The Better Rhetor

Friday, February 21, 2003
U.S. Troops to Fight in Philippines

From the Washington Post:

The United States is sending about 3,000 troops to engage in a major combat offensive in the southern Philippines aimed at wiping out the militant Muslim group Abu Sayyaf, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

The move marks the second time in less than a year that the Bush administration has committed a significant number of U.S. forces to try to root out the extremist group, which has continued to unsettle the Philippines and target Americans in the islands. It opens another battlefront as U.S. forces already are stretched thin preparing for a possible war in Iraq, securing Afghanistan and pursuing al Qaeda around the world.

Personally, we think the Abu Sayyaf is a repulsive collection of thugs and murderers, and we would shed no tears at their demise. But we want to knock our heads against the wall at the news that the U.S. plans to send in yet another contingent of troops to another impoverished country, in what will be yet another futile attempt to address social and economic problems through the application of military violence.

Meanwhile, Philippine sources report that in the Southern Philippines where Abu Sayyaf operates, Filipino families continue to struggle against poverty, against landlessness, and against malnutrition.

If you are living on less than five dollars a day, and if you have no land to work, and if your children are hungry and at risk of dying of malnutrition, what would you ask of the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the earth?

To send Cobra attack helicopters and Harrier AV-8B attack planes? To send more Special Forces combat troops?

Isn’t there anybody in our government with an ounce of compassion or good sense?

We Recommend a Visit

To Veiled4Allah, the occasional thoughts of a Muslim woman.

Is It Just Me, Or Is This Discussion
Borderline Obscene?

NPR’s Marketplace advises, in an astonishingly bad choice of words, the "best battle plan" for your stock portfolio in light of the upcoming war:

With war looming on the horizon, what’s the best battle plan for your stock portfolio? The answer might surprise you: At first, do absolutely nothing; keep your portfolio intact. Most investors don’t see this as a time to take advantage of their portfolio, they see it as a means not to get hurt in their current portfolio. These are times when most of us just want to take cover. But if Americans start feeling vulnerable, certain stocks could too.

The Pentagon is planning to fire 800 cruise missiles against a city the size of Paris, and Marketplace is telling me how to protect my portfolio.

Thanks, Marketplace. I don’t often feel the need to take a shower after listening to a news report, but this was one of those truly special moments.

Thursday, February 20, 2003
You Wonder, Does Even He Believe
The Things He Says?

From the ongoing burlesque, Ari & I, by Russell Mokhiber, speaking truth to power.

Mokhiber: You said last week that, "Every step will be taken to protect civilian and innocent life in Iraq." But Pentagon officials have said that under a battle plan called 'shock and awe,' "there will not be a safe place in Baghdad when we attack." Baghdad is a city the size of Paris, with five million residents. If there will not be a safe place in Baghdad when we attack, then how do you plan to protect every civilian life?

Ari Fleischer: First of all, I think that any construing of any statements that are made by anybody at the Pentagon to suggest that the Pentagon does not and will not take every step to protect innocent lives is an unfair representation of what the Pentagon would say. It's well-known how the United States conducts itself in military affairs. We are very proud of the fact that any time force is reluctantly used, the force is applied to military targets and innocents are protected.

Mokhiber: Second question. You have admitted that Saddam may attack our invading troops with chemical and biological weapons. On Sunday, 60 Minutes reported that many military leaders believe that our troops have neither the proper equipment, nor the proper training to survive a chemical and biological attack. The report quoted an Army audit that found that 62 percent of the gas masks examined "had critical defects that could cause leakage."

Now, since 100,000 U.S. veterans in the Gulf War may still be suffering from Gulf War [illnesses] -- many of them believe that this is from inhaling toxic fumes. Tens of thousands of them were exposed to sarin gas when we bombed a Iraqi munitions dump. How can the President send troops into harm's way knowing that they are not adequately protected from a chemical and biological attack?

Ari Fleischer: The President has full faith and confidence in the Department of Defense and in their planning for the worst. And I think premised in your question is the fact that perhaps you now are coming around to the realization that Iraq does indeed have weapons of mass destruction and a willingness to use them. It's not anybody in the United States government who has admitted -- in your word -- that Iraq might use these weapons -- it's that Iraq has such weapons, they've used them in the past. And hence the danger not only to the troops who are in the region, but to people abroad, people in the United States, and friends and allies and civilians in the region who remain vulnerable to Saddam using such weapons on innocents.

Mokhiber: What about the 60 Minutes report that we're not prepared --

Ari Fleischer: As I indicated to you, the President has full faith and confidence in DOD's measures to protect our troops in all circumstances.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Bush to World: Bugger Off!
(Or Words to That Effect)

Millions of people across the globe march in the name of peace, and Bush announces he won’t be influenced by focus groups. Say what? Ah, Mr. President. May we respectfully submit that a global rally by millions of people trying to prevent the mechanized slaughter of another war is not a "focus group"? A "focus group" is what your Orwellian-sounding "Department of Homeland Security" conducts before deciding whether to sound a duct tape alert.

Karl Rove could explain, we are sure.


The Road to Surfdom (is that not a cool name for a blog?) comments on the morality of war, as understood by Tony Blair.

Jeanne d’Arc has an important read on the Kurds, the Turks, and bribing one’s way to war. (She also does a welcome skewering of the latest inanity from Nicholas Kristof, who seems to be a kind of editorial tax we must pay to read Paul Krugman.

Interesting Times dissects the truths and untruths of Thomas Friedman, and Rhetorica continues the investigation of media bias.

Finally, our friends at The Liquid List dig out!

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Great Moments in Rhetoric—
On Powerpoint!

