Okay, here's the second post, from December, 2001.
So, does anybody feeling like talking about anything? The weather? Soaps?
What? There's a war going on?!? Why don't my friends tell me these things?!?
When I sent off the last page update into the bitstream, it was looking like a long and drawn out war was ahead of us. I firmly believe US technology is advanced, but not as advanced as the propaganda would have us believe. bin Laden was believed to be hiding in a network of caves snaking through a mountain range. Modern technology can't see what's within the walls of the pyramids in Egypt, so I didn't think this would be open and shut. However, I had every confidence the US would come out on top. All I wanted was for the people in charge to for once, remember that these are not pieces on a chess board to move around with impunity. These are human beings that could die. They may be willing to die for our rights, but that doesn't give us the right to risk their lives. And while I'm on the subject, President George W. Bush better do something to keep those Veterans' Hospitals open. It's the least we can do.
Pretend I'm speaking like Robert Conrad, who was the narrator on Rocky And Bullwinkle. Last time, as you remember, US troops had deployed to Afghanistan to capture and/or kill Osama "Wrong Way" bin Laden. Also, a wave of anthrax was breaking out around the US. Some asshole was putting a powdered form in letter envelopes and sending them to different people in the media and government, including the building housing the offices of the National Enquirer, meaning for once, the article actually was accurate. The list included American Media Inc. in Boca Raton (National Enquirer) (found on keyboard in mailroom), US Postal Service Facility in Boca Raton, NBC HQ in New York (from a letter postmarked September 16 from Trenton, New Jersey), Daschle's office (letter was postmarked October 8 from Trenton, NJ again), Microsoft Licensing Inc. in Reno, Nevada (in a company envelope mailed to a vendor in Malaysia that was returned to sender, no one at that address), and New York Governor George Pataki's office in NYC. With bin Laden working on acquiring biological weapons, the US citizens freaked, thinking al Qaeda was doing this for our attacking bin Laden.
I refused to bend to fear. Admittedly, part of it was based on forensic evidence. So far, the people getting it were people like Dan Rather, the biggest journalist at CBS, and Speaker Of The House Tom Daschle. There was no way they were going after a sarcastic jackass living an hour south of Chicago and working in a warehouse. That's not noteworthy. In fact, I had a suspicion that whoever was behind the anthrax attacks wasn't affiliated with bin Laden. If al Qaeda was looking to attack targets, why would they send anthrax like that? It only affects the people immediately handling it. Not only that, but the spores were just that--spores. Any science buff knows that soap and water still annihilates the little fuckers easily. If it can take out the AIDS and herpes viruses, anthrax might as well pick out its funeral plot. If the person washes and acts with caution, the odds of dying from anthrax aren't good. After hijacking four airplanes and killing almost 6,000 people (the estimate at the time), the anthrax letters didn't seem dramatic enough to be al Qaeda. The MO didn't fit.
Anthrax actually has quite a history. It is believed to have started as an Egyptian plague over 4,000 years ago. Between the 17th and 19th Centuries, anthrax destroyed an astonishing amount of livestock in Europe, with the first US infections documented in Louisiana Territory in the 18th Century. In the 1820's, Kentucky was the site of the first reported US human infections. In 1876, Robert Koch, a family physician in Germany, wraps up his studies on the blood of infected animals. He proved a specific bacteria was responsible for a specific disease, accidentally sowing the seeds that would grow into modern microbiology. Five years later, France's Louis Pasteur added another credit besides "chemist" to his resume. He creates medicine's first live vaccine while working with heat-cured anthrax on sheep. It's also around this time that inhalation anthrax is first diagnosed, infecting English factory woolsorters dealing with contaminated goat hair and alpaca wool. During World War I, anthrax is introduced by Germans into mules and livestock being sent to Allied forces, it's first job as a biological weapon. In 1937, Japan started a biological warfare program in Manchuria. Investigations long after the VJ Day show that Unit 731, as it was called, created aerosolized anthrax, cholera, plague, and dysentery. This was used to kill thousands of Chinese prisoners. Unit 731 was burned to the ground in 1945. Britain also studied anthrax as a weapon, and began experiments in 1942 on Gruinard Island, in the vicinity of Scotland. The island was quaranteened until 1986. It took 280 tons of formaldehyde and seawater to finish the job. Thinking it wouldn't be long until Germany tried playing with the stuff, the US began a biological warfare program in 1943 at Camp Detrick, now known as Ft. Detrick, in Maryland. It developed a bomb to carry spores, bacteria and viruses, remaining a state secret until 1946. Also in 1943, Russia does the whole biological warfare thing one better by creating the first human anthrax vaccine. In 1954, the US created its own version. In 1969, Richard Nixon does one of the few things I actually admired him for and issues an executive order to end US research into developing new biological weapons, shifting the focus to defense instead offense. By 1972, the government says all US supplies of biological weapons are destroyed. Also that year, the US, Britain, and the Soviet Union sign the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Prohibiting stockpiling and researching biological weapons, it has to date been ratified by 140 countries, including China, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. Of course, we have evidence they are still working on the stuff, but for all I know, so are the other countries. Supporting this theory is that an outbreak happened in Zimbabwe in 1978, eventually killing 100 people and injuring 10,000. In 1979, anthrax spores got out in Sverdlovsk (now known as Ekaterinburg) in Russia. 79 people were confirmed infected, and 70 died. It remained under wraps until 1992. In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, Iraq announced it had 8,500 liters of anthrax. By 1999, the US Armed Forces estimated they had given out a cumulative total of 590,000 doses of anthrax vaccine.
