“A serious failure in exercising judgment”

by matttbastard

An interim version of the Winograd report looking into Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon was released on Monday. As many expected, the partial report doesn’t mince words in criticizing Israeli PM Ehud Olmert:

The prime minister, the report said, “bears supreme and comprehensive responsibility for the decisions of ‘his’ government and the operations of the army.”

[...]

Olmert also came under criticism for rushed actions at the outset of the war, and for failing to consult with either military or non-military experts.

“The prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one,” the report said. “He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs.”

Olmert was also censured for failing to “adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel’s actions were not realistic and were not materializing.”

“All of these,” the report said, “add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence.”

Olmert has already announced he has no plans to resign, instead promising to start implementation of the report’s recommendations, beginning with a ‘special cabinet session’ on Wednesday. Blake Hounshell makes the observation that former military Chief of Staff Dan Halutz has already stepped down, with Defense Minister Amir Peretz expected to leave his post in the near future (although recent comments from associates indicate Peretz may attempt to remain in power despite the report’s findings). Both officials were also singled out by the report for censure.

Yet, as Akiva Eldar notes, the Israeli PM is somewhat insulated from owning the blame for the war’s conduct due to the breadth of criticism doled out by the report. Also, one should not discount the Bibi factor:

The greatest asset of this coalition is opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Over the past few days, the same argument that always arises during political crises resurfaced: “What do you want – Bibi in power?”

Sunday Hangover Blogging: Too Sketched For Substance Edition

by matttbastard

  • Following a deadly month of violence in which at least 1000 civilians were killed in fighting, Andrew McGregor examines the various factions fueling the insurgency in Somalia.
  • A must see episode of The Agenda: first, an interview with Canadian Senator Peter Stoller, author of a recent Senate report critical of Canada’s current African aid policy; next, one of the best discussions on the crisis in Zimbabwe I’ve come across as of late. Full episode available here.
  • Proposed legislation allowing the reinstatement of low and mid-level Baathist civil servants is garnering controversy in Iraq.

Willful Indifference (UPDATED 04.30)

by matttbastard

So when is an act of (attempted) terrorism on US soil not nationwide front page news? When the perpetrator (and target) doesn’t fit the accepted narrative:

A 27-year-old man has been arrested and taken into federal custody in connection with a makeshift bomb found this week at an Austin women’s clinic that performs abortions, authorities said Friday.

[...]

The bomb was found Wednesday in a bag in the parking lot of the Austin Women’s Health Center. After an employee found the suspicious package, a bomb squad detonated the device. It was found to contain an explosive powder and two pounds of nails, said David Carter, assistant chief of the Austin Police Department.

Zuzu responds with the post of the day:

Had that bomb been found outside a post office or a school, the headlines would have been hysterically running on about ZOMG TERRORISM TERRORISM IS AL QAEDA INVOLVED? And the right-wing warbloggers would be pissing their pants and hyperventilating about profiling Arabs and banning Muslims from public life and dhimmitude and how if they had been there, they’d have stopped it with their concealed carry and their extra-super special powers of righteousness, just like they saw in a movie once and BOMB IRAN! and 9/11 CHANGED EVERYTHING!!! but they still have better things to do than join the military, but they’ll be happy to go into the woods and hunt Russians and shout WOLVERINES!!

But it’s an abortion clinic, so. Ho-hum.

For some reason, terrorism doesn’t count if it’s directed against women and their health care providers. It’s just not news, and the fact that it goes unremarked in the national media — and hell, even in the local media, as in the case of the Austin bomb — contributes to the idea that women are not important and that violence directed at women is not only to be expected, but to be dismissed.

As Zuzu outlines, it’s not terrorism if there are no Muslims involved, as this story from Alabama further illustrates:

Raids that resulted in the arrests of six alleged militia members and the seizure of hundreds of hand grenades and bullets were “much ado about nothing,” a defense lawyer said Friday.

A cache of ammunition that was confiscated – 2,500 rounds – wasn’t that large, and the scores of homemade hand grenades that agents seized could be made with powder from fireworks and components readily available in military surplus stores, attorney Scott Boudreaux said.

Even prosecutors say the ragtag group called the Alabama Free Militia had no intended target and was simply stockpiling munitions, said Boudreaux, who plans to meet this weekend with his client, Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46, of Collinsville, a supposed major in the paramilitary group.

