dao horizon


great brick back of house viewed from an alley on Capitol Hill, Denver

Single line drawn from one ocular corner to the
White clouds firmly tethered to shadows.
What is close at hand must first appear on the
What is cast upon us always has a source.

Life need not be the travesty of confusion and disorganization that it seems to be for so many people. When one feels this way, it is nearly always due to two things: Either one isn’t even looking, or one’s vantage point is too low.

Those who follow Tao position themselves on high vantage points. Life never surprises them. Whatever is in their lives today, they foresaw many days before. Whatever is on the horizon, they take the time to prepare. Such people are called wise, not because they have special abilities but because they take the care to view things from a high place.

Those who follow Tao also realize that all phenomena have a source. Just as shadows on the ground are cast because clouds float between the earth and the sun, so too are the events outside of ourselves cast into our minds. A reaction in our minds is like a shadow cast by an external event.

We can understand such phenomena clearly if we stand at a place where we can see them coming. We need to remember to deal with them coming. We need to remember to deal with them not simply by how we feel, but also by looking at their external form, and even checking to see their source. If we take care to do this, then we shall never be deterred.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

Denver Alley 1973
Leica M3 90mm Zeiss
Kodachrome 25
© 1973 - 2005 lisbeth west

The Meaning of Dao

With those caveats, the question of meaning is relatively simple--despite the impression that dao is an impenetrable mystery of the East. The almost universal translation is one of the easiest and most familiar words of the English language--'way'. My view is that it is no accident that the translation sticks and works so well. The two concepts are remarkably close in meaning--except that 'way' has rather more explicit grammatical individuation and lacks a verb form.

To do the metaphysics of dao, we can start by thinking philosophically about ways while trying to reason about them (a) using a conceptual structure like that available to ancient Chinese thinkers and (b) considering the issues salient in their philosophical agenda. We do not set out to do the impossible--reconstruct all features of their lives, all background religious beliefs or any of the other impossible feats of Verstehen that lead to hermeneutic regress and paradox. What we envision is reconstructing enough of their "manifest history" of the philosophical issues and the inference structure of their concepts to think along with them about the nature of normative ways.

Part of the appeal of 'way' as an explication of meaning is that, like dao, 'way' is indefinable--I do not mean ineffable but, in Hacking's helpful phrase it's one of those familiar, tiny, almost unnoticed words that "tend to be circularly defined."[9] Any synonym or attempted definition leads us back to 'way', which is a more primitive English term than any of its partial synonyms.

Hacking's phrase occurs in his discussion of a "loose" distinction between object words, idea words, and elevator words. This distinction will also be handy for our purposes in explaining a philosophical difference between dao and 'way'.

"In addition to 'objects" and "ideas" we need to take note of a group of words that arise by what Quine calls semantic ascent: truth, facts, reality. Since there is no common way of grouping these words, I call them elevator words, for in philosophical discussions they raise the level of discourse." (Hacking 1999:21.)

Hacking notes that elevator words typically are familiar, unproblematic words that have quite innocent uses -- until we employ them for semantic ascent or with philosophical emphasis. Hacking, however, clearly would not consider listing 'way' among his elevator words. It's not that Western philosophers do not use the word; they use it a lot, but usually innocently. Hacking's own account of looping shows how "handy" the term can be in philosophical discourse.

People classified in a certain way tend to conform to or grow into the ways that they are described; but they also evolve in their own ways, so that the classifications and descriptions have to be constantly revised. (Hacking 1995)[10]

Ironically, Hacking's (or anyone's) short list of Western "elevator words" ('truth', 'facts', 'reality') contains words that ancient Chinese thinkers seldom or never used as terms of philosophical ascent.

We could expand the list of philosophically pivotal "familiar" terms which we all learn to analyze deeply as we learn philosophy: 'know', 'reason', 'true', 'believe', 'represent', 'refer', 'mean', along with some longer but equally central notions in our left-side world-view such as 'conscious', 'experience', 'sensation', 'perception'. Finally, we also learn to analyze a cluster of other simple structural words like 'the', 'some' and 'a'. To my recollection, however, I have never seen a philosophical article on the concept of a 'way.' The irony, then, is that the concepts in Hacking's and my "short" list of Western elevator terms include those that are usually either absent or "innocent" in Chinese philosophical literature. The counterpart of dao, the most widely used term of philosophical ascent in ancient China, is an almost unnoticed "innocent" in the West.

The contrasting lists of elevator words manifests the contrast in emphasis noted earlier. Western elevator terms cluster on the entry side of the transitions between language and the world. 'Way' belongs to the exit side. While 'way' is not in Hacking's list, we can find some close relatives--partial synonyms and situational counterparts--in Western ethical reflection and in the anti-Platonic strains of Western thought, e.g., when Western philosophers analyze 'practices', 'conventions', 'games', 'forms of life', 'conceptions of the good life', 'traditions', 'processes', and 'modes'. We may view 'way' as a more comprehensive term that embraces all of these practical concepts--as a genus of which these others are species. The network of words we might use in defining 'way' includes another core term of the language--the question word ‘how'. We point to a way in answer to either a "how to" or a "what to (do)" question. We may think of knowing ways as unlike the routinely analyzed "knowing-that" of Western epistemology, and more like Ryle's "knowing how"[11] or "knowing to."

A possible motivation of meaning-change hypotheses regarding dao may stem from this ironic contrast. Interpreters, cognizant that dao is a major elevator word in Daoist meta-theorizing, naturally seek a counterpart elevator word from Western philosophical discourse. This explains the interesting coincidence that interpretation of dao makes it a Chinese philosophy counterpart of 'reason', 'truth', or 'ultimate reality'--borrowing terms from Hacking's short list of Western elevator terms. If 'way' had become a target of Western philosophical analysis and a mainstream elevator word, one motivation for this interpretation would shrink.

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"Jose" Takes Charge of CIA

Undercover CIA official to oversee new National Clandestine Service

By KATHERINE SHRADER Associated Press Writer

(AP) - WASHINGTON-A top CIA manager who remains undercover will soon oversee the traditional human spying activities for the entire intelligence community, a new position created in the post-Sept. 11 intelligence reforms.

Publicly, he is referred to simply as "Jose," said U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan's full details had yet to be released.

Jose's posting as head of the new National Clandestine Service ends weeks of debate over whether the CIA would retain its role as the primary agency responsible for traditional human spywork, as an increasing number of U.S. national security agencies take on this type of work.

He'll now broadly coordinate operations for the FBI, Defense Department and other agencies involved in human intelligence, or the information gathered by people, rather than by technical means.

Jose now serves as the director of the CIA's clandestine service, which handles the agency's human intelligence gathering.

"This is another positive step in building an Intelligence Community that is more unified, coordinated and effective," National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in a statement about the new service Thursday.