Haven’t your ever thought Lincoln would have saved a lot of time if he’d simply made a Powerpoint presentation?

I Want What This Guy Had for Breakfast

Kevin Philips on the Bush family legacy:

It's been 10 years since the first President Bush was voted out of the White House on a wave of public indignation at his economic policies — in particular, over how he had no sense of what was happening on Main Street. All he could ever talk about was cutting the capital gains tax rate on behalf of investors.

You'd think that anyone at least 40 years old would remember that myopia. You'd think they'd remember the old adage about the acorn not falling too far from the tree. Because that's the economics involved: Like father, like son. In fact, we can go further: Like great-grandfather, like grandfather, like father, like uncles, like siblings, like son. The predominant history of the Bush family for 100 years has been to work in the investment business (sometimes with an oil tilt); interpret the economy through the lens of investment; and tailor economic policies to favor friends, neighbors and relatives in the investment business.

If a president who came out of the widget industry spent all his time trying to promote the widget business, it would be obvious — and it would raise major ethical problems. But the magnitude of the Bushes' investment involvement and bias is too little understood.

Great-grandfather George H. Walker was the president of two major New York investment firms: G.H. Walker & Co. and W.A. Harriman and Co. Grandfather Prescott Bush was the managing partner of Brown Bros., Harriman & Co. Presidential uncles Jonathan and Prescott Jr. have been, respectively, the heads of small investment firms named J. Bush & Co. and Prescott Bush & Co. Prescott Bush Jr. has also been closely involved with Asset Management International Financing and Settlement Ltd.

Presidential brother Marvin runs hedge funds at investment company Winston Partners. Presidential brother Neil started an investment deal in Austin, Texas, and both George H.W. and George W. Bush have been in the kind of oil business that is largely driven by tax shelters and financing from friends and relatives.

Such finance doesn't look out for widows and orphans. Besides President Bush's problems with the Securities and Exchange Commission over his sale of Harken Energy stock, his uncle, Scott Pierce, resigned as president of the now-defunct securities firm E.F. Hutton after pleading guilty on behalf of the firm to check-kiting. Brother Neil was fined because of his culpability in the Silverado savings and loan debacle in Colorado in the 1980s. A Tokyo investment firm that hired Uncle Prescott as an adviser in 1989 was identified by Tokyo police as a mob front.

The point is simply that the average American could be forgiven for thinking that the Bush motto is "public service means private opportunity."

Go here for the whole story.


For the politically pugnacious, Liberal Oasis offers a trenchant analysis of how Saturday’s enormous London protest popped Tony Blair in the puss.

For those who think racism against Asians is a thing of the past, Orcinus lays bare some ugly facts.

For the academically inclined, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and other bloggers become required reading in the Ivory Towers.

For those who think they’re being driven crazy by specious reasoning in support of war, Avedon Carol and Digby provide cleansing moments of sanity.

And for everyone else, there is the flat-out amazing production at Sassafras Log.

Full disclosure: Most of the above linked us in the last week. Second full disclosure: These are smart, witty, beautifully written blogs. Enjoy.

GOP Fumes at Greenspan

Apparently he offered a deviation from official truth. We thought that was his job, to call it as he sees it.

Silly us. We forgot: There can be no criticism of Dear Leader’s policies. Not even by the Hallowed Greenspan.

It is difficult to get the news from poems

(yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there)
WC Williams

Here’s the news from New York poet, Dan Marsh:

For the Peace Movement in America

Henricus de Flor passed customs
With the magister bestie
A gift of one friend to another
From Louis IX to Henry III.
Thus the elephant was looked in the mouth
By its preferred familiar in strange England.
And yet the Benedictine artist Matthew Paris
Merely suggests the man, this talented mahout,
As later Carpaccio will a castello
(A castle! mind you),
Behind a winged lion St. Mark
Near unmoving caravels under full sail
For the gentle viewer to scale the giant’s size.

Dan Marsh

Sunday, February 16, 2003
Long Shadows and the Coming War

Received this e-mail today from an old and dear friend:


Just got back from the funeral of our former neighbor Don, a disabled Vietnam
veteran who committed suicide last Wednesday, on his fifty-second birthday. We
weren't close, but neither were we far. We talked about woodstoves and
snowstorms and various other practical matters, but also about Vietnam. Don
received a fifty percent disability benefit from The Veteran's Administration,
and was very involved with an organization that runs a local shelter for
homeless veterans. Apparently there are droves of homeless Vietnam vets across
the country. Don wasn't above sleeping on the street with his buddies from time to time.
He wore his Air Force beret, festooned with badges, virtually all the time. He loved America
and hated the government, and he wore a leather vest and drove a pickup truck both covered with
messages to that effect. He would give you the shirt off his back, which I guess he
considered fair compensation for talking your ear off. He told me stories about
atrocities he'd witnessed, leaving the begged question of his participation
vague. To invoke John Berryman's incomparable line, he suffered and moved. He
helped me replace the gasket on my woodstove, and lent me his truck. I fetched
him from the local police station and drove him to court when he got bagged
for drunk driving, after long and no doubt agonizing stints of sobriety. The
last time I brought him home, to his empty house, I asked him if he was going
to be ok alone: if he felt safe with himself. He assured me that he wasn't
going to take his own life, and he didn't. Not then.

Don died from injuries received in Vietnam. His name should be inscribed into
the wall, and I'm going to see what I can do to make it so. Today, this
afternoon, on this very cold day in New England, certain reprehensible men are
trying to plunge us--and by us I mean everyone--into another war. More death,
more mutilation, more destruction, more anguish. As Alan Watts said, there is
no such thing as "them." There is only us. When will we stop doing this to
ourselves? With immense sadness, M.