Despite the relative indifference of the media and politicians, an SPLC report shows that in the ten years following after Oklahoma City bombing US law enforcement officials uncovered nearly 60 domestic terror plots involving members of the extreme right-wing. The Austin [American-]Statesman notes that in the first three months of 2007 there had been 32 reported incidents of “violence or disruption” directed towards abortion providers, according to National Abortion Federation figures. The Alabama militia group was caught with “130 hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to be fired from a rifle, a machine gun, a short-barrel shotgun, 2,500 rounds of ammunition, explosives components, stolen fireworks and other items“, as per AP.

Imagine the response from the LGF set if those arrested were swarthy brown Allah-worshippers, instead of lily-white Christians who fear teh black helicopters and love the unborn more than living, breathing women. Oh, wait, we don’t have to imagine (keep in mind, no weapons or bomb making materials were found in the so-called ‘Miami Seven’ arrests). If this ‘militia’ consisted of non-bubbas, or the anti-choice extremist who attempted to blow up the Austin women’s clinic were Muslim, the right-wing noise machine would have instantly whirred into an overdriven frenzy like it always does when there’s an Islam angle.

IEDs and armed insurgents on American soil; yep, nothing to see here. Hey, look – LAST SEPTEMBER we caught an al-Qaida higher-up! ZOMGWTFBBQUSA!!!1

Related: David Neiwert has more on US society’s cognitive dissonance when responding to domestic and ‘foreign’ (read: Islamic) terror.

Update 04.29: Many thanks to Cernig @ The Newshoggers for the acknowledgment. At least Stratfor is taking the attempted clinic bombing in Austin seriously:

Anti-abortion activists almost always have deeply held convictions based on their religious beliefs. A study of past anti-abortion attacks shows that once activists decide to commit acts of violence based on these convictions, they will not be easily dissuaded. Rather than be discouraged by a failed attempt like the incident in Austin, they often learn from their mistakes and adjust their tactics accordingly. Therefore, the group or individual responsible for placing the IED at the clinic is likely to strike again. [note: report was drafted prior to the arrest of Paul Ross Evans]

Dave Neiwert offers his expert analysis on both Austin and Alabama here.

Update 2: via OCSteve in ObWi comments – UPI:

Paul Ross Evans has no known ties to anti-abortion or extremist groups, The Austin American-Statesman said. Vicki Saporta, president of the American Abortion Federation, said the group is going through its records to see if he has ever been in the Austin clinic or made threats against clinics in the past.

News 8 Austin reports that Evans’ MySpace page “suggests he’s into tattoos, dislikes sports and doesn’t watch television.

Update 04.30: Today’s Austin American-Statesman contains this piece on the reaction Evans’ attempted act of terrorism has garnered in his sleepy, idyllic hometown. Lufkin Police Sgt Stephen Abbott says of the deeply Christian Texas community “[doesn't] really have extremist groups”, referring to Lufkin as “the heart of the Bible belt.”

Perhaps not, but the antipathy of local residents towards abortion is apparent throughout the article, most notably when the town’s own brush with clinic violence is recounted:

In 2004, a 20-year-old junior college student council president was sentenced to probation for firing a high-powered rifle into the Planned Parenthood clinic, an incident that damaged the building but didn’t injure anyone.

Quote of the Day: Buying and Selling

by matttbastard

Glenn Greenwald:

The fraud that was manufactured by our government officials and endorsed by our media establishment is one of the great political crimes of the last many decades. Yet those who are responsible for it have not been held accountable in the slightest. Quite the contrary, their media prominence — as Moyers demonstrates — has only increased, as culpable propagandists and warmongers such as Charles Krauthammer (now of Time and The Washington Post), Bill Kristol (now of Time), Jonah Goldberg (now of The Los Angeles Times, Peter Beinert (now of Time and The Washington Post), and Tom Friedman (revered by media stars everywhere) have all seen their profiles enhanced greatly in our national media.

And while Judy Miller became the scapegoat for the media’s failures, most of the media stars responsible for the worst journalistic abuses — from Michael Gordon to Tim Russert to Fred Hiatt to most of The Washington Post, to say nothing of the Fox stars and cogs of the right-wing noise machine — continue merrily along as before, with virtually no recognition of fault and no reduction in their platforms.

Related: Bill Moyers: Buying the War; Mark Knoller: projecting denial (also via Greenwald). More post-Moyers fallout: Jon Schwarz calls out Oprah; Digby targets Tim Russert and American political journalism as a whole, calling it “an elaborate kabuki dance.”

