Monday, May 23, 2005

Never Mess With a Highlander



"Now we are forced to do something that
societies often do when people can't control
their desires. We have to pass laws to stop
their desires."

-- Senator Rick Santorum


At first seemed like there was not much going on this

Then all hell broke loose.

For one thing, one of the lamest members of Congress,
Norm Coleman, has been trying to make himself famous,
or at least popular among the right-wing nuts, by
investigating the so-called Oil For Food scandal.

This is gives the Right Wing a chance to bash the U.N.
AND serve up another justification for the war.

It’s all nonsense, of course, if for no other reason
than American, and especially Texas, firms were deep
into the Oil For Food payoffs.

But Norm, trust me, is a real dimwit, and put out a
paper directly accusing, apparently without evidence,
a British Member of Parliament of receiving kickbacks
from Saddam Hussein.

The guy was George Galloway, and he wasn’t in
Parliament when the report came out. Coleman may have
felt he was on safe ground, since, even among
liberals, in Britain, Galloway is regarded as
ultra-left nut.

Since, in the U.S. these days, being a member of the
wrong Protestant denomination can get you tagged as a
Communist, lord knows what they make of guy like
George Galloway.

Not to digress, but Galloway’s story is interesting.
He was a prominent member of Parliament, but was
kicked out of the Labor (or is Labour?) party for
opposing the Iraq war, strongly supported by Tony
("New" Labour!) Blair.

In elections held a few weeks ago, he ran for
Parliament again. This time under a fourth party,
called the “Respect” party, of which he is apparently
the only member.

And he ran in a district where he has never lived, 400
miles away from his home. He ran against a powerful
Member of Parliament, a popular friend of Tony Blair.

And therein lies another story.


In the 1950’s in Georgia, a man named Preston King was
granted a deferment from the draft while he earned a
Ph.D., which was common then (there was no war).

Until the draft board found out he was black.

They then attempted to draft him, and harassed him and
his family, and finally sentenced him to prison. With
a conviction and lengthy sentence hanging over his
head, he left for England, never to return, where he
had a distinguished career in academia, teaching at
the University of Lancaster.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton gave him a full
pardon, so he could attend his brother’s funeral, and
later honored Preston King at the White House, with
the 97 year old federal judge who had originally
sentenced him, and petitioned for his pardon, honoring
him as well.

Back in in England, Preston had a married a Jewish
Englishwoman, and they had a daughter, Oona, in 1967.

Oona was part white, part black, part Jewish, part
Christian, part American, and part English.

In 1997, Oona became the second black woman ever
elected to the British House of Parliament.

She became a darling of the Labour Party, one of the
“Blair Babes.”

She walked a fine line between supporting Blair and
criticizing the war, tough in her liberal district.

In May of 2005, George Galloway pulled of the most
stunning election result in years, defeating Oona King
in her own district, and become a party of one in

This one-man wrecking crew out-orated Oona, outfoxed
Tony Blair, and overwhelmed the entire British
political establishment.

Norm Coleman had no idea what he was in for.



Norm is from Minnesota. (Sort of.) He sits in the
ever respectful U.S. Senate.

And he lives in America, where liberals know their
place and politicians and the media never, ever, tell
the truth about anything.

He didn’t try to call George Galloway before the
Senate. He slimed, smeared and defamed him in a
Senate report for the benefit of the right-wing wackos
who read tripe like that while listening to Rush

But George, he likes the spotlight.

And Norm, he handed it to him on a silver,
Senate-plated platter. Galloway demanded to speak
before U.S. Senate. To confront Coleman personally.
To be on television. Before the whole world.

He came, he said, not as an accused, but to be an

He descended on Capitol Hill like a highland storm.
In a steady, deep, Scottish brogue, he spoke with the
wrath of a British schoolmaster lecturing impertinent
students. Like an infuriated Sean Connery, with a
touch of John Cleese. Hell hath no fury like a
Scotsman unjustly accused.

The BBC called it "one of the most flamboyant Senate
testimonies ever."

