31st October 2005

Shorter Vietnam: Dilbert covers ass

Secretive organizations often have Dilbert moments. They are accountable only to themselves, so it’s all too easy to cover up mistakes with a few choice lies. This can sometimes lead to more lies, and eventually big problems, but the person who made the initial mistake has covered his ass, so he keeps his job and watches the world collapse around him.

Sort of like the incompetent intel analysts who mistranslated some Vietnamese in 1963 and led the U.S. into one of its many wars of dumb. (I don’t say war of choice, as all wars are wars of choice. These are wars of dumb, when it takes conscious ignorance in order to go to war. I’d include the Mexican, Spanish-American, and Iraq wars in this list.)

Yes, I meant to do that:

Mr. Hanyok believed the initial misinterpretation of North Vietnamese intercepts was probably an honest mistake. But after months of detective work in N.S.A.’s archives, he concluded that midlevel agency officials discovered the error almost immediately but covered it up and doctored documents so that they appeared to provide evidence of an attack.

“Rather than come clean about their mistake, they helped launch the United States into a bloody war that would last for 10 years,” Mr. Aid said.

The best part is that this finding itself has been buried for the last five years, again to prevent embarrassment for policy makers intent on making war — this time in Iraq.

To sum up: Tonkin incident never happened. NSA analyst thought it did. Analyst covers error with lies. Policy makers push lies to public, leading to war. 38 years later, historian uncovers tale. Historian’s findings suppressed from public, in fear public won’t support another war based on lies. Yes, a coverup to cover up a coverup that covered up a lie. Upshot: 2 big wars, millions of dead bodies, and the accelerated demise of the wealthiest country in the history of the world.

posted by hedgehog in Uncategorized | 0 Comments

29th October 2005

Damage assessment

We don’t normally cover “hard news” here at Rhinocrisy, but what the heck. Atrios notices that there are conflicting stories going around about whether the CIA conducted a damage assessment over the Valerie Plame name leak. At a hearing this summer, I heard several former CIA guys agree that after a leak, the CIA would normally conduct a “damage assessment” to determine what intelligence assets had been compromised. I asked one Democratic Party member of the Joint Intelligence Committee whether he had been presented with such a document. He said he was unaware of such a document being prepared. He said he would look into it. I haven’t checked back, but it sounds like a good project. I’ll let you know what I find out.

posted by hedgehog in Uncategorized | 0 Comments

28th October 2005

Happy half-birthday

I hate to sound repetitive, but:

Photo released
April 28, 2004

Today “they” are busy keeping the remainder of the photos under wraps, despite a court order to release them. According to Sy Hersh, the new photos will include boys being sodomized. I guess that’s what they get for being born in the wrong damn country, isn’t it.

posted by hedgehog in Uncategorized | 0 Comments

27th October 2005

Ahmadimejad gets in on the act

Is everyone in on this game except me? I can’t look around without someone riling up anti-Iran sentiment. It’s one thing for the neocons to be doing this — that’s their habit. But what’s up with this guy? Isn’t he supposed to be, like, the president of that country? From the Pakistani version:

TEHRAN: Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday openly called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’ and lashed out at Muslim nations who recognise the Jewish state.

“The establishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world oppressor against the Islamic world,” the president told a conference in Tehran entitled ‘The World without Zionism’.

“The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land,” he thundered in a fiery speech on what he called an “historic war between the oppressor and the world of Islam”.

Ever feel surrounded by assholes?

posted by hedgehog in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

26th October 2005

More bad reporting

It’s not just the New York Times that has to crib facts from the Internet. What you or I could find out in ten minutes with a browser is apparently the best information available even to the highly placed. Pity Lt. Colonel Steve Boylan, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. Boylan cited the Iraq Body Count figure of 30,000*, because:

Boylan said the U.S. military keeps its own tally of Iraqi dead, but does not release it. He said he had asked U.S. authorities to see the estimates of Iraqi dead himself, and was refused.

That’s right – they won’t even let their own spokesman know how many Iraqi dead there are. What the…? What happened to the good ole days, when we were counting dead Vietnamese daily on the nightly news?

Maybe they’re embarassed. As the A.P. coyly points out, the death rate in Iraq is nowhere near what it was in Vietnam, which averaged at 12,000 a month. But, no, Mrs. Reporter – we haven’t even started carpet bombing yet! The correct, adjusted equation for death rate should be something like this:

where k is number of kills, and O is the amount of ordinance expended.

The real source of the Pentagon’s embarassment, though, is that they still think they haven’t matched up to their own protegé Saddam:

Boylan disputed assertions that Iraq was safer under Saddam.

“The mass graves hold the truth,” he said.

Haha! Those guys… you’d think they have some sort of weird complex about all this.

Check out McClellan. He can’t even bring himself to SAY that sometimes the U.S. military kills innnocent people. Here he is, responding to questions about 70 civilians, including children, who were killed in a U.S. airstrike:

And there are people in Iraq, terrorists, who recognized how high the stakes are, and they’re seeking to do everything they can to stop the democratic process from advancing. And there are attacks carried out on some of our troops. And when those attacks are carried out on our troops, you have others that respond to that. And we appreciate all that our men and women in uniform are doing when it comes to defending our freedoms abroad. Now, in terms of any innocent people being killed, we mourn the loss of any innocent life that is lost.

Here’s a clue, asshole: if you really mourned the loss of any innocent life, you wouldn’t hide it.