Defiance

by matttbastard

Good news:

Mexico City’s legislative assembly has voted to legalise abortion in the city, the capital of the world’s second-largest Roman Catholic country.

Lawmakers voted 46 to 19 in favour of the bill that will permit abortions of pregnancies in the first 12 weeks.

Mexico City previously allowed abortion only in cases of rape, if the woman’s life was at risk or if there were signs of severe defects in the foetus.

[...]

There are an estimated 200,000 illegal abortions in Mexico each year.

Of women who opt for illegal procedures, at least 1,500 women die during botched operations performed in unhygienic backstreet clinics.

Many victims of rape are denied access to legal abortion, a Human Rights Watch report said last year. [available here - mb]

This very welcome victory for reproductive freedom did not come about without struggle, nor is the fight over. Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to Bishops in the mostly-Catholic nation prior to the vote, imploring Mexicans to oppose the legalization of abortion in Mexico City, according to the BBC. And, as Reuters reports, the pontiff’s call was heeded by some:

Riot police kept rival groups of rowdy demonstrators apart outside the city’s assembly building. Weeping anti-abortion protesters played tape recordings of babies crying and carried tiny white coffins.

[...]

Church leaders threatened to excommunicate leftist deputies, mostly from the Party of the Democratic Revolution, who voted in favor of lifting the abortion ban, which will remain in force in the rest of the country.

Prior to today’s vote, the only other countries in Latin America sanctioning abortion-on-demand to women were Cuba and Guyana. Advocates for abortion in the region still face stiff resistance from religious and political elites under sway of a powerful religious lobby (though the past several years have brought incremental shifts). But preventing a legal avenue for women to procure a vital medical procedure doesn’t eliminate the practice.

Marianne Mollmann of Human Rights Watch wrote an op-ed last May for the LA Times detailing her experiences in Latin American countries where the reproductive rights of women are severely restricted, forcing many to put themselves at risk of both legal and lethal consequences:

“What do I care if abortion is legal or illegal?” Marcela E. told me in 2004 in Argentina, where abortion generally is banned. “If I have to do it, I have to do it.” The 32-year-old mother of three had a clandestine abortion after her husband raped her.

A community organizer in Argentina told me: “You will not believe what women end up putting in their uteruses to abort.” I wish I didn’t.

I have spoken to women who used knives, knitting needles, rubber tubes, even pieces of wood to pry open their uteruses. Some got access to abortive medicines that in theory lower the possibility of direct infection but that caused serious complications when they took them without medical assistance. Affluent women suffered fewer traumatic ordeals, often traveling to the U.S. for the procedure or sneaking off to upscale private Latin America clinics where, on paper, they had surgery for appendicitis.

[...]

…[V]ery few, if any, women get such “non-punishable” abortions because there are no clear procedures. Fearing that they’d be charged with a crime, many of the women I interviewed who might have qualified for a legal abortion because they had been raped or because their health was endangered by the pregnancy did not dare to out themselves as potential abortion candidates. They went straight for the illegal and mostly unsafe back-alley abortions. A large proportion of maternal mortality in Latin America is caused directly by the consequences of such unsafe abortions.

All this–the ongoing struggle, the callous disregard for the human rights of women, the consequences of denying access to safe, legal abortion–should be kept in mind as the US continues to pick the bones of Roe v. Wade.

Bearish Opportunism

by matttbastard

yeltsin-tank.gif

A toast to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who passed on earlier today. Can’t count myself as an admirer, alas; ‘Chechnya‘ was the word I most associated with ‘Yeltsin’ for quite some time. (At least 35,000 civilians killed in the first war; another 500,000 displaced. Heck of a job, Borya.)

Others with far more clout (and personal experience with Yeltsin) than me have already begun to scrutinize his decidedly mixed legacy:

  • Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev: We were able to do a lot, but we had serious differences – very big differences that the forces against perestroika and changes took advantage of.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin: He was a direct and brave national leader and in this, his positions were always open and honest to the very limit. … And all misfortunes and all sorrows, the difficulties and the problems of the people, he invariably took to heart.’
  • Former President Bill Clinton:I was struck by two things: his devotion to his country and its people, and his willingness to look at the facts and make a tough decision he thought was in Russia’s long term interest. Fate gave him a tough time in which to govern, but history will be kind to him because he was courageous and steadfast on the big issues – peace, freedom, and progress.
  • President George W. Bush: President Yeltsin was a historic figure who served his country during a period of momentous change. He played a key role as the Soviet Union dissolved, helped lay the foundations of freedom in Russia and became the first democratically elected leader in that country’s history.
  • Zargan Bugaeva, 36, of Grozny, Chechnya, whose husband and mother died in Russia’s war against Chechen separatists: You never should say anything bad about the dead, but Yeltsin left behind nothing good. … For me, Yeltsin was a criminal who was never punished for his crimes.