Forming a National Clandestine Service was one of more than 70 recommendations from President Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, which released a bruising report in March about the current capabilities of the 15 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.

The report concluded that the "toughest targets remain largely impenetrable" to human spying operations.

CIA Director Porter Goss drafted a plan that would place the National Clandestine Service under his chain of command. The plan's acceptance is viewed as a victory for the CIA.

Intelligence veterans have said for months that any arrangement that somehow undermined the CIA's role as the top producer of human intelligence would hurt the agency's clout and deepen problems with agency morale.

In a statement, Goss said the decision represents "an expression of confidence in the CIA" from Bush and Negroponte. "No agency has greater skill and experience in this difficult, complex, and utterly vital discipline of intelligence," Goss said.


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A Referendum for Disaster

Phyllis Bennis, Democracy Rising

Thursday, 13 October 2005
** The constitutional process culminating in Saturday's referendum is not a sign of Iraqi sovereignty and democracy taking hold, but rather a consolidation of U.S. influence and control. Whether Iraq's draft constitution is approved or rejected, the decision is likely to make the current situation worse.

** The ratification process reflects U.S., not Iraqi urgency, and is resulting in a vote in which most Iraqis have not even seen the draft, and amendments are being reopened and negotiated by political parties and elites in Baghdad as late as four days before the planned referendum.

** The proposed constitution would strip Iraqis of future control over their nation's oil wealth by opening all new oil exploration and production to foreign oil companies.

** The imposition of federalism as defined in the draft constitution undermines Iraqi national consciousness and sets the stage for a potential division of Iraq largely along ethnic and religious lines, with financial, military, and political power devolving from the central government to the regional authorities. All groups risk sectoral as well as national interests.

** Human rights, including women's rights, individual political and civil rights, economic and social rights, religious rights, minority rights, all remain at risk.

** Instead of balancing the interests of Iraq's diverse population by referencing its long- dominant secular approaches, the draft constitution reflects, privileges and makes permanent the current occupation-fueled turn towards Islamic identity.


Constitutions can play a crucial role in founding and unifying new or renewing states; Iraq is no exception, and in the future drafting a constitution could play a key part in reunifying and strengthening national consciousness of the country. But this process has been imposed from outside, it is not an indigenous Iraqi process, and the draft constitution being debated is not a legitimate Iraqi product. Iraqis are still suffering under conditions of severe deprivation, violence, lack of basic necessities including clean water, electricity, jobs - crafting a new constitution does not appear high on their agenda.

The existing process of ratifying the new constitution is far more important to the Bush administration than it is to the majority of people of Iraq. Whether the proposed constitution is approved or rejected on Saturday, it is a process and a text largely crafted and imposed by U.S. occupation authorities and their Iraqi dependents, and thus lacking in legal or political legitimacy. The most important reality is that the draft does not even mention the U.S. occupation, and neither ratification nor rejection of it will result in moving towards an end to occupation. None of the broad human rights asserted in the draft include any call to abrogate the existing laws first imposed by Paul Bremer, the U.S. pro-consul, and still in effect.

Whether it is accepted or rejected, it is likely to worsen the insecurity and violence facing Iraqis living under the U.S. occupation, and to increase the likelihood of a serious division of the country. If it passes, over significant Sunni (and other) opposition, the constitution will be viewed as an attack on Sunni and secular interests and will institutionalize powerful regional economic and military control at the expense of a weakened central government. Its extreme federalism could transform the current violent political conflict into full-blown civil war between ethnic and religious communities. If it fails, because Sunnis backed by significant secular forces, are able to mobilize enough "no" votes, the result could be a collapse of the current assembly's already weak legitimacy and capacity, and cancellation of the planned December elections. In either event, it is likely that resistance attacks will increase, not decrease. And certainly the greater violence of the U.S. military occupation will continue.

From the vantage point of the Bush administration, a "yes" vote, however slim the margin and however dubious the legitimacy, validates the claim that the occupation is setting the stage for "democratization" in Iraq; this explains the huge investment of money, political clout, and the personal involvement/interference of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in the drafting process. If the White House was looking for a fig leaf to cover troop withdrawals, this would be it. But there is no indication there is any such interest in beginning to bring the troops home, particularly since the referendum is unlikely to lead to any diminution of violence.

From the vantage point of the peace movement, the key issue, like that during the elections, remains that of Iraq's sovereignty and self-determination. Whatever we may think of this draft constitution, it has been essentially imposed on the Iraqi people by U.S. occupation authorities, and as such it is not legitimate. We may like parts of this draft, we may disagree with some future Iraqi-led constitutional process - but our obligation must be to call for Iraqis to control their own country and their own destiny. Once the U.S. occupation is over, and Iraqis reclaim their own nation, we will continue to build the kind of internationalist ties with women's, labor and other civil society organizations fighting for human rights in Iraq, as we have with partners in so many other countries. But while the U.S. occupation is in control, our first obligation is to work to end it.


Saturday's referendum marks a key stage in the process of implementing the U.S.-designed, U.S.-imposed political process designed to give a "sovereign" gloss the continuing U.S. occupation. The process was set in place and pushed to completion by each successive U.S.-backed occupation authority in Iraq. Initial U.S. reluctance to hold early elections was overcome by pressure from Shia leader Ayatollah al-Sistani; while his support insured widespread Shia backing for the political process, it also guaranteed even greater opposition from Sunni and some secular forces.

The Bush administration has invested a huge amount of political capital in insuring the "success" of the constitution process, sacrificing for the actual content of the draft document to insure that something, almost anything, that could be called a constitution will be endorsed by a majority of Iraqis. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has played an active and coercive role in pushing Iraqi political forces to participate and make concessions, and in the actual drafting of the document. The U.S. goal is to justify the claim that Iraq is "moving towards democracy" and that the post-invasion, occupied reality of Iraq in 2005 is somehow equivalent to the experience of the United States at the time of the drafting of the U.S. constitution.

While numerous politicians, pundits and mainstream journalists routinely refer to the constitution's approval as the "necessary step towards ending the U.S. occupation once and for all," it actually does nothing of the sort. Despite asserting the rhetorical claim of "sovereignty" and "independence" for Iraq, the constitution as drafted makes no mention of the U.S. occupation. Even the "transition" section, while insuring the continuation of the "de-Baathification" process, support for former political prisoners and victims of terrorist attacks, and other contemporary concerns, there is no mention of the presence of the 150,000 or so U.S. and coalition troops occupying the country, and certainly no call for them to go home. The U.S.-controlled political process violates the Geneva Convention's prohibitions on an occupying power imposing political or economic changes on the occupied country. At the end of the day, the constitution leaves the U.S. occupation intact and unchallenged.