I found myself staring at a groundswell of people who wanted to go after Saddam Hussein and Iraq. But we have no reason. In the end, we will be using violence against someone for no other reason than we don't like them. In short, we'd be acting like terrorists. Among the people advocating this, both at the time in a speech October 15, 2001, and a few days before I wrote this, was Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat from Connecticut. I remembered him from his run for the Vice Presidency alongside Al "I Invented More Shit Than Nicola Tesla" Gore. I wasn't thrilled with Lieberman's thought process for censoring the entertainment media. Now, he's coming up with more iffy logic for us to go after Iraq. Other Democrats weren't coming up with their own terrorism doctrines or encouraging open disagreement with Bush and his policies. This despite Al Gore, the technical compass for the Democrats, declaring in a speech about a month earlier that Bush "is my commander in chief" (Jesus, I never thought I'd see the day I agreed with Gore). For example, former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey (Nebraska) has long advocated "finishing the job", but reeled it in, at least for the moment. He believed doing that while the campaign in Afghanistan was going on would have "every American embassy from Morocco to India set on fire."
There was one other fight I was expecting the US to handle. The war on drugs, still bent on destroying supply, driving up price, and keeping the corrupting influence of racketeers in the loop. Afghanistan is the world's leading supplier of opium. It is estimated by the Drug Enforcement Agency that 72% of the world's illegal opium comes from Southwest Asia, primarily Afghanistan where there is no ruling goverment or economic system to embargo. In fact, it is theorized that all of the Taliban's weaponry it acquired after the US ended its support in the war against Russia comes from the Russian mafia. What a coincidence, the poppies were supposed to bloom sometime in late October. I had a suspicion attacking the crops would be a fringe benefit.
On October 17, the US House Of Representatives was closed down when 31 Senate staffers tested positive for anthrax. The Senate remained in action (or inaction, based on what I've seen on C-SPAN). This reinforced the rush to buy anthrax detectors and Ciprobay, called Cipro for short. This despite warnings from scientists that it was possible that taking Cipro without any anthrax in the system to fight could build up the body's resistence to the drug and its effectiveness. Added to this was a rash of phony anthrax letters going around the country. Also reported that day was that residents of Anthrax Street in Fayetteville, North Carolina, were considering changing their name.
