Friday, May 20

Sex Wars : Episode III - Gayed and Confused

Sex War: Episode III - Gayed and Confused

In America there remains few issues as contentious and bitterly divisive as the
issue of Gay Rights. Like many issues, this one has become polarized along
partisan lines but unlike many others it is one of few where the "will of God"
is so frequently invoked.

The Will of God

The following is a sequence of Dialogue from the Emmy Award Winning
show The West Wing, and showcases a rather contentious discussion
between the shows version of the U.S. President (Josiah Bartlet, a former
theology student and nobel prize winning economist), and a Popular
Right Wing Talk Show Host named Jenna Jacobs.

(I have added the specific Bible passages that are referenced in the discussion).

President BARTLET
Good. I like your show. I like how you cal homosexuality an abomination.


I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.

Yes, it does. Leviticus.

18:22 [
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.]

Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here.
I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7.
"When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. ]
(small chuckles from the guests) She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, and
always clears the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While
thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working
on the Sabbath, Exodus 35:2, clearly says he should be put to death [
Six days shall work be done,
but on the seventh day you shall have a holy sabbath of solemn rest to the LORD;
whoever does any work on it shall be put to death
] Am I morally obligated
to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important,
'cause we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes
us unclean, Leviticus 11:7. [
And the swine, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed
but does not chew the cud, is
unclean to you.]
If they promise to wear gloves, can the
Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?
Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother, John, for planting
different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing
garments made from two different threads?

Jenna Jacobs fidgets uncomfortably
You can also find the following in the Bible:
Leviticus 20:13 - If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.

Leviticus 20:10 - "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.

Leviticus 11:42 - Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, all the swarming things that swarm upon the earth, you shall not eat; for they are an abomination.

Leviticus 7:21 - And if any one touches an unclean thing, whether the uncleanness of man or an unclean beast or any unclean abomination, and then eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD's peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people."

Leviticus 12:2 - Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 5 - But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.

Leviticus 18:29
- For whoever shall do any of these abominations, the persons that do them shall be cut off from among their people.
Many of the Laws of Moses are good common sense guides to avoid disease and provide for good health. These laws were written at a time long before there was a good understanding of biology and germs. It is indeed a good recommendation to avoid pork in order to prevent the spread of parasites - however with the passage of time our understanding and knowledge has improved, as has technology such as refrigeration and vacuum packaging which has made what was once an unsafe form of meat more than perfectly safe as a meal and simply a matter of taste - not health or Godliness.

This isn't to say, with respect to those who feel quite strongly in their faith, that the Bible is wrong - but to say that it is written within the context of the level of understanding and knowledge of people from antiquity. People regularly seem to be able to understand this and either accept as relevant or reject as irrelevant passages within their own context. Except when it comes to homosexuality. When the Bible was written there were no automobiles, no planes, no telephones. As our knowledge and understanding of the natural world has progressed, so must our understanding and context of those truths that are held within the Bible and other sacred texts.

Many of the various passages which discuss homosexuality within the Bible, like Leviticus, should be viewed through the perspectives of the author of that section. For example in Romans, the author is Paul, who had once been named Saul. Paul had not originally been a disciple of Jesus, he had been one who persecuted Christian until he saw a revelation on the road to Damascus, and was converted. Raised as a Roman citizen his comments on Roman society are incendiary [Romans
29 They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.] . We have to recall that this is the society that produced Caligula, a world of abuse and cruelty, but we also need to question whether this is an appropriate comparison for the modern day gay man or woman who simply wishes to live and love the consenting adult of their preference - just as it should be noted that Leviticus is inappropriate and factually inaccurate to declare that a woman is "unclean" for twice as long if she bears a female child, than if she bears a male.

It's interesting to note the Jesus of Nazareth, the namesake of modern-day Christianity, did not even address the subject of homosexuality - nor does the Ten Commandments, although both did address the subject of Adultery.
Matthew 5:32 - But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Leviticus says that we should put adulterers to death, while Jesus says that anyone who gets a divorce and then remarries - is an Adulterer. So should everyone who is on their second, third or forth marriage be executed for crimes against God? Clearly we haven't taken this set of scriptures completely to heart - we do not put people to death for getting a divorce and then marrying again.

I am not writing this to disparage the Bible, but rather to point out that there are many different modes of thought on exactly what Biblical Scriptures mean and how they should relate to our modern day lives. These differences are part of why the faith of Christianity has split into dozens of subsects, from Catholicism, to Anglican/Episcopalian, Protestant, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Jehova's Witness, Mormon, Seventh Day Adventist, Eastern Orthodox and Quaker. Each has their own interpretation of critical passage and scripture.

We don't even have a consistent numbering system for the Ten Commandments,
which are recorded virtually identically in Exodus. 20: 2-17 and Deuteronomy. 5: 6-21. The rendering in Exodus appears as follows" (depending a little on the translation). Numbering is according to the three different traditions listed below - Offset Numbers are "Reform Protestant", Roman Numerals are Judaism, Green Numbers are Medieval Roman accepted by Luther)
  1. I) 1) I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
    II) Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make for thyself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; Thou shalt not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. III) 2) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
  4. IV) 3) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord thy God; in it thou shall not do any work, thy, or thy son, or thy daughter, thy manservant, or thy maidservant, or thy cattle, or the sojourner who is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. V) 4) Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God gives thee.
  6. VI) 5) Thou shalt not kill.
  7. VII) 6) Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. VIII) 7) Thou shalt not steal.
  9. IX) 8) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  10. X) 9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, 10) or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is thy neighbor's.
Clearly there are many different ways of Interpreting the Bible, particularly If Christianity can't even agree on the numbering of the Ten Commandments, it's not surprising that it doesn't have a consistent position on Homosexuality. Specifically on the matter of Love. Within the books of Samuel and Kings, there is much written on the relationship between David and the son of then-King Saul, Jonathan.
1 Samuel 18:1 - When he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

1 Samuel 18:3 - Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.

1 Samuel 20:17 - And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

2 Samuel 1:23 - "Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.
It could be argued that the love between David and Jonathon was so strong that it represented a life long commitment - a marriage - in all but the flesh. The Bible also documents that David, once he became King with the death of Saul, committed adultery and eventually married Bathshe'ba after arranging to have her previous husband killed in battle. So in addition to being a possible homosexual, David was an adulterer, a murderer and apparently a rapist [2 Samuel 13:14 But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she, he forced her, and lay with her.] . But did God curse him and punish him? No. He is still to this day considered Israel's greatest King and a "Man after God's own heart".

