"Arrested Development" as Allegory for U.S. Political Institutions

Stephen Walt‏, professor of international relations at Harvard, several years ago remarked that "Arrested Development" is both a "great show and a terrific description of U.S. political institutions."

Recent events involving the actors perhaps illustrate the limits of parody: A show about the people with no self awareness hardly precludes such behavior among at least the male real-life actors

Indeed, while U.S. media seems increasingly drenched in satire, genuine improvement in the society seems tragically rare and slow. So, to the extent that the Bluth family is an allegory for twisted U.S. political institutions, perhaps a straightforward analysis would be of benefit. Walt didn't elaborate on his analogy, so I have endeavored to connect the characters to their appropriate institutions: 

George: Represents the presidency. His very name is presidential. He's prone to criminal activity, but at times attempts to maintain plausible deniability by using his twin brother, Oscar.

Lucille: Is the nominal vice president, but, as is often the case in U.S. administrations, is the actual cold, calculating power behind the throne. In seeming contrast to the actress Jessica Walter depicting her, Lucille hatches insidious plots that she strong-arms the president and others to carry out, like buying land to build The Wall on the border with Mexico. She has an affinity for criminality on the high seas, perhaps stemming from the VP living at the Naval Observatory.

Buster: Literally joined the army. He does the dirty work. He's -- big stereotype here -- not too bright. He has an affinity for robotization, at times killing with drones and himself has a mechanical arm.

Tobias: Represents the NSA. While he's a never nude, he can use his cat-like agility to spy and move stealthily around a home. Or, after he says "I blue myself" -- is capable of surveilling on the go. His photography of his own body parts was seemingly mistaken as evidence of Iraqi WMDs. 

Gob, or G.O.B: Is the C.I.A., frequently dispatched by the president to execute covert ops. With his "illusions" is capable of cluelessly killing innocents. He teams up with the Buster army in the Sword of Destiny and the Tobias NSA in Gobias Industries. He's continuously trying to cover up his various shameful actions, including from himself, by popping Forget-Me-Nows. He's guilty of spawning blowback, such as giving the seal that bit off Buster's arm the taste for mammal blood.

Michael is the State Department. He gets sent to Iraq with Buster and Gob. He had often been seen as more sane, the adult in the room, but ultimately has been shown to be as twisted as the rest of the family -- foreshadowing the current unfortunate trajectory of the institution he represents.

Lindsay: Is the non-profit sector, perpetually putting on ridiculous fundraisers and staging particularly pointless protests -- all the while eager to sell out, intentionally or not. 

George Michael is Silicon Valley and its connection to academia. While ostensibly pursuing an education, he focuses on projects like his anti-social software Faceblock.

Maeby of course is Hollywood -- she worked at a studio. While her parents Tobias and Lindsay are inept, she's a skilled con artist. But she does have incredible lapses, displaying incredible ignorance of basic religious knowledge and simple mathematics. She was last seen eyeing more money in Silicon Valley as part of her varied incestuous relationship with her cousin George Michael.

Ann Veal ("Egg") represents the politically organized right-wing mega churches: Opulent in their wealth, banal in their persona, shallow in their beliefs, hypocritical in their conduct -- yet with seemingly functioning family structures. 

Lucille 2: Is the donor class, perpetually funding and in bed with one Bluth or another.

To US Gov, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday stopped responding to questions on the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

While proclaiming a regret of loss of life, she effectively justified the killing: "Israel has a right to defend itself. When people are being sent to the border, they are bringing weapons, they are threatening to cross through the fence, they are throwing Molotov cocktails – Israel has a right to defend itself."

When asked "But in so many flashpoints that are sensitive around the world, regularly the U.S. Government calls for restraint on all sides. It’s such a common, simple thing to say. Why in this case is it so difficult? What would be wrong with calling for restraint on the part of Israel?" Nauert responded: "I think this is a complex region. We’re looking at exactly why protests are taking place, why Hamas is encouraging people to go out and protest, why Hamas is encouraging people to go out right up to the border fence, why they’re encouraging people to try to knock down that fence and go into Israel, why they’re sending kites with Molotov cocktails to try to burn down the fields. Michelle, this is not as innocent as it may seem to many people. Hamas is trying to encourage people to do that, and by doing that, they are putting Palestinian lives at risk. ... Let’s move on. I don’t have anything more for you on this, okay?"