As of October 19, the airstrikes had been going on for two weeks. There was a huge rash of Taliban defections. Some estimates put the figure at about 4,000. Minister Louis Farakhan, leader of the Nation Of Islam (and, if my memory serves me correctly, his organization was also trying to found its own country somewhere), demanded proof of Osama bin Laden's guilt. He isn't the only one with a questionable mentality, however. I take a lot of good-natured ribbing about my leftist leanings, but other liberals have been advancing views that trigger more than just joshing. I'm not talking about people who simply say we shouldn't resort to war (under most circumstances, I'd agree, but not this time) or the "We brought this on ourselves because we are Americans" (what are you, stupid?). The New Republic began a feature called the Idiocy Watch to track stupid statements made on both sides of the aisle. Despite liberals claiming higher intelligence, some really stupid statements appeared. For example, Susan Sontag wrote about the "self-righteous drivel and outright deception being peddled by public figures and TV commentators" and saying our approach to war was "cowardly." A few weeks later, in response to food drops to Afghan civilians as well as bomb drops on the Taliban, she wrote in the online magazine Salon, "I don't like throwing biscuits and peanut butter and jam and napkins, little snack packages produced in a small city in Texas, so we can say, 'Look, we're doing something humanitarian.'" I'm not sure what the small city in Texas has to do with this, so I'll assume she just got carried away. But the logical conclusion to her arguement is, if we're going to bomb, we should bomb indiscriminately and not try to help the citizens caught in the crossfire. She further worried that the government was going to try deporting Muslims and declare martial law. She did not present one arguement that could survive even basic argument. Likewise, the normally incisive Michael Moore wrote on his web site, "Finally, the bombs are raining down on Afghanistan, and as Marthat Stewart says, that's a good thing. Yesiree, I say, BOMBS AWAY! Rockets red glare. We are all WHITE WITH FOAM!" The vast majority of people I know supporting the war, both liberal and conservative, aren't doing this with the same blind and rabid patriotism that infected the US during the Reagan 80's with Rambo and other bullshit. They don't want a slaughter, they want justice. Oliver Stone, living proof that aliens walk among us, apparently felt left out, because he came up with more political bullshit given attention. "Does anybody make a connection betweent the 2000 election and the events of September 11?" Uh, no, can't say so. Care to eludicate? And I don't know about you, but I'm thanking my lucky stars that George W. Bush is running this, not Bill Clinton Version 2. But Stone wasn't done, and neither am I, my comments are in brackets. "The new world order is about order and control [hence the name, I guess--G]. This attack was pure chaos, and chaos is energy [I guess my thesaurus is out of date, this is new to me--G]. All great changes have come from people or events that were initially misunderstood, and seemed frightening, like madmen." Of course, I supposed Stone, what with his creative history, has personal experience with being misunderstood and called a madman. But just because people think you are insane, underqualified, or just stupid doesn't automatically qualify you for "I'm a genius, you just don't know it yet" status. But don't think it's just me thinking this. Liberal commentator Christopher Hitchens said at a New York forum that Stone was a "moral idiot, as well as an intellectual idiot," and that the attack was "state-supported mass murder, using civilians as missiles." (I admit a bias, since that has been my perspective all along.) Katha Pollitt wrote in The Nation that she wouldn't let her daughter put an American flag in their living room window. The daughter felt the flag meant "standing together and honoring the dead and saying no to terrorism. Mom thought of the flag as a symbol of "jingoism and vengance and war". This is why liberals have trouble being taken seriously: instead of saying the flag and America is just as much theirs, they seperate themselves from it because they don't like the symbolism being assigned to it instead of fighting to protect the ideas it is supposed to represent. And now, instead of understanding her daughter's perspective like she understands the perspectives of people who hate America, she told her daughter to fly the flag by her bedroom window, her own little portion of the house, instead of identifying the whole house with it. It ain't the Taliban, but it has potential. By way of contrast, The Nation later featured Princeton professor Richard Falk saying that while he agrees that the US is an imperialist power, that particular stance is "dangerously inappropriate in addressing the challenge posed by the massive crime against humanity committed on September 11." He also wrote that US involvement in world affairs "cannot be addressed so long as this movement of global terrorism is at large and prepared to carry on with its demonic work." Nation columnist Eric Alterman dismissed people who feel no patriotism. He wrote that they "really do hate their country. These leftists find nothing to admire in its magnificent Constitution; its fitful history of struggle toward greater freedom for women, minorities, and other historically oppressed groups; and its values, however imperfectly or hypocritically manifested in everyday life." In sumnation, "patriotism requires no apologies." Excuse me while I raise my glass to him in a toast.
Psy ops began that weekend. "Psychological operations" are basically broadcasts along the lines of Japan's "Tokyo Rose" and North Vietnam's "Hanoi Hanna". The US used a similar operation during the Persian Gulf War. The Commando Solo is the medium for the message, a C-130 cargo plane made by Lockheed Corp. The $70 mil craft is retrofitted with communications equipment to jam local broadcasts and transmit on any known frequency--TV, radio, shortwave, etc. There are actually six planes, only one goes aloft with its crew of 11 at a time. Classified until 1994, it has been used in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Haiti, and the Balkan Islands. It is deployed from the 193rd Special Operations Wing of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's Air National Guard. The scripts come from the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group, stationed at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. Here's some transcripts of what is going out:
"Attention Taliban! You are condemned. Did you know that? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death. The armed forces of the United States are here to seek justice for our dead.
"Our forces are armed with state-of-the-art military equipment. What are you using, obsolete and ineffective weaponry? Our helicopters will rain fire down upon your camps before you detect them on your radar. Our bombs are so accurate we can drop them right through your windows.
