spacebawl (the blog)

We thought about it. Now you have to read it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Better Late Than Never

Mbeki's government calls on Mugabe to release election results.

And I'm sure that the nationalists who got in such a huff over Mugabe's brutal land reform are following all this closely. After all, otherwise it would suggest that they only care about brutality when it's being done to whites.

That aside, I'm glad Mbeki got with the program. I just wonder why the hell it took him so long to call on the tyrant Mugabe to, you know, let the election continue.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Red China

They really are just like us!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

NO on Amendment 2!

So another zOMG!!11!teh gayz r evul1!!111! amendment will be on Florida's ballot in the fall. It sure would be nice if these loons put as much effort into supporting some of Florida's less important issues, like the shitty education system, crime, destruction of the environment, beach erosion, traffic, lack of funding for basic services, and so on. But if we defeat TEH GAYZ then all those other problems will magically resolve, I guess.

Personally, I think all marriage should be outlawed, because it's stupid. But I respect the right of other people to fuck up their lives if they want, as long as they leave me out of it. Heh.

Please support the SayNo2 campaign if you can, and tell every Floridian you know to vote NO on Amendment 2.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

FL-24: Clint Curtis' Statement on Proposed NASA Launch Site and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

[I'm posting this statement on behalf of Clint Curtis, Democratic candidate for the FL-24 district. The photos in this diary were taken by me on a kayaking excursion to Merritt Island last summer.]

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, one of my core issues is the preservation and empowerment of NASA, which I believe is not only healthy for Florida but the nation and the world. NASA represents everything that's great about the US - the spirit of discovery, the can-do, against-all-odds spirit that put us on the moon and beyond. But I am also concerned with protecting and preserving the incredible beauty of the great state of Florida.

Cormorant drying its wings

I recently attended the NASA public hearings concerning the new Commercial Vertical Launch Complex proposal for Kennedy Space Center (KSC.) First and foremost, I want to point out that NASA is not the enemy here. NASA should be commended for its efforts to gain public input and also for its long record of working with community leaders and environmental interests over the years. That relationship has made Florida’s Space Coast what it is today: a truly beautiful place to live and one that adds greatly to our quality of life.

Great Blue Heron

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore (Playalinda Beach) not only provide a significant source of revenue to the community with their ability to attract tourists, they are both premier natural preserves with unparalleled natural beauty. The Wildlife Refuge should not be placed in the debatable plan for apportioned commercial development but should remain intact in its natural state for the enjoyment of successive generations.

Porpoise cutting the surface

Many at the public hearings were community leaders, business owners, and environmentalists who voiced opposition to the site #2 proposal and I want to echo that sentiment. Possible alternatives for the site #2 proposal might be converting abandoned Air Force launch sites or the refurbishing of unused launch sites at KSC. It just makes better sense to use existing facilities and infrastructure, such as roads and rail access, as well as the consideration of costs for this proposed project.

The resolution process for this complex issue should be one where all parties - governmental, environmental, and private - are involved in a collaborative effort to find a solution that fits the needs of all. The resolution of this issue is far too important to those involved to be handled in a routine, arbitrary political manner. With the possible loss of nearly 3,000 jobs due to the shuttle conversion, timing of this proposed project and its outcome is extremely important.

Great White Herons, looking for snacks

I would also like to point out that this is an issue which, I feel, demands the involvement of our elected congressional leaders. I did not see either Congressmen Dave Weldon or Tom Feeney, nor any of their staffers, at this meeting. One should ask them why they were not there. How can this issue not be important enough to merit their time?

Once I am elected to the House of Representatives, I will make issues of this nature a priority to ensure that these decisions are made with the interest of Florida’s Space Coast in mind, not just those in Washington DC.

Clint Curtis

Clint Curtis for Congress
Clint's blog
Clint's ActBlue page
FL-24 2008 Race Tracker Wiki

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FL-24 candidate Clint Curtis endorses Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq

Last week, a full-bore effort commenced in the Florida blogosphere to introduce Democratic politicians and candidates to the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. This comprehensive plan was spearheaded by Darcy Burner, Democratic candidate for Washington State's 8th District, and has gained national praise and attention, as well as a large number of additional endorsees.

I'm very pleased to announce that Clint Curtis, Democratic candidate for FL-24, is the first in the district to add his name as an endorsee. Even better, he did it before the Florida bloggers began their campaign! I've known Clint since 2006 when he first challenged Tom Feeney for the FL-24 seat and have supported him ever since. In addition, I've done a little bit of volunteer work for his campaign, primarily writing and commenting about him on blogs and telling everyone I meet why I think he's the best candidate for this seat. A few weeks ago, I emailed Clint about the Responsible Plan and asked him to carefully review it and consider an endorsement. He responded only a few days later to express his support.

Clint is extremely busy with fundraising, attending meetings of local Democratic clubs (including mine, the Five Cities Democratic Club), attending hearings on issues of great importance to the district (such as NASA's proposed new launch pad), and numerous other campaign-related activities. Yet, he's always been extremely quick to respond to my questions and suggestions. He's very much the type of person I'd want to represent me and all the residents of FL-24.