I tried to get questions in a several points and she manged to avoid me through the news conference until the very end, which I attempted to pursue a line of questioning starting with examining the notion that Israel was justified. I wish I came up with more creative way to approach this, but her non response and justification for massive killing is notable.

(36:35) HUSSEINI:  How is it not justification for killing – for Israel killing when you say Israel has the right to defend itself?

MS NAUERT:  Okay, we’re – we’re done with this.

HUSSEINI:  Israel has a right to defend itself --

MS NAUERT:  We’ve already been there.

HUSSEINI:  -- and there are no Israeli casualties --


HUSSEINI:  -- and there are literally tens of – there’s over ten thousand --

MS NAUERT:  I think – I think we’ve covered this extensively already.

HUSSEINI:  -- Palestinian casualties in the – and a hundred dead.

MS NAUERT:  Okay.  Go on, one last question?


MS NAUERT:    Do you have something else?

HUSSEINI:  Excuse me.

QUESTION:  Yes.  On the Lebanese.

HUSSEINI:  Excuse me.  No, no, no.  That requires a response.  And furthermore, I mean, the U.S. isn’t, you know, mowing down people along the U.S.-Mexican border.

MS NAUERT:   We are --

HUSSEINI:  Isn’t that accurate?

MS NAUERT:  We are done with this issue.  We’ve covered it extensively already.  I’ve taken many questions on this, and we’ve --

HUSSEINI:  So, Israel is off the hook again.  Israel is off the hook again.

MS NAUERT:  Sir, thank you – thank you for your question.  I think we’ve covered this already, okay?  I’m sorry; I’ll get back to you another time, okay?

QUESTION:  That’s okay.

MS NAUERT:  Thank you.

See my last questioning at a State Department briefing on March 23, which similarly ended with me asking: "So Israel’s off the hook?"

Gina Haspel and Torture: Not Just Immoral, but a Tool for More War

With the nomination of Gina Haspel to be director of the CIA, there's rightfully some interest in her record regarding torture

Of course, there are questions of legality and ethics and with respect to torture and it's possible as some have argued that the motivation of Haspel and others in overseeing torture and covering it up may be simple sadism

But -- especially given how little we know about Haspel's record -- it's possible that there's an even more insidious motive in the U.S. government practicing torture: To produce the rigged case for more war. Examining this possibility is made all the more urgent as Trump has put in place what clearly appears to be a war cabinet. My recent questioning at the State Department failed to produce a condemnation of waterboarding by spokesperson Heather Nauert. 

Gina Haspel's hearing on Wednesday gives increased urgency to highlighting her record on torture and how torture has been "exploited." That is, how torture was used to create "intelligence" for select policies, including the initiation of war. 

Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, has stated that neither he nor Powell were aware that the claims that Powell made before the UN just before the invasion of Iraq where partly based on torture. According to Wilkerson, Dick Cheney and the CIA prevailed on Powell to make false statements about a connection between Al-Qaeda and Iraq without telling him the "evidence" they were feeding him was based on tortured evidence. See my piece and questioning of Powell: "Colin Powell Showed that Torture DOES Work." 

The 2014 Senate torture report noted (in an obscure footnote) the case Wilkerson speaks of: “Ibn Shaykh al-Libi" stated while in Egyptian custody and clearly being tortured that "Iraq was supporting al-Qa’ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Some of this information was cited by Secretary Powell in his speech at the United Nations, and was used as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody on February [censored], 2003, claiming that he had been tortured by the [censored, likely ‘Egyptians’], and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear." (Libi would in due course be turned over to Muammar Gaddafi during a brief period when he was something of a U.S. ally and be conveniently "suicided" in Libyan custody; see my piece "Torture Did Work — to Produce War (See Footnote 857)

The Senate Armed Services Committee in 2008 indicates the attempt to use torture to concoct "evidence" was even more widespread. It quoted Maj. Paul Burney, who worked as a psychiatrist at Guantanamo Bay prison: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq and we were not successful. The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link ... there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.” The GTMO Interrogation Control Element Chief, David Becker told the Armed Services Committee he was urged to use more aggressive techniques, being told at one point “the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense [Paul] Wolfowitz had called to express concerns about the insufficient intelligence production at GTMO.”