"Surrender now and we will give you a second chance. We will let you live. If you surrender, no harm will come to you. When you decide to surrender, approach United States forces with your hands in the air. Sling your weapon across your back, muzzle towards the ground. Remove your magazine and expel any rounds. Doing this is your only chance of survival.
"Taliban leaders! By harboring al Qaida and their leader, Osama bin Laden, you have declared war on the United States, and by doing this you have just guaranteed your own demise."
"People of Afghanistan, United States forces will be moving through you area. We are not here to harm you! We are here for Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, and those who protect them!
"Do not approach United States forces. Stay in your homes! We are not here to occupy you, or to overrun your country.
"The Taliban tells you that dying for their fanatical form of Islam is a proud and noble thing to do. They encourage you to be martyrs, but in reality, they are cowards hiding behind farmers and families. If dying for this form of Islam is noble, why doesn't Mullah Omar go to the fronts? He is enjoying his luxurious quarters and his wives while you are asked to die.
"On September 11, 2001, thousands of people were killed en masse in the United States. Among them...was a 2-year old girl. Barely able to stand or dress herself. Did she deserve to die?
"Why was she killed, you ask? Was she a thief? What crime had she committed? She was merely on a trip with her family to visit her grandparents. Policemen... firefighters... teachers... doctors... mothers... fathers... sisters... brothers all killed... WHY?"
"Dear Afghanistan....A grave crime has been committed against the United States. Four of our planes have been hijacked, several buildings in our economic centers destroyed and more than 6,000 innocent people, hundreds of which were Muslim, were murdered by the hand of Osama bin Laden, al=Qaida, his supporters, and the Taliban. We see these actions as acts of war.
"We will not sit idly by and do nothing in these times. However, we do not wish to spill the blood of innocent people, as did the cowardly terrorists. We do not blame the Muslims or Afghans."
People were not only hoarding anti-anthrax drugs and food supplies, but that wasn't the only stupidity happening in the news. A woman in NYC went shopping for a gas mask for her dog. I know people love their pets, but the variety of shapes and sizes in animals makes a gasmask preposterous. Plus, dogs have fur. Just like people with facial hair buying gas masks-- the hair/fur breaks the seal and makes them completely ineffective. The City Council in Berkeley, California, apparently felt left out, because they passed a resolution calling for the United States to "break the cycle of violence." What?!? Admittedly, Berkeley has always opposed US military action. It was the epicenter of protest during the Vietnam War. In a switch, though, the resolution just barely passed and only after the wording was changed to condemn the WTC attacks. People are threatening an economic boycott, which I don't think is a good idea. After all, this is America. If they disagree, that is their right. Madison, Wisconsin's board of education forbade schools from saying the Pledge Of Allediance because some students might not want to support the country. But after waves of protest, Madison reversed its decision. New York City's board of education required the pledge be said, but thankfully allowed people to decline. Unfortunately, the New York Civil Liberties Union got on the wrong side of the issue, saying that non-student citizens that declined would be "scapegoated or targeted for harassment." Take it from me and my school days--kids scapegoat or target for harassment for any reason, from bust size to hobbies to anything. You've got a lot of crusading to do. Also, the FBI released a poster with tips on what makes mail suspicious. It pointed out to watch for "misspelled words" on the envelope and if it is "possiblly (sic) from a foreign country." Whoops.
On Sunday, October 21, one mail handler died from anthrax exposure. On Monday, another died. The US also shifted its attacks to help the Northern Alliance. This was important, because the supply lines were too vulnerable. Saudi Arabia said it would commit to the defense of Iraq and other Arab nations if the US attacks them. Just who's side are they on, anyway? Pat Robertson, demonstrating he hasn't learned his lesson, said at a bash to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Christian Broadcast Network, "The Lord is getting ready to shake this nation. We have not yet seen his judgment on America. This thing that happened in New York was child's play compared to what's going to happen." No mention in the transcript of a James Bond-style evil laugh afterwards. Also that Monday night, the Concert For New York was held, broadcast on VH1. The concert was to raise funds for relief efforts, and several police and firefighters were special guests. A surprise guest appeared. Senator Hillary Clinton came out to introduce a clip, and the cops and firefighters booed her loudly. So loud, she almost couldn't be heard. Former President Bill Clinton had a few scattered boos, but nothing as bad as his wife's. On stage, hubby was smiles, but backstage, he was enraged. Amazing that he thinks his wife is beyond reproach despite the embarrassments of their carreers. Also around this time, Dixie Hollins High School in St. Petersburg, Florida, decided to try a physics demonstration by dropping eggs on a poster of Osama bin Laden. It was banned as being "culturally insensitive." Speaking of cultural insensitivity, some assholes spread an e-mail that 4,000 Jewish workers stayed home from working in the WTC the day of the attack. This seems to have come from Al Jazeera, an Arab television network based in Qatar. Christ almighty.
