Mojo - July 2006

What You Don't - and Won't - Know About Iraq Casualties

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 2:15 PM PDT

How many Americans have really been killed in Iraq? No one knows, because the Army won't release information on private security contractors involved in shooting incidents. Yesterday a federal judge, ruling against a Los Angeles Times FOIA request, declared that policy was a legitimate means of keeping information from insurgents - even though the Army does release the names and locations of regular soldiers involved in shootings. This fits right into the Bush administration's pattern of downplaying casualties, including tricky dodges like undercounting soldiers injured in battle who aren't actually shot.

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Iraq War vs. Drug War

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 2:06 PM PDT

Seems the war in Iraq is undermining the Bush administration's war on drugs. While alcohol is harder to find because of harassment from Islamic extremists, "illegal narcotics are available everywhere in Iraq and anyone can get products containing amphetamines and codeine from any pharmacy or sidewalk throughout Iraq," says a local health official.

"War is a total failure of the human spirit."

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 1:40 PM PDT

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Dahr Jamail is filing daily dispatches for Mother Jones from Beirut. Read his latest here.

Who's Arming Israel? Take a Guess.

Thu Jul. 27, 2006 12:24 PM PDT

Until a few days ago, there was room for debate over the extent to which the United States was to blame for the tragedy unfolding in Lebanon. Then came the administration's decision to expedite a shipment of laser-guided bombs to Israel, followed by Condoleezza Rice squelching calls from Europe and Arab nations for a ceasefire in Lebanon. Anyone who still doubts that the U.S. has blood on its hands is either delusional or, as Fouad Siniora said yesterday, none too concerned with Lebanese blood.

But American culpability for Israel's actions goes deeper than that. A report published yesterday by Foreign Policy in Focus entitled "Who's Arming Israel?" sheds light on one aspect of this support. "During the Bush administration, from 2001 to 2005, Israel received $10.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing—the Pentagon's biggest military aid program—and $6.3 billion in U.S. arms deliveries." The jet fuel and bombs that have been offered in July are drops in the bucket by comparison.

The report's authors describe this military support for Israel in order to argue that the United States has a lot of leverage over its ally—enough to stop its vicious campaign against Lebanon whenever it wants. But there is another point as well: by not only supporting but facilitating Israel's destruction of Lebanon, the United States is guaranteeing that the fires of anti-Americanism will keep burning for years to come—and not just in the Middle East. In what world body will the U.S. ever receive welcome reception of its aims and ideals after this shameful spectacle?

In an interview with Mother Jones last week, University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer placed this point in a broader context:

It's not just bin Laden—people in the Islamic world more generally are deeply hostile to the United States because we support Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. As a consequence, huge numbers of people in the Middle East tend to be more sympathetic to bin Laden than would otherwise be the case. As long as the United States continues to support Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, it will be impossible to win hearts and minds in the Arab and Islamic world and solve the terrorism problem.

Another Democratic Election Agenda?

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 12:06 PM PDT

Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't the Democrats already laid out an election agenda? They unveiled the grammatically implausible "Together, America Can Do Better" slogan last October, and that was fun. And then back in May the Post found the Democrats announcing that they would "raise the minimum wage, roll back parts of the Republican prescription drug law, implement homeland security measures and reinstate lapsed budget deficit controls" if they get elected this fall. That sounds like an agenda to me.

But now the AP's reporting that today is really the day that House and Senate Democrats are laying out their election agenda, which includes pushing for a minimum wage hike and pressing for "tough, smart" national security. The latter sounds dubious to me; at the moment, Democrats have decided to back Israel to the hilt in its offensive against Lebanon, supporting a war that is neither tough nor smart. Odds are that a Democratic foreign policy will entail some version of "progressive realism," meaning that the U.S. will still meddle abroad and tell other countries what's best for them, but it will all be marginally more competent than the Bush administration's catastrophic foreign policy. Sounds exciting.

