Seems everyone is lionizing Aaron Swartz. Aaron is someone I was acquainted with peripherally through mutual friends at One Laptop. He was, and remains, my friend on Facebook. I have to say aaronsw is not my hero.
If I thought it was justified to take all the documents in JSTOR I would have done when I was the sysadmin for the company that wrote the first interface to it. I don’t and I didn’t. I never even looked at a single document and I had root on everything.
Same is true for the American Mathematical Society and about a million of their documents I worked on the public interface for back in the 80’s. Never looked at a one.
Aaron was very charismatic, brilliant, and had a lot of good ideas. But he also according to what has come out, acted incredibly stupidly in the whole scenario with JSTOR and MIT. They kept blocking him and he kept coming back. Hello, clue?
But maybe he thought of this as civil disobedience and in some sense meant to get caught. If so I think he totally wimped out rather than doing the six months they offered him or going to trial and potentially taking a draconian sentence.
Not to say I think he was treated fairly. Given that JSTOR and MIT saw no reason to prosecute (or that’s the official story at MIT now anyway), and that there is apparently no evidence that documents were ever exfiltrated off-site or published if I was the prosecutor I would have exercised discretion and taken a pass on this one. No harm, no foul.
It worries me that Aaron is being made out to be a hero who deserves to be be emulated. He wasn’t, and he doesn’t.
Copyright © 2014 Henry Edward Hardy
My Reply to a Letter from US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) on the Iraq War
I wrote back on February 3 in this space that I had called Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) regarding an anti-war resolution passed by the local Ann Arbor Democratic Party organization in January 2007. I got this letter in the mail from her today:
UNITED STATES SENATE
Washington, DC 20510-2204
March 12, 2007
…for contacting me about the war in Iraq. I share your deeply-held concerns and appreciate hearing your views on this important matter.
In 2002, I was one of only 23 Senators to vote against the Iraq War Resolution. The decision to go to war is one that should be made with great trepidation when out country is at risk and all other options have been exhausted. From day one, the reasoning for this war has been flawed and inconsistent. Our men and women in uniform deserve better.
I believe it is a serious mistake to increase the number of American troops in Iraq. We must do everything we can to support those serving out country. Sending more Americans into combat without a strategy for success will not improve the situation on the ground in Iraq, and it will not bring our armed forces home any sooner. I joined 56 of my colleagues in voting for a bipartisan resolution opposing the President’s escalation war plan, and I am extremely disappointed that it was filibustered by the minority in the Senate.
A free and stable Iraq can only be secured by the Iraqis. They must embrace responsibility for their collective future and decide that living and dying at the hands of sectarian violence is not the future that they want for their children or grandchildren. We cannot substitute American troops for Iraqi resolve.
I am supporting legislation, recently introduced by Senator Harry Reid, that will require the President to begin phased redeployment within 120 days, and a full redeployment of all American combat troops in Iraq by March 31, 2008. We can no longer follow the same failed strategy in Iraq. I remain committed to changing the course that has been set and bringing our service men and women home safely.
Thank you again for contacting me. I hope you will join me in keeping our soldiers and their families, as well as the people in Iraq, in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Please contact me again when I may be of assistance to you or your family
United States Senator
Having met Senator Stabenow in October, 2006 in Ann Arbor and having briefly discussed with her, her support for the atrocious “Military Commissions Act,” I think it is fair to say that she does not share all of my concerns.
“Our men and women in uniform deserve better.” This is very odd and specious reasoning. In a democratic society, the nation doesn’t exist to serve the military, rather the reverse. If a violent gang was overrunning a neighborhood and destroying it, killing and torturing hundreds of people, we wouldn’t put up signs saying “support our Mafia” or “bring home our Crips”. We wouldn’t say, “our gang members deserve better”.
“A free and stable Iraq can only be secured by the Iraqis”. If this is true, it certainly cannot be accomplished while the country is under hostile foreign domination. No Iraqi government can be regarded as anything but a Quisling, puppet front for the US under the current occupation. The Iraqis didn’t smash their country to ruins, we did. And we then emplaced by force a factionalized and corrupt government and instituted a reign of terror perhaps even worse than Saddam’s, killing, raping, torturing and imprisoning without trial tens of thousands of people. The Iraqis, and the US occupation, even use some of the same prisons, torture facilities, “rape rooms” and execution chambers as the old Iraqi regime.