On Thursday, October 26, Donald Rumsfeld announced that bin Laden was on the move, but finding him would be difficult.
The anti-terror bill started picking up steam in Congress, passing the Senate after House approval. It was weakened a bit from Attorney General John Ashcroft's Constitutional thumping, but I'm still not comfortable. Investigators would be able to see the to's and from's on e-mails. To prove probable cause, they would only have to tell a judge that the info would be "relevant". They wouldn't be able to see the content of e-mail or Internet sites without a wiretap. Mark Rasch, a former Justice Department attorney and cyber-crime specialist, made the prophetic statement, "Americans appear to be willing to tolerate much greater intrusions now." The legislation also enabled broader access under FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) for wiretaps. Now, it could be used for locating domestic terrorists. Immigrants who are foreign terrorism suspects could be held for seven days before charges could be filed. Authorites could perform authorized searches without informing the property owner in what us civil libertarians are calling "sneak and peek" searches, and lest you think I'm overreacting, this is for all law enforcement, not just terrorism investigations. All federal investigators, domestic and international, can share information now. One big "Duh!" is that non-resident aliens from "countries that support terrorism" could not possess a "biological agent or toxin" like anthrax. Everyone else can have small quantities as long as they appeared to be for "peaceful purposes." Wow, let me get my Christmas list ready. Banking secrecy regulations have been altered for foreign account holders to permit less secrets held from US institutions. And the number of Customs Agents, Border Patrol, and INS agents gets tripled. The process for hiring translators for the State Department gets streamlined. $100 mil goes to improving technology for immigration and customs. Fingerprint identification is required for entry points in US consular offices overseas. There's new statute for terrorism against mass transit vehicles. Roving wiretaps are permitted in this age of cell phones that are as disposable as cigarette lighters.
A news item from Saturday, October 27, said that "terrorism suspects have been arrested in over 40 countries since Sept. 11, but no such arrests have been announced so far in Saudi Arabia--believed to be teh home of at least half the suicide hijackers and many more suspects." Also reported, "To relieve passengers' stress, Baltimore-Washington International Airport has hired professional entertainers, including jugglers, to roam the terminal." Better that than hiring sharper security, I guess. Haunani-Kay Trask, a professor of Hawaiian studies at the University Of Hawaii, reaffirmed that Hawaii isn't the happy place the travel brochures paint it as. He traced the cause of the WTC attacks back through a century of US "imperialism and militarism" that began in 1893, with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Now, I admit Hawaii got a bum deal from the US as opposed to, say, Peurto Rico, but that is the seeds for a terrorist attack? Iowa State University was hammered by the American Civil Liberties Union for restricting freedom of speech about the war on its campus. Under a deal that was hammered out, events that may contain free speech could occur on weekdays between 11:50 a.m. and 1:10 p.m and between 4:10 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., as long as no more than 50 people are exercising free speech if the event is outdoors and no more than 15 people are exercising free speech if the event is indoors, and proper notice given that free speech is about to occur. Remember when freedom of speech was just speaking your mind? Elsewhere, Richard Gere was quoted as saying, "They are creating such horrible future lives for themselves because to the negativity of this karma." Whoa, cosmic. And Shirley MacLaine said, "Melt their hearts, melt their anger with love." Zay N. Smith wrote, "Let's melt their training camps first, and then we'll see." Robert Novak reported the interesting news that attempts to investigate the roots of the 9/11 attacks were being held up to protect former Attorney General Janet Reno. Reno declared she would run for governor of Florida on the Democratic ticket, part of the fallout from Jeb Bush's state deciding the election in 2000. Reno is facing an uphill battle, and the investigation would go back into her eight years as Attorney General. The report would finalize in April of 2002, about the time the election campaign for Governor kicks into high gear, and Jeb Bush's lead in the polls has only increased of late. Also that Sunday, James E. Goodwin, the CEO of United Airlines, resigned after employees and investors lost confidence in him. He was replaced at the position by John W. Creighton. Don't feel too bad for Mr. Goodwin, though. He gets $3.4 mil severence package.