McClatchy reported in 2009 that Sen. Carl Levin, the chair of the Armed Services Committee, said: “I think it’s obvious that the administration was scrambling then to try to find a connection, a link (between al Qaida and Iraq) ... They made out links where they didn’t exist.”

Exploiting false information has been well understood within the government. Here’s a 2002 memo from the military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency to the Pentagon’s top lawyer — it debunks the “ticking time bomb” scenario and acknowledged how false information derived from torture can be useful:

"The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible — in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life — has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture ... The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate intelligence. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption."

The document (released by the Washington Post, which minimized its most critical revelations and was quickly forgotten in most quarters) concludes:

"The application of extreme physical and/or psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably, the potential to result in unreliable information. This is not to say that the manipulation of the subject’s environment in an effort to dislocate their expectations and induce emotional responses is not effective. On the contrary, systematic manipulation of the subject’s environment is likely to result in a subject that can be exploited for intelligence information and other national strategic concerns." [See PDF]

So torture can result in the subject being “exploited” for various propaganda and strategic concerns.

New York Times reported in Feb. 2017: “Gina Haspel, C.I.A. Deputy Director, Had Leading Role in Torture,” that “Mr. Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide. The sessions were videotaped and the recordings stored in a safe at the CIA station in Thailand until 2005, when they were ordered destroyed. By then, Ms. Haspel was serving at CIA headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders.” 

Some have made an issue of videos of torture being destroyed --  but it’s been widely assumed that they were destroyed simply because of the potentially graphic nature of the abuse or to hide the identity of those doing the torture. But there’s another distinct possibility: They were destroyed because of the questions they document being asked. Do the torturers ask: “Is there another terrorist attack?” Or do they compel: “Tell us that Iraq and Al-Qaeda are working together.”? The video evidence to answer that question has apparently been destroyed by order of Haspel -- with barely anyone raising the possibility of that being the reason.

Even beyond the legal and ethical concerns, the following questions are in order: 

* Are you familiar with the case of Ibn Shaykh al-Libi? Do you acknowledge that he was tortured at the behest of the U.S. government by the Egyptian government to produce a false confession that Iraq was linked to al Qaeda and therefore a pretext for war; Colin Powell presenting that at the UN?

* Why were others similarly tortured in 2002 and 2003? Was it really to allegedly protect us, or was it to gain fabricated statements that could be used to rig the case for the Iraq invasion?

* Are you familiar with the practice of exploiting torture?

* Have you ever participated in in any way -- or helped cover up -- the exploitation of torture? 

* Why did you order the destruction of the video tapes of the torture?

* What assurance do we have that you and others who were involved in this won't do it all again?

* Why do you approve of and cover up for torture? Is it sadism or is it to achieve strategic purposes? What of the motives of your cohorts and superiors? 

Sam Husseini is senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy. 

At State Dept: I Ask About Torture, Saudi Arabia and Israel

[Video seems to have been deleted from YouTube without explanation. It is now on Rokfin.]

Went to State Department briefing on Thursday, March 22. Summary: Spokesperson Heather Nauert announced at the start of the briefing a "new regional counterterrorism academy in Jordan." ... In response to a question from another reporter about Israel sentencing Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, she stated: "I’m not going to weigh in on a case that took place in another country." ... Nauert finally called on me about the Jordanian announcement. I asked, given known use of torture in Jordan, if State viewed torture as illegal. She responded: "are we rolling back the clock to 15 years ago again today?" I responded that given the Trump's CIA nominee, Gina Haspel, "this administration is winding back the clock." ... In response to another question about China, she said, referring to me: "despite what our friend here from The Nation may think, the United States consistently stands up for human rights." I started asking about Saudi Arabia, she tried to duck. Matt Lee of the AP referenced my Saudi question and asked about Bahrain. She started talking about talking to Saudis and Bahrain about human rights. She then did call on me, I asked about Saudi Arabia and Israel, noting she talked about Bahrain, but not Israel. End briefing. Relevant portions below with emphasis added in bold: 

(1:13)   NAUERT: A couple things going on today. First, I’d like to announce a project that we’re pretty excited about, and this is in -- over in Jordan. We’re pleased to announce today that the Department of State and the Government of Jordan have inaugurated a new regional counterterrorism academy in Jordan.

