Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Flat-Earth Crusade

When they decided to make war on Iraq, the Bush gang at first called it a Crusade. They hastily renamed it but the notion survives.

On a panel show last week, a guy called in to say he’d read every word in the Koran, and couldn’t find a single bit of mercy in it. That proved to him that we had to fight till we converted all of Islam to our faith. He should have spent part of this time hunting for mercy in the Old Testament.

Islam adopted the Old, and the New Testament as well, as holy writ. It was far more tolerant than Europe to non-believers. In what we now call the dark and middle ages, Christians slaughtered one another, and Jews, en masse, and burned heretics at the stake, while scholars of the Caliphate were translating much of what now survives of the science, medicine and art of the golden age of Greece.

There is plenty of proof in our language: Arabic numbers and words like algebra and alcohol - though liquor is supposedly forbidden in Islam. Great minds have never taken literally the mumbo-jumbo of folk religion. Greeks put the planets in orbit and worked out the circumference of the earth thousands of years ago. And then the church cracked down.

Now, we’re turning backward. Our president applauds those who teach that every word in the Bible is literally true -- that the earth and all in it were made in six days -- and that textbooks have to say that evolution is only a theory. I don’t know how much of that, if any, he actually believes -- but clearly, we’re in for a lot of superstitious blather these next four years.

Footnote: That noble investigative reporter Gary Webb has taken his own life, a victim of savage persecution by the CIA and the major media for his exposure of links between crack cocaine and the CIA and the contras. Please do check out the splended eulogy by Alex Cockburn in the Nation. In passing, I remark that the Nation not long ago disavowed a Cockburn column, whereas it keeps its door open for Christopher Hitchens, a convert to Maggie Thatcher and Yankee imperialism. It is no surprise that the Times Book Review engaged Hitchens, and not Cockburn, to report on Leftwing writings, but how does one explain the Nation? (Its editors say they can’t explain the exclusion of my MY TIMES: A Memoir of Dissent from its roundup of writings about the Times. As Rumsfeld says, stuff happens.) See also my comments in my book and in EXTRA! and Counterpunch and WBAI and blog etc. To be continued ...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bernie’s Hideaway

It would have made a great final chapter to Bernard Kerik’s autobiography, just out. President Bush was about to swear him in as chief defender of homeland security. Instead, Bernie presented his excuses at a state dinner in the White House.

The president had been facing the need to fill that job for over a month, but he seems to have overlooked it in his daily chats with the Lord Jesus. It turned out that there some problems with Bernie’s resume.

Now, we bleeding hearts feel obliged to pass over his misbehavior as a youngster, because he had a dreadful childhood. But that happens to be just the kind of mitigating factor that Kerik and Giuliani would not tolerate in their pre-emptive war against crime in our Latino and African-American communities. Kerik got his first crack at them as a corrections officer -- if you’ll excuse the expression. The news clippings show him using inmates freely as personal help. There’s something about a valuable painting taken from Rikers Island. Then Giuliani named him police commissioner, chauffeur and bodyguard.

Eyebrows were raised when Kerik assigned half a dozen homicide detectives to search for some keys that his publisher had mislaid. It turned out that she had changed handbags and just forgot about it. She’s a rich widow who owns a big rightwing publishng house. She enjoyed working on Kerik’s book, with occasional foreplay in a hideaway the city maintained for the commissioner in Battery Park City -- until she came upon a note left behind by another woman, and there went the ballgame. Pity: We do need to learn more about that stun-gun that Kerik manufactures, in partnership with Giuliani. A few people died of heart attacks after being stunned, but they say there was no connection. As Rumsfeld said, things happen.

We’ve got four more years of this coming up. They won’t be dull.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Hess: The Poisoned Chalice

The poisoned chalice. It reads like a page from the thousand and one nights of Scheherazade -- Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. And boy, have they been making fabulous news, right here at home. But who can resist the tale of the poisoned cup that was handed to the handsome prince who claimed the throne of Ukrainia? And what was in it? Dioxin -- Agent Orange -- the stuff we rained on Vietnam. We thought it had been banned, after Love Canal and all, but last week we learned we’re still using it. That came to light only because a couple of helicopters crashed while spreading it over a field of opium poppies, in Afghanistan. That was news to the Pentagon, which said it’s investigating.

The big time cultivation of opium was developed in China by our British soulmates, who waged war on the natives when they tried to suppress it. Another form of chemical warfare was used in the Middle East by none other than Winston Churchill. As a war minister, he dropped mustard gas on natives of what was then called Mesopotamia. Lawrence of Arabia described it as a betrayal of promises he had made to sheiks of Araby to serve the British cause against Turkey. The upshot was a deal that put the French in control of Syria and Lebanon, the British in control of Iraq and Palestine, and Royal Dutch-Shell in control of the oil.

Now Americans have taken charge. And still, you know, it reads like Scheherezade. Ali Baba -- do we have thieves right here at home. Here’s a new page about Marc Rich and his secret pardon and his deals with Saddam Hussein. Here’s our Bernie Kerik and his secret harem downtown. He was at table last night with Bush, can you imagine? Anyway, these next four years are not starting out dull.