There has been large-scale opposition to the draft constitution, particular from key elements of the Sunni population. In a U.S.-prodded effort to "get the Sunnis on board," changes were negotiated between one Sunni party and the constitutional committee. Just three days before the vote, on October 12, they agreed to two changes - allowing the constitution to be amended by the new parliament scheduled to be elected in December, and limiting the "deBaathification" process to those former members of the Baath party accused of committing crimes. The announcement may persuade some additional Sunnis to vote, rather than boycott, or even to support rather than reject the constitution. But the Iraq Islamic Party is only one, and by far not the most influential, of the many Sunni-dominated political forces in Iraq, and it is unclear how influential they are or how significant the changes will be.


If the voting resembles something close to an accurate referendum ("free" and "fair" are not even possibilities, given the dominance of U.S. control of the drafting and conducting a vote under military occupation) the current draft constitution is likely, though not certain, to be approved by a small majority of Iraqi voters. It remains unclear, even with the new changes, whether the majority of the Sunni population will participate and likely vote "no" on the draft, or will boycott the referendum altogether. It also is uncertain how many secular Iraqis of all religions and ethnicities may reject the constitution. There are clear indications that most Iraqis believe the constitution has been drafted in a process from which they are largely excluded; international news outlets report that most had still not seen the text only days before the referendum.


The major debates between Iraq's ethnic and religious communities, as well as between secular and Islamic approaches, sidelined any debate over crucial economic, especially oil, policy decisions in the constitution. The draft asserts that "Oil and gas is the property of all the Iraqi people in all the regions and provinces," and that the federal government will administer the oil and gas from "current fields" with the revenues to be "distributed fairly in a matter compatible with the demographic distribution all over the country." But that guarantee refers only to oil fields already in use, leaving future exploitation of almost 2/3 of Iraq's known reserves (17 of 80 known fields, 40 billion of its 115 billion barrels of known reserves), for foreign companies - because the next section of the constitution demands "the most modern techniques of market principles and encouraging investment." Further, Article 11 states explicitly that "All that is not written in the exclusive powers of the federal authorities is in the authority of the regions." That means that future exploration and exploitation of Iraq's oil wealth will remain under the control of the regional authorities where the oil lies - the Kurdish-controlled North and the Shia-dominated South, insuring a future of impoverishment for the Sunni, secular and inter-mixed populations of Baghdad and Iraq's center, and sets the stage for a future of ethnic and religious strife.

While the specifics of oil privatization are not written into the text of the draft constitution, they are consistent with the proposed Iraqi laws announced in August 2004 by the U.S.-appointed interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. He called for private companies, including foreign oil corporations, to have exclusive rights to develop new oil fields, rather than the Iraqi National Oil Company, as well as at least partial privatization of the INOC itself, thus essentially selling off Iraq's national treasure to the highest foreign corporate bidder.


The division of Iraq into three major ethnically- or religiously-defined regions or cantons remains a long-standing fear of many Iraqis and many people and governments across the region and around the world, and the most important basis for opposition to the draft constitution. In historically secular Iraq, the shift in primary identity from "Iraqi" to "Sunni" or "Shia" (although Iraqi Kurdish identity was always stronger) happened largely in response to the U.S. invasion and occupation; it does not reflect historical cultural realities. The draft constitution promotes not just federalism as a national governing structure, but an extreme version of federalism in which all power not specifically assigned to the central government devolves automatically to the regional authorities - setting the stage for a potential division of Iraq largely along ethnic and religious lines. The draft anticipates a weak national government, with financial, military, and political power all concentrated within regional authorities. The proposed constitution states directly that all powers - military, economic, political or anything else - "except in what is listed as exclusive powers of the federal authorities" are automatically reserved for the regional or provincial governments. In all those areas of regional power, the provincial governments are authorized to "amend the implementation of the federal law in the region" meaning they can ignore or override any constitutional guarantee other than foreign affairs or defense of the borders.

Besides the economic/oil conflict, this means that regional (read: religious and/or ethnic) militias accountable to political parties and/or religious leaders will be given the imprimatur of national forces. The process has already undermined Iraqi national consciousness, and sets in place risks for both national and, ironically, sectoral interests affecting each of the groups - even the most powerful.

Shia -

Iraq's Shia majority (about 60%) are the dominant force in the existing government and security agencies, and in alliance with the Kurds, dominate the constitutional drafting process. The constitution is widely understood to favor their interests, and by instituting a semblance of majority rule and according to some sources by privileging religious power within the government and court systems, it does so. But despite recent turns towards religion, many Shia remain very secular, and not all Shia want to institutionalize religious control in either regional or national governments. The federalism provisions, including the potential to establish a Shia-dominated "super-region" in the nine oil-rich provinces of the south, is also a favorite among many Shia. However, the extreme federalism has the parallel effect of largely constraining Shia control to the southern areas (however oil-rich) where they form the largest majority population, thus limiting Shia influence in the country overall. Many Shia live in Baghdad (actually the largest Shia city in Iraq) and other mixed areas outside the southern Shia-majority region. The revered Shia leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has spoken strongly against dividing Iraq, but the constitution sets the groundwork for exactly that.

Sunni -

Iraq's Sunni population is dominant in small areas in central Iraq including Baghdad and its environs. With the constitution's strong focus on building regional economic, political and military power, the Sunnis as a community stand to lose the most. With major economic power - read: control of oil income - resting with the regional governments, the Sunnis will suffer because the area they dominate in central Iraq is devoid of oil resources. (See "Control of Iraqi Oil" above.) Following the large-scale Sunni boycott of the June 2005 election, they are underrepresented in the national assembly, and have faced the largest proportion of exclusion from jobs, the military, and the government under the "deBaathification" process. Last-minute changes to the draft constitution, including limits on deBaathification may pacify some Sunni anger, but is unlikely to result in full-scale proportional involvement and empowerment in the post-referendum political processes.


Iraq's Kurdish population, about 20%, is largely (though not entirely) concentrated in the northern provinces. They have the longest history of a separate ethnic/religious identity of any of Iraq's major groups, and their search for independence or autonomy has long roots, strengthened by years of oppression by various central governments in Baghdad. Iraq's Kurdish leaders are the closest allies of the U.S. in Iraq, having provided support to the invasion and occupation even before the U.S. military attacks began. Because of U.S. protection during the 12 post-Desert Storm sanctions years, the Kurdish region also had access to more money (through an intentional distortion of the oil-for-food distribution of Iraq's oil funds), international ties through open borders to Turkey and beyond, and the development of U.S.- and other western-backed civil society institutions than any other sector of Iraq. They are by far the best prepared and the most eager for control of regional oil income (their zone includes rich northern oil fields, especially if they end up incorporating the once-Kurdish but now overwhelmingly mixed area around Kirkuk) and a weakened central government. Their regional militia, the pesh merga, are also by far the most powerful of any Iraqi military force. Some Kurdish forces, however, are already critical of the draft constitution because their oil-rich three-province region would be dwarfed by the even more oil-rich Shia-dominated nine-province region in the south.