(19:41)  SAID ARIKAT: Yesterday, the Israeli court, behind closed doors, sentenced [Ahed Tamimi] to eight months in prison for slapping an Israeli soldier. On the same day, they reduced the sentence of an Israeli soldier who killed an incapacitated Palestinian in cold blood to almost the same amount of time. Is, in your view, the Israelis sort of deal with the Palestinians with a different scale of justice altogether? …

(20:05)  NAUERT: See, I don’t think that I’m not going to answer that question.  That would be entirely up – no that would be entirely up to law enforcement.  I’m no there to see all the details of the case, so it would be very unfair for me to comment on that.  You know we have talked many times about the importance of – of fair trials; about the importance that all individuals be treated humanely. ... I am just saying I’m not going to weigh in on a case that took place in another country. That would entirely be a matter for them to address with you, okay?

(33:26)  HUSSEINI: You made a Jordan announcement.

(33:27)  NAUERT: Yes, I did.

(33:29)  HUSSEINI: Yes. So, can you tell us more about this so-called counterterrorism site? Jordan -- if you look at human rights organizations, there’s use of torture in Jordan. What is the State Department position on torture, including methods like waterboarding? Does the State Department regard that as illegal?

(33:47)  NAUERT: I – uh - think that the United States’ long-term cooperation with our strong partner in the Middle East, Jordan, is very well known, very well established. Our relationship with Jordan is as strong today as it was a few years ago, as it was 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and much further back than that. They have an excellent military. They have an excellent police force. They are close cooperating partners of the United States and, frankly, many other countries as well. I think our position --

(34:18)  HUSSEINI: (Off-mike.)

(34:21)  NAUERT: I think our position on that, on the part of the U.S. Government, is very clear. We will work with this government and we work with many other governments around the world in the fight against terrorism, and the fight against ISIS.

(34:31)  HUSSEINI: So you’re fine with torture, including waterboarding, with cooperating --

(34:35)  NAUERT: Are we – are we doing this again? Are we doing this? Are we – are we rolling back the clock to 15 years ago again today?

(34:42)  HUSSEINI: Well, it’s just that the CIA --

(34:45)  NAUERT: It’s my friend from The Nation here.

(34:46)  HUSSEINI: -- the CIA nominee destroy – among other things oversaw a site in Thailand that’s been accused of conducting torture and destroyed the video evidence of it --

(34:56)  HAUERT: I’m pretty sure that I work for the State Department --

(34:58)  HUSSEINI: Right.

(34:59)  NAUERT: -- and not the Central Intelligence Agency. So if you have --

(35:00)  QUESTION: So –  I’m not the one winding back the clock --

(35:03)  NAUERT: So if you have any questions about that --

(35:04)  HUSSEINI: This administration is --

(35:05)  NAUERT: -- I’d refer you over to that building.

(35:05)  HUSSEINI: This administration is winding down the clock, so I’d like an answer to the question rather than a divergent that I’m winding back the clock, because this administration is winding back the clock.

(35:15)  NAUERT: I don’t know – I don’t know how you --

(35:16)  HUSSEINI: So you don’t want to answer the question.

(35:17)  NAUERT: I don’t know how you think that. I think our position on torture, on human rights, is very well known.

(35:25)  HUSSEINI: What is it then?

(35:26)  NAUERT: We support the Government of Jordan. We do not support, we do not encourage, any of that kind of use that you – that you allege.

(35:32)  HUSSEINI: Is waterboarding legal, in your view?

(35:35)  NAUERT: The U.S. Government has declared that. Uh - I don’t recall the exact year, but a few years back, maybe it was seven or eight years ago, said that that is not a technique that the U.S. Government endorses. There was a time that the U.S. Government had told personnel that it could use that.

(35:50)  And I will remind you, let me just remind you and go on a little sidetrack here, that our military forces, when our Special Ops go through that training to become Special Forces, Navy SEALs, all of that, they go through that training. They go through what you’re referring to as torture. I just want to put that out there, that that still exists today.

(36:08)  HUSSEINI: So the State Department view is that waterboarding is torture and is illegal?

(36:11)  NAUERT: I’m not gonna – I’m not going to go back and have this conversation --

(36:13)  HUSSEINI: It’s a simple question.

(36:14)  NAUERT: -- with you once again. Okay?

(36:16)  HUSSEINI: It’s a simple question.

(36:16)  NAUERT: I think we’ve taken enough time on this and let’s move on. Said, go right ahead. 