On Monday, October 29, Japan OK'd non-combat troops to help the US effort. The American Red Cross also faced having to defend itself from some very very bad press. After the attacks, the Red Cross had gotten $550 mil in donations to help. On that day, however, they said they would be using some of the money for other needs. Now, it's true the Red Cross helps a lot of people. But the money came from the Liberty Fund, created by the Red Cross specifically for the 9/11 victims. There is some question why Red Cross President Bernadine Healy created the seperate fund in the first place. A bloody feud broke out between Healy and the board of directors about how the money would be spent, and she resigned the previous Friday. Also, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was in the news again, saying Bush should be removed from office. Reason? "His bellicose posture has opened the road to the gates of hell, followers said Saturday." Strange, I thought it was the posture of exotic dancers that opened the gates to Hell. Elsewhere with the Knuts Of The Round Table, America Online President Richard J. Oglethorpe spoke at a breakfast meeting in France and declared that the anthrax attacks have been "incredibly positive for the Internet" because you can't get anthrax from e-mail. Congratulations, Mr. Oglethorpe, you've done the impossible. You've made me hate your company more than before.
Documents found revealed that Osama bin Laden prefers his first name spent "Usama". Wanna get picky? How about "Assama?" It's closer than some other names I can think of.
Saudi Arabian press increased its criticism of the US, to which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responded, "Clearly, anyone listens to friends and important nations." Naturally, this increased critical press in the US about Saudi Arabia, to which Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said, "The fierce criticism that the kingdon is enduring from the Western press is the result of an embedded hatred against the Islamic method." Nah, why should America hate them for that when, thanks to the Saudis stymying investigations of the terrorists, we have so many other reasons?
By the end of October, four people total had died from anthrax.
By Friday, November 2, anthrax letters arrived in Pakistan, India, and Lithuania. The next day, bin Laden released another video full of rhetoric against the US. And a news article said, "The Occupational Safety and Health Administration bans use of protective masks by postal workers until postal workers have undergone hours of training on how to place protective masks on their faces." OSHA also said the training could be given in hospital beds. And an update on Saudi Arabia and its cooperation with the war effort as of November 7:
Saudi Arabia refuses to allow US military to use its bases.
Saudi Arabia refuses to freeze assets of terrorists.
Saudi Arabia announces it may commit to the defense of Iraq if the US attacks it.
Saudi Arabia restricts interviews by the FBI of the families of 15 hijackers who were Saudi citizens.
Terrorism suspects are arrested in more than 40 nations but no arrests have been announced in Saudi Arabia.
President Bush apologizes to Saudi Arabia for Western press reports that the US is dissatisfied with Saudi response to the war.
Oh, and a propaganda video from China features the following line: "This is the America the whole world has wanted to see. Blood debts have been repaid in blood. America has bombed other countries and used its hegemony to deny the natural rights of others without paying the price. Who until now has dared to avenge the hurts inflicted by unaccountable Americans?" This means a lot coming from the country that killed the student protesters in Tienamen Square.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals put on its web site: "OSAMA BIN LADEN: TERRORIST AND...LEATHER PRODUCER???" Nice to see they still have their priorities in order. Side note: it's also inaccurate. Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has banned among other things, leather jackets.
Among the interesting events to occur happened on November 7, 2001. It was the premiere of a brand new episode of South Park. Trey Parker and Matt Stone had said from the beginning they were trying to avoid being overtly topical on the show so that the episodes can be enjoyed for years, like Monty Python. In this episode, they decided to break protocol and had something to say about bin Laden. And, oh, did they say it. The episode starts with the kids waiting for the bus while wearing gas masks, going to a school with bank locks and airlocks on the door. Following President Bush's real life urging to "send a kid in Afghanistan a dollar", the kids do that. In Afghanistan, a bunch of kids analogous to the South Park kids get the dollars in their bombed-out village. Thinking they should send something back, they send the kids a goat. Stan and company, however, can't take care of the goat and decide to send it back, but they get stuck on the airplane and wind up in Afghanistan. Along the way, they are taken hostage by bin Laden, who moves and animates like Bluto in the old Max Fleicher cartoons and speaks in gibberish from a variety of languages, including (I would swear) Yiddish. During the escape in the final act, Cartman decides he's going to teach bin Laden a lesson, and the show takes on a Looney Tunes atmosphere, complete with an orchestra punchuating the action and bin Laden stalking Cartman with an assault rifle like Elmer Fudd stalked Bugs Bunny. Showing bin Laden actually loving modern technology, being a camera-hungry glory hound, and trying to seduce a camel to become his wife actually makes him look like more of a shithead than he already does. In one scene, Cartman does the old "holding up signs with rhebus images of what he wants to say" bit. You know, one sign has a picture of a screw and a baseball for "screwball". Only Cartman did better, calling bin Laden "jackass," "shit for brains," "cocksucker," and "Barbara Striesand." It is truly mindboggling what the censors let go with the episode. My dad has commented that he can't believe how much Parker and Stone get away with on the show. Well, this episode proves they were just getting warmed up.