So, knowing what we now know in modern times, how is the "sin" of homosexuality greater than the sin of adultery, murder, rape - (or eating "unclean" foods) and therefore subject to the ultimate punishment - death?

Consent Decree

It seems to me, and this is largely my own view, that much of what the Bible addresses as "sin" includes acts of cruelty and violence by man against his fellow man. When Paul talked of sin and decadence in Romans, as I've said, he is addressing the abuse and exploitation of one man by another. He is talking about deliberate sexual cruelty and violence - rape. It is as far from the loving act of a consenting adults as can be imagined. Forcible or coerced rape is universally considered a crime, and certainly to rape a man should be considered as great a crime as to rape a woman - however on this point the Bible seems to be somewhat weak on protecting the sanctity of women from this violation. When the family of Lot is visited by male angels, and the growing crowd in the city of Sodom and Gomorrah demand to "know" them carnally - there is little outrage when Lot suggested that they carnally "know" (i.e Rape) his daughter in their stead.
Genesis 19 5 and they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them." 6 Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, 7 and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof."
What is also interesting is that the Bible never addresses the issue of gay females. So, gay men -- or rather men who would rape other men - are sinful (and I would agree, although I do not agree that all gay men are rapists), but gay women are just happy go lucky? It is my own view that consensual sex is one of the greatest of gifts from God, however forced sex and cruelty is a crime. It has nothing to do with sex, it has nothing to do with sexuality - it's about violence and humiliation, nothing more. Even the Apostle Paul is said by some religious scholars to have been only addressing exploitative forms of sexual behavior in Romans.

A Matter of Hate and Forgiveness

Why is it then that so many people - particularly those of a religious bent (both Christian and Muslim) - feel so inclined to commit violence, murder, bigotry - and yes, even rape - against gays?

According to the latest FBI Hate Crime Statistics - Their were 783 reported incidents of Anti-Male Homosexual bias, compared to 181 incidents of Anti-Female Homosexual bias during 2003. For perspective, the same reports states that their were 14 incidents of Anti-Heterosexual bias, 927 reported incidents of Anti-Jewish bias, 147 of Anti-Islamic, 830 of Anti-White and 2,548 of Anti-Black incidents - so although Anti-Gay Bias is still not nearly as intense as continuing anti-Black bias - it ranks just slightly below the currently levels of Anti-White and Anti-Jewish bias. (It may even be possible that there is some double-dipping in the stats if an individual happens to hit the Trifecta of being Gay, White and Jewish at the same time). Contrary to popular belief, most of these incidents are not murder (of which there were only 14 Total) or rape (5), but are instead incidents of aggravated assault (920), simple assault (1808) and
intimidation (2,744). Ultimately, the most common form of hate motivated bias - particularly against gays - does not involve tragic situations like the murder of Matthew Shepperd, it's the day-to-day process of emotional abuse, coercion and intimidation that gays - predominantly male gays - face all the time.

Some of this ongoing intimidation has been fed by right-wing religious rhetoric. When the Twin Towers were destroyed by al-Qaeda, right wing pulpit pounders such as Jerry Falwell were quick to point out the "true" accomplices.

JERRY FALWELL (on the 700 Club): And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen'.
One thing that seems to be somewhat missing in this kind of rhetoric is one of the primary lessons of Jesus. Forgiveness. Jesus made this clear as he spoke to a crowd who prepared to stone a woman to death for being a whore:
John 8:7 - And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. 10 Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 13 The Pharisees then said to him, "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true." 14 Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one.
Jesus speaking again on the issue of forgiveness:
Luke 7:37 - And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." 40 And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "What is it, Teacher?" 41 "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly."
Yet the one thing that people such as Falwell seem unable to do, is forgive those who they would consider sinners. Rather than push forward the true teachings of Jesus, the likes of Falwell use the Bible as a tool to help divide and conquer - to sow the seeds of dissent and hatred in order to help fill his own personal coffers. Jesus was greatly forgiving person and guided others to be similarly gracious, but there is one time where he did lose his temper and even grew violent.
Matthew 21:12 - And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you make it a den of robbers." .
Even if you do agree that the Bible counsels that homosexuality is a sin - which I do not - it would seem that the proper course of action would be the path of forgiveness, not persecution.

Two Steps Backward

SF Mayor Gavin Newsom
Following the announcment last year by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom that Gay Marriage licenses would be issued by the city, there has been a strong response among public figures. Gay couples, many who had shown far more commitment than the average straight-couple by remaining together for years and even decades, rejoiced -- religious fundamentalist scowled and howled.

In Wainsville, North Carolina, Church goers who voted against George W. Bush in 2004 (and presumably his particular view of abortion and gay rights) have been kicked out of their congregation. In that election 11 States passed referendums banning the legality of Gay Marriage, changing each of their state constitutions in a manner that actually reduced the rights and freedoms of our citizens. In solidarity with his religious base, President Bush has proposed the "Defense of Marriage" act which would add a Constitutional Amendment denying Equal treatment and legal protection to same-sex couples.

This would be the first time since the advent of prohibition - which was a similarly misguided religious movement - that rights and protections within the Constitution would be reduced. The reason a Constitutional Amendment is required is because of existing Amendments - particularly the 14th which states that "All persons within the jurisdiction of the states, will be afforded the equal protection of it's laws". That Amendment, enacted after the conclusion of the Civil War does not specify the type of person that the laws will protect. In plain English, the Amendment states that straight people will not receive legal protections non-straight people do not have. No one should receive different or special treatment under the law. It does not differentiate. It does not discriminate. Equal means equal, not that some people are more equal than others - yet, this basic concept seems to be lost on many who enter the discussion of "Gay Rights".

They say that Gay Marriage would lead to abuses such as bigomy, incest or pedophilia (all of which are to varying degrees non-censenual, and can be easily avoided with fairly simply wording such as :
"Marriage is the union of two consenting adult persons"). They argue that allowing gays to marry is somehow an affront to standard hetero-sexual couples. This type of point harkens back to the time that blacks and whites were legally restricted from marrying each other by "miscegenation" laws, which claimed that "Race-mixing" is a sin.

