 5, 2003, about the deaths of Dilawar and another detainee. It sat for a month, finally appearing two weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "I very rarely have to wait long for a story to run," says Gall. "If it's an investigation, occasionally as long as a week."

Gall's story, it turns out, had been at the center of an editorial fight. Her piece was "the real deal. It referred to a homicide. Detainees had been killed in custody. I mean, you can't get much clearer than that," remembers Roger Cohen, then the Times's foreign editor. "I pitched it, I don't know, four times at page-one meetings, with increasing urgency and frustration. I laid awake at night over this story. And I don't fully understand to this day what happened. It was a really scarring thing. My single greatest frustration as foreign editor was my inability to get that story on page one."

Doug Frantz, then the Times's investigative editor and now the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, says Howell Raines, then the Times's top editor, and his underlings "insisted that it was improbable; it was just hard to get their mind around. They told Roger to send Carlotta out for more reporting, which she did. Then Roger came back and pitched the story repeatedly. It's very unusual for an editor to continue to push a story after the powers that be make it clear they’re not interested. Roger, to his credit, pushed." (Howell Raines declined requests for comment.)

"Compare Judy Miller's WMD stories to Carlotta's story," says Frantz. "On a scale of one to ten, Carlotta's story was nailed down to ten. And if it had run on the front page, it would have sent a strong signal not just to the Bush administration but to other news organizations."

Instead, the story ran on page fourteen under the headline "U.S.Military Investigating Death of Afghan in Custody." (It later became clear that the investigation began only as a result of Gall's digging.)

I raised the issue back in March of 2003 when the buried Times report first was published. I quoted University of Washington law professor Joan Fitzpatrick (who, tragically, died in an apparent suicide two months later), a widely respected expert in international humanitarian law.

Fitzpatrick, in fact, sent a letter to the Times:
The "interrogation" techniques described in "U.S. Military Investigating Death of Afghan in Custody" (March 4, 2003, A14) violate basic norms of international humanitarian law. The Geneva Conventions require humane treatment of all prisoners, whether POWs or "unlawful combatants," and regardless of the nature of the conflict. All acts of violence or intimidation, outrages upon personal dignity, and humiliating and degrading treatment are strictly forbidden. Does the Department of Defense argue that chaining naked prisoners to the ceiling, in freezing weather, and kicking them to keep them awake for days on end, are practices consistent with the Geneva Conventions? Is the DOD prepared to tolerate this treatment of American POWs in the Iraq war?

These practices also violate human rights treaties to which the United States is a party, specifically the prohibitions on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The United States may not transfer Al Qaeda suspects to other states to facilitate their torture; that too is a violation. Moreover, there is no state on earth "that does not have legal restrictions against torture" ("Questioning of Accused Expected to Be Human, Legal and Aggressive", March 4, 2003, A13). The prohibition on torture is a peremptory norm of customary international law binding on all nations. The torturer is the enemy of all mankind.

If President Bush has commanded these practices, he has committed serious international crimes and crimes against the laws of the United States that are impeachable offenses. Congress must investigate immediately.

Secretary Rumsfeld last Friday again revealed his complete ignorance of the laws of war by suggesting that Iraqi POWs could be tried before military commissions. They may be tried only by court martial, under rules identical to those applicable to U.S. forces. As Bush and Rumsfeld are poised to launch a major war in Iraq, the world stands appalled by their utter disregard for the most fundamental norms of humanity in wartime. Heaven help our "enemies" and our own soldiers.

The Times, of course, never ran her letter.

And when the abuses at Abu Ghraib were revealed, the press utterly failed to examine just how far up the chain of command these abuses originated -- even though there was a trail of evidence leading right up to the top. Certainly there are indications that not just Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but also former Solicitor General Ted Olson, the White House's legal advocate, were directly involved.

What happened instead was that the press, as a general rule, looked the other way and swallowed whole the administration spin that the problem was consigned to a "few bad apples. As Umansky goes on to explain:
But just as sweeping attacks against "the media" are too reductive, so too are plaudits. And when the record on torture coverage is examined in detail, an ambiguous picture emerges: in the post-9/11 days, some reporters offered detailed accusations and reports of abuse and torture, only to be met with skepticism by their own editors. Stories were buried, played down, or ignored -- a reluctance that is much diminished but still bubbles up with regard to the culpability of policymakers.