Interestingly, my dad refused to watch the episode. The promos show the Afghan kids wandering around their under-attack village. "Parker and Stone are saying we shouldn't be bombing Afghanistan, right?"
No, that was just the set-up to kickstart the plot.
He still won't watch it. He could watch a 30 second promo and form the wrong idea, but not the 30 minute episode and see what's really going on.
On Friday, November 9, the FBI made an announcement that supported my theory about the anthrax letters. The FBI had theorized that the letters were the work of a domestic terrorist. The profile was an adult male, a loner who "lacks the personal skills necessary to confront others," worked in a laboratory or has a background in science, familiar with the Trenton, NJ, area where the letters were postmarked, and someone who was not choosing his targets randomly but based on some long-time grudge.
On Saturday, November 10, the Northern Alliance captured Mazar-e-Sharif, one of Afghanistan's key cities. That meant the capital city of Kabul was next. Bush immediately urged the Northern Alliance not to take it, the city had to be ruled by a broadbased coalition. Bush also announced $1 bil in economic assistance to Pakistan. Also, Saudi Arabia got the great idea to raise oil prices to make Americans pay more for gas. Unfortunately, the opposite happened, with prices in my area at almost a dollar a gallon. Never thought I'd see the day when THAT would be a vacation. By official info, about half of Afghanistan had been taken from the Taliban by this point.
On Monday, November 12, an unfortunate case of perspective occured. American Airlines Flight 587 went out of control and crashed in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of Queens in New York City. People panicked until they realized it was only a plane crash, not a terrorist attack. Like I said, unfortunate perspective. At least 265 died. Fortunately, enough humanity was left to honor the dead. Also, Central Michigan University ordered students to take down all of the American flags and patriotic posters they hung around a dormitory because some students might find them "offensive". When I first went to college long time ago, one of the big things supposedly hanging in dorm rooms was the Confederate flag, and I didn't hear shit about those being removed because some people would find them offensive.
On November 13, 2001, the capital city of Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance. In a moment that did not do wonders for their PR, Alliance troops that raced in took out revenge for years of abuse by the Taliban. There were executions of wounded prisoners, looting, and they images were broadcast on American TV. Photographer Tyler Hicks caught Alliance troops executing a Taliban soldier begging for his life. Bush immediately began efforts to put the genie back in the bottle, and the UN fasttracked plans to put together a coalition government.
On November 21, newspapers carried photos of a beautiful sight. Women in cities the Taliban had been chased from showed their faces and hands. They would have been beaten for that before. In fact, bin Laden reportedly was furious about that, as well as Afghans playing music in the streets and going to movies. Someone give him a hug. Also, the Northern Alliance agreed to meet with other factions to build a coalition govenment in Afghanistan. bin Laden and his al-Qaida troops took cover in the network of tunnels and caverns in the mountains. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was quoted as saying, "I have had a dream in which I am in charge for as long as I live." Zay N. Smith wrote, "And so he will be. For what, another week or two?" In Jalalabad, the city school allowed girls to join the classes and get an education. God bless you. Also that day, Taliban leader Omar issued an order that his followers must wear their turbans straight. Yes, you read that correctly. The edict read, "You should strictly adopt the Islamic law of the Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him, in every aspect of life including dress, especially the turban. Wearing the turban crooked is not acceptable to the sunnah (dress and demeanor laws). For 1,400 years we have been wearing beard and turbans. Some people say these are new things but it is not true." Also, the Taliban issued a statement saying that America should just "forget September 11th ever happened." There are some times when no comment is necessary.
On Sunday, November 25, Marines landed in Afghanistan to begin the search for bin Laden. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency came up with the Christmas gift for the guy who has everything--Family Disaster Emergency Supply Kits. In case you want to make your own, it should include the following according to FEMA:
Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
Sterile roller bandages
Blankets or sleeping bags
Canned foods and juices
Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
Paper plates and cups
Emergency preparedness manual
Cash or traveler's checks
Matches in a waterproof container
Shut-off wrench for household gas and water
Map of area
And what better way to show someone you care?
