Archive for November, 2007

November 12, 2007

Cartoon for November 12

Dick Cheney says that torture keeps Americans safe from Islam:

“A small number of high-value detainees have gone through the special program run by the CIA.It involves tougher customers — men like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11 — and it involves tougher interrogation. The procedures are designed to be safe, to be legal, and they are in full compliance with the nation’s laws and treaty obligations. They’ve been carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice and are very carefully monitored. The program is run by highly trained professionals who understand their obligations under the law. And the program has uncovered a wealth of information that has foiled attacks against the United States; information that has on numerous occasions made all the difference between life and death.”

Which makes you wonder. What other threats are being neutralized by torture?

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November 11, 2007

Cartoon for November 10

Best Damned Healthcare System in the World, or so they say.

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November 9, 2007


Since I’ll be traveling next week, I’m filing next week’s column now.

Pakistan’s Con Man Still At It

“You’re either with us, or against us.” Bush had his then-Secretary of State, Colin Powell, deliver that stark message to Pervez Musharraf after 9/11. “Be prepared to be bombed,” Musharraf says Powell’s number two at State, Richard Armitage, told him. “Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age.” Faced with that bleak choice, the military dictator promised Pakistan’s cooperation in the “war on terror.”

Like Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi codenamed “Curveball,” Musharraf was nothing more than a con man. He collected $10 billion from American taxpayers. Six years later, all we have to show for it is Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, alleged Al Qaeda strategist, poster boy for waterboarding and a candidate for worst morning face ever. But don’t blame the general for selling us a line of crap. Allying himself “with us” was never an option.

In October 1999 I was traveling along the Karakoram Highway from Kashgar in western China to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. As my bus crossed the high-altitude Khunjerab Pass from China, we were startled to find the Pakistani border unguarded. The passport control station had been abandoned in such haste the door was wide open. A cup of lukewarm tea sat on the registration desk. The bus driver shrugged. We drove on into the “Northern Areas”–the section of Kashmir that had been on Pakistan’s side of the ceasefire line at the end of its 1965 war with India.

A few hundred miles south in Islamabad, Musharraf had just overthrown Nawaz Sharif, the democratically-elected prime minister. The two men had spent the summer blaming each other for a disastrous new offensive against India. Musharraf settled the dispute by jailing and torturing Sharif–and launching a desperate attempt to win the Kargil Conflict, also known as the Third Kashmir War.

Opening Kashmir’s border with China was beside the point. The real action was taking place at the newly-open frontier with Afghanistan, where agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) invited the Taliban to send thousands of jihadis into the Northern Areas to fight India before winter brought an end to the war season. As usual, Pakistan claimed it was too poor and weak to man its border posts and stop its proxy fighters.

Before long my bus was passing columns of Taliban soldiers on foot and riding pick-up trucks and tanks. Pakistani Kashmir, an Afghan commander manning a checkpoint told me, was under Taliban control.

The Kargil War ended in stalemate. But Musharraf’s first act as president was to forge an alliance with the Taliban and, by extension, his country’s radical Islamist parties. The marketing of Musharraf as a bulwark against radical Islam and the Taliban is one of the biggest jokes of the post-9/11 era. He wasn’t for the Taliban before he was against them. He was the Taliban.

I’ve been writing and speaking about Musharraf’s pro-Islamist affinities since 1999. Perhaps now, with thousands of journalists, lawyers and political opponents imprisoned and Pakistan under martial law, Americans will take notice that he’s no better than Saddam.

There’s no such thing as a “moderate dictator.”

Actually, Musharaff is worse than Saddam. Despite occasional kowtowing to fundamentalists in Iraq’s Koran Belt, he was a secular socialist who jailed radical Islamists. Musharraf’s political prisoners, on the other hand, are journalists, judges, lawyers, artists and peace activists. “The first people to be arrested after the imposition of emergency were not the leaders of Pakistani Taliban, nor their sympathizers in Islamabad,” wrote Mohammed Hanif, head of the BBC’s Urdu service. “There was no crackdown on sleeper cells that have orchestrated a wave of suicide bombings across Pakistan.”

The biggest joke of all was the war against Afghanistan, which has become a political I.Q. test. Most of the presidential candidates, the media and therefore the American people, think Iraq was a distraction from the war we should be fighting in Afghanistan. In fact, the war against Afghanistan is less justifiable, and even less winnable.

If U.S. officials had wanted to catch Osama bin Laden, all they had to do was call Musharraf. On 9/11, the Al Qaeda leader was laid up in a Pakistani military hospital in Islamabad. If the dictator refused, invading Pakistan–if you’re into that sort of thing–would certainly have been more justifiable than Afghanistan or Iraq. A Pakistan War could have neutralized the world’s most dangerous nuclear threat, established a valuable strategic American foothold between India and China, and–if we worked with the UN–scored us popularity points for restoring democratic rule.

Such a war would have been far more justifiable than Afghanistan or Iraq. No country was more responsible than Pakistan for 9/11. Pakistan hosted Al Qaeda’s headquarters in Kashmir. Most of its training camps were in Kashmir and Pakistan’s Tribal Areas–not Afghanistan. On July 22, 2004, The Guardian reported that General Mahmoud Ahmed, chief of the ISI under Musharraf, had sent $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker. The Wall Street Journal confirmed that Pakistani intelligence had financed 9/11, but the 9/11 Commission decided not to investigate our “strategic ally in the war on terrorism.”

Since the Taliban were funded and armed by the ISI, we would have gotten Afghanistan for free in an invasion of Pakistan.