So now we are faced, as Marty Lederman has detailed at Balkinization, with the prospect of becoming the first nation to allow violations of the Geneva Conventions:
It only takes 30 seconds or so to see that the Senators have capitulated entirely, that the U.S. will hereafter violate the Geneva Conventions by engaging in Cold Cell, Long Time Standing, etc., and that there will be very little pretense about it. In addition to the elimination of habeas rights in section 6, the bill would delegate to the President the authority to interpret "the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions" "for the United States," except that the bill itself would define certain "grave breaches" of Common Article 3 to be war crimes.

... And then, for good measure -- and this is perhaps the worst part of the bill, for purposes going far beyond the questions of torture and interrogation -- section 7 would preclude courts altogether from ever interpreting the Geneva Conventions -- any part of them -- by providing that "no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas or civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States, is a party as a source of rights, in any court of the United States or its States or territories."

Now, too late, the press is starting to recognize the moral abyss into which the Bush administration is leading the nation. The Washington Post editorial today says:
Mr. Bush wanted Congress to formally approve these practices and to declare them consistent with the Geneva Conventions. It will not. But it will not stop him either, if the legislation is passed in the form agreed on yesterday. Mr. Bush will go down in history for his embrace of torture and bear responsibility for the enormous damage that has caused.

And then there was the New York Times editorial today:
The deal does next to nothing to stop the president from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the White House agreed to a list of "grave breaches" of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation techniques he considered permissible. It's not clear how much the public will ultimately learn about those decisions.

Why not? Well, for answers, we can look to the "nation's paper of record" and its fellow lapdogs in the nation's press.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Freaking out at the Moonie Times

[George W. Bush greets staff and management from the Washington Times at the White House in January 2005. Francis Coombs is at his immediate left.]

Max Blumenthal has been producing a nonstop series of must-read reports in the past year, mostly for The Nation, including his recent expose of the Path to 9/11 miscreants.

Now he's topped it with a stunning inside account of the bigots and fools who run the Washington Times, including the welcome news that their bumbling ways have brought the paper's management to the brink of termination:
A nasty succession battle is now heating up at the paper, punctuated by allegations of racism, sexism and unprofessional conduct, that has implications far beyond its fractious newsroom. According to several reliable inside sources, Preston Moon, the youngest son of Korean Unification Church leader and Times financier Sun Myung Moon, has initiated a search committee to find a replacement for editor in chief Wesley Pruden--a replacement who is not Pruden's handpicked successor, managing editor Francis Coombs.

But Pruden and Coombs, evidently, don't intend to go down quietly:
Pruden and Coombs have stonewalled Preston Moon's investigation and threatened to hold a public news conference, during which they would denounce "the crazy Moonies" and claim that Preston Moon and his father are pressuring them to inject pro-Unification Church propaganda into the paper's coverage, according to a senior newsroom staffer. Times president Douglas D.M. Joo is backing Coombs and Pruden to the bitter end. Joo is a business rival of Preston Moon who, the senior staffer says, would be stripped of his post at the Times and redeployed to Korea if Pruden and Coombs go down. "This is a cancer that goes all the way to the top," the senior staffer said of the paper's tolerance of bigotry. "And if you don't root out the cancer, it will kill you. If this ever got out to the mainstream press, we would be finished as a paper."

Particularly damning is Blumenthal's portrait of Coombs, who has been the paper's driving force in ginning up the debate over immigration and promoting (indeed, practically creating) the Minutemen. Coombs' racial animus is portrayed in stark detail, including this little anecdote:
Countering the "feel-good perspective" on race appears to be Coombs's passion. George Archibald told me that when he showed Coombs a photo of his nephew's African-American girlfriend, Coombs "went off like a rocket about interracial marriage and how terrible it was. He actually used the phrase 'the niggerfication of America.' He said, 'Not in my lifetime. If my daughter went out with a black, I would cut her throat.'"

Then there's Coombs' protege, the execrable Robert Stacy McCain (purportedly a social acquaintance of former National Socialist Movement leader Bill White). Another revealing detail:
But McCain's views on race are well-known among his colleagues. In August 2002, according to Archibald, during a discussion in the newsroom about civil rights, McCain defended slavery as "good for the blacks and good for property owners." "We were just appalled," Archibald said. "He is just a complete animalistic racist."