* Which is conservative, since it’s only those deaths that get reported in newsmedia.

posted by saurabh in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

26th October 2005

Unknown territory

What a big night! A record-breaking 14-inning World Series game! With a record-breaking 16 pitchers! And a record-breaking 21st tropical storm of the season kills 15 in Haiti! I always wanted to set a record. Isn’t it nice to be in unknown territory?

In the future, hurricanes will be named for motor vehicles. Tropical Storm X-Terra. Hurricane Hummer. Atlantic Depression Studebaker.

posted by hedgehog in Uncategorized | 0 Comments

26th October 2005

USA to democracy: "you just get in the way!"

I’ve been following the story of the US base on Okinawa for a while. We showed a documentary about Okinawa a couple years back at MIT. It showed the areas where the new air field was supposed to be built: a beautiful cove, one of the last refuges for many species of the area. Sure, let’s pour some concrete and oil spills there!

So I was relieved to read in this article that the US had agreed to relocate the air field somewhere else (exact location unclear, and having an air field next door is not good for humans, beasts, land, water or air). But still, overall, a good thing, and a concession from the US to Japan. Japan is after all a sovereign nation who has waged fewer wars on the rest of the world than the US in the past 50 years.

However, the last line did stand out:
“Washington had expressed frustration with the slow pace of progress. Lawless, deputy undersecretary of defense for Asia and the Pacific, on Tuesday suggested Japanese officials were too concerned with “parochial issues” — a reference to local opposition to the plan to build an offshore air station.”

First, note that the guy quoted is called “Lawless”. Coincidence sure has a sense of humor.

Secondly, and most importantly, and the whole point of posting chez Saurabh and friends here: local opposition is a “parochial issue” above which the Japanese government should rise, like a soaring imperial bald eagle, or some such image. Dear readers: “local opposition” is the very definition of democracy! You advise ignoring it, you’re a tyrant. Plain, simple, spelled out.

posted by saurabh in Uncategorized | 0 Comments

26th October 2005

The quest for knowledge

The New York Times is desperate to find out how many Iraqi civilians have died due to the American invasion. They are so desperate to find out that they put their crack Baghdad bureau to work. Reporter Sabrina Tavernise looked high and low, or at least at Google. After what must have been minutes of exhaustive keyboard-tapping, she copied and pasted the statistics from IraqBodyCount.com. Since those numbers — 26,000 to 30,000 — are shockingly high, she does her readers the polite favor of hiding the fact that the numbers are also very conservative. Instead she writes that they are “incomplete,” which implies inaccurate, rather than low. I appreciate her willingness to spare our delicate sensibilities. There is nothing worse than when the population paying for burnt dead bodies are forced to see the results of their actions.

And Tavernise’s gentility does not stop there. She even ignores the peer-reviewed study published almost exactly a year ago. It used epidemiological sampling to find the most likely estimate of excess Iraqi deaths above the already sickening level at which they were dying under Saddam + sanctions. Their figure, as of September 2003, was 98,000, with a wide range to reach a 95% confidence interval. Of course that study was already deep in the memory hole within days of publication, so Ms. Tavernise did not need even to explain it away.

Instead, the NY Times confirms its own headline: “Rising Civilian Toll Is the Iraq War’s Silent, Sinister Pulse.”

posted by hedgehog in Uncategorized | 0 Comments

25th October 2005

What on earth are you looking for?

Gerry: The Jon Stewart parody of Mallard Fillmore is a cross of a rhino and a hedgehog. For the peak of rhinocrisy, and to torture saurabh, oil a kleen kanteen in the red amino methyl tyrosinate.

This post is composed entirely of the search terms most likely to have sent readers to Rhinocrisy in the past six months. Apparently, procrastinatory disquisitions on evolutionary biology, politics, and cartography will attract a substantial readership among fans of Mallard Fillmore, Jon Stewart and Kleen Kanteens.

posted by hedgehog in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

25th October 2005


Richard Nixon was president from 1968 until his resignation in 1974. He was elected on an essentially anti-war platform the first time around, promising to bring to an end the war in Vietnam. In actual fact the war ended up dragging on until 1973, and in the interim his secretary of State Henry Kissinger started two other undeclared wars in Cambodia and Laos.

Nixon was thrown out of office for a bit of political skulduggery involving spying on his political opponents. Meanwhile, his performance in Vietnam earned his secretary of State the Nobel Peace Prize. The Secret War in Laos and Cambodia continued thereafter, even following Nixon’s resignation.

The modern parallel involves the disclosure of the identity of a covert agent, one Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson. This is a bit of political skulduggery, on par with the Watergate affair. The crime involved is of no grave magnitude; no one even died. And its impact on events in the world is negligible, really. Bush lied about yellowcake uranium on January 28, 2003. Joe Wilson told the world Bush was a liar on July 6, 2003. Unfortunately, Bush had already invaded Iraq on March 20.

Maybe someone will go down for revealing Valerie Plame’s secret identity. But Iraq is still white-hot, burning bright like thermite. The United States will probably be squirming its toes around in Iraqi sand for the next ten years, regardless of who is in charge here. Whatever figure occupies the oily black leather chair behind the desk in the Oval Office will stare at Iraq with the same greedy grin on its jaws. And no one’s ever going to get called out for that, just like no one got called out for killing half a million Cambodians. The moral of the story: the really big crimes always go unpunished. So think big.

posted by saurabh in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

  • Blogroll