You might have noticed that there are fewer and fewer entries for each date, unlike the last update where there seemed to be dozens of things happening each day. What can I say? The further you get from the grave.... The new headlines were about football playoffs and things like that. Al Gore filed paperwork to restart his political action committee. Bill Clinton also made news again:
News item from 1999: President Clinton, promoting his "Save America's Treasures" campaign, notes: "The First Lady and I have worked very hard to preserve it as part of our gift to the new millennium."
News item from 2000: President Clinton, in dedicating a historical landmark as part of his "Save America's Treasures" campaign, notes: "There is fragile, vital history in this house."
News item from around October 29, 2001: Clinton Presidential Library announces plan to demolish a preserved 1899 train depot build by former slaves because it will clash with the library's architecture.
And people still call him a man of the people.
Also, lobbyists were upset with new security measures on Capitol Hill because it was limiting their access to politicians. Help me out here, I'm not seeing the down side.
First week of December. Among the Taliban rounded up included an American from Marin County, California, a wealthy San Francisco suburb, named John Walker. Walker apparently has some issues. At age 14, he was posing as a black man in black chat rooms on the Internet, saying things like"Our blackness does not make white people hate us, it is their racism that causes the hate," and of the infamous "n-word", he wrote, "It has, for hundreds of years been a label put on us by Caucasians...and becaues of the weight it carries with it, I never use it myself." At 16, he started studying Islam after discovering the autobiography of Malcolm X. His studies took him to the Middle East, and wound up at an Al Qaeda training camp. His exact fate was unknown, because Bush was trying to push through legislation to have terrorism suspects tried in a military tribunal instead of in a court of law. Despite assurances that it was not for US citizens, the fact that they are creating a special exception makes me leery of an erosion of Constitutional rights. Attorney General John Ashcroft defended legislation to bring back surveilence of domestic religious and political groups. Can you say, "COINTELPRO"? He backed up his determination to squash any and all threats by saying anyone who disagreed with him is siding with the terrorists. Blow me. After all, what's to stop another exception from doing the same thing? Also, the feds shut down the Muslim charity Holy Land Foundation in the US, saying that they were actually a funnel for funds for the Taliban.
On Thursday, December 13, the US government released a video tape of bin Laden sitting around casually laughing about the damage his attacks had done to America. Naturally, some segments of the Arab world maintained the tape was a fake. Bullshit. During the build-up to the attacks in Afghanistan, bin Laden made a number of self-incriminating remarks, so the video is probably authentic. It was believed to be made around November 9 in the Afghanistan city of Kandahar. Here's a few choice excerps:
"We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all...due to my experience in this field (bin Laden studied engineering--G). I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. That is all that we had hoped for."
"The brothers, who conducted the operation, all they knew was that they have a martyrdom operation and we asked each of them to go to America but they didn't know anything about the operation, not even one letter. But they were traineed and we did not reveal the operation to them until they are there and just before they boarded the planes."
On Sunday, December 16, Afghan fighters declared the Taliban whupped and gone. The US focused on finding bin Laden.
As the nation's attention drifted back to celebrities and ignoring political manuvering, on Sunday, December 23, a passenger on a flight from Paris to Miami announced he had an incendiary device in his shoes and threatened to set them off. He was promptly attacked by crew and passengers, and there was indeed a bomb in his shoes. He's in deep shit now.
Also, Afghan prisoners were being taken to Camp X-ray, set up in Cuba. A British photographer got pictures of the prisoners coming off the plane with blindfolds and chains, then kneeling in the hallway until the cells were opened to put them in. What seemed like "self-preservation" became evidence that the US was treating the prisoners inhumanely. Despite the fact that not one person complained, there was still an uproar. Sorry, not only do I know the truth so I'm not complaining, I don't think I would. To my mind, this is what that thinking says--"Yeah, you created a reign of terror for nine years and killed over 4,000 innocent people, but we're not going to treat you like animals." Besides, in order for them to qualify for POW rights, they need to fill two criteria from the Geneva Convention: 1) they must operate in uniform or other identification, they cannot use subterfuge to infiltrate the populous, and 2) they cannot make war on innocent civilians, only military targets. What they're getting already is too good for them.
As I ready this for update, there are still things in the world that must be watched. Attorney General Ashcroft overrode state's rights and shut down Oregon's right to assisted suicide law. Enron, which I will write about next time, is suddenly showing a lot of dirty laundry. And Saddam Hussein has just finished writing his second romance novel. But we should be worried about bin Laden and those like him. Remember what FDR said: the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. These are dangerous times with dangerous people. Let's not let our guard down again.