Another magazine called said:

“British MP George Galloway came to D.C.
after being named in the oil-for-food scandal
and delivered a historic ass-whipping.”

This is what he said:

(ALL CAPS used to emphasize a particularly vehement
display of Scottish temper – try to picture
Groundskeeper Willie wrestling a wolf…)

"Senator, I am not now, nor have I EVER been, an oil
trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have
NEVER SEEN a barrel of oil, OWNED one, BOUGHT one,
SOLD one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

"Now I know that standards have slipped in the last
few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are
remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am
here today but last week you already found me guilty.”

"You traduced my name around the world without ever
having asked me a single question, without ever having
contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned
me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And
you call that justice.”

"I want to deal with the pages that relate to me in
this dossier and I want to point out areas where there
are - let's be charitable and say errors. Then I want
to put this in the context where I believe it ought to
be. On the very first page of your document about me
you assert that I have had 'MANY MEETINGS' with Saddam
Hussein. This is false."

"I have had TWO meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in
1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the
English language can that be described as "many
meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein
has met him! The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him
to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to
target those guns!"

“I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions,
suffering and war, and on the second of the two
occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr
Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors
back into the country - a rather better use of two
meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary
of State for Defense made of his.”

"I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and
Americans governments and businessmen were selling him
GUNS and GAS. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi
embassy when British and American officials were going
in and doing commerce.”

"You will see from the official parliamentary record,
from 1990 onwards, voluminous evidence that I have a
rather BETTER record of opposition to Saddam Hussein
than you do and than any other member of the British
or American governments do.”

"Now you have NOTHING on me, Senator, except my name
on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been
drawn up after the installation of your puppet
government in Baghdad.”

“If you had any of the letters against me that you had
against Zhirinovsky, and even Pasqua, they would have
been up there in your slideshow for the members of
your committee today.”

"You have my name on lists provided to you by the
Duelfer inquiry, provided to him by the convicted BANK
ROBBER, and FRAUDSTER and CONMAN Ahmed Chalabi who
many people to their credit in your country now
realize played a decisive role in leading your country
into the DISASTER in Iraq.

"There were 270 names on that list originally. That's
somehow been filleted down to the names you chose to
deal with in this committee. Some of the names on that
committee included the former secretary to his
Holiness Pope John Paul II.”

“You quote Mr Dahar Yassein Ramadan. Well, you have
something on me, I've NEVER met Mr Dahar Yassein
Ramadan. Your sub-committee apparently has. But I do
know that he's YOUR prisoner, I believe he's in Abu
Ghraib prison. I believe he is facing war crimes
charges, punishable by DEATH."

"In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows
about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in
Bagram Airbase, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may
say, British citizens being held in those places, I'm
not sure how much credibility anyone would put on
anything you manage to get from a prisoner in those

"And if you had ANY evidence that I had EVER engaged
in any actual oil transaction, if you had any evidence
that anybody ever gave me any money, it would be
before the public.”

“And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you
would have produced them today.”

"Now, one of the most serious of the mistakes you have
made in this set of documents is, to be frank, such a
schoolboy howler as to make a fool of the efforts that
you have made. You state that The Daily Telegraph
article cited documents from 1992 and 1993 whilst you
are dealing with documents dating from 2001.

“Senator, there could possibly be no documents
relating to Oil-for-Food matters in 1992, 1993, for
the Oil-for-Food scheme DID NOT EXIST at that time.”

"But perhaps you were confusing the Daily Telegraph
action with the Christian Science Monitor. [But] These
documents were unmasked by the Christian Science
Monitor themselves as forgeries.”

"Now, the neo-con websites and newspapers in which
you're SUCH a HERO, senator, were all absolutely
cock-a-hoop at the publication of the Christian
Science Monitor documents, they were all absolutely
convinced of their authenticity. They were all
absolutely convinced that these documents showed me
receiving $10 million from the Saddam regime. AND THEY

The existence of forged documents implicating me in
commercial activities with the Iraqi regime is a
PROVEN FACT. It's a PROVEN FACT that these forged
documents existed and were being circulated amongst
right-wing newspapers in Baghdad and around the world
in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Iraqi



At this point, having finished defending himself,
Galloway decided to use his stage to demolish U.S.
policy, expose hypocrisy, reveal the lies, and attack
supporters of the war.