Oh, and then there's the rampant sexism and misogyny. But that's part of the usual right-wing package, isn't it?

Anyway, go read it all.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Webs of Evil, Webs of Light

by Sara Robinson
Onnesha Roychoudhuri's remarkable Tracking The Torture Taxi at Truthdig is the kind of reporting that, in better years, used to appear on the front pages of the country's best newsmagazines. The story is an interview with Trevor Paglen, an expert in secret military bases, and A.C. Thompson of the S.F. Weekly, whose recent book, "Tracking the Torture Taxi," follows their two-year quest to confirm the details of the American gulag built by the CIA and its contractors throughout the world.

The article alone is a hell of a read (which means that I'm going to have to go get the damn book now, and find time to read it). The most striking thing about this story -- apart from the way it blows the lid off America's secret prison network -- is the vast open-source network that Paglen and Thompson assembled in order to bring this most secret of operations into the light. It's a pure act of 21st-century participatory journalism. Here's Roychoudhuri's description:

When U.S. civilian airplanes were spotted in late 2002 taking trips to and from Andrews Air Force Base, and making stops in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, journalists and plane-spotters wondered what was going on. It soon became clear that these planes were part of the largest covert operation since the Cold War era.

Called extraordinary rendition, the practice involves CIA officials or contractors kidnapping people and sending them to secret prisons around the world where they are held and often tortured, either at the hands of the host-country's government or by CIA personnel themselves.

On Sept. 6, after a long period of official no-comments, President Bush acknowledged the program's existence. But the extent of its operations has yet to be publicly disclosed.

How extensive is it? Trevor Paglen, an expert in clandestine military installations, and A.C. Thompson, an award-winning journalist for S.F. Weekly, spent months tracking the CIA flights and the businesses behind them. What they found was a startlingly broad network of planes (including the Gulfstream jet belonging to Boston Red Sox co-owner Phillip Morse), shell companies, and secret prisons around the world. Perhaps the most disturbing revelation of their new book "Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights" is the collusion of everyday Americans in this massive CIA program. From family lawyers who bolster the shell companies, to an entire town in Smithfield, N.C., that hosts CIA planes and pilots, "Torture Taxi" is the story of the broad reach of extraordinary rendition, and, as Hannah Arendt coined the phrase, the banality of evil.

The story that unfolds from there is a case study in the enormous power of shared information networks. Paglen, who is part of a group at Berkeley researching military programs, hooked up with the community of planespotting hobbyists around the world. "At some point," Paglen tells Roychoudhuri, "this hobbyist community became aware that there were these civilian planes flying around, acting as if they were working in military black programs. These people started tracking the planes and repeatedly seeing them in places like Libya and Guantanamo Bay. It became pretty clear that this was a CIA thing and that these were planes that were involved in the extraordinary rendition program." When Dana Priest's coverage of America's secret prison network broke late last year, it provided the larger context in which Paglen's questions began to make sense.

Joining forces with Thompson, who supplied expertise in corporate research, the two were able to not only re-create the vast network of "torture taxis" operated by the CIA; they also discovered the various corporate shells and phony companies (some of them formed by entirely fictitious people) that gave this virtual airline its official cover, and protected it from oversight. Technology plays a huge role in this story, too: at one point, they located the infamous Salt Pit torture facility in Kabul using Google Earth and a rough description of the base's layout from someone who'd been confined there.

This isn't just an astonishing story, as shattering in its way as the stories that led to Frank Church's congressional investigation of the CIA in the mid-70s (which, in turn, gave us FISA and the rest of it). It's also a harbinger of what journalism might look like in the future -- trained researchers working in tandem with vast networks of amateurs, gathering information on a global scale and working together to discern meaningful patterns that tell the story.

But there's a ghastly flipside to this as well. As Roychoudhuri observes, "Torture Taxi" is also a tale of how these same networks can also conspire to increase the banality quotient of the evils committed.

As Thompson started pursuing the dummy corporations that were giving cover to these operations, one of the striking things he found was that the lawyers involved weren't the usual suspects. Rather than firms with known CIA or DC connections, they were usually small law offices run in rural towns by one or two lawyers:

The kind of people we're talking about are Dean Plakias in Dedham, Mass., outside of Boston. He is not a high-profile guy. He's a family lawyer with a small practice and how he ended up in this world is still a mystery. This is an American story, a neighborhood story. When we started looking at all the front companies the CIA had erected, we realized our neighbors were helping the CIA set up these structures. These are family lawyers in suburban Massachusetts and Reno, Nevada. People in our communities are doing dirty work for the CIA. This is not just people being snatched up from one faraway country and taken to a country that's even farther away.?