Secular forces -

Along with Palestine, Iraq was historically the most secular of all Arab countries. The draft constitution, while vague in many details, certainly lays the groundwork for a far greater role for religious authorities in governmental and judicial institutions. Many secular Iraqis, as well as Christians, are dismayed by the privileging of Muslim clerics within the constitutional court, for example, as well as the regional empowerment that allows local/regional governments to choose sharia, or Islamic law, as the basis for some or all of its court jurisdiction rather than secular laws.


Officially the draft constitution includes far-reaching protections of human rights, including a wide range of political and civil rights, and explicitly women's rights, saying that says Iraq will "respect the rule of law, reject the policy of aggression, pay attention to women and their rights, the elderly and their cares, the children and their affairs, spread the culture of diversity and defuse terrorism." Economic, social and cultural rights are explicitly protected in language far stronger than that of the U.S. constitution and Bill of Rights, or that of most other countries. But there is contradictory language as well. The draft states that "(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam. (b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy. (c) No law can be passed that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this constitution."

Whether basic freedoms will trump Islam or vice versa, and crucially, who will decide, seems a dangerous risk. Ultimately, instead of balancing the interests of Iraq's diverse Muslim majority with its once-dominant secular, the draft constitution reflects, privileges and makes permanent Iraq's current occupation-fueled turn towards Islamic identity.

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies , is the author of the forthcoming Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy U.S. Power (Interlink Publishing, Northampton MA, October 2005).

For more information visit the Institute for Policy Studies


Media attention and political wrangling surround the high-profile cases of Karadzic, Mladic and Gotovina - but what of the four other indictees still on the run?
By Michael Farquhar in London

Much column-space is given over in the international media to the three most notorious war crimes suspects still on the run years after being indicted by the Hague tribunal – Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, his army chief Ratko Mladic and Croatian general Ante Gotovina.

But care should be taken not to overlook four other senior figures who remain at large, despite having been charged with some of the worst atrocities of the Balkans wars, observers say.

While these last remaining fugitives do not grab many headlines, the crimes they are accused of affected vast numbers of people in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo in the Nineties.

And further delays in transferring them to The Hague could jeopardise longstanding plans for the tribunal to wind down its work over the next few years.

Perhaps the most infamous of these four fugitives is former Serbian police chief Vlastimir Djordjevic, accused of involvement in a brutal campaign to drive hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians from their homes in 1999.

Also on the list is Zdravko Tolimir, who was assistant commander for intelligence and security of the Bosnian Serb army’s main staff when its troops executed thousands of Muslim men from the town of Srebrenica in 1995.

The third is Stojan Zupljanin, onetime chief of police in Banja Luka and later an adviser to the Bosnian Serb president. Zupljanin allegedly played a part in a violent campaign in the early Nineties to “cleanse” large parts of Bosnia of non-Serbs.

Finally, the former president of the so-called Republic of Serbian Krajina, Goran Hadzic, also remains on the run. He is implicated in mass deportations and a number of killings, the most notorious being the massacre of over 260 people taken from a hospital in the Croatian town of Vukovar in 1991.

Florence Hartmann, a spokesperson for the Hague tribunal’s chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, is quite clear about the countries where the four are lying low. “Vlastimir Djordjevic is in Russia,” she told IWPR. Tolimir, Zupljanin and Hadzic are “mainly in Serbia”, she added, though they may also be spending time in Montenegro and in Bosnia and Hercegovina.

According to local media reports, Republika Srpska police and European Union peacekeepers launched raids as recently as October 10 at a property owned by Zupljanin in the town of Banja Luka; at a petrol station in Maslovare, where Zupljanin was born; and at an apartment belonging to an employee of the petrol station.

The latter two raids may well have been targeting what Hartmann describes as the “strong and well-organised” networks of supporters who protect the fugitives. At least in Tolimir’s case, Hartmann alleges, this includes support from within the Serbian army.

There were signs that backing from Serbian officials may also have helped facilitate Hadzic’s flight following his indictment by the tribunal last year. According to Del Ponte, the suspect’s disappearance from his home on July 13 came just hours after her office delivered a copy of his charge sheet to the Belgrade ministry of foreign affairs and to the Serbian embassy in The Hague.

But perhaps the most important factor making the fugitives’ lives easier is the apparent lack of political will to take action against them.

Serbia has long been at loggerheads with the tribunal and the international community over its reluctance to arrest indictees and disclose potential evidence relating to war crimes. A new Belgrade policy of encouraging suspects to hand themselves in voluntarily, which led to a stream of Serb indictees arriving in The Hague earlier this year, has failed to achieve results in these four cases.

The tribunal’s relationship with Russia – Djordjevic’s reported hiding place – has also been a complex one.

In May 2000 Yugoslav defence minister Dragoljub Ojdanic was received with full honours in Moscow, a year after he was indicted by Hague prosecutors for war crimes in Kosovo. Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov later blamed the episode on bureaucratic blunders and said care would be taken not to let such a thing happen again.

There have been some positive developments in the Hague tribunal’s relationship with Russia in the past year, Hartmann noted, including Moscow’s arrest of another indictee, ex-Bosnian Serb military policeman Dragan Zelenovic, in late August. But, she added, “It is also a pity that Russia refuses to have more intense contacts with us.”

Prior to giving himself up last month, another Hague war crimes suspect, Sredoje Lukic, had also apparently been successfully hiding in Russia.

Whatever the reasons behind their continuing freedom, observers say it is vital that Djordjevic, Hadzic, Tolimir and Zupljanin should not be overlooked amid the clamour over the tribunal’s more prominent fugitives.

“It remains vital that the four indictees stand trial in The Hague,” Bogdan Ivanisevic, a Belgrade-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, told IWPR. “They are accused of extremely serious crimes and to somehow ‘forget’ about those crimes would be morally indefensible.”

“No fish are small fish when it comes to war crimes suspects wanted by the tribunal,” agreed Edgar Chen, who has long monitored trials in The Hague for the Coalition for International Justice.

It is an indication of how important the office of the prosecutor considers the four indictees that Hartmann says none of their cases are suitable for referral to national judicial systems in the Balkans.

The handing over of some cases to courts in the region is a key part of the tribunal’s so-called completion strategy, according to which its work is due to wind down over the next few years.

It is with such time constraints in mind that prosecutors are particularly keen to see the arrests of Djordjevic and Tolimir, whose cases are joined to those of a large number of other suspects who are all already awaiting trial in The Hague for crimes in Kosovo and Srebrenica.

If Djordjevic and Tolimir are not in custody by the time these two joint trials begin, Hartmann noted, “It would mean that we would have to repeat the same trial, which would occupy one chamber and one courtroom for at least one year, maybe more.”

“These delays... put at risk the completion strategy,” she added.