All the service men and women are not going to be brought home safely. Delaying the withdrawal for another year or more will condemn thousands more Americans, and tens of thousands more Iraqis, to mental trauma, crippling injury, and death. If we wait until the Green Zone collapses and is overrun, thousands of Americans may be held prisoner and be tortured in concentration camps as happened to the French after the surrender at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. As it stands, US forces will have to fight their way out under difficult circumstances even if they started withdrawing today. The sooner the US forces are withdrawn, the better for Iraq and the US both.
There is no mention here in Stabenow’s letter of negotiation. Like it or not, we must negotiate with our enemies. That’s with whom one has negotiations to end a war. Not only is this the best way to salvage something from a disaster, it also provides useful information about the resistance leadership, capabilities, and intentions.
The United States has suffered a stinging strategic defeat in Iraq. There were unforced, critical errors. There were no substantial stockpiles of weaponized NBC agents found, thus undermining the pretext for the war and undercutting any tenuous basis in international law expounded to the UN by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Disbanding the Iraqi army rather than continuing to pay them to remain in their barracks was an idiotic mistake. And the de-Baathification law, while laudable in purpose, served to marginalize, alienate, impoverish and radicalize the middle-class and intelligentsia, paving the way for very nasty, regressive and atavistic factions to take power.
The United States accomplished its stated war aims in Iraq some time ago. There were few illicit weapons found in Iraq. And Saddam is dead. Yet the US stays on. There is no further strategic objective there to “win”. The United States can either withdraw in as good order as possible now, or stay in Iraq and Afghanistan until it “loses”.
Stabenow once again presents a moral inversion in her closing paragraph where she encourages “thoughts and prayers,” for “our soldiers and their families, as well as the people of Iraq”. The people of Iraq didn’t do anything to the US to deserve 4 years of bombing, rape, and torture. Why do they deserve second billing in our prayers only after those who are oppressing, raping, and murdering them?
Stabenow and the other right-wing Democrats want the US public to believe they are moving to end the war even though, in fact, they are moving to fund it for at least another year, and laying the groundwork for a permanent US occupation “to fight terror”. Will they fight jealousy, envy, rage, grief and sorrow as well?
It is the US troops in Iraq and the men who sent them there who are the “evildoers” as far as initiating an illegal aggressive war on the basis of lies and propaganda. Do they really deserve our sympathy, or our support? Or should the responsible civilian and military leaders of the US forces be tried for war crimes such as “waging an aggressive war,” “genocide” and “crimes against humanity”?
Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy
Human Rights Watch has compiled a comprehensive report about the case of one of the “disappeared”, Marwan Jabour. Most of the docile and pathetic British and US press have ‘reported’ on this publication without managing to link to it or even so much as mention the name of the report!
Here’s a bit from the Summary:
When Marwan Jabour opened his eyes, after a blindfold, a mask, and other coverings were taken off him, he saw soldiers and, on the wall behind them, framed photographs of King Hussein and King Abdullah of Jordan. He was tired and disoriented from his four-hour plane flight and subsequent car trip, but when a guard confirmed that he was being held in Jordan, he felt indescribable relief. In his more than two years of secret detention, nearly all of it in US custody, this was the first time that someone had told him where he was. The date was July 31, 2006.
A few weeks later, in another first, the Jordanians allowed several of Jabour’s family members to visit him. “My father cried the whole time,” Jabour later remembered.
Marwan Jabour was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Lahore, Pakistan, on May 9, 2004. He was detained there briefly, then moved to the capital, Islamabad, where he was held for more than a month in a secret detention facility operated by both Pakistanis and Americans, and finally flown to a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prison in what he believes was Afghanistan. During his ordeal, he later told Human Rights Watch, he was tortured, beaten, forced to stay awake for days, and kept naked and chained to a wall for more than a month. Like an unknown number of Arab men arrested in Pakistan since 2001, he was “disappeared” into US custody: held in unacknowledged detention outside of the protection of the law, without court supervision, and without any contact with his family, legal counsel, or the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The secret prison program under which Jabour was held was established in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when US President George W. Bush signed a classified directive authorizing the CIA to hold and interrogate suspected terrorists. Because the entire program was run outside of US territory, it required the support and assistance of other governments, both in handing over detainees and in allowing the prisons to operate.
–from the Summary of Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention
Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy
Snips of Ike:
Why We Fight
by Henry Edward Hardy
Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight takes as its framework snippets from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous televised farewell to the nation in 1961, often called the “military-industrial complex” speech. Jarecki is best known for The Trials of Henry Kissinger.