Kudos to Clint for his smart decision! If you are able, please consider a contribution to his campaign.

Clint Curtis for Congress
Clint's blog
Clint's ActBlue page
FL-24 Race Tracker Wiki

This post approved by ClintP, unofficial campaign mascot.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

On the Wisdom of Death Squads

In light of our failure in Iraq, many have come to question whether war as traditionally waged can be used to combat terror.

For the first few years of our presence, and particularly after it became clear that the war was not an accident but a matter of deliberately-applied military theory, the main question asked was one of "Did we send enough troops?" Surely our presence was disputed, and we needed a force large enough to suppress the country, so that stability could result and our will could be exercised. To this day, that question stays in my mind, and I say that as someone who rejected the strategy from the beginning.

Rumsfeld's war was supposed to be nimble and swift. As conquest shifted to occupation, however, it turned out to be nothing of the sort. Iraq became a leghold trap.

Naturally, another question emerged as the war dragged on. Perhaps Rumsfeld's error had not been recklessness, but clumsiness. Perhaps it wasn't a matter of not sending enough troops, but of sending too many. This thought found good company with another popular sentiment, expressed in both Iraq Wars: "Why the fuck didn't we just shoot the bastard?" Referring, of course, to Saddam Hussein.

And this thought intensified as every reason for a troop presence vanished. As the search for weapons of mass destruction shifted from a solemn goal to a bitter joke, most were forced to ask why the hell we were there at all. Conservative and liberal politicians alike attested to our responsibility to rebuild what we had shattered. This self-serving sanctimony couldn't last long in a rational mind; as word came back of our money wasted on crony contracts and useless mercenaries, of government infiltration amidst the intensifying civil war, of this or that cultural landmark destroyed by American negligence or Iraqi madness still unchecked, public faith in America's ability to fix anything in Iraq plummeted. It was very well to talk about World War Two or the building of the Panama Canal or of putting a man on the moon. The patriotic truism that America could do anything it put its mind to clashed very severely with the truth of what we actually were doing, and paying billions of dollars to do.

The pragmatic military justification of going to war had collapsed. The humanitarian justification for staying at war looked increasingly bankrupt. One reason remained, and in fact was the only strengthened by the continuation of our occupation: the fighting of terror. Even critics of the war agreed (and in fact were the first to argue) that Iraq had become a training ground for terrorists.

The new question became "How many people exactly do you need to hunt and kill terrorists?" The answer tends to be "Not many," and variations on this sentiment abound: from those who say Saddam's assassination would have done the trick; to split-the-difference Democrats who argue, like Joe Biden, for a reduction in troop levels but a continuing troop presence; and then there is the suggestion of special operations, of units pejoratively described as "death squads."

And let us be fair: I do not speak as a stranger to such opinions. I firmly believe that murder is an act preferable to war, and if one man may be murdered in cold blood to stop the deaths of thousands or even hundreds (even as those deaths may be, individually, more justified than the one executed in calculation), I would find it hard to argue against such an act. The tradition of cutting through thousands of men to get to one king and a handful of his closest advisers is something I find loathsome and, considering modern technology, increasingly unnecessary, no more practical than burying a Viking chieftain with his comeliest concubine, ritually strangled to mark the occasion, or throwing a wife on her deceased husband's funeral pyre. War is an exercise where 5% of the deaths may be necessary, or desirable, and 95% is decoration, prelude, or in the case of the War on Terror, distraction.

So why shouldn't we send in the assassination squads? Why are we holding back? This appears an instance where death-dealing prowess, calculated precision, and human compassion intersect.

Well, as I was digging around on the subject, I discovered that the funny thing is that we already have:

The close and largely clandestine relationship with Ethiopia also included significant sharing of intelligence on the Islamic militants' positions and information from American spy satellites with the Ethiopian military. Members of a secret American Special Operations unit, Task Force 88, were deployed in Ethiopia and Kenya, and ventured into Somalia, the officials said.

Task Force 88 was described in a little more depth in this uncritical article from Esquire:

Soon after, U.S. special operators flying out of Manda Bay were landing in southernmost Somalia, searching for survivors among the foreign fighters and Al Qaeda operatives just targeted in a furious bombardment by a U.S. gunship launched from a secret airstrip in eastern Ethiopia.

The 88's job was simple: Kill anyone still alive and leave no unidentified bodies behind....

In fact, Centcom was very eager for the operation. Most press leaks made it sound like our main targets were a trio of Al Qaeda senior operatives responsible for bombing American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania a decade ago. But the real story is one of pure opportunism, according to a knowledgeable source within the headquarters: "There were three thousand foreign fighters in there. Honestly, nobody had any idea just how many there really were. But we wanted to get them all."