The proposed Defense of Marriage Act itself harkens back as well, to the seminal Plessy V Furgeson decision of the early 20 Century which abrogated the plain language of the 14th Amendment and established "seperate by equal" Jim Crow laws - stating that a "Black Man is not entitled to something that a White Man posseses, for he can never become a White Man". It wasn't until the Brown V Board of Education almost 50 years later that the true intent of the 14th once again began to be implemented, and legallized racial segregation started to erode.

One would think they we would have learned something from that previous experience, but it appears that so far - we have not. If the current trend of anti-gay anti-equality legislations continues - it may take another 50 years to once against set things right.

Nature or Nuture

The arguement of whether being gay is natural verses something that has been created by nuture has raged for ages. Anecdotally there are many known examples of young people, long before they'd had any exposure to alternative sexual standards or ideas, identifying themselves as being attracted to one gender or another. Musicians such as Mellisa Etheridge and Boy George have stated, as bolstered by the account of their families, that they were gay long before they knew what the word even ment. While others, such as George Michael, remained personally confused on the issue well into adulthood. It is also possible, at least in my own view, that some people are psychologically predisposed to be attracted to the same-sex, rather than biologically, while others are the reverse.

Recent studies remain promising but inconclusive on discovering the "Gay Gene", including one by a group of Swedish Scientists that indicates that males gays respond biologically to scent in same manner as straight women - while female-gays respond biologically like straight men.

Those on the far-right claim that restriction of gay rights is justified as it is not a matter of something that people can not control - like the color of their eyes, or their race - it is not a condition that is the Will of God, it is simply a choice. I find this view rather interesting in that people who are guranteed the freedom of their choice of religion by the first amendment, would simultaneously argue that gays are not due the right of choice in their own personal lives under the very same 1st Amendments protections of freedom of speach and freedom of assembly (with any persons of ones choice).

Sex vs Love.

Many of those such as Pat Robertson and Alan Keyes who have argued for the "Sanctity of Marriage" by barring the participation of gays within that institution have claimed that "Gays can not be Married, because Marriage is for procreation -- and gays can not procreate". But does this view indicate that even male-female couples who wish to marry should not be allowed to do so unless their also plan to bear children? What of a couple where one or more members is infertile, or has passed their "time of life"? Are these persons who wish to share the lives together merely "selfish hedonists" as both Pat Robertson and Keyes have said of gays, even including Vice Presidental daughter Mary Cheney in their attacks?

Or is marriage a far more profound and significant event than legitimization of a specific sexual act? In an age where we readily accept a 50% divorce rate, it seems that the core of ideals of marriage - that of sharing, trust, commitment - the sum of which creating a whole that is stronger than it's sum - have been lost in the dust-up. Many gay couples wish to gain the status of marriage not because they seek a social validation for their lifestyle - although some clearly do - many others are simply seeking spousal rights of being able to make critical decisions for their loved one when they are incapacitated, or to be able to share spousal health coverage benefits and resolve child custody issues -- all of which are tangible quality of life issues which have nothing to do with sex or procreation, but everything to do with living.

It makes one wonder if those who oppose gay marriage simply do so because they oppose the practice of gay sex - presuming that it can not be consensual as did the apostle Paul - because they oppose the fact that these people exist and live, or that they deny that reality that LOVE is an absolutely neccesarily component to any marriage, perhaps - some would argue - because they themselves are living loveless empty lives? Perhaps, and perhaps not.

Macho Macho Men

Speaking purely from an anecdotal perspective, it seems to me that there is a bit of a pattern when it comes to the anti-gay movement. Certainly there are those who legitimately feel that homosexuality is a sin based on a strict (albiet selective) reading of the Bible. "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" they say. Similarly, there are those who simply feel that it is unnatural - "the parts don't fit" - and have a good faith reason for feeling that way. And then there's another group, those who I like to refer to as the Macho-phobes. The Tough-Guys.

Generally speaking, this type of person is easy to identify. They tend to find idea of gay-men as abhorant as they simultaneous find appealing the emotional and sexual exploitation of women. They remain deeply mysogonistic and disrespectful of women while in private - but sweet as can be when in their presence. Duplicity is their weapon and solice. Armchair-Psychology might lead one to conclude that these people are simply afraid of what it is that they may deeply feel that they themselves are, (ie. Gay). Just as many actually gay persons do have a history of anti-gay actions (Such as Spokane Washington Mayor James West), but I think that the Macho Men remain a breed apart from that self-hating group.

The Macho Men, do indeed fear gay-men (and notably not gay-women) because they don't have any respect for women in general - and their greatest fear is the possibility that they themselves might be on the receiving end of the exact same treatment - emotionally, physically and sexually - that they regularly heap upon females. (You aint making me your' bitch!) They would use any convenient lie to bed a woman, then discard them once they are of no more use or sport. Certainly they wouldn't tolerate being treated the same way. They won't be looked at, stalked, hunted and used the same way they do to women - no fucking way!

Therefore, they see themselves as excersizing "self-defense" when they harass, intimidate and occasially brutalize gay men -- (better safe than sorry) --- whereas they adore gay-females presuming that all the need is a taste of a real man "to straighten them out". Teenage fantasies of a always hoped-for but never fulfilled menage-a-trois dancing through their heads. Yet again, as in so many of the scenarios, the idea of developing a loving, commited relationship doesn't even begin to enter into the equation - it's not even truly about sex. Just like with a rapist or serial abuser - for them, it's all about power, control and humiiliation - not love, not trust and certainly not procreation.

It's extremely unfortunate that this view remains quite prevelant among the men in our armed forces - from the Tailhook Troup to the Abu Ghraib abusers - I feel there is little coincidence to the increasing tendency to hunt and expell suspected gays from the military (inspite of the well intentioned by deeply misguided Clinton-era "Don't ask - Don't Tell" policy) and the simultaneous rise in male on female sexual harrasment, assault and abuse cases within the Military and among Veterans. The Macho-Men will have their way - while all others tremble in fear, at least, until we finally stop them.

And in the future?

In summary, it is most obvious than the debate on human sexuality and homosexuality is far from over. We have those who see homosexuality as an erosion of our moral fabric (claiming - incorrectly I think, according to all available study data - that gays are the equivelent of nothing more than sexual predators, pedophiles and perverts), and those who see the resistance to gay rights as ultimately a retardation of human rights - the denial of the promise of embodied in the American dream for people to be FREE in their own homes and lives to do as they will and want, unless their actions begin to infringe on the freedom and liberty of others.