(40:47)  QUESTION: Thank you very much, madam. As far as China actually is concerned, finally this president took action against China, because I have been saying for many, many years, according to the press report, China has been using as far as prison labor and also cheap labor. So, my question is: Are you sending message to China that respect human rights and rule of law, freedoms of press and freedom of religion, among others? And also, stop arresting the prison – the innocent people for their cheap labor.

(41:21)  NAUERT: Yeah. Sir, despite what our friend here from The Nation may think, the United States consistently stands up for human rights. China is one of those countries where we may have those conversations, where we talk about the importance of freedom of religion, human rights, fair trials, and all of those other things and ideals that the United States Government holds near and dear to our hearts, because that’s fundamentally what we believe in. We speak to other governments, China in particular, about media freedoms and all of those things consistently in all our diplomatic conversations.

(41:51)  HUSSEINI: (Off-mike.)

(41:52)  NAUERT: I’m going to have to leave it at that.

(41:53)  QUESTION: One more.

(41:54)  NAUERT: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

(41:55)  HUSSEINI: Heather, can you tell us about Saudi Arabia?

(41:56)  QUESTION: I want to ask you about --

(41:55)  HUSSEINI: Can you talk about the meetings with Saudi Arabia --

(42:01)  LEE: Bahrain.

(42:00)  HUSSEINI: -- since my name was just invoked?

(42:01)  NAUERT: Go right ahead. Go ahead.

(42:01)  QUESTION: Or, do you --

(42:02)  QUESTION: Heather, I’ve got one --

(42:03)  QUESTION: Before you get to – before --

(42:03)  HUSSEINI: So she’s mentioning my name and not respond --

(42:04)  LEE: Excuse me. Before you get to Saudi, can you uh–

(42:07)  NAUERT: Yeah.

(42:07)  LEE: I have this question I’ve been trying to ask for three days now about this case in Bahrain, about Duaa Alwadaei, who was convicted yesterday and sentenced to two months in absentia. Do you have anything to say about that, given what you just said about the calls for free – fair trials and --

(42:19)  NAUERT: Yeah. Sure. And – and - that is something that we talk with our partners in Bahrain. We have those conversations with the Government of Bahrain, with Saudi Arabia. We have difficult conversations with countries that we also have relationships with. That is a fact. We hold our ideals near and dear to our hearts. Those consistently come up in our private conversations with other governments, who don’t adhere to those ideals that we believe are so important. You ask about – you ask --

(42:47)  HUSSEINI: (Off-mike.)

(42:47)  NAUERT: Excuse me. I’m talking to Matt here. You ask about Duaa Alwadaei. She is residing in London. So, we saw the report that a Bahraini criminal court sentenced her in absentia to two – I believe it was two months in prison for allegedly insulting a state institution. Really? For allegedly insulting a state institution, they sentenced her to two months in prison. So we would say to the Government of Bahrain – and this is a way that we can deliver a message to governments around the world – we strongly urge the government to abide by its international obligations and commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and that includes the freedom of expression.

(43:25)  Okay.

(43:25)  HUSSEINI: Heather, when you were -- earlier, about Israel you refused to comment.

(43:26)  QUESTION: Heather, yesterday --

(43:28)  NAUERT: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.

(43:29)  QUESTION: Excuse me, sir. Excuse me.

(43:30)  HUSSEINI: You refused to comment on Israel.

(43:30)  QUESTION: Heather, yesterday Susan Thornton met with an official from Taiwan. Can – do you have a readout of that?

(43:38)  NAUERT: I do not. I do not. I’m sorry. I don’t.

(43:40)  QUESTION: There was a tweet and a photograph of them meeting yesterday.

(43:44)  NAUERT: Okay. I’ll see if I can provide a readout of that meeting for you, okay? Okay.

(43:48)  QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

(43:49)  NAUERT: Sir, I will let you take that last question. Then we got to go. Go ahead.

(43:52)  HUSSEINI: So you talk about – first of all, could you address Saudi Arabia and why is it that your closest ally in the region seems to be Saudi Arabia -- and Israel? You talk about a trial in Bahrain, but you don’t address it when it comes to the -- when the -- when it comes to Israel. Why is that?

(44:09)  NAUERT: Look, that is a -- uh a uh -- a very sensitive matter, and we handle conversations with different governments differently about sensitive matters. We don’t take the same approach with every single government, the kinds of conversations we have.