And, he goes on to say, these folks usually have the tacit support of their communities.

We went to Nevada, Massachusetts and New York to track down the front companies. We went to Beale Air force base in Northern California to track U2 spy planes. We went to Smithfield, N.C, which is home to the airfields that many of these airplanes fly out of. Then we went to Kabul and Gardez, Afghanistan.

But the two most interesting places were the rural town of Smithfield and Kinston down the road, where there's another airstrip that a company called Aero Contractors uses. Aero is the company that flies many of these missions for the CIA. We went there and talked to a pilot who had worked for Aero about exactly what they did and how the program worked. There's nothing random about the CIA using this rural area in North Carolina. If you wanted to shut up a secret operation, this is where you would do it. It's a god, guns, and guts area.

What you start to figure out by spending time in Smithfield is that a lot of people know about the company and have at least an inkling of what goes on at the airport. Most don't want to talk about it and don't take a critical view of it. Folks we met there framed the debate within this religious discourse. The activists that we talked to were god-fearing devout Christians who felt like this was not what they signed up for as religious people, that it violates the religious tenets they adhere to. Interestingly, folks on the other side of the debate seem to be coming from a similar place, but just coming to a different conclusion. The subject of whether or not torture was permitted by the Bible was discussed in church there - and many congregants believed it was.

Thompson's partner, Paglen, puts the acquiescence into a larger context. "It's this small town with this open secret that nobody wants to talk about. It shows what's going on culturally. When a country starts doing things like torturing and disappearing people, it's not just a policy question, it's also a cultural question."

When we kick around visions of what a coming fascist America might look like, we sometimes imagine brownshirt anti-immigration thuggery, domestic terrorism committed by anti-choice zealots, and book-burning barbecues hosted by raging fundamentalists. But Thompson and Paglen's research seems to document the fact that we already have more than the required number of Good Germans - the staid rural burghers who quietly acknowledge the torture flights taking off from their local airports with the same combination of benign righteousness and willful denial that allowed the citizens of small towns in eastern Germany and Poland to wipe the dust of the crematoriums off their windowsills and go on about their everyday lives.

The worldwide web gives people like Thompson and Paglen access to the vast network of facts required to unravel the story of the gulag. That same web also connects people and churches in the most rural parts of America into vast consensus networks that enable them to justify their quiet, active support of that gulag, and perpetuate the treasonous evil it represents. As Paglen says: how we use this power is a cultural question that goes to the heart of who we are. It's a question that also offers us a glimpse into the best and the worst of what America's next world order might be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Definitely not a journalist

I've had occasion a couple of times previously to call into question Michelle Malkin's self-description as a "professional journalist."

Now, I think, she has permanently laid any such questions to rest -- especially among the ranks of actual, working journalists who understand what the work entails.

As Will Bunch at Attytood limns in sharp detail today, Malkin's recent post on the continued detention of Iraqi photojournalist Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press stringer, is nothing short of a right-wing anti-journalistic diatribe:
Powerline, Michelle Malkin and the others like them have no respect for the American principle of a free and unfettered press, no understanding of what a photojournalist does or the importance that uncensored photos can play in the political debate half a world away. The bottom line is they'd like to destroy any photographic evidence of how badly their president's lie-laden misadventure has gone in Iraq.

Malkin has been making accusations against these AP photojournalists for some time now, and they have in fact tended to indicate her utter ignorance of what it is that journalists do -- not to mention her eagerness to accuse the people who supposedly are her colleagues of colluding with the enemy. Some colleague.

By Malkin's standards, journalists like myself and Bill Morlin of the Spokane Spokesman Review must be militia members or neo-Nazi white supremacists, since we both have been known to spend inordinate amounts of time with them. Certainly, we've both been accused of serving their agenda because of our close reportage on them. Fortunately, we never were among them when federal authorities arrested any of them; otherwise, no doubt, Malkin would be demanding we go to the klink as well.

It's entirely possible, of course, that Hussein is in fact an Al Qaeda sympathizer. But his ability to get close to them and record their activities is not, and never has been, de facto evidence of that. All that means for certain is that he's very good at his job, which is to photograph the activities of Iraqi insurgents.