In Washington! A foreigner! Where does he get the

Must be all that haggis…..

(Read it, it’s good stuff….)

"Now, Senator, I gave my HEART and SOUL to oppose the
policy that YOU PROMOTED. I gave my political life's
BLOOD to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the
sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis,
most of them children, most of them DIED before they
even knew that they were Iraqis, but they DIED for no
other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the
misfortune to born at that time. I gave my HEART and
SOUL to stop YOU committing the DISASTER that you did
commit in invading Iraq.

“And I told the world that your case for WAR WAS A

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims
did NOT have weapons of mass destruction.”

“I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq
had NO connection to al-Qaeda.”

“I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq
had NO connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.”

“I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the
Iraqi people would RESIST a British and American
invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad
would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the
end of the beginning.”

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq -- I turned
out to be RIGHT and YOU turned out to be WRONG -- and
100,000 people paid with their LIVES; 1,600 of them
American soldiers sent to their deaths on a PACK OF
LIES; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled
forever on a PACK OF LIES."

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose
dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to
President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of
corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to ME and
the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in
the DISASTER that we are in today.

“Senator, this is the MOTHER OF ALL SMOKESCREENS.”

You are trying to divert attention from the CRIMES
that YOU supported, from the THEFT of billions of
dollars of Iraq's wealth!”

"Have a look at the REAL Oil-for-Food scandal. Have a
look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad,
the first 14 months when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth
went missing on YOUR watch. Have a look at Halliburton
and other American corporations that stole not only
Iraq's money, but the money of the American taxpayer!”

"Have a look at the oil that you didn't even meter,
that you were shipping out of the country and selling,
the proceeds of which went who knows where? Have a
look at the $800 million you gave to American military
commanders to hand out around the country without even
counting it or weighing it.”

"Have a look at the REAL scandal breaking in the
newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in
this committee. That the biggest sanctions busters
were not me or Russian politicians or French
politicians. The real sanctions busters were YOUR OWN
companies with the connivance of YOUR OWN Government!"

Game, Set, and Match.



The other really big story this is week is all the
outrage over that fact "Newsweek" apparently got a
story wrong, and so the spin goes, 17 people got
killed. The drummed up faux-outrage is a
demonstration of the power of the right-wing in our

"Newsweek" printed one line in the Periscope section
of the paper that said that as an interrogation tactic
in Guantanamo Bay, some soldiers had flushed pages of
the Koran down the toilet. Given was has been going
on there, I’d find it hard to believe is this DIDN’T

The story sparked some outrage among some Muslims, and
there some protests in Pakistan, which would have
happened anyway. (Osama may well be hidden in
Pakistan – it doesn’t take much.)

Newsweek’s source was a reliable military official,
and they ran the story by the Pentagon, which said
nothing. And they continued to say nothing even after
the riots, except to deny that the story had any role
in the violence, because they were afraid it was

Then the source backed off the part where he said the
Pentagon had produced an internal document regarding
this incident, and now Newsweek has retracted the

Suddenly the Right is very concerned about the “root
causes” of terrorist violence, and says Newsweek is
directly responsible for all the deaths that occurred.
Not the killers, just Newsweek. Funny how they are
not usually worried about what causes terrorism, just
now that is serves the President’s agenda.

The media has fallen for this completely.

The Newsweek retraction story was on Page 1 of the New
York Times, Page 1 of the LA Times, and Page 3 of the
Washington Post. That's pretty strong coverage for a
story about a newsmagazine retracting a small error in
a short piece from two weeks ago.