Both sides, naturally, have accused the other side of bad faith, lies, and "evil" - but it's is also clear that this debate will continue for some time. Like the Plessy decision we may be entering what seems to be a dark period in the movement for complete human rights, but I feel confident that eventually the major questions will be resolved - both scientifically and spiritually. Just as we went from travelling by horse drawn cart, to chariot, to the automobile, airplane and now venturing with greater regularity and confident into space - so will we progress in our hearts, closer to the ideals of charity, forgiveness and respect for all humans - that Jesus truly expoused - regardless of our individual origins or our choices.

And that of course, is exactly what the radical religous right is most deathly afraid of.


Thursday, May 19

Iraq Tony And The Truth

Iraq Tony And The Truth:

This is the story of what Mr. Blair did not tell us before sending British troops into battle.

On the second anniversary of the Iraq war, Panorama reveals how several of the claims he made in public during the build up to the war - and afterwards - conflict with what we now know was going on behind the scenes, as evidenced for instance by government officials and documents.

Broadcast 03/20/05 - Panorama - BBC

Click Here To Download

You may need to update / download Free Real Player to view this video. Click on this link to download.

Click here to download or view a transcript of the programme

On The Nose!

Here's the text of a great letter by a constituent of Senator Talent, replying to his response on the Downing Street Memo issue - from the Randi Rhodes Board
Thank you for responding to this very important matter. The issue here isn't so much the "article" that appeared in the Times of London to which you referred. The issue is the document that was revealed in that article. That document is a memo, a memo that was distributed through the halls of Downing Street. The memo that's in question is the minutes from a meeting that took place on July 23, 2002.

While I understand and appreciate the fact that you weren't in attendance at the meeting in question, citizens of this nation (and that includes you) are lucky enough to now have the minutes from that meeting to reflect upon. This sir, as I'm sure you're well aware, is one of the very reasons minutes are taken during meetings, so that those who are not in attendance can understand what was discussed and stay on top of the issues at hand. I have no doubt that you can appreciate the magnitude of the issues discussed at that meeting, though I'm utterly stunned by the audacity of supporters of this administration, and the denial that is continually shown in the face of evidence.

Now then, let's discuss the facts, as we know them of course.

President Bush told us (the people of America) in a radio address to the nation on March 8, 2003 that "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force". The minutes from the July 23rd 2002 meeting on Downing Street clearly states "There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD". If military action was seen as inevitable on 7/23/2002 then how can the President tell us that we were doing everything we could to avoid war eight months later? Clearly the President was lying to us.

The minutes from the July 23rd 2002 meeting on Downing Street clearly states "No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections". Eighteen days later, on August 10th the President told us "I think that that presumes there's some kind of imminent war plan. As I said, I have no timetable" . Clearly there WAS a timetable in place at that time.

The minutes from the July 23rd 2002 meeting on Downing Street clearly states "But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". All along the people of this nation were being told there was "no doubt" that Saddam had weapons in question. On March 17th 2003 as the war was beginning the President told us "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people. The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda". In light of what we now know it's perfectly reasonable to conclude that this entire statement is a complete fabrication.

Also at the beginning of the war (3/17/2003) the President told us "America tried to work with the United Nations to address this threat because we wanted to resolve the issue peacefully. We believe in the mission of the United Nations". The minutes from the July 23rd 2002 meeting on Downing Street clearly dispute this claim as well with the statement "The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record" . Now, how is that trying to work with the U.N.? Clearly we DON'T believe in the mission of the United Nations. So again, this is a clear example of the President LYING to us.
[V - Technically speaking the opinion of the NSC, is not exactly the same thing as the opinion of the President and Administration. Clearly different views may concurrently exist as policy is beinging developed and this memo does document many of these differences as viewed through the eyes of Mr. Blair's staff, therefore it could be fairly argued that this was not a lie on Bush's behalf.]
The minutes from the July 23rd 2002 meeting on Downing Street clearly states "Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran". That statement is particularly alarming considering that on October 10th 2002 Ari Fleischer said, "The President has made no decisions about what the next step will be" . In addition, on November 12th 2002 Scott McClellan told us "But the President continues to seek a peaceful resolution. War is a last resort". President Bush himself told us "The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely". Can there honestly be any doubt that these statements, statements made to the American people, were simply bold face lies?

Just this week, Condoleeza Rice, while in Iraq said, "This war came to us, not the other way around". With everything we now know this is CLEARLY a lie.

Senator Talent, as more and more information has become available to the American people over the last couple of years, it's become completely obvious that the only people on the face of the earth who (and now I'm quoting you) "believed that Saddam possessed large stockpiles of these weapons…" were the American people, and the ONLY reason we believed that is because we were lied to by our own government. The intelligence didn't fail, the intelligence was dead on accurate, and despite what we knew at that time, this intelligence was fixed around the policy…and the entire world knows this for a fact.
[V - Again, to be fair - there was some level of dispute as too the current status of Saddams weapons programs. As it turned out following the Dulfer Report, his programs were essentially destroyed - with the exceptions of a few missles. It's clear following the work of UN weapons inspection team up until their pull-out in 1998, that the subsequent bombing campaign against all potential WMD targets by the Clinton Administration pretty much did the job. Much of the remaining confusion seems to have been generated by expatriate Iraqi's such as "Curveball" and Chalabi who wished use the U.S. and other nations to remove Saddam from power. These individuals told us - lied to us and Britain- saying exactly what we wanted to hear!! It's not entirely fair to say that most nations and most intelligence agencies, except for analysts in the U.S. State Dept, didn't feel that Iraq probably still possessed some WMD capability - they did. "Curveball" helped clear up the doubt.]

David Kay's testimony that Saddam had "weapons programs" has been disputed since the moment he uttered the words. However, even if it were true, the people of this nation would have never committed our brave men and women to war over "weapons programs" that weren't an immediate threat to the security of this nation. You and I both know that for a fact.

You alluded to the fact that you served in the House throughout the 1990's, that being the case please allow me to remind you of something. As YOU may recall, YOU voted to impeach President Clinton for lying about a blowjob. How much damage did that silly investigation and trial do to our nation? How many taxpayer dollars were wasted digging up that dress? How many members of our intelligence personnel weren't getting us "information from the ground" because they were investigating our President's sex life? More importantly, how many people died, how dangerous was this lie? Mr. Talent, tens of thousands of human beings have lost their lives in this war, a war based on complete and total fabrications. In the build up to this war the Bush administration spent almost a year lying to the world, lying to the American people, and lying to the House to get our last resort voluntary military into a war of choice. Now, two years later…you are still lying to your constituency on this very matter. Are you honestly suggesting to me that this what we've become? How noble.