In fact, Malkin's assumption of Hussein's guilt -- that is, of his complicity in the insurgents' activities -- is terribly self-revealing regarding her evident conception of how journalists operate. It's clear that Malkin believes journalists primarily gather information by involving themselves wholly in their subjects, consciously taking their side, thereby becoming essentially propaganda organs for them. Considering the ridiculously biased nature of the entire body of her work, though, that this is her approach is fairly self-evident.

But there are larger principles at stake here than mere journalistic ones. Greg Sargent points out that Hussein is being held without being charged; the Associated Press isn't so much simply demanding that he be released, but that he either be charged with something or be released -- that is, that he needs to be accorded the basic principles of due process.

Just in case anyone needs it spelled out, Glenn Greenwald does the honors:
This principle is just axiomatic -- the fact that someone is accused by the Bush administration of being a terrorist or suspected by the administration of working with terrorists does not, in fact, mean that they are a "terrorist." There is a distinction between (a) being accused or suspected by the Bush administration of working with Al Qaeda and (b) actually being in cahoots with Al Qaeda and being a "terrorist."

In recent weeks, we've read instances of innocent Canadians being captured by Americans and turned over to Syria for torture; of some 14,000 people being held in a network of secret prisons under similar circumstances, the only known evidence of their guilt being authorities' say-so.

It's revealing enough that people like Malkin have no respect for the workings of a free press, for basic journalistic principles and the everyday work of reporters and photographers in the field.

But it is far, far more revealing that these self-anointed defenders of "freedom" (ostensibly threatened by the Islamofascists) are so eager to stand by and applaud as the Bush administration bulldozes such time-honored foundations of freedom as due process and fair play.

Without Conscience indeed

My review of John Dean's remarkable book, Conservatives Without Conscience, is now up at Media Transparency. A brief sample:
The title of John Dean's exegesis on the conservative movement in America is obviously meant to ring a few bells of recognition, being as it is an obvious play on Barry Goldwater's touchstone book, The Conscience of a Conservative. It's clear that Dean hopes to reclaim the good name of conservatism, and in exploring as he does the stark contrasts between modern movement conservatives and the ideals of movement founders like Goldwater, he does so admirably.

But the title rings another bell -- unintentionally, to be sure, but tellingly: it first brought to my mind Robert D. Hare's now-standard text on psychopaths, Without Conscience, which was first published in 1993 but remains in print. Dean's book, as it happens, makes no reference to Hare's work, but it does explore similar territory in examining the psychology not just of the movement's fear-driven followers -- people whose needs drive them to seek out authoritarian leaders -- but the conscienceless manipulators who are all too happy to lead them.

Of course, I would be remiss in failing to point out that my partner in crime, Sara Robinson, has also discussed Conservatives Without Conscience and its ramifications in some detail in her series Cracks in the Wall here, here and here. Also, be sure to check out the excellent discussions of the book at Firedoglake's weekly book salon here and here; Dean himself made an extensive appearance in Week 2.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The other terror anniversary

One week ago, on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the nation was treated to a veritable orgy of remembrance in the national media: the networks, cable, and the press all were busy regaling us with reminders of the Islamist radicals who attacked us that day. Politicians rather predictably joined in, most notably George W. Bush, who used what should have been a solemn occasion to bash Democrats and promote his own agenda.

In rather stark contrast, today also marks the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that followed -- the anthrax letters mailed to a variety of media figures and liberal senators, killing five people and convulsing the nation with fear of similar attacks elsewhere for several weeks afterward.

But there are no network specials planned. No wreath-laying by the president. No ABC docudramas blaming the Clinton administration with made-up sequences. No discussion of the implications of these attacks in the "war on terror."

The last of these, really, is quite telling -- because the implications are profound. And until we confront them, our "war on terror" will remain little more than the political marketing campaign that it has been ever since 9/11.

The scarcity of media coverage of the anniversary is noteworthy. So far, I've been able to uncover only an an MSNBC piece by one of the victims -- a remarkable and read-worthy piece, incidentally, mostly because it gives us a haunting portrait of the kind of devastation the attack wrought on those victims -- and a somewhat sketchy remembrance from the Houston Chronicle.