U.S. Stem Cell Research Falling Way Behind

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 11:47 AM PDT

USA Today -- which has been excellent on the stem cell debate -- reports today that researchers from top U.S. institutions are (surprise!) stymied in their research efforts by inadequate funding. The piece cites an April article in Nature Biotechnology that found U.S. embryonic stem-cell research papers dropped from 36 percent of all such publications in 2001 to 26 percent in 2004. Says the lead author:

"We probably can expect this veto to make closing the gap we documented in our study more of a challenge to U.S. researchers. It wouldn't be surprising if we see more U.S. human embryonic stem-cell researchers, including some of the top researchers, moving abroad."

The journal reported that this month 15 percent of stem-cell "principal investigators" had received job offers overseas, a rate more than five times higher than for other biologists. In 2004, American biologists put out only 20 studies on stem cell research, half the number published by their colleagues outside the U.S.

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Exxon Posts $10 Billion Quarterly Profit

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 11:28 AM PDT

Reuters: Shares of Exxon-Mobil have jumped to an all-time high on word that the company posted a quarterly profit of more than $10 billion (a 36 percent jump), thanks largely to high oil prices. Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen's energy guy, told the Institute for Public Accuracy: "We're getting so little bang for our buck. In Europe, they do pay more for gas, but much of it is made up of taxes that subsidize mass transit, so they're getting something very tangible for their money. We don't get anything like that for the prices we're paying. We need to tax these windfall profits that companies like Exxon are posting and make investments into getting off our oil addiction."

Expect Exxon, rather, to spend some of this bounty on its strenuous PR effort to deny the reality of global warming, as documented by Chris Mooney in Mother Jones.

(And see here for an interactive chart of 40 Exxon-funded public policy groups that seek to undermine the scientific consensus that humans are causing the earth to overheat.)

Update: War in the Middle East

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 10:03 AM PDT

La Solitude du Liban: Excerpts from Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's emotional speech behind closed doors at the international conference at Rome yesterday: "what future other than one of fear, frustration, financial ruin and fanaticism can stem from the rubble? ... Is the value of human life less in Lebanon than that of citizens elsewhere? Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood? ... Can the international community continue to stand by while such callous retribution by the state of Israel is inflicted upon us? ... Is this what is called legitimate self-defence?" Siniora also said that Israel had a right of self-defence after the Hezbollah militia captured two of its soldiers earlier in July, launching the offensive.

Roundup: War in the Middle East

| Thu Jul. 27, 2006 6:57 AM PDT

July 27, 2006

Israel's Scorched Earth Policy: Justice Minister Haim Ramon said that to protect his nation's soldiers, villages in southern Lebanon will be destroyed from the air before troops go in. Civilians in southern Lebanon had been given plenty of time to get out, said Ramon. And so, "All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah."

Shoot Them All: Israeli soldiers at the front lay down the line: "Over here, everybody is the army," one soldier said. "Everybody is Hezbollah. There's no kids, women, nothing." Another soldier put it plainly: "We're going to shoot anything we see."

Zbigniew Brzezinksi on the war: The former national security advisor said, "I hate to say this but I will say it. I think what the Israelis are doing today, for example, in Lebanon is in effect, in effect -- maybe not in intent -- the killing of hostages. The killing of hostages."

McKinney in Big Trouble: Pro-Israel political groups in the US are rushing financial aid to former DeKalb County, Georgia, Commissioner Hank Johnson -- an African American candidate in the Democratic primary runoff race for Congress. He is pitted against incumbent Cynthia McKinney, who is fighting to stay in office. McKinney is backed by out of state pro-Arab and Muslim groups, according to the Forward, the independent New York paper which follows Jewish affairs.

"After learning of McKinney's unexpected runoff, several of the country's largest pro-Israel political action committees are rushing to make contributions, with an eye toward arming Johnson with sufficient cash to purchase valuable television and radio advertising," according to the Forward.

Think the Bush Administration Will Respect the Geneva Conventions Now?

| Wed Jul. 26, 2006 6:17 PM PDT

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Don't count on it. The guy with the club and the hood explains... (Click on the picture.)