(44:22)  HUSSEINI: So Israel’s off the hook?

(44:23)  NAUERT: And uh - No, I’m not saying that at all. Not saying that at all. We have to leave it there. Thank you.

(44:30)  QUESTION: Thanks, Heather.

(44:31)  == Briefing Ends ==

Video and full but somewhat problematic transcript at State Department website. YouTube.

Trump Spokesperson Commemorates Invading Iraq by Claiming U.S. Doesn't Dictate to Other Countries; State Dept. Defends Invasion that Trump Campaigned Against

Trump campaigned on his alleged opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Now his State Department is defending it.

Exactly 15 years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders on Tuesday, in response to a question about President Trump calling President Putin of Russia "We don't get to dictate how other countries operate." 

That prompted a back and forth at the beginning of the State Department briefing, which I followed up on toward the end of the Q and A there: 

HUSSEINI: Earlier in your discussion with Matt [Lee of the AP] about the U.S. doesn’t dictate to other countries. It’s the 15th anniversary of the Iraq war, and of course, the --

MS NAUERT: I don’t think that I said – I don’t think that I said to Matt that we don’t dictate to other countries.

HUSSEINI: It might have been him. I wasn’t sure.

MS NAUERT: I think Matt said that.

HUSSEINI: Sometimes it's hard to tell.

LEE: I was quoting the --

MS NAUERT: Yeah, yeah, he --

LEE: -- the White House spokeswoman.


HUSSEINI: Should the U.S. apologize for regime change operations from meddling in elections in multiple countries through many means over the years?

MS NAUERT: That is a big question. You’re asking me about the entire history of the United States -- should we apologize? That’s the question?

QUESTION: Well, let’s start with the Iraq War.

MS NAUERT: Should we apologize for our government all around the world?


MS NAUERT: I think that the United States Government does far more good --

HUSSEINI: Are you asking me to clarify?

MS NAUERT: -- than we ever do bad. And certain people in the United States and in other countries have a look or have the perspective that America does more harm than good. I’m the kind of American that looks at it from the other way around. We do far more good.

HUSSEINI: Most Americans are opposed to the Iraq War. Should the U.S. Government apologize for things that were put out by that podium, people who are in this administration who fabricated information to start the Iraq War?

MS NAUERT: Look --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS NAUERT: -- I get what you’re getting at. You want to be snarky and take a look back.

HUSSEINI: No, I don’t want to be snarky. I want to get real.

MS NAUERT: No, hold on, and take a look – okay, and take a look back --

HUSSEINI: I want to get real.

MS NAUERT: -- at the past 15 years. And Iraq is certainly a country that has been through a lot.


MS NAUERT: I’ve been to Iraq; many of you have been to Iraq in covering what has taken place there, okay.

HUSSEINI: I’m being anything but snarky.

MS NAUERT: Let me finish, okay. They’ve faced a lot of challenges. Right now the most significant challenge there is ISIS, and the United States remains there at the invitation of the Iraqi Government to fight and take on ISIS. I want to commend the Iraqi Government for something – that is, for the past 15 years, that they have had a history of free and fair elections over 15 years. That is remarkable given where they were under the regime of Saddam Hussein. I recall having met Iraqis at that time – and this dates back to 2004, 2005 – and certainly everyone that I had talked to, an Iraqi citizen had had a family member that was killed in some sort of horrific fashion or disappeared and was never heard from again. I mean, that is something that as an American, when you start talking to citizens, and that is their experience, that is something that’s very difficult for the average American to understand, because that is simply the way of life there.

The United States has a strong relationship with the Government of Iraq. I’m going to look forward from this podium in this room. We have a good relationship with the Government of Iraq; I’m not going to look back at this point, okay?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

HUSSEINI: So no responsibility for --

MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.

HUSSEINI: -- the bloodshed of --

MS NAUERT: Go right ahead.

QUESTION: A follow-up question --

HUSSEINI: -- or anything else?

Full video at State Department website at about 32:15. 

Pence Claims about Saddam's WMDs and Terrorist Ties in Speech Backing Iraq Invasion

For Saddam Hussein has been America’s warring foe for more than a decade. In 1991, we ceased hostility.  We ended the battle, but Madam Speaker his war took no rest and it shows no mercy, and if in some horrible, yet possible day Saddam and the metastasizing network of terrorists he harbors and protects bring to America another world trade center, another Pentagon, another Oklahoma City, or Khobar Towers. When and not if, but when Saddam creates and uses nuclear weapons what will we tell the American people then?

