You may think it unfair to pull a broader message from this tiny and
relatively sweet incident. You may think Ashcroft's gesture does not
necessarily bespeak some sort of larger truth about the current
administration, its value system, the direction of the country, the
overall misogynistic, monastic, dangerously unprogressive,
hypocritical attitude of our leaders as a whole, or how we are
enjoying at this very moment what is easily the most conservative,
sexually terrified, ill-humored, anti-choice regime in 50 years.
You would be wrong.
[via Unknown News]
The dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has denounced research being conducted by Army scientists to infect monkeys with smallpox, saying that it "morally undermines" the war against terrorism and sets a dangerous example for other countries.
Others believe we have a duty to learn as much as we can about the virus given the current situation. [via Unknown News]
In an interview with ABC on Sunday, Rumsfeld accused Iran of harboring al-Qaeda members who have crossed the border from Afghanistan, as well as supplying arms to factions in Afghanistan (I'm sure at this point it would be crass to mention the relative color of pots and kettles, so I won't). Today, Iran denied that any al-Qaeda was in its territory and warned the U.S. against an attack.
Less widely reported was this interesting exchange later in the interview, regarding an attack in the town of Hazar Kadam (or Hasam Quedam):
Rumsfeld: Exactly. And therefore, our soldiers don't go around killing innocent people. Nor do our soldiers go around pretending they are civilians and blurring that distinction between a combatant and a non-combatant. That's what puts civilians at risk.
Q: Well, you're examining right now the case of Hasam Quedam in which it is said that our Special Forces went in and through a horrible mistake killed 15-21 people who were not Taliban, but in fact supporters of the new government.
Rumsfeld: Is that a question?
Q: Yes, because you just said we don't go around killing innocent people. I take your point --
Rumsfeld: Well, we don't.
Q: -- except you've launched that investigation to see whether we, in fact, did.
Rumsfeld: Of course, we do. We always launch an investigation. I don't -- the commander and the command does. If there are legitimate questions raised about some action, it's perfectly appropriate for them to do exactly what they did and say "stop for a minute, we're going to go take a look. We're going to see what actually happened."
Now, is it possible that everyone's accurate? That is to say, that in that attack there might have been some people who were Taliban, there might have been some people who were al-Qaeda, and there might have also been some people that weren't? And in the same room. Because this is Afghanistan.
Q: Well, sir, we're out of time, but will you pledge that whatever the investigation shows, you will release that information to the American people and the world?
Rumsfeld: Why, of course.
Meanwhile both ABC News and NPR are reporting that military officials have admitted that the raid was a mistake, that one of the targets was actually the headquarters of a disarmament commission loyal to the new government and the other was a local government office.
The second target was a former school building. Armed men were living there, and the U.S. military believed the building had become an al Qaeda hideout. But according to local residents and officials, the building was actually the headquarters of a disarmament commission, where officials were collecting weapons from the countryside. The officials had been appointed by the new anti-Taliban governor, Jan Mohammed Khan. -- NPR report
Families of the 18 or so villagers that were killed have reportedly been compensated in U.S. dollars:
U.S. officials claim the Pentagon did not pay the money, indicating it was provided instead by Hamid Karzai's interim Afghan government, which they say got the money from the CIA. The CIA denies providing the money. Afghan officials say the death toll was 21; the U.S. military puts the figure at 15. -- ABC News report
In a letter from his attorney, Kenneth Lay has backed out of today's planned testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, saying that he cannot testify in a forum where conclusions had already been reached. The hearing has been, at least for now, cancelled and the committee has said they intend to subpoena Lay.
Inside Iran: how stable is the current theocracy?
On January 16, 1979, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, boarded an aircraft at Mehrabad airport in Tehran and flew into exile. Within minutes of his departure the streets of the city were full of people, dancing and singing, hooting their car horns and waving portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini. The clerics rode to power in Iran on a tide of popular support. Now the mullahs must look anxiously out upon the streets they once controlled.
Life - how the Iranians do it: writing under a pseudonym in an article originally appearing in Areté, an Iranian expatriot returns after 22 years and describes the culture confusion of "official rules and unofficial avoidance strategies" she finds.