When the invading Ethiopians quickly enjoyed unexpected success, Centcom's plan became elegantly simple: Let the blitzkrieging Ethiopian army drive the CIC, along with its foreign fighters and Al Qaeda operatives, south out of Mogadishu and toward the Kenyan border, where Kenyan troops would help trap them on the coast. "We begged the Kenyans to get to the border as fast as possible," the Centcom source says, "because the targets were so confused, they were running around like chickens with their heads cut off."

Once boxed in by the sea and the Kenyans, the killing zone was set and America's first AC-130 gunship went wheels-up on January 7 from that secret Ethiopian airstrip. After each strike, anybody left alive was to be wiped out by successive waves of Ethiopian commandos and Task Force 88, operating out of Manda Bay. The plan was to rinse and repeat "until no more bad guys," as one officer put it.

I say "uncritical" because the rest of the article makes clear that, in the author's opinion, secrecy wasn't the problem. The author even admits Ethiopia's authoritarianism, but doesn't see that as relevant to the story. No, the problem was that the truth got published in the New York Times (which strikes me as a delightful miracle). For a measure of his bizarre optimism, marvel, as I did, at what secret knowledge might permit the writer to judge for the reader: "It was a good plan."

Well, how good? How precise was the military strike? Not very. The Kenyan border, used as a net by the herding operation, was also gathering refugees.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Kenya is defending its action in turning back Somali refugees trying to enter the country to escape violence in their homeland....

The newspaper quoted the UNHCR's acting country representative, Eddy Gedalos, as saying U.N. officials were being denied access to refugees.

"We at the U.N. are genuinely concerned the fate of women and children turned away by Kenyan authorities, as it is likely to worsen the humanitarian situation in the war-torn country. There is no reason why genuine asylum seekers should not be allowed into the country."

In the end, no accusations can be cast because we still don't know what they did. What we do know is alone staggering: that our government plotted with an authoritarian regime to wage war in a country without telling the American people it was doing so. And that it carried out missions intended to exterminate thousands of people in the midst of a humanitarian crisis (caused by our surgical strikes and precise, efficient task forces) in which hundreds of thousands were put to flight.

And for believers in the death squad, which theoretically holds promise but in reality offers no alternative, guided as it is by the same strategic blindness that blunders elsewhere in the world, perhaps hope will survive. After all, if we don't know about its use, we can't be aware of its failures, and that means that there's always a chance for success. But I would say that we should really look at Somalia. That was the Pentagon's chance for Iraq done right, and I'll be damned if it doesn't look a hell of a lot like Iraq. Maybe it's not a matter of how we do things, but what we do, and why, and how we think about ourselves, and the world.

Sadly, this is not new. When poor students of history end up leading us, they lead us through history's darkest episodes. We also used death squads and assassinations in Vietnam, but we've already decided that we didn't lose that one. Dolchstosslegende and all that. And just look at all the success we had in Iran after we took out Mossadegh, or Guatemala after the coup that replaced Jacobo Arbenz with a military dictatorship. As with most matters, we've been down these roads before.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More of the Same

On March 4, John McCain, just declared nominee for the Republican Party, stressed the need for leadership in Iraq, raising the specter of that most terrible crime:

The next President must explain how he or she intends to bring that war to the swiftest possible conclusion without exacerbating a sectarian conflict that could quickly descend into genocide...

Conservatives have been saying it for a while. Rick Perlstein addressed it last year.

This is important to address because there are many in moderate, liberal, and left camps who, no doubt troubled by the war, fear what could take place should we leave. What's important for these people to realize is that mass-murder is already taking place. The Iraq War has not been a problematic or incomplete solution. It has been the problem, attempting to fix what cannot be fixed by a foreign power: an internal power struggle.

The best way to address these solemn claims of what will follow is by asking what should follow, should we remain in Iraq. What, exactly, is McCain's plan for victory? Kill all the people who want their country back? If we kill all the participants in the civil war, who's going to be left in the country? As Perlstein explained regarding the case of Vietnam:

Finally, let us assume the premise of the conservatives' magical thinking: that we should have stayed and stayed and stayed, amidst the slaughter of yet more hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, by fellow Vietnamese and by us until our side eventually "won," leaving only then. If so, our Saigon allies would probably have likely been just as bloody-minded in their score-settling as the Communists. This was the bunch that, in 1960, reacted to the mere hint of an impending Communist insurgency by detaining 50,000 of their own citizens in their own re-education camps, the Pentagon Papers noting "the consensus of the opinion" of rural Vietnamese that "the majority of the detainees are neither Communists nor pro-Communist." This was the government whose vice president Nguyen Cao Ky—the power behind the throne, actually—said, "People ask me who my heroes are. I have only one—Hitler." Indeed, another anti-Communist Asian strongman, Indonesia's General Suharto, enacted a genuine genocide, one to make the Vietnamese Communists look like pikers. "In terms of the numbers killed," as the CIA described it, "massacres in Indonesia rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century."

And, as has been extensively documented, ethnic cleansing is underway. My God, there are some 4 million internal and external Iraqi refugees in the world. Yes, by all means, let's keep up the American violence. Better the atrocity you know, I suppose.