Questions at State Dept: U.S. as Israeli-Palestinian Mediator and Honduran AP Drug Story

Today I started asking questions at the State Department. [Full text and video at 29:50]: 

QUESTION: But how can you maintain both things at the same time, that you have a special relationship with Israel and you want to be the mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, to have --

MS NAUERT: Well, we’ve covered this numerous times before. This administration looks back at the many – numerous decades of inability to bring peace to the Middle East. So the administration is determined that it wants to look at things perhaps a little differently. And that may confound some people --


MS NAUERT: Let me finish. And that may confound some people, and that’s fine. But the administration is still saying that we are willing to sit down and have peace talks, and both sides are going to have to give a little, and that’s something that they’ve not – we’ve not backed away from in terms of our standpoint.

QUESTION: I’m not saying that you’re unique in this respect.


QUESTION: Multiple administrations have said we have a special relationship with Israel and we’re going to be the mediator, and it hasn’t worked out well. So aren’t you actually sort of doing the same thing that past administrations have?

MS NAUERT: No, I think the administration is handling this – handling this differently. And there are a lot of examples that I could think of that --

QUESTION: Can I ask about Honduras?


QUESTION: Thank you.

MS NAUERT: I’m not sure I’m going to have anything for you on Honduras today, but you can --

QUESTION: Well, perhaps --

MS NAUERT: -- take a stab at it.

QUESTION: Thank you, for next time. On January 27th, the AP published a report based on Honduran Government documents describing the involvement of a new national police chief in assisting a drug cartel leader in transporting, quote, “nearly a ton of cocaine.” Subsequently, the Honduran police have formally requested a criminal investigation, quote, “preparatory to a complaint,” not into the police chief, but into the AP reporters who broke the story. It seems a clear attempt to retaliate and intimidate a U.S. media outlet. Is the State Department doing anything on this, especially considering that the revelations are about the police chief Jose David Aguilar Moran’s involvement and that the U.S. Government provides assistance to the Honduran police?

MS NAUERT: I will certainly have to take a look into that. I was not aware of that story. I’ll check with our experts in Honduras and at our Western Hemisphere Bureau as well. Okay, thank you.

ADDENDUM: On Feb. 21, I got an email from a State Department official: 

Below is a response to your taken question of 2/20/18.   Please attribute to a State Department official.

Q:  Is the State Department doing anything on this, especially considering that the revelations are about the policechief Jose David Aguilar Moran’s involvement and that the U.S. Government provides assistance to the Honduran police?

·        We are unwavering in our support for press freedom and the right of journalists to operate without interference in Honduras and around the world.

·        We would refer further questions to the Government of Honduras.

I thought it spoke volumes that State would actually refer questions about this back to the Government of Honduras. 

Putting the PRO in Protest

[Unpublished piece from 2008]

"I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."
-- Dwight Eisenhower

People are used to being against Bush, to protesting against Bush. It's been easy for some the last several years -- whatever Bush is for, we're against it.

That will no longer do.

We need to be for things and to change the world to achieve those things.

It's alot easier to just say everything is wrong. It's harder to say, this is what needs to happen -- or atleast, this is how we can figure out what needs to happen.

Some are noting that Obama's policies are highly flawed. Others don't want to seem to be undermining a new president promising fundamental change. Both groups can work and can PROtest if that protest is FOR something. No need to be defined as being against Obama, nor to be passively waiting for him to do the right thing.

Part of the crux is defining the "us" in this equation. The "us" needs to be global. Progressives in the U.S. need to have more in common with an Afghan child or an African child than with Dick Cheney.

The anti-war movement was at its height on Feb. 15, 2003 when a global day of protest saw millions on the streets of London, Madrid, New York, Barcelona, Rome, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Hong Kong and hundreds of other cities. The establishment in the voice of the New York Times called the anti-war movement the "second super power."

That has seemingly died.

Or has it?

Certainly, it should not.

We can now build an even greater movement, with millions on those streets as well as millions of others -- including more Muslim countries. Tools of the internet, media like Democracy Now, The Real News, and Al Jazeera can be utilized in such an effort and then the corporate media will be forced to acknowledge that global force. 