The acts of this administration are criminal; tens of thousands are dead as a result of lies and manipulated intelligence. Now that we (the citizens of this country, which as I said, includes YOU), and the rest of the world now know this to be true and I implore you to do something about it. Please do something to somehow attempt to restore this nations credibilty and respect in the world by removing this corrupt administration from power. This is not a matter of party affiliation; it's not a question of loyalty to your colleagues. This is a question of loyalty to your countrymen! This entire ordeal, from beginning to end (which is yet to be seen) is an atrocity, a black eye on this nation that may never heal.
Although I think this is an excellent letter, I also think it's crucial that when we demand truth and accuracy from our government, that we set the same high standard to ourselves when criticizing them.


The Hammer Falls

Reposted from Democratic Underground:

Rolling Stone: The Hammer Falls

Are the Democrats tough enough to bring down Tom DeLay?


After the revelations of the past few weeks, there is no longer any doubt that Rep. Tom DeLay is the most corrupt official in Washington -- which is saying a lot, given the ethical standards of Capitol Hill. The Republican majority leader, known as "The Hammer," has broken nearly every House ethics rule on the books in recent years, enjoying lavish trips paid for by corporate lobbyists and foreign agents. DeLay stayed at the luxurious Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii as a guest of the American Association of Airport Executives, who picked up the $52,000 tab for eight members of Congress. He went golfing in Scotland, Russia and South Korea with family members and aides, racking up $283,000 in expenses that were covered by a host of special interests, including Enron, AT&T and the Nuclear Energy Institute. His wife, Christine, and daughter Danni Ferro have received $500,000 from his campaign for their political work on his behalf -- including a late-night party for corporate donors at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where a lobbyist poured champagne over Danni's head while she was in a hot tub on the balcony of DeLay's suite. The majority leader -- a master at covering his tracks by laundering corporate gifts through seemingly innocuous groups like the National Center for Public Policy Research -- insists that his first-class jet-setting is undertaken solely for "educational" purposes.

The accusations against DeLay are hardly new. The congressman from Texas has been openly flouting the law for years, receiving an unprecedented three rebukes in a single week from the House ethics committee after he bribed a fellow Republican to vote for a bill and sold his own vote on another in exchange for a corporate donation. What is new, however, is the momentum that is gathering to oust DeLay for his unethical conduct. With more abuses coming to light each day, even members of his own party are calling for him to resign. DeLay is "an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party," Rep. Christopher Shays, a Republican from Connecticut, said recently. The man who has long bullied supporters and opponents alike -- once going so far as to order the Department of Homeland Security to help hunt down and arrest Democrat legislators in Texas -- suddenly appears likely to face censure and even indictment.


But while the sudden downturn in DeLay's fortunes dominates the headlines, the behind-the-scenes campaign that helped bring about his downfall has gone almost unnoticed. During the past year, a small group of Democrats has been quietly working to call public attention to DeLay's wrongdoing -- and to mobilize public sentiment against him. For the first time since their defeat last November, the Democrats are proving that they too can play rough, demonstrating the kind of determined opposition that many political observers were beginning to doubt them capable of.


Even more significant, the campaign against DeLay has provided the entire party with a pointed message that it can use as a central theme in next year's elections. "The Democrats have recognized that the ethics front can be an effective assault against Republicans in the upcoming elections," says Craig Holman of Public Citizen. Indeed, word from Capitol Hill is that Democratic House leaders are going so far as to recruit "squeaky clean" candidates to run in '06 to further highlight the ethical disparity between the two parties. "The Democratic strategy right now is to make ethics the issue it should be," says Bell, whose ethics complaint sparked the crusade against DeLay. "We have to make the Democratic Party the one that stands for an ethical, transparent and accountable government." Should that happen, Tom DeLay could find himself not just out of a job but cast in a role he surely never imagined: the savior of the Democratic Party.

Downing Memo on Blitzer

Video Link
Stream courtesy of

White House Press Secretary Scott McClennan was finally asked about the Downing Street Memo, and his response that he hadn't seen it - but "it's flat out wrong".

Not particularly surprising - but it has prompted a bit of reaction by the Mainstream Media. CNN's Wolf Blizter did a report where he talked to John Conyers about the memo, as well as Sen John McCain who staunchly supports the President stating "I do not believe that the Bush Adminstration decided to set up a scenario that gave us the rationale [to go to War with Iraq]".

Blitzer's report further states that McCain was part of a bipartisan investigation of the intelligence that found the U.S. WMD information was wrong, but not "doctored".

The problem with this claim is that the report they are most likely referring too, assuming of course it is the same "Presidential Commission" that included Sen. McCain, did not even address that issue. In CNN's own original report on the findings of that panel it is stated that: analyst were "too wedded" to assumptions about Saddam Hussein's intentions, but the question of whether analysts were pressured by the administration to lean forward with negative assumptions about Hussein were not part of the scope of the panel, and were originally scheduled to be addressed in a future panel - which as yet, has not occured and has not been scheduled to occur.

The CNN original report continued:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid faulted the report for failing to address "our national security policy-making process."

"I believe it is essential that we hold both the intelligence agencies and senior policy-makers accountable," the Nevada Democrat said.

Reid called on the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, "to investigate whether Bush administration officials misused intelligence."

However, even in the original report, CNN didn't include the following from Senator Reid's Press Release on the subject:

Last year, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee committed to investigate whether Bush Administration officials misused intelligence. The failure of the report issued today to examine this important issue only serves to increase the need for the chairman to keep that commitment.”


Wednesday, May 18

BBC: More evidence in Illegal Iraq War

Here's more of what everyone already knows, but can't seem to find a way to care about.

From Apian on Dailykos.

The Downing Street minutes are only one of a set of documents leaked to the BBC, (British Broadcasting Corporation) in late March. A careful reading of the following will reveal seven different memorandum, and includes references with direct quotations taken from the Downing Street war council minutes. This is further documentary evidence that the Iraq war was planned well in advance of 2002, that intelligence was fixed, that the UK knowingly entered into an illegal war with Iraq, and that Washington pressured, or forced, Goldsmith to reverse his opinion that the Iraq war is illegal.

Please read carefully, and send this transcript to US news sources. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune, in particular. There are seven different documents quoted here.