Tribunal president Judge Theodor Meron has already said that various setbacks mean the court is unlikely to succeed in earlier plans, which would have seen all trials completed as early as 2008 and appellate proceedings finished by the end of 2010.

Besides the disadvantages for court staff, it is also very possible that the fugitives themselves – if and when they arrive in The Hague – will find that their flight has done their own cases no good.

Such considerations may be especially relevant to Djordjevic and Tolimir. “If they are absent for the [joint trials],” noted Chen, “one could speculate that the other defendants may try to pit blame on them.”

Michael Farquhar is an IWPR reporter in London.
(IWPR) Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Al Franken on Politics and Comedy

Al Franken on Politics and Comedy

By Stephen Thompson, The Progressive

Al Franken dabbled in political subject matter as a writer -- and performer -- during two lengthy stints on Saturday Night Live, as well as on his short-lived NBC sitcom, LateLine. He has also worked in film, most notably as co-writer and star of 1995's "Stuart Saves His Family," a spin-off of the Stuart Smalley character he'd created for SNL. But today, Franken's politics overshadow his comedy at virtually every turn. Born in New York City, raised in a suburb of Minneapolis, and educated at Harvard, Franken has become a full-time political figure.

The transformation began in earnest with his 1996 book, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, followed by his 2003 work, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Now Franken is one of the major players behind Air America Radio, the liberal talk-radio network introduced in March 2004 to counter rightwing domination of the medium. At fifty-four, he spends the bulk of his time touring, preparing, and performing for the sixty-seven-station network, on which he appears as co-host of The Al Franken Show. But his goals are more ambitious still: He recently moved from New York back to Minnesota to prepare for a U.S. Senate run against Norm Coleman in 2008.

Franken recently spoke to The Progressive about his career evolution, the network's past and future, and the political pros and cons of a comedy background.

What are you working on right now?

Really, Air America is my main focus. I'm doing fifteen hours a week on air, and that's pretty all consuming -- you know, preparing for it, doing it. It's really building Air America that I'm focused on, and for me, that almost only means doing a good show. We go on the road and see the affiliates, also, being an ambassador of goodwill.

How is Air America doing? In the beginning, the press was all about how it had gotten off to a rough start, but now it seems to be doing better.

Yeah, we shot ourselves in the foot right out of the gate. The guy who ran it at first misled pretty much everybody about how much capital we had. He said we had enough to go three years without making money, and we had enough to go three weeks.

So in week four, we learned that we bounced a check or two, and that we'd lose our stations in Los Angeles and Chicago, which were our second and third largest markets. It was horrible, and everybody was counting us out, and you can imagine how attractive our network would be to radio stations when it looked like we were going under. So there was really no growth for quite a bit after that, and what we had to do was prove that we were viable.

And we did that by getting good ratings and showing that we're fulfilling a need in a business sense -- that we're bringing in an audience. The thing that interests me least about the radio business is the radio business. But I've had to learn a little bit about it. It's not rocket science: You get ratings, that's good.

Did you have a difficult time attracting talent in the beginning?

Well, we didn't really have a problem attracting talent, because there is no talent to some degree. [Laughs.] The right wing has had a radio apparatus for years and years, so they've had minor leagues -- they've had local rightwing guys who've become national rightwing guys, and who build slowly, and that's how it goes. We haven't had that. It isn't like we have a farm team.

You do have some experienced radio veterans.

Yeah, but you need an experienced radio veteran who is a liberal advocate. And there just hadn't been any radio that did that. And so they weren't trained -- they had developed all these bad habits of being objective and balanced and stuff like that. [Laughs.] It's hard to get that out of a person. I mean, obviously, I value objectivity and actually caring about facts, and we do that on the show. I'm not saying we're objective, but we're advocates. Katherine [Lanpher, co-host of The Al Franken Show] is certainly much more objective than I am, and tries to rein me in and keep me in check, which is good.

Who are your dream Air America contributors? What funny people on the left do you covet?

Well, you know, if Michael Moore did a show ... But why would he? That'd be fun to see him do. Ray Suarez [NPR veteran and NewsHour With Jim Lehrer correspondent] is someone I'd like to see. I would love to have a Washington bureau. I'd like [Clinton Labor Secretary] Robert Reich to do a business show for an hour every day. I think he'd be great.

Do you see Air America as looking to attract more mainstream Democrats, or moving more toward the left? Obviously, further to the left, you've got many people working in community radio.

Yeah, I'm not that left-wing, which is the odd thing about this: My views on most things would jibe with most Americans'. On most issues, most Americans are certainly left of this Administration. Not necessarily left, but more common-sensical. Given a chance, they'd spend less on the military, they wouldn't make more nuclear weapons, they would want to increase environmental regulation rather than reduce it, they would want to spend more on education and health care, they would enforce corporate-responsibility laws and make corporations pay their taxes, all those kinds of things. Crazy talk. [Laughs.]

Do you think Bush's reelection is good for Air America?

Well, yeah, obviously. But I would have taken John Kerry in a second.

Assuming you run against Norm Coleman for the Senate in 2008, what becomes of Air America?

By then, I think Air America will be on its feet and a going concern. It is now, but it'll have been in existence for four years, so it'll be fine.

Would you still have a role in the network?

Well, I don't know, but I don't think so. Once you're an official candidate, you can't have a radio show. I suppose I could be a consultant, but this is far enough away that we haven't figured that out yet. I've thought about not wanting to leave the network in the lurch. That wasn't the main reason I decided not to run in 2006, but it was a factor.

How does a career as a comedian prepare you for a career in politics?

A lot of politics is communicating with people, and obviously comedy has something to do with that. I've been a producer and led people. Also, being a comedian, you're under pressure. [Laughs.] You have to deal with stress and pressure to perform -- to deal with pressure without stress. And obviously, people know me.

Where is it a liability?

I think the liabilities will be short-lived. People say, "He doesn't take this stuff seriously," and I think it'll become clear that I do. And that'll be over.

Getting elected is one thing, but governing is another. You haven't had to be gentle when you're talking about Senators on the show. Do you think that the things you've said will come back to haunt you?

No, one thing I've noticed about politics is that these guys have pretty thick hides. I know a number of Republican Senators, and have had no problem socializing with them. Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, John McCain. I've talked to ten or fifteen Republican Senators in the past, and I've even gotten along with people like Rick Santorum. I've never told one of them to go fuck himself, like the Vice President did with [Patrick] Leahy.

Given that Air America is part of a larger movement to match the right's propaganda apparatus, what's next in that movement?

Well, I mean, the pieces of that movement are things like the Center for American Progress and Media Matters, the media watchdog group, and there are other think tanks that have been there for a while, and newspapers and magazines like The Progressive and The American Prospect. You know, I feel like we're just starting, and people are asking us to sort of catch up in a year or two. And we can't.