Unlike Bush, Obama must listen to such a movement. The lines of communication and coordination must be built on a global scale from the grassroots. Indeed, whenever they have been, progressive forces in the U.S. have been at their strongest. The other high point of progressive action in the last ten years -- other than the Feb. 15 protests -- was the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. Those too were global in nature. People and organizations -- including environmentalists and labor unions -- on the streets of Seattle in effect made common cause with the representatives of poorer countries against the governments of richer countries and their corporate allies.

It would be tragic if the global stage is dominated by governments of dubious legitimacy and hierarchical corporate elites as they meet and determine the world's future. Meetings that do take place of non-governmental organizations, which gain little attention in the public consciousness -- even the World Social Forums -- are no substitute for visible global PROtests.

And let us learn from Bush. It is wrong to simply be against whatever he says. Bush says that he wants democracy in the Arab world. I've always been for authentic democracy in the Arab world. But Bush claims he wants democracy in the Mideast as he occupies the Iraq, backs the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the despotic rule of the Saudi government. While many in the anti-war movement have been attacking Bush for being unilateral, have they not also been unilateral by not building the needed global structures, by not reaching out to the rest of the world which agrees with so many of their stated goals?

Failure to do this now will be a historic tragedy. It will either be a great failure or a tacit admission that people living in the West are not interested in reaching out to the rest of the world. That their economic and national privilege is too enticing. Indeed, this may well help to reach into the "internal third world" -- so that poor people in the United States meaningfully participating in political action. That too is threatening to largely middle class movements.

An immediate test of this is at the United for Peace and Justice meeting this weekend: Will it plan to have a protest on the anniversary of the start of the invasion of Iraq, looking backward, being ANTI. Or will it have a PROtest on Feb 15 -- sooner, global, looking forward being for a new world?

There are oppressive forces to be sure, but there are substantial opportunities. If WE decide to take them -- together. The bigger that WE, the better.

Sam Husseini founded the web page www.compassroses.org on Feb. 15, 2003.

Rumi: This place is a dream....

This page is a work in progress. Over the last few years, I've tremendously enjoyed listening to Rumi poetry, especially recited by Duncan Mackintosh and Coleman Barks. I hope to write about my interpretations of them over time, but for now, I felt it would be good to simply start posting them. Some have been deleted by YouTube, hope to retrieve those and post clean copies here.

Here is Barks talking about the origins of his work on Rumi. These are probably my favorites by Barks -- with some minimal and tasteful music and interesting video juxtapositions: 

A fellow named Morris did some remarkable videos of Duncan Mackintosh doing Rumi recitations while playing his lute. His commentary about them and modern life is also compelling. These videos were deleted by YouTube in all of Google's wisdom -- example

This poem is also available via Facebook. Transcribed below based on this.

There is one thing in this world which you must never forget to do.

If you forget everything else and not this, there is nothing to worry about, but if you remember everything else and forget this, then you will have done nothing in your life.

That work is the purpose. If you don’t do it, it’s as though a knife of the finest tempering were nailed into a wall to hang things on.

For a penny an iron nail could be bought to serve for that.

Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your Lord. Give your life to the one who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don’t, you will be like the one who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall for a peg to hold his dipper gourd. You will be wasting valuable keenness and foolishly ignoring your dignity and your purpose.

Like a deep truth inside a lie, like the taste of butter
in buttermilk, that's how

spirit is held in form. For a long time butter stays
invisibly present in

the churn mixture. Then a prophet comes with a dasher, or
it might be someone

who has heard the words of a saint and is connected to that
one as an infant is when

it hears its mother. The baby doesn't understand language,
but knows the voice sound,

and gradually learns what talking means. We're all
born dumb. Only God

did not have to be taught to speak a tongue, though Adam
learned without a nurse or

a mother, and it is said that Jesus came articulate into
the world, but the rest of us,

need a lot of attention, much shaking by a sheikh, much
turning and paddling. Slowly the inner

butter emerges. Don't throw away buttermilk too soon!
Do the work, and you'll

begin to hear even inside the maundering drunk talk of
the tavern, the presence

of the host who served this wine to us. The life-energy in a
body contains eternity.

This place is a dream.
Only a sleeper considers it real.

Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.

But there's a difference with this dream.
Everything cruel and unconscious
done in the illusion of the present world,
all that does not fade away at the death-awakening.

It stays,
and it must be interpreted.