The initial uproar, you'll recall, occurred not only because it came so close on the heels of the 9/11 attacks, but also because the killer used cover letters clearly intended to cast suspicion on Islamist radicals; however, this was done so clumsily that only the most gullible among us (more on that later) would fall for it. And, as with the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, most of the initial suspicion fell on the Arab world, and Iraq in particular.

Problem is, just as in Oklahoma, it soon became apparent that this was an act of domestic terrorism. Interest in the case waned, particularly from an administration intent on waving Islamist radicals in our faces as the most grave threat to confront the nation since Hitler.

Because it was clearly an attack by domestic terrorists -- and most likely, in fact, someone with right-wing sensibilities -- I continued to post on the case, including here, here, here, and here. And though the reportage has continued to taper off to virtual nothingness, I've continued to track the matter in the intervening years. I've also written about the case in the context of the administration's handling of domestic-terrorism issues, particularly in my discussions of terrorism as an asymmetrical threat, as well as similar cases of Bush administration bungling and the right's predilection for casting terrorism as a phenomenon related mostly to brown-skinned foreigners.

Only two newspapers provided dedicated coverage to following up the matter and trying to get to the bottom of the case: the Baltimore Sun, whose reporter, Scott Shane, remains among the most credible in dealing with the case; and the Hartford Courant, whose reportage produced some of the most interesting possibilities regarding likely suspects. Salon subsequently picked up on these reports and ran a good rundown of the results -- though it has done little with it subsequently.

Probably the most complete compilation of information on the anthrax case was provided by an amateur named Ed Lake, whose Web site dedicated to the anthrax case is noteworthy for not only being comprehensive, but even-handed and thoroughly reasoned. As with many of us who have examined the evidence, Lake finds the claims that cast suspicion on scientist Stephen Hatfill -- whose lawsuit against his accusers is now before the courts -- poorly grounded and agenda-driven.

Indeed, agendas have been in play throughout much of the subsequent discussion of the anthrax case. The white-supremacist National Vanguard, for instance, trotted out a theory (loosely -- very, very loosely -- based on the Courant investigation) that the attack was actually the work of Israeli intelligence agencies.

And then there are folks like Michelle Malkin and Laurie Mylroie, the wingnut whose cockamamie conspiracy theories -- later completely disproven -- helped fuel the invasion of Iraq. Determined from the start to link Iraq to the anthrax, they still haven't given up.

Today, Malkin posted one of the blogosphere's only remembrances of the anthrax attacks, and used it to push this line of theorization. She cites a Joseph Farah piece in the far-right WorldNetDaily, which regurgitates the claim that bentonite was found in the anthrax samples, thereby definitively linking it to Saddam Hussein's operations.

Problem is, the bentonite theory was completely discredited in relatively short order by the scientists examining the anthrax. As Lake says:
Someone who believed or wanted people to believe there was bentonite in the Daschle anthrax forgot the primary rule for getting people to believe a theory: Don't create a theory which can be scientifically disproven.

It's not surprising, I suppose, that we should find Malkin once again promoting phony, discredited information from extremist sources. After all, it's something she specializes in.

Other agendas, unfortunately, have also played a significant role in our failure to track down and identify the killer. Foremost among these have been the Bush administration's agenda, whose failures in the case are probably not something it wants to remind the public about, especially since its incompetence has become an increasing subject of discussion in recent years.

More to the point, Bush's dedication to using the "war on terror" as justification for promoting nearly every component of its political agenda has led it to promulgate the notion that terrorism is primarily a product of turban-clad foreigners.

After all, it probably doesn't help build a case for invading Iraq and then maintaining a permanant force there when the reality that we have our own pack of eager and willing white terrorists is placed before the public, does it? Nor, for that matter, does it help make the case that "Islamofascism" is our most dire enemy, when in fact the terrorists most likely to aid these radical fundamentalists are our own radical fundamentalists.

More precisely, these are the terrorists most likely, like the anthrax killer, to pggibyback off of large-scale terror attacks like 9/11, creating an "echo" effect that heightens and deepens the nation's sense of fearfulness.

That's how terrorism is supposed to work: It's not the actual damage it inflicts -- say, the 3,000 deaths on 9/11 -- but our reaction to them that is most significant. If we react fearfully, panicked into invading other nations and taking out our anger on the perceived perpetrators with acts of even greater and more resonant violence, then the terrorists' objectives are being met. So far, we're doing a great job all around of playing into their hands.