The other side has funding from people who benefit financially from the policies that their think tanks espouse. We don't. Other than, I suppose, labor unions, which don't fund us. Most of [rightwing radio's] funding comes from billionaires who pollute the country and put out fake research or lobby for deregulation of utilities. They have a direct financial interest in changes to the tax structure. The rightwing media are actually financed by people who get a real bang for the buck. Their people make money from this. Our people don't.

Five or six years ago, you were a comedian who dabbled in political subject matter. Now, you're essentially a political figure who does comedy.

Who every once in a while is funny. I know what you were going to say.

Is there any turning back at this point?

That's an interesting point. I don't know. Well, yeah. It depends on what you're talking about. I still do pure comedy -- I recently did Prairie Home Companion, and I told a sweet, funny story that had nothing to do with politics. I do USO tours, and when I do a USO tour, I don't go, "Your President lied to you and you're dying for no reason." I do, "Boy, this army grub doesn't agree with me. So far, I've had five MREs and none of them seem to have an exit strategy." I'm a comedian: I do a Saddam bit, you know what I mean? [Laughs.] So, if I do a venue where it's only appropriate to be funny and not political, I can do that. The question is whether I'm going to do The Al Franken Sitcom soon, and the answer is probably not. I've got bigger fish to fry.

For more information on Air America Radio, visit

Stephen Thompson is a writer and editor based in Madison, Wisconsin.

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

What God Really Told Bush

What God Really Told Bush
Apparently, it wasn't just "invade Iraq and Afghanistan in my name." A special report

- By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Scene: White House private residence, night, not long ago. President Bush present in his most favoritest guns 'n' bunnies PJs. Laura asleep, knocked out by a combination of too much Good Housekeeping and excessive hair-spray fumes. Suddenly, a burst of black smoke. A deep, resonant voice speaks:

"Psst! George! God here, taking a break from supervising the well-being of eight billion troubled souls along with infinite galaxies of unimaginable vastness to speak with you directly one more time because, well, you're special, aren't you, George? Yes you are! Yes you are! OK, stop giggling. I have more commands. Get off the damn hobbyhorse, George, and get a pen and a notepad. No, not a crayon. I don't care if blue is your favori-- George! Get a pen! OK? Good. Here we go:

"As you know, I'm not quite what everyone thinks. I am not all benevolence and love and light. In fact, I have a downright dark side, mean and nasty and cunning, and I want you, George, to continue to be my special right-hand man. My special little guy. In fact, you shall help enact my wrath, Dubya. Doesn't that sound fun?

"There are three things I love, George: war, revenge, suffering. Oh, and smiting the heathens. OK, four things. And kickboxing. Five things. There are five things I love, Dubya. You with me? And you and your demon monkeys are enacting the first four admirably, George. Don't be shy, go ahead and tell those Palestinian officials you were commanded by God to 'restore peace' in the Middle East by bombing nearly defenseless, pip-squeak Iraq and Afghanistan to smithereens. They love that stuff.

"But let's put the delicious war stuff aside for a moment. I need to round out my oeuvre. Here's the plan: I'm gonna wreak some major havoc on one of your poorest, most racially mixed, underfunded cities by hurling a massive hurricane at them, flooding the place and killing hundreds of poor people you don't even know exist because you thought they all lived somewhere in Africa. It's all right, the biggest city, New Orleans, will be full of Kerry-loving Democrats. Yeah, I thought you'd like that.

"Here's where you come in, George: When those rains come, I want you to sit back for a few days, stay in the hammock in Crawford, have a lemonade, OK? Let those dead bodies float around New Orleans like it was some remote village in Nigeria. Then look completely baffled when everyone blames you for your administration's miserable response. You'll take some flak for it, but did I ever say serving me would be easy? Besides, people need to know I'm still here, still angry, getting angrier. Don't worry, I'll make it up to you. How does eternal damnati-- er, blessed sainthood sound? Good.

"OK, moving on. I have a secret, George. Here it is: I hate this me-forsaken planet. All this so-called beauty, nature and the magic of science and the poetry of cells -- you know what Earth is to me? High maintenance, that's what. A massive pain in my hallowed butt. Growing all that food, blowing the wind, churning the oceans -- it's exhausting. Plus my energy bills are skyrocketing. Heating India and Turkey cost me 87 trillion last month alone. What am I, made of money? Well yes, of course I am. But no matter. I'm sick of it.

"Here's the plan, George: I want you to despoil, OK? Rivers and air and lakes, wildlife preserves and pristine forests and salmon runs and bird sanctuaries. Screw 'em, Dubya. Screw 'em all. I want you to be the worst environmental president in 50 years, OK? Hell, make it 100. I want you to roll back more environmental protections and do more damage to the place in eight months than my bitch Ronnie Reagan did in eight years. Rape the joint clean. Sell it all off to your cronies in big industry and help me hasten Armageddon. Deal? Here's the truth, Dubya: Earth's a giant liver-flavored Kong toy and you're a rabid terrier. Now, go get it, boy!

"Damn kids these days. Who needs so many? Why not send tens of thousands of them off to fight your two brutal, unwinnable wars? Why not Vietnam 2.0? Hell yes! Because if there's one thing I love more than useless wars, George, it's thousands of mutilated soldiers coming home in body bags, all draped in the pretty American flag. Twenty-one gun salute! For God and country! Righteous.

"Speaking of uppity kids, I know my own brat Jesus came down here once and mumbled some flower-child gibberish about turning the other cheek and not killing anyone and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you and yadda-yadda-yadda. That's what happens when you give the kids the car keys and an unsupervised weekend, am I right? It's all complete bupkes, but I don't have to tell you that, now do I?

"So here's what I want you to do, George. I want your demoralized military shlubs to capture as many swarthy types as possible, whenever they raid an Iraqi home or school or Afghan farm, and throw them all straight into a military prison and let 'em rot and wait for months, years for a fair hearing. Got it?

"Strip them naked! Stick electrodes on their genitals! Smear menstrual blood on their faces! Beat 'em senseless! I don't care if they're innocent. I sayeth unto you, innocence is overrated. Rape the boys, too. Then cover it all up and blame it all on a poor, dim-witted female soldier from Kentucky and shove her into prison for three years while all the honchos who sanctioned the torture (hi, Rummy!) merely smirk and walk away. God sayeth unto you all, rock on!

"I know, everyone says I'm made of pure love. Ha. Truth is, I'm made of aluminum chloride and coal cinders and something I'm not quite sure about but I think might be MSG. Oh yeah, and money. Fifties, mostly.

"I gotta run, George. But rest assured, I'll be back soon, with more ideas. But there's one more thing you need to know, one thing you absolutely cannot forget. Remember our Super Triple Secret, George? Pinky swear? Spit handshake? Atta boy.

"Here it is: We both know who I really am, don't we? I know you secretly admire my scaly red flesh, my shining black eyes, these bitchin' horns, the breath worse than Rove's after his morning meal of seared panda hearts. Of course you know the real God is more than a little disgusted by you and your administration, right?