It is important when discussing or writing about these documents that you differentiate between memos, minute or minutes, and transcripts. Minutes carry a heavier legal weight than memos, which are a more informal record. Being accurate about documents now will save a lot of confusion down the line.


WARE: Mr Blair was told the Bush administration was considering overthrowing Saddam Hussein and invasion was the only way of doing this, but it would require a legal justification. The Prime Minister was advised: "None currently exists." Nevertheless Mr Blair would make a commitment to regime change, this would be a radical departure in British foreign policy which he withheld from most members of his cabinet.


Galloway on Iraq

It could arguably have been simply a diversionary tactic to deflect heat for the UN Oil-for-Food Scandal, but before the U.S. Senate - Galloway makes a set of blistering - and largely true - set of accusations against the Bush Administration.

From Democratic Underground:

Video - MSNBC: UK's Galloway blisters US policy on Iraq
You must watch this. Dial-up and MP3 audio versions are also provided.

"As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld 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 Defence made of his."

“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; 1600 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 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 Haliburton 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."

Full Transcripts:,,3-1616578,

Meanwhile, there are reports that U.S. company Bayoil was a major offender in participation in the UN Oil-for-Food abuses. Money paid by Bayoil - a Texas based company - was used to by Saddam Hussain to by Cluster Bombs for use against Iran.


Revenge will be sweet

Some months ago I wrote of "Revenge" for what the neo-cons are doing to this country. The plundering of our Treasury, destruction of our schools and ecology, freedom abrogated, vicious and unneccesary torture and murder committed in the name of "National Security", turning the profession of journalism into mindless tabloid talking-heads - at a certain point, people will begin to recognize what is going on and wake up. At a certain point, even lifelong Republicans will eventually hear and see something so eggregious they'll find themselves in doing a spittake of the administrations latest batch of Elephantine Kool-aid. Eventually, times will change.

It appears that Jim Lampley on the brand new agrees.

Jim Lampley: I find myself reciting three words in response to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's "Nuclear Option": bring it on!!

It's excruciating on a day-to-day basis to have to endure the social divisiveness, elitist arrogance and blatant media control of creeping fascism in America. But each step in the neoconservative push to remake the country in their prescribed image plays a little further into the hands of reasonable progressive political thought. Five years ago I began telling my friends that George W. Bush and company would provide the greatest stimulus to liberal momentum since 1968. Now they are following the script perfectly, substantiating and confirming all my eager expectations about backlash.

The Republicans seem to believe they are on the verge of solidifying an empire here, an empire built on subsidy and protection for the rich balanced by casual contempt for middle-class working Americans. They've spent five years rigging the machinery of politics and distracting attention from their raid on the Treasury by focusing public attention on issues of personal morality. And on the surface, it has worked. But beneath the surface, they have no real foundation, as a variety of statistical indicators show.

Start with Bush's approval rating, below fifty percent in the days before the election, persistently below fifty percent ever since. The public demonstrated in opinion polling that it was overwhelmingly opposed [pdf] to Congressional and judicial intervention in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case, but the Tom Delays and Bill Frists of the world ignored that feedback. The Iraq War continues to show its true colors, to the increasing discontent and impatience of the voters, but the Bush Administration has no exit plan and will clearly still be mired in this futile effort to establish "democracy" when the next election rolls around. The historic budget deficit grows each day, but the Administration doggedly insists tax revenues will grow to shorten it up-- yeah, sure they will. The Administration and Capitol Hill "leadership" continue to obsess about privatizing Social Security and packing the courts with oligarchist jurists, while the public asks in overwhelming majority for attention to be paid to jobs, economic breadth, reduction of healthcare costs, a legitimate energy policy and an end to the no-win war.


I think it's important that this revolution of political thought occurs across the Democratic/Republican divide. It needs to happen on a bi-partisan basis, or else it will be seen merely as a Democratic Power-Grab in retaliation for the current political success of the neo-cons. (This is why I stand as a Centrist, and not a "Liberal". It's crucial that Democrats and Republicans come together on this.)

Neo-cons and their blindly faithful supporters, are fond of saying that their opposition among Democrats (as well as the few Republicans such who will stand up to them, such as Chris Shays, Chuck Hagel or George Voinovich), have no ideas and no ideals - but sometimes what you stand for is defined by what you stand against.

If you stand against the bankrupting of the nation - you should stand with us. If you stand against taking healthcare away from our veterans and soldiers, you should stand with us. If you stand against the corruption of the media and the fearmongering of the populace, the corporatization of our elections, the politicization of our churches and the slow decent of much of our populace, both native born and immigrant, into endless debt and wage-slavery - Republican, Democratic or should stand with us, and against the neo-con agenda.

It's clear that the neo-cons in Congress and Administration have lost all sense of proportion and propriety. They are not going to stop, each and every week something more and more outrageous and eggregious occurs. The Schiavo Fiasco, Bolton Disaster, and now the Nuclear Option. At a certain point - sometime soon - the danger of this continued insanity will become abundantly clear to the vast majority of Americans, they'll be angry and they'll demand a change. We need to be ready.


Monday, May 16

News-weakness on the Quran

News-weakness on the Quran!

The recent story of desecration of the Quran by U.S. intelligence Officers has become quite a hotbed of controversy. The White House has claimed that this story is erroneous and has prompted riots in Afghanistan, causing numerous injuries and at least 15 deaths. Newsweek has retracted the story and apologized, but was the story truly wrong and should they have actually issued a apology?

On his show Countdown, Keither Olberman addressed this subject and points out that there had been previous reports of this type of treament - numerous accounts which you can find on Dailykos, The Philadelphia Enquirer, the Center for Constitutional Rights and a Human Rights Watch report- and that the rioting in Afghanistan had already been taking place as a result of other events in the region according to head of joint chiefs, Gen Meyers. If this is such a highly charged topic, why haven't we seen a similar reaction in other portions of the muslim world?