IMO, the most fitting (if not bitter) eulogies (apart from the mute despair of Zargan Bugaeva) come from Sergei Boguslavsky and Vladimir Melnikov, two Muscovites who each represent opposite poles of the social strata:

[Sergei:] …I don’t recall anything heroic about him, because there has never been any heroism. Not even when he climbed that tank in Moscow in August 1991 to thwart the hard-liners’ putsch. There has been an enormous and stunning political intuition and cunning. He always felt how things would turn out — and that was why he was always capable of turning the situation his way.

[...]

[Vladimir:] “There wasn’t anything heroic about him fighting Gorbachev either — in fact, he continued what Gorbachev started. Gorbachev ruined the Soviet Union. Yeltsin ruined Russia. He led to having this country robbed and pilfered. He hasn’t done anything good to us. All he has done has been negative. The new rich have benefited under him. But he has done nothing for the ordinary people.”

If Only Someone Had Told Him He Looked Pretty

by matttbastard

No surprise here – Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich both blame teh evul lib’ruls for the VA Tech massacre. Small wonder, since both right-wing icons have made respectable careers out of reflexively blaming liberals for pretty much everything since the Fall. But no, the truth is it’s all the feminists’ fault.

According to Sarah Baxter of the Murdoch Times, an emasculated American culture has bred a generation of psychopathic misfits not pretty enough to be Breck Girls. For those who don’t like to click links (for shame!), Baxter’s article heavily relies on the soundbite wisdom of Camille Paglia (and noted sociologist Francis Fukuyama [?!]) to conclude that the ‘heavily manicured’ world of VA Tech is emblematic of an overly ‘feminized’, politically correct society that fails to recognize, as Paglia puts it, “the mix of male sexual aggression with egotism and the ecstasy of self-immolation”*:

Paglia believes the school Cho attended would have been no better equipped to deal with frustrated young males. “There is nothing happening educationally in these boring prisons that are fondly called suburban high schools. They are saturated with a false humanitarianism, which is especially damaging for boys.

“Young men have enormous energy. There was a time when they could run away, hop on a freighter, go to a factory and earn money, do something with their hands. Now there is this snobbery of the upper-middle-class professional. Everyone has to be a lawyer or paper pusher.”

Cho is a classic example of “someone who felt he was a loser in the cruel social rat race”, Paglia says. The pervasive hook-up culture at college, where girls are prepared to sleep with boys they barely know or fancy, can be a source of seething resentment and alienation for those who are left out.

“Young women now seem to want to behave like men and have sex without commitment. The signals they are giving are very confusing, and rage and humiliation build up in boys who are spurned again and again.”

The sex, Paglia argues, “is everywhere but it is not erotic”, as can be seen by the sad spectacle of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears flashing their lack of underwear during a night on the town. “It’s not even titillating. It’s banal and debasing.”

Perhaps Paglia is right – I mean, if any one is acquainted with banal debasement and egotism run amok it’s her. Maybe if Cho had done less sissy writin’ and more manly wood-choppin’ he wouldn’t have been so violently frustrated by sexually (passive) aggressive co-ed succubi cruelly emulating the knicker-free exploits of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan (without allowing Cho to join in on the GGW-esque festivities – cockteases!) So put down that pen and pick up an axe, Junior – lest ye become feminism’s next martyr.

PS: Have yet to confirm how much Cho paid for his haircut.

Update: Brad @ Sadly, No! provides the ‘duh!’ response:

Cho’s actions were not the symbolic deeds of a young man being forced to live under the tyranny of a “feminized” culture. They were the actions of one highly disturbed individual who didn’t get the psychiatric treatment he needed, who managed to get his hands on a pair of semi-automatic weapons, and who then went out and killed people. That’s it. There is no Greater Lesson to be learned from the whole horrible incident. Stop trying to project your own feelings about gender politics onto this tragedy.

*Does Paglia keep a Rolodex full of this tripe handy for quick reference during interviews? Kee-hrist.