"Well, screw her. Typical woman, all benevolent and chthonic and compassionate. We know who's really in charge of your nasty administration, don't we, Dubya? Damned right. And I mean that literally. Keep your hands in the fire, if you know what I mean. Now c'mere and give me a hot tongue kiss. Sorry about charring the carpet. Sweet dreams."

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him.

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate and in the Datebook section of the SF Chronicle. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing. Mark's column also has an RSS feed and an archive of past columns, which includes a tiny photo of Mark probably insufficient for you to recognize him in the street and give him gifts.

As if that weren't enough, Mark also contributes to the hot, spankin' SF Gate Culture Blog.


dao completion


several varieties of eggs in abstract style, muted tones

Only when the last spoke
Has been fitted to the wheel,
Is there completion.

Ambitions, career, family, and everyday identity are like the outer wheel. All the different talents and deep aspects of the mind are like the spokes. The consciousness is the hub that holds all together. At the center of the hub is emptiness — that aspect of ourselves that is open to the universal reality.

Unfortunately, we are not always whole. Perhaps it is a matter of opportunities missed when we were younger. Perhaps it is a lack of education or experience. Whatever it may be, we should, through introspection, search out what we lack and then work toward fulfilling it. Once we identify and complete some part of ourselves, it is like fitting a spoke into our wheel. when we have enough spokes, we are whole.

A new wheel will have a long future of rolling. Our selves, once made whole, can then serve our spiritual aspirations until the end.

365 Tao
daily meditations
Deng Ming-Dao (author)
ISBN 0-06-250223-9
© 2005 lisbeth west

The Conceptual Context

One source of the difficulty in characterizing the metaphysics of dao is this deep difference in the role of metaphysics. The other most important source is the wide gap between the conceptual schemes of ancient China and those of Indo-European (Buddhist, Islamic and Judeao-Christian) culture. I have discussed these differences at length in my 1992 and will only restate the conclusions here. The important points for our purposes here includes the absence of a Western representational and propositional conception of 'belief', 'knowledge', 'inference' as well as (correspondence or coherence) 'truth', 'reason', or 'inference'. The ways ancient Chinese grammar use to attribute commitments resembled de re belief ascriptions more than the de dicto ascriptions more familiar in English.[6] When ancient Chinese thinkers ascribed commitments to each other, they treated commitments as taking the form of a disposition to use a term or description of some part of the world. They seldom attributed commitments in a way that suggested "inner representations" of outer "facts" or pictures of things in the world. The writing may have been pictures, but the commitments were to use some term (written or spoken) of the given object.

In theory of language, I argued that they also did not otherwise highlight the sentence as a significant unit of language. They did not have a clear notion of the syntactic sentence, which would be located conceptually between the clearly recognized mingnamesphrase (ranging from compound characters to long strings "with a yiintent") and the discourse-like daoguide. A key to my view was my hypothesis that daoguide was a linguistic unit--at the opposite end from mingnames. (paradigmatically the ideographic character), the broadly construed ci

Three other features of classical Chinese grammar bear on our account of the nature of dao. First, Ancient Chinese does not have singular-plural grammatical marking, so references to dao are comparatively mass-like. To skip a lot of controversy and detail, the important points are daos can be summed (your dao and my dao make our dao) and we may individuate them in several ways. Second, Chinese lacks articles—definite or indefinite. Again, traditional translations and accounts typically supply the definite article, “the” before occurrences of dao particularly in contexts where the nature of dao is concerned. I suggest instead using it as an implicit plural (e.g. like a mass noun) or an indefinite 'some' instead. Third, dao is sometimes used as a verb in Chinese – and most famously in Daoist texts such as the first line of the Daode Jing – dao which can be dao-ed is not constant dao.

Against the prevailing practice of translating the verb as "to speak”, I argued that it (a) should incorporate the normative force of the noun, i.e., something like "to guide" and (b) that the range of denotation should include both speech and writing -- as well as gesturing and so forth. I suggest treating the verbal use as "to express as guidance." Again, I will not repeat these arguments here, but want to broaden them slightly in keeping with the entry-exit transition model. The notion of ‘expression’ may restrict the range of the verb in ways that underplay how many ways one may endorse a dao. Brandom's[7] formulation of a notion close to what I am after would be "to endorse a pattern of material practical inference" whether in intention, plan, expression or recommendation to another. I have reservations about explicating ancient Chinese commitments in terms (e.g., 'inference') that suggest a commitment to sentential analysis. Still, we can rephrase Brandom's notion as expressing commitment to conform to a way (analogous to commitment to follow a practice), which leaves the reference to 'inference' implicit in the structure of the practice. Zhuangzi's helpful metaphor here gets the vague effect of 'inference' via our "shooting out" shi-feithis-not this 是非" distinctions and commitments to which we cling, as we would to "an oath or a treaty." Talk of a 'practice', rather than to a specific intent, a principle or a norm is advised because of these worries about segmenting dao sententially. Individuation of dao, as I noted above is best left vague. To dao is to undertake a commitment to correctly effecting some (bit of?) dao in behavior.

The variety of ways to individuate dao stem not only from the mass-like segmentation, but also from the familiar difficulty of drawing the boundaries with a word like "community." Implicitly in ancient China, the stereotype of dao in ethical debate was a large, nearly universal human community.[8] But Daoist literature regularly draw our attention to daos of thieves, of musicians, of carpenters etc. as well as to even more global daos of all natural kinds, of the world (natural and social) of nature and so forth. The notion of dao clearly is not limited to ordinary moral discourse, but to any practical discourse--including perhaps the discourse of "natural signs."

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Out of Iraq bonus track …

Out of Iraq bonus track …

Posted by Joshua Holland on October 13, 2005 at 8:10 AM.

Jim McDermott (D-WA)... is one of those guys that makes you feel a bit better about that whole mess we have in government. He gets it.

I wanted to write this piece since July, when McDermott took to the House floor to read a letter signed by 126 members of the 275-member Iraqi Parliament. It said:

As the National Assembly is the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people and the guardian of its interests, and as the voice of the people, especially with regard to repeated demands for the departure of the occupation, we note that these demands have earlier been made in more than one session but have blatantly been ignored from the Chair. Worse still is the Government's request to the U.N. Security Council to extend the presence of the occupation forces, made without consultation with the people's representative in the National Assembly who hold the right to make such fateful decisions. In line with our historic responsibility, we reject the legitimation of the occupation and we repeat our demand for the departure of the occupation forces …

McDermott complained that such calls get "nothing in the American press." He added: "Everyone should know this."

His press guy, Mike DeCesare, gave me twenty minutes with the Congressman and I took 45. He's just a good and interesting person to talk to. I transcribed the whole 45 minutes - a pain in the ass - and you can read it here.