Republican blogger and pundit Andrew Sullivan has an excellent analysis:
Newsweek bears complete responsibility for any errors it has made; and, depending on what we now find, should not be let off the hook. But the outrage from the White House is beyond belief. It seems to me particularly worrying if this incident further intimidates the press from seeking the truth about what the government is doing in the war on terror. It is not being "basically, on the side of the enemy," as Glenn Reynolds calls it, to resist the notion of government-sanctioned torture and to report on it. It is patriotism and serving the cause that this war is about: religious pluralism and tolerance. The media's Abu Ghraib?? When Mike Isikoff is found guilty of committing murder, give me a call. Austin Bay still insists that Abu Ghraib did not constitute "deadly torture." The corpses found there (photographed by grinning U.S. soldiers) would probably disagree. (Will Bay correct?) Three factors interacted here: media error/bias, Islamist paranoia, and a past and possibly current policy of religiously-intolerant torture. No one comes out looking good. But it seems to me unquestionable that the documented abuse of religion in interrogation practices is by far the biggest scandal. Too bad the blogosphere is too media-obsessed and self-congratulatory to notice.
Others on Democratic Underground - admittedly dancing on the fringes of the tin-foil hat club - have argued (in apparent agreement with Oberman and his guest, Craig Crawford - author of "Attack the Messenger") that the hyper-active reaction to this story, forcing a media outlet to back-pedal and apologize seems to be part of a larger pattern, perhaps to help bury the Downing Street Memo story which may have been something that Newsweek was about the cover.
story breaks when john conyers and 90 dems sign letter to president asking him to answer the contents, then...

(ppl are refering to this as operation 5-11)small plane flies into restricted air-space...capitol alerted, but bush wasn't even told till after "event", hmm...maybe because there was no danger.

next day a questionable story about a grenade being thrown at the president emerges...turns out there was no grenade thrown and no danger...

newsweek becomes a target for a story related to US war crimes @ gitmo...and rumors say newsweek was going to do a story on the downing street memo, if that is true then this a pre-emptive attack against that report...

this is the story, an anonymous high-govt offical repudiated himself on the third round of fact checks...kind of like a planted story?

CBS plans story on missing weapons cache and bush's texas air national guard AWOL status, planted memos cast doubt on dan rather...CBS cancels story on weapons cache...NY times drops story about bush's listening device during the debates...see the pattern?

so now seems that newsweek is being scapgoated for the riots that are going on in afghanistan, even if the bush admin is only questioning one element of the story, not the other dozens of allegations...cast doubt on the messenger, see the pattern...well if that's the case how does scotty mclelland explain this from a govt website 5 days ago that says the riots are not tied to the newsweek story...

so, if in fact gen myers dismissed this story 5 days ago...why are we talking about it now?
Why? Indeed!


Fact is stranger than Fiction

Director George Lucas and Hayden Christensen smile before the premiere of "Episode III" at Cannes.
The Star Wars Connection:
CANNES, France For some Europeans, George Lucas' latest "Star Wars" film is invoking comparisons to today's political climate.

Audiences viewing "Episode Three -- Revenge of the Sith" at the Cannes Film Festival are comparing the story of Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side and the rise of an emperor through warmongering to President Bush's war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.

Among the lines they cite is when Anakin tells former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi "If you're not with me, then you're my enemy." After the Nine-Eleven attacks, Bush said, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
Well, let me just say that the Europeans at Cannes have it wrong. All Six Episodes of Star Wars were written over 20 years ago, and were not intended to have political relevance in the current day. George Lucas himself has come forward to underscore this point, according to an Entertainment Reporter I heard on Geraldo Rivera's Fox News program yesterday, and apparently he stated that the theme behind the first three episodes of Star Wars is actually the Vietnam War, not Iraq. Darth Vader is not George W. Bush, he is far more likely to be modeled on Nixon-era thug, G. Gordon Liddy, but unfortunately Lucas is a terribly hackneyed writer of shallow cliched dialogue. He is not being clever, it's simply an unhappy coincidence that he shares this tendency for mindlessly simplistic statements with our current President.

Movie conincidences of this type, where life has began to immitate fiction, are far more prevelent than most of us would think.

Wag the Dog

Many would like to point to the 1998 film such as Wag The Dog, as one that was precient on political matters. When that film was released, it was just months before the explosion of the Monica Lewinski Scandal, and many argueents where made at the time that President Clinton's 1998 cruise-missle attack on al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan were simply an attempt to deflect attention from his own problems - but even though there was an uncanny similarity between the barret-wearing "Firefly Girl" from the film and Monica's appearance on the rope line - nothing could be further from the truth : Monica was a consenting adult, while al-Qaeda and Osami Bin Laden were not a fabrication they were and are very real.

Fiction: A President in the midst of re-election and facing serious allegations of impropriety hires a "fixer" to help bring his campaign back on track by creating false news reports. In order to accomplish this they hire a Hollywood producer to package and market the story that they need to sell, including using staged and falsified press footage.

Fact: During the 2004 election a supposed "independent group" of former Vietnam Vets claims that Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry did not truly earn his War Medals, and made false claims of attrocities commited by U.S. Soldiers - yet, they can not produce not a single peice of documentation that supports their claims, and transcripts from Kerry's testimony before U.S. Senate contrast vastly with their account.

During the past few months, there have been a series of commentators who have apparently been paid by the Bush Administration to promote its policies - including Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher - they have their own phony-journalists such as Jeff Gannon/James Guckert - but even more striking have been the pre-packaging of adminstration press releases as actual news without any indication that this information and footage was generated entirely by the government and staged.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Network

Fiction: In the 1976 film Network, the News becomes currupted by sensationalism, personal charisma and Pseudo-Reality TV. For example, a young up and coming TV producer strikes a deal to film the crimes and neo-terrorist attacks of a group of communist thugs live - using "free speach", non-disclosure and intellectual property arguements restrict access and information to law enforcment who simply wish to stop the violence.

Fact: The rise of news/commentator/pundits such as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Tv Shows such as Cops., America's Greatest Police Chases, The live broadcasts of police chases ending in Suicide (by shotgun on the top of the Four-Level Interchange in downtown LA), and police firing 124 shots into the car in Compton. Terri Schiavo, The Runaway Bride -- all of whom exploit and sensationalize trivia and tragedy into "journalism", while actual news stories go unreported.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The Sum of all Fears

Fiction: In the 2002 film Sum of All Fears (which was based on the 1991 Tom Clancy book), a young CIA analyst digs hard at the truth under incredible pressure and based on the facts as well as his own gut determines that an attack on U.S. soil that devestates a major U.S. city (Baltimore), was not the work of a foreign leader (President Zorkin of Russia) - and risks his career in a fight against stubborn and dogmatic superiors in order to avert an unneccesary and wasteful war. When he attempts to contact the President after the attack, he is cut-off - "Oh, it's you Dr. Ryan - the Zorkin apologist", and the phone is hung up on him while the U.S. President rushes headlong into a nuclear war with Russia. In the end, it turns out that the attack was from a set of independant neo-nazi terrorist group, not a foreign nation.