How did these same news organs respond three weeks ago
to a leaked British memo making it clear that
President Bush had already committed himself to war
with Iraq by the summer of 2002 and was actively
"fixing" intelligence and facts to support that

It eventually ran on Page 3 in the LA Times, Page 18
in the Post, and nowhere at all in the New York Times
aside from a buried Page 9 piece that treated it as
strictly a British election issue.

The White House, loving this story, is acting shocked,
SHOCKED! that anyone would dare suggest they might
mishandle the Koran.

“Our military goes out of their way to handle
the Koran with care and respect. There are
policies and practices that are in place. This
report was wrong. Newsweek, itself, stated that
it was wrong. And so now I think it's incumbent
and -- incumbent upon Newsweek to do their part
to help repair the damage.”

–– Scott McCellan

I am not going to write the ridiculousness of this
Administration and its supporters worrying about
“mistakes” causing “deaths.”

Or holding up signs saying “Newsweek Lied, People

Or obsessing on why we are to blame for people
engaging in violence.

Or, most absurdly of all, fretting that America’s
image around the world may be tarnished as a result of

Who are they kidding?

This is Twilight Zone time. Do they really expect us
to believe the Official American Policy Memo reads:

TO: Everybody

“You are allowed to beat, torture, use electric
shock, waterboarding, chain up prisoners with
dog collars, humiliate, starve, force prisoners to
wear the Israeli flag, force them eat pork, forbid
them to pray, threaten them with vicious dogs,
mock their religion, degrade, debase, kill
prisoners and have your grinning picture taken
with their dead bodies, but whatever you do,
don’t desecrate the Koran.”

The story could still turn out to be true, (believe it
or not, the White House has not actually denied it)
and that does point out a problem this Administration
has with revenge and scoring points. This move is
awfully tempting, but it’s not tactically smart.
Maybe the Bush White House has finally Jumped The

In every movie I’ve ever seen, the bad guy wins and
wins and wins, and then is defeated when he gets cocky
and thinks he can’t be beaten, goes for too much and
overreaches and slips and is defeated. It’s all about
hubris. So maybe it goes back to the Greeks.

As one blogger put it:

“Rove is daring every media organization
in the US to make prisoner abuse a Page 1
story again. What is he thinking? Stories of
Koran-abuse are coming - and the harder the
White House spins, the worse they'll look when
they arrive. For the life of me, I can't understand
why Rove didn't just let the story die. The media
had nearly convinced itself that prisoner abuse
stories don't matter, but Rove has just lit a flame
under journalists everywhere.”."

Another writes:

“By the time this is all over, I suspect the
Pentagon is going to be sorry it ever made a fuss over the
Newsweek item in the first place. Every reporter in
town is now going to start investigating this
stuff, and the results are not likely to be pretty. Stay
tuned for a fusillade of deeply researched stories
about allegations of religious desecration by
American troops starting in about a week.”

It’s probable that journalists will be a little more
wary about reporting abuse stories, but they will be
looking for verified reports of abuse, and now they
HAVE to ask about it, since the Administration has
taken a strict Holier Than Thou attitude.

This reminds of the time Gary Hart dared reporters to
follow him around to see if he really was having an
affair. We all know how that turned out.



Last week more than 30,000 people—including the Vice
President, the first lady, and a former first
lady—were evacuated from their offices or homes in
Washington, D.C., when a Cessna flew into the city,
but the President, who was biking in Maryland, was
never notified, even though the evacuation lasted more
than one hour, until it was all over with.

For watchers of the show, “24,” this will seem
familiar, but remember, the nervous guy in that show
is at least the VP – in this scenario, the blissful
bicyclist is the President.

Journalists also wondered about the small matter of
the president being commander in chief and the
capital, theoretically, coming under attack.

McClellan: “Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Reagan were here at the
White House and they were taken to a secure location”.

Q: “You can't say on the grounds or off the grounds?
All right. But you're saying that—but the Vice
President was actually evacuated—“

McClellan: That's right.“

Q: “—off the grounds?”

McClellan: “That's correct.”

Q: “Why the distinction, given the history of this?”