A prayer.On a more serious note, I have to say that the best exit strategy I've come across so far was proposed by that great military strategist, Fafnir:

In the middle of the night while everybody in Iraq is sleepin we pack up all our stuff, tanks, bombs, guns, tents, extra buildings and everything, and stuff it into our planes and helicopters so we can get out real fast at the drop of a hat - a fast hat.
Then we will have specially trained troops sent out to each Iraqi home with cords attached to their backs and wait until sunrise and when all the Iraqi families start to wake up yawning and stretching and so on our troops jump out waving wiggly fingers and goin "It was allllll a dream… it was alllllll a dream!"
The wiggly fingers here are very crtical here and if not done correctly could spoil everything.
Then our troops will jump back an get pulled up into the sky by the cords on their backs (remember them?) and all our guys will fly out quickly into the Persian Gulf and onto our carriers which will have been cleverly disguised as a group of banana boats from the Carribbean blown off course by prevailing winds. We will have hand-painted* signs that say "Sorry no bananas Iraqis" in case Iraqis try to buy bananas from our aircraft carriers.
When the Iraqis wake up to see the wiggly fingers and the disappeared Americans they will be confused, and then they will all go "Huh! That must have been a weird dream" an then they talk to their next-door Iraqis who say "did you have that weird dream" and they say "you mean the one where the Americans come and overthrow Saddam Hussein and first we are all happy and then we get sad and then angry and blowing things and people up?" and then they say again "Yes, that dream! I had it for the last year or so it must have been a recurring one." And they will say "Whoa weird" and "What happened to Saddam Hussein" and "He seems to be gone now! I guess we had better go build our own sovereign democratic state here, perhaps aided by the United Nations" and "Wow that sounds like a great idea!"

You can't beat that.

Washington Times Editor calls Journalists "dumb bastards"

Blankley wrongly attacked “dumb bastard” journalists for reporting ‘nothing new’ in recent Bush terrorism speech

Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley attacked the "million-dollar nincompoop television news stars" for poorly covering President Bush's October 6 speech on terrorism and the Iraq war. Specifically, Blankley attacked the media for reporting that Bush's speech contained "nothing new," even though, according to Blankley, Bush "named the enemy" in the war on terror for the first time: using the terms "Islamofascist" and "radical, militant Islam." Bush, however, has used similar terminology in past speeches to describe terrorists and their ideology.

Blankley wrote in his October 12 Washington Times column:

What brings this melancholy observation to mind was the grotesque non-reporting of President Bush's arguably historic remarks last week concerning the nature of the enemy in the "War on Terror," that until last week was the enemy of which we dared not mention the name.

For the first time the president of the United States named the enemy: "Islamofascist" and "radical, militant Islam." He compared it to the Nazi and Communist ideological threat of the previous century.


But million-dollar nincompoop television news stars led with the absurdly ignorant observations that there was "nothing new" in this speech, and that the President was not likely to improve his reduced 35 percent public support for the Iraq war.

Having decided that the speech (which they manifestly did not substantively understand or report) was not going to make the president immediately more popular, their reporting trailed off into a rehash of his other current political problems.

But Bush's October 6 speech was not the first time he has described terrorists in such terms. In his September 20, 2001, address to a Joint Session of Congress, Bush remarked that "[t]he terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics -- a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam." At a September 10, 2002, press briefing, Bush said:

All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true faith -- face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It's a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It's a faith based upon love, not hate.

As we mourn tomorrow, we must remember that our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, not a religion; that governments which support them are our enemies, not faithful Muslims who love their families, who yearn for a more peaceful and safe world for their children.

In an October 11, 2002, speech Bush said: "Our enemy don't follow the great traditions of Islam. They've hijacked a great religion. But it's important, as we lift that veil, to remember that they are nothing but a bunch of radical terrorists who distort history and the values of Islam."

Blankley ended his column by taking a broad, derogatory swipe at "mainstream journalists," writing: "One doesn't mind, so much, mainstream journalists being bastards. It's being such dumb bastards that one finds so irksome."

— S.S.M.

Iraq has descended into anarchy, says Fisk

Most of Iraq is in a state of anarchy, with insurgents controlling parts of Baghdad just half a mile from the so-called Green Zone, an Independent debate was told last night.

Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, whose new book The Great War for Civilisation: the Conquest of the Middle East (see below) has just been published by 4th Estate, painted a picture of deepening chaos and misery in Iraq more than two years after Saddam Hussein was toppled.

He said that the "constant, intensive involvement" in the Middle East by the West was a recurring pattern over centuries and was the reason why "so many Muslims in the Middle East hate us". He added: " We can close doors on history. They can't."

Fisk doubted the sincerity of Western leaders' commitment to bringing democracy to Iraq and said a lasting settlement in the country was impossible while foreign troops remained. "In the Middle East, they would like some of our democracy, they would like a couple of boxes off the supermarket shelves of human rights as well. But I think they would also like freedom from us."

Recalling the sight of an immense US convoy rolling into the country's capital, he said: "A superpower has a visceral need to project military power. We can go to Baghdad, so we will go to Baghdad."

He told the debate in London: "The Americans must leave Iraq and they will leave Iraq, but they can't leave Iraq and that is the equation that turns sand to blood. At some point, they will have to talk to the insurgents.

"But I don't know how, because those people who might be negotiators ­ the United Nations, the Red Cross ­ their headquarters have been blown up. The reality now in Iraq is the project is finished. Most of Iraq, except Kurdistan, is in a state of anarchy."

He said that the portrayal of Iraq by Western leaders ­ of efforts to introduce democracy, including Saturday's national vote on the country's proposed constitution ­ was "unreal" to most of its citizens. In Baghdad, children and women were kept at home to prevent them from being kidnapped for money or sold into slavery. They faced a desperate struggle to find the money to keep generators running to provide themselves with electricity. "They aren't sitting in their front rooms discussing the referendum on the constitution."

With insurgents half a mile from Baghdad's Green Zone, Fisk said the danger to reporters from a brutal insurgency that did not respect journalists was increasing. "Every time I go to Baghdad it's worse, every time I ask myself how we can keep going. Because the real question is ­ is the story worth the risk?"

He attacked television reporters for flinching from depicting the everyday bloodshed on the streets of Iraq. "You can go and see Saving Private Ryan or Kingdom of Heaven ­ people have their heads cut off. When it comes to real heads being cut off, you can't. I think television connives with governments at war." He added: "Newspapers can tell you as closely as they can what these horrors are like."

Asked if the "anger and passion" he felt over the events he witnessed had affected his objectivity, he said: "When you are at the scene of a massacre, you are entitled to feel immense anger and I do."

He rejected suggestions that graphic pictures of the dead in newspapers took away their dignity. He said: "My view is the people who are dead would want us to record what happened to them."

By Nigel Morris Home Affairs Correspondent
Published: 13 October 2005