Fact: Starting in January of 2001, NSA Counter-terrorism head Richard Clarke, strives against an incredibly resistant Bush Administration to alert them to the danger of al Qaeda and Osama Bin Ladin. He is ignored. When the 9/11 attacks happens, Clarke and his staff - using a simple FBI check of the passenger list against known terrorists - have already determined that it is an al Qaeda attack before WTC2 has even begun to collapse, yet when he faces resistance from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz he is told "It was too sophisticated and complicated an operation for a terrorist group to have pulled off by itself, without a state sponsor - Iraq must have been helping them."

In 2003, the U.S. goes to War with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, claiming among other things that "Saddam had significant ties to al Qaeda and the attacks against the U.S. on 9/11".

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The Siege

Fiction: In the 1998 film The Siege, a suiciding bombing by a terrorist cell operating inside the U.S. occurs in the streets of New York. This eventually prompts the declaration of Martial Law within the confines of the city. Young muslim men are randomly arrested and coralled into a makeshift camps in the middle of a football stadium, a potential key witness is tortured by the military commander (General Devereaux/Bruce Willis), and eventually murdered without providing any useful information. An FBI agent who witnessed the torture (Agent Hubbard/Denzel Washington) - finds the sitation completely unacceptable and takes action.

Fact: In an effort to battle the growing insurgency following the "End of major combat operations", American soldiers began randomly rounding up combat-age Arab men from all over Iraq ("possibles") and holding them in make-shift pens and cages at Abu Ghraib prison. Similar to previous detainee treatment at Guantanemo Bay, Cuba and Afghanistan - torture, including stress positions, electrical shock and water-boarding were used. Some detainees have died in custody under circumstances that appear to be homocide.

According the Human Rights Watch:
“General Sanchez [the former top U.S. commander in Iraq] gave the troops at Abu Ghraib the green light to use dogs to terrorize detainees, and they did, and we know what happened, said [special counsel Reed] Brody. “And while mayhem went on under his nose for three months, Sanchez didn’t step in to halt it.”
Again, paralleling the film, it's been largely because of FBI Documents that we are even aware of these events.

This list of films is just off the top of my head, but the sad parts is that I'm sure there are more examples. At any rate - I highly recommend all of these films even to those who are far less politically minded.


The Illegal War

"I think that the government has successfully proved that any service member has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."
-- Lt. Cmdr. Robert Klant, presiding at Pablo Paredes' court-martial
This past week has reported that arguments made in defense of Navy petty officer (third class)
Pablo Paredes - who refused to board an amphibious assault ship bound to the Persian Gulf because of his feeling that War was illegal and that he had a right to refuse an illegal order - were found to be "reasonable" by the judge. As a result, instead of one year of jail time, the charge of "unoffical absense" was dismissed and aredes was given two months' restriction, three months of hard labor, and reduced his rank to seaman recruit

Marjorie Cohn of Truthout, testified:
I testified during the sentencing hearing at Pablo's court-martial as a defense expert on the legality of the war in Iraq, and the commission of war crimes by US forces. My testimony corroborated the reasonableness of Pablo's beliefs. I told the judge that the war violates the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of force, unless carried out in self-defense or with the approval of the Security Council, neither of which obtained before Bush invaded Iraq. I also said that torture and inhuman treatment, which have been documented in Iraqi prisons, constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and are considered war crimes under the US War Crimes Statute. The United States has ratified both the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions, making them part of the supreme law of the land under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

I noted that the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that all military personnel obey lawful orders. Article 92 of the UCMJ says, "A general order or regulation is lawful unless it is contrary to the Constitution, the laws of the United States...." Both the Nuremberg Principles and the Army Field Manual create a duty to disobey unlawful orders. Article 509 of Field Manual 27-10, codifying another Nuremberg Principle, specifies that "following superior orders" is not a defense to the commission of war crimes, unless the accused "did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful."

I concluded that the Iraq war is illegal. US troops who participate in the war are put in a position to commit war crimes. By boarding that ship and delivering Marines to Iraq - to fight in an illegal war, and possibly to commit war crimes - Pablo would have been complicit in those crimes. Therefore, orders to board that ship were illegal, and Pablo had a duty to disobey them.

On cross-examination, Navy prosecutor Lt. Jonathan Freeman elicited testimony from me that the US wars in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan also violated the UN Charter, as neither was conducted in self-defense or with the blessing of the Security Council. Upon the conclusion of my testimony, the judge said, "I think that the government has successfully proved that any service member has reasonable cause to believe that the wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal."

Although the argument made here by Ms. Cohn appears quite explosive, and the judge conclusion that the Iraq was could "reasonably be considered" illegal is quite powerful, there remains a question as to whether this ruling and this testimony could be used in a civil case againsts Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld or President Bush. Currently, soldiers are not allowed to sue the government. The current civil suit by the ACLU against Rumfeld focuses specifically on Abu Ghraib, not on the U.S. failure to gain U.N. Security Council authorization prior to the invasion.

However, the argument that the war in Yugoslavia was "illegal" because it lacked UN Security Council authorization is rather spurious. From Bill Clinton's "My Life":
In April 1998, the United Nations imposed an arms embargo Serbia for it's ethnic cleansing and attacks on Kosovo. In mid-July, Serb forces again attacked armed and unarrmed Kosovars, beginning a summer of aggression that would force 300,000 more Kosovar Albanians to leave theri homes. In late September, the UN Security Council had passed another resolution demanding an end to hostilities...

[On October 13, NATO threated to attack Serbia within four days unless the UN resolutions were observed... Negotiations and maneuvers contined until March 23 1999]

..when NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, with the full support of then President Clinton, directed General Wesley Clark to begin airstrikes. [The Senate voted 58-14 in support of the action, the House 210-191 in favor]
Rather than going to War in defiance of UN Resolutions, NATO - with U.S. Support - attacked Serbia in order to support an uphold UN Resolutions. Be that as it may, I suspect that there are only two places this ruling and arguments can be brought into play in teh future - 1) Before the International Criminal Court (which the U.S. has refused to ratify due to the possibility that "U.S. Soldiers and Personnel" could be brought before the court) and 2) The U.S. Congress during impeachment proceedings of the Judiciary Commitee.