McClellan: “Well, the Secret Service has security
precaution protocols that are in place. And as I
mentioned at the beginning, those precautions were
followed. That's what they have in place. And it was
consistent with the protocols that were in place.“

As one blogger put it:

“In other words, if Bush is pedaling his bike,
don't bother the little feller. Let him play.
We'll put him before the cameras when we need him.
But for God's sake, protect Cheney. He's the one
who made all the decisions, such as they were,
on 9-11. As long as there's oil underneath other
countries, protect Cheney.”

“In the unlikely event that Bush isn't biking but
is reading—say, The Pet Goat—don't disturb
him then either. The grownups have everything
under control. Except for the billions of Muslims
angry at us.”


While Bush was traveling in Russia and Latvia the
other day, he decided to stop off to bash a half
century of American policy.

Look, I get it. Bush wants to be seen as this guy who
really, really believes in freedom, and unlike all the
wimps and pantywaists who were President before him,
he means it. (Except when he holds hand with
bloodthirsty dictators like the Saudi King. Or the
Dictator of Uzbekistan. Or Pakistan.)

And I understand that the people of Latvia are miffed
that they were occupied by the Soviets for many years,
and they want to someone to feel their pain, dammit.

And I get that damming Yalta speaks to a Birchian code
McCarthyites salivated for years ago.

But just far off the deep end do you have to be to
give this speech in a foreign country?

“The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust
tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop
Pact. Once again, when powerful governments
negotiated, the freedom of small nations was
somehow expendable. Yet this attempt to
sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left
a continent divided and unstable. The captivity of
millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be
remembered as one of the greatest wrongs
of history.”

In fairness, in context, sandwiched between
condemnations of Auschwitz and praise for the Cold
War, it reads more like pablum than a grotesque libel
of Roosevelt and Churchill.

Nevertheless, he said, he meant it, and it’s not just
wrong, it defames an entire generation – just so Bush
can strut and play the hero like he did on that
repositioned aircraft carrier.

Munich was an agreement to let Adolf Hitler possess

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, of August 1939, was an
agreement between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to
allow Hitler to invade Poland, (which he broke later)
and begin his campaign of genocide in earnest.

To compare them to Yalta is just, well, you use your
own word.

In any case, Yalta did not “give” Stalin Eastern
Europe – he was already there, having defeated the
Nazi army.

Bush would have us believe that if HE had been
President, HE would have immediately asked exhausted
GIs to defeat a Soviet Army far larger than ours, at a
time when were preparing an epic invasion of Japan.


This coming from a President, who can’t, or won’t,
secure the road from Baghdad to the Baghdad airport.

Bush needs to get off his high horse, stop the macho
posturing, get rid of the phoniness and the lying, and
do the job he was elected to do.


Looks like I’ve run out time, and I haven’t even
addressed the Nuclear Option, crazy judges, or Bush’s
falling popularity.

I leave with this semi-humorous piece….



Ah, the vaunted spellchecker! Where would we be
without it? And to think I wasted all that time
winning spelling prizes in school…

For some, though, spelling matters more than others.
Like the government.

This week the House of Representatives issued a report
that discussed nuclear tests conducted in Sudan from
1962 to 1970.

The Sudanese government must have more on the ball
that we think, because they read it (I mean, who reads
this stuff?) and freaked out.

I must admit, I too, was a bit surprised. I mean, Tom
Lehrer, from whom I used to get all of my political
news, never mentioned Sudan in his song about nuclear
proliferation, “Who’s Next?” (LP: “That Was The Year
That Was” 1968).

The Sudanese government took a break from committing
genocide in Dafur (and you thought WE weren’t paying
attention!) to call up Condi Rice and say, “Um, what
the hell are talking about? You think we can afford
nuclear weapons? And they we wouldn’t have used them
yet if we did have them?”

An investigation followed and ultimately some an
astute undersecretary (an intern, more likely) figured
out the source of the mess.

Turns out, the report was right. Nuclear tests were
conducted between 1962 and 1970 -- not in Sudan,
Africa -- but in Sedan, Nevada.



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