Daily Archives: March 9, 2007

Only 13% of Congressional Republicans believe that human activity causes global warming

compared with 79% of the American public. h/t ThinkProgress.

Either Congressional Republicans are fools, or they have been bought off by the oil industry, or they are being blackmailed. Take your pick.


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Countdown to US attack on Iran: x minus 22 days: a lull in the rhetoric after the stock market tanks

It is notable that the war rhetoric has calmed in the past week, but there is no mistaking the cause for that: the stock market falling over 400 points in a single day, with the cause relating to a sell off in the Chinese market. The US economy and stock market have their own problems, as well, related to mortgage defaults and other factors. But clearly the Chinese have a major stake in obtaining hydrocarbon fuels from Iran, and any threat to that supply would undercut the valuation of speculative Chinese stocks.

China has signed several oil contracts with Iran, and currently Sinopec, the Chinese oil company, is negotiating a $16 billion contract to develop Iran’s giant Yadavaran oilfield. Furthermore, China is ranked Iran’s second exporter and importer.


The resulting crash can have worldwide echos. Even without this kind of situation:

According to the estimates of economic experts, the Iraq war drained off one trillion dollars from the U.S. stock market before the first shot was fired.

Bush and his major supporters certainly have no fear of high oil prices per se. In fact, the case has been made many times that both Bush and Cheney stand to profit from high oil prices, as do their friends and associates and families.

But a stock market crash and the threat of a global economic crisis is too much, I think, even for Bush; in fact, it may be the only thing that might stop him. I know of nothing the Congress could do that would have nearly the deterrent effect of a major depression.

Whatever Bush’s plans might be, he will not be doing any more saber rattling for a few days or a few weeks. Nonetheless, Scott Ritter, this week, continues to believe the die is pretty well cast:

“He says all options are on the table, but the president has already made up his mind,” insisted Ritter, who resigned from his post after carrying out more than 40 inspections in Iraq and concluding that the country did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

In the “for what it’s worth category:”
Bush had dinner with Karl Rove Monday night, and Rove said quoted later , as reported in the Washington Post:

..the biggest Bush legacy will be what he terms the “Bush doctrine.” It “says if you train a terrorist, harbor a terrorist, feed a terrorist, you will be treated like a terrorist yourself. And then the corollary of that, which is that we will not wait until dangers fully materialize before taking action.”

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Filed under Countdown to attack on Iran, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?

Keith Gessen:epistemology and the war on terror

Gessen, Keith. Torture and the Known Unknowns. n+1; Winter, 2007 (no. 5); pp. 118-134.

In the current issue of n+1, Keith Gessen goes from a to b to c on America’s, and particularly the Bush administration’s, ways of knowing about terrorists. For me, however, Gessen’s intellect outpaces his segues. That is to say, I found his writing a bit hard to follow. I think the subject is important, so I thought I would take a crack at making his piece a little more accessible.

In the first place, Gessen punctures the oft-repeated excuse for failure to prevent 9/11: not enough “intelligence” (I will try to confine my use of this term to its “spy” meaning, rather than its “brain” connotation). In fact, Gessen argues, we had too much intelligence, we just didn’t know what it meant, and that relates to the human component of intelligence, rather than simply not having enough wiretaps in place.

At the beginning of the war on terror, some intellectuals argued that the events should become a catalyst for a national ideological mobilization–” the fight for democracy.” Instead the war, which began with a failure of intelligence, immediately turned into an enomrous mision for the gathering of knowledge.

Gessen diverts into the almost comedic contrast between Cheney and Rumsfeld, two of the most powerful forces in the Bush administration after 9/11, in their ideas of what “to know” means: Cheney, according to a recent book, viewed a 1% certainty as an actionable “truth,” while Rumsfeld, at least in his public statements, seemingly ignored overwhelming evidence of, for example, the need for a different approach in Iraq.

Gessen makes a few comments on ways of knowing the minds of terrorists: fictional treatments of 9/11, as well as on non-fictional treatments: the second by second transcripts of the terrorists own statements as recorded during the hijacking of the planes, and more academic treatments of Middle eastern culture.

But the central focus of Gessen’s piece is the (supposed) acquisition of knowledge through interrogation and torture. He illustrates his points with two examples: Khalid Shaik Mohammed and Jose Padilla.

While I may butcher Gessen’s presentation here, his point is basically that we know little or nothing more about terrorism from the torture of these two men: in the first place, information obtained by torture is usually just more “noise” without much value, whether they are actual terrorists like KSM, or deranged and largely ignorant Americans like Jose Padilla. Regardless, the Bush administration uses torture, and does not apologize for it. For knowledge is not their goal.

The value, and the object, of torture, for the current administration, Gessen argues, is not for the acquisition of knowledge; it is as an instrument of terror, a reprisal tactic, a way of notifying the other side that we will play the same game as the “terrorists.” Knowledge, (and in the case of Jose Padilla, his mind) is something which can be forcibly taken from detainees, and is an act of terrorism analogous to the beheading of Daniel Pearl.

The issue contains several other very interesting articles (the theme is decivilizing processes) which recommend the purchase price of ten bucks at your upscale book dealer. One is PAPA 2, by Basharat Peer, an account of growing up in the environment of militants and torture in Kashmir.

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Filed under books, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, Middle East