It's not, as I've said before, that domestic terrorism should be the focus of our anti-terrorist program. Rather, the failure to focus on it at all, to give it any kind of serious role in the "war on terror," leaves us vulnerable in a way that also reveals the incoherence of our antiterrorism policy.

After all, the killer who had the entire nation on edge in the wake of 9/11, like Osama bin Laden himself, is still at large. And it is equally telling that no one in the Bush administration seems to consider finding either of them a significant priority.

UPDATE: Tara Smith at Aetiology has a rundown on just how poorly the administration has responded to the need to prepare a biological stockpile for responding in the event of another attack.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Real feminists

I normally don't devote much blogging time to intramural blogospheric fights, since my blogging time is so limited anyway. And on the surface, at least, the brouhaha over Jessica's boobs is just a petty bit of self-revelation from the right-wing blogosphere. Certainly, Ann Althouse displays far more about her own character -- or utter lack thereof -- than whatever wares Jessica shows us.

But there is more at stake than meets the eye, because what Althouse is up to, along with her cohorts on the pseudo-libertarian right, is actually attacking and undermining feminism and whatever gains it may have made over the years. Check out, for instance, the reaction from the Instawanker, in whose stable Althouse firmly resides:
One might almost think that feminism has become nothing more than a subset of the Democratic Party's activist base. Actually, that has become so obvious that even Maureen Dowd managed to figure it out when she famously commented: "Feminism died in 1998 when Hillary allowed henchlings and Democrats to demonize Monica as an unbalanced stalker, and when Gloria Steinem defended Mr. Clinton against Kathleen Willey and Paula Jones."

Phonies like Reynolds and Althouse are fond of claiming that they, and not people who actually take feminist issues seriously, are the true bearers of the feminist torch. It's Newspeak in action: Claim that "real" feminism is something approximating its opposite, and in the process the meaning of the word becomes confused and lost. What, exactly, is a "feminist" when people like this claim to be one?

Recall, if you will (thanks to Scott Lemieux), that last year Althouse took Atrios to task as insufficiently "feminist" by failing to delete sexist remarks from his comment threads.

Now fast forward to Althouse's original post on l'affaire Booboisie. Here's a sampling of the comments from Althouse's regulars:
Goesh said...
Who is the Intern directly in front of him with the black hair?

Meade said...
Dunno, but by her expression, it looks as though she may be getting "a small glimpse at greatness."

bill said...
Since we don't know who she is, this is quite the cheap shot: Who is the Intern directly in front of him with the black hair?

As such, it would be beneath me to respond, I don't know, but she can deliver my pizza any day.

tcd said...
"He's got beautiful blue eyes."
I didn't realize that liberal men also wet their panties at the sight of Bill like their female counterparts.

SippicanCottage said...
The girl in the center is a hot babe, huh?

This is why plain girls go to trekkie conventions. In here, I'm Miss America.

Of course, those comments remain on the site, as well as similar comments on Althouse's subsequent posts. Althouse is clearly incapable of living up to the standards of feminism she demands of others. (Amanda at Pandagon and Lindsay Beyerstein have an even more complete selection. And, as Jessica notes, Althouse herself indulges in comments that don't exactly bespeak someone serious about feminism.

Then, of course, there are the troglodytes on the right blogosphere (like this pathetic example of masculinity) who chimed in thus:
That's right, I said "hussy." Wearin' lipstick. Smiling.

Like a whore.

The right -- including its apologists like Althouse, the claims to feminism and knee-jerk "concern trolling" belied by their actions -- is in fact constitutionally opposed to feminism and everything it stands for. Always has been, always will be.

She's also, obviously, a fairly crude attention-monger, glad to post crap like this because it brings her traffic. And she's already had more than her share from this.

So rather than spend another iota of energy on this affair, I'm going to do something I should have done long ago: Add Feministing to my blogroll (I'm actually kinda embarrassed they're not there already, but I think everyone knows I'm pretty lousy about those housekeeping chores), and do my level best to send her more traffic more regularly. And I'd urge everyone else in the left blogosphere to do the same.

They want attention? OK -- we'll give it to the people they are trying to humiliate. When they try to win by degrading and humiliating people, it's important to make our stand with them.

Because, despite the proliferation of this kind of Newspeak, we all can see fairly clearly who the real feminists are.