In November 2001 Musharraf was asked on PBS’ “NewsHour” why reporters were able to find and interview bin Laden. “Why can’t Pakistani intelligence find him or help the U.S. to find him?” asked Robert MacNeil.

“There’s a general suspicion on–it’s surprising that maybe ISI is not contributing to the intelligence, yes–to the intelligence,” replied the military ruler. “Now it’s not that simple. After all, then you send in people. They’re on the other side; they know who they are, and they know what they have come for…It’s not that easy that you send your operatives in and find locations. One is trying one’s best for that–but if a reporter goes through contact–through some contact and, after all, Osama bin Laden’s purpose is to project himself in some way and create some negative effects in the world, that maybe he would welcome receiving a reporter and projecting whatever his thoughts are.”

Musharraf was always a huckster. Anyone who paid attention could see that, but that’s the problem: we never do.


November 8, 2007

Just Saying

If someone were to give me this as a gift, I would love them. Probably enough to draw them something.

Just saying.

November 8, 2007

Cartoon for November 8

Wait. Haven’t have we heard this one before?

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November 8, 2007

Cartoon for November 5

Due to technical difficulties associated with the upgrade of this website, Monday’s cartoon didn’t go on the blog. if you feel like commenting, here ’tis.

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November 5, 2007


Hillary Clinton, Joyless Uniter

“The fact that a lot of people dislike you is troubling,” says the director of the Quinnipiac University poll, talking about Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbagger, Slept Her Way Into National Prominence, NY). She scores 47 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, leaving Barack Obama (21 percent) and John Edwards (12 percent) in the dust. This is supposed to make her inevitable. Why bother to hold primaries? But a funny thing happens when Democrats and Republicans talk about 2008: they find common ground.

“I can’t stand Hillary,” the Republican opens.

“She’s disgusting,” the Democrat agrees. At last, a Uniter.

Half the electorate hates her–and not just members of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. She’s a juggernaut, at least in a Howard Dean-in-November 2003 kind of way. Liberals will vote for her if she’s the nominee. But it’ll be a chore. She epitomizes joylessness. Win or lose, who cares?

She’s the time-to-make-the-doughnuts candidate.

Every voter has his or her limit, a moment or an act or just a general sense about a politician that makes the idea of voting for them feel so unpleasant they’d rather cross party lines, or stay home on election day. For me, and for a lot of people, it was Hillary’s vote to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a “foreign terrorist organization,” unleashing new sanctions and U.S. military “instruments”–a step toward war–against Iran.

I forgive easily. I could have let Hillary off the hook for supporting NAFTA, screwing up healthcare in 1993 and voting for the proto-fascist USA-Patriot Act. I could have overlooked her Reaganesque cluelessness about the lives of ordinary people. (Reneging on her “baby bond” proposal that Americans receive $5,000 at age 18, she now wants to give everyone a 401(k) and have the government match it “up to $1,000.” Thanks to this windfall, she says, “they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that down payment on their first home.” Lame idea, obviously. What I want to know is: Where can you buy a house or a college education for $1000? On the moon?)

I might have even have forgiven Hillary’s vote to authorize Bush to start the unprovoked war against Iraq, though she never apologized for a cowardly (and miscalculated) act of triangulation that contributed to the deaths of more than a million Iraqis. As Tim Grieve wrote in Salon: “She has gone from 1) voting for the use-of-force resolution, to 2) questioning the intelligence that formed the basis of that vote, to 3) arguing that the Bush administration distorted the intelligence, to 4) saying she didn’t regret giving Bush authority to use force but did regret the way he used that authority, to 5) saying the resolution never would have come to a vote if Congress knew then what it knows now, to 6) saying that Congress wouldn’t have voted for the resolution if Congress knew then what it knows now, to 7) saying that she wouldn’t have voted for the resolution if she knew then what she knows now.”

Hillary’s October 2003 speech to the Senate is a fair summary of her defense: “The idea of giving our president authority to act…against Saddam Hussein, was one I could support and I did so. In the last year, however, I have been first perplexed, then surprised, then amazed, and even outraged and always frustrated by the implementation of the authority given the president by this Congress.” Good idea, fouled up by hyper-aggression and lousy implementation. Well, what did she expect? Bush was a warmonger, a liar who’d already attacked Afghanistan, where Osama wasn’t, and sucked up to Pakistan, where he was, after 9/11. She gave him a blank check. She can’t have been surprised when he cashed it.

As I said, I’m the forgiving type. I get it: Hillary can’t apologize for her Iraq vote. It would make her look weak. As she said in September 2006 on ABC News, “I can only look at what I knew at the time because I don’t think you get do-overs in life. I think you have to take responsibility. And hopefully, learn from it and go forward. I regret very much the way the president used the authority he was given because I think he misled the Congress, and he misled the country.”

Except…except…she did get a do-over. The same president who misled her, Congress and the country, asked for her vote on yet another resolution based on phony intelligence that starts us down the path to war–this time against Iran. She had a chance to prove that she’d learned her lesson. She voted yes. Again.

President Hillary won’t close Gitmo. She won’t stop torturing. She won’t stop listening to our phone calls. She won’t stop the war in Iraq, much less in Afghanistan. Heck, she might even start a new one.

Fool you once, shame on Bush. Fool you twice, I stop thinking how cool it would be for the United States to finally elect a woman president.


November 3, 2007

Cartoon for November 3

If it smells like fear, it just might be torture. This one was inspired by countless Playboy gag comics that riff on the line that “[enter depraved debauched scene of sex involving buxom babes and various vegetables[ isn’t what it looks like”:

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