One may or may not be sympathetic to the premise of the film, that the United States has become an American Empire, and as such, is behaving badly in the world. Why We Fight makes clever use of icons of the Republican Party such as John McCain and Eisenhower and neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Richard Pearle to make its points.
Why We Fight is also the title of a series of films made for the U.S. government by Frank Capra during World War II. They were commissioned in response to the Nazi use of mass media in films like Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Since then the title has been (mis-)appropriated a number of times, such as the book by former “Drug Czar” William J. Bennett subtitled “Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism”, and the name of a popular Danish rock band.
Jarecki’s Why We Fight has not been widely seen in the U.S. It was shown on the BBC in March 2005 and won the American Documentary Grand Prize at Sundance in 2005. The film would be stronger if it were better-organized and had a less transparent point to make. For those unfamiliar with some of Eisenhower’s later and more progressive thinking, this film is an interesting introduction.
A version of this article appeared previously in Current Magazine and on Electric Current
Copyright © 2006-2007 Henry Edward Hardy
Jimmy Carter’s Middle East Peace Plan
Palestine: Peace not Apartheid
Simon and Schuster, 2006
by Henry Edward Hardy
Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, former US President Jimmy Carter’s newest book, is a fair-minded and well-reasoned account and analysis of the past 50 years of Palestinian and Israeli relations. The inflammatory title is unfortunate: not because one could not make a case that there are similarities between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the former white minority regime in South Africa. Simply though, it’s a case he doesn’t make. The book isn’t about apartheid, and it isn’t really mostly about Palestine per se. Rather, it is a diplomatic perspective of the history leading to the current bloody stalemate, and how in Carter’s view it might be alleviated.In many ways, Carter is an ideal interlocutor to describe and analyze the events, policies and personalities which have shaped the bloody history of Palestine and Israel. His recounting of past events and meetings, based on copious note taken by Carter and his wife Rosalynn, have the ring of truth and authenticity to them that writers like Bob Woodward must rightfully envy.
Carter cannot be justly accused of having an overly sympathetic view toward the PLO, Hamas or their elites. Similarly he clearly understands the different natures of the Arab and Israeli regimes. He says, “Only among Israelis, in a democracy with almost unrestricted freedom of speech, can one hear a wide range of opinion concerning the disputes among themselves and with Palestinians.” By contrast, Carter says, “It is almost fruitless to seek free expressions of opinion from private citizens in Arab countries with more authoritarian leadership.”
Carter begins with a succinct timeline of key events in the post-1948 history of what was previously known as Palestine under the British Mandate. His chapter on “The Key Players” has an informative summary of the narrative of key events as constructed by Israeli, Palestinian, US, and Arab officials and personalities.
Carter is not too immodest in describing the Camp David peace process that led to peace between Israel and Egypt and the Nobel Peace Prize for himself in 2004. He does speak disdainfully of the rather amateurish (in his view) efforts of the Clinton and Bush Jr. administrations, while he speaks approvingly of former Reagan Secretary of State James Baker.
It is clear that Carter has continued to play a behind-the-scenes role in the Middle East. He describes how he and the personnel of the Carter Center overcame significant obstacles in monitoring the elections for the Palestinian Parliament and President. And he describes some interesting detail of how he helped to facilitate the back-channel negotiations which led to the “Geneva Initiative”, an unofficial framework for a comprehensive negotiated solution to the illegal Israeli occupation of the land seized in the 1967 “Six Day War”.
Some of Carter’s most withering criticism pertains to what he calls Israel’s “segregation wall” separating parts of the West Bank from other parts. “Israeli leaders,” Carter writes, “are imposing a system of partial withdrawal, encapsulation, and apartheid on the Muslim and Christian citizens of the occupied territories”. Carter notes that this wall was found to be in contravention of International laws and covenants by the International Court of Justice, but that the Israeli Supreme Court and Israeli government have refused to recognize or implement this decision.
Carter understands that the basis for any permanent peace in Palestine must come within the framework of UN Security Council resolution 242, which calls for the return of land seized by Israel during the Six-Day War. Carter notes that Israel itself voted for the resolution.
Carter’s recollection of facts, dates and personalities is such that we can only wish regretfully that the current President, a man 22 years his junior, could be even half as percipient and perspicuous. Palestine: Peace not Apartheid is an admirable primer for the history of the conflict and what has brought it to the current fraught state of affairs. It is a devastating critique of Israeli diplomatic perfidy and double-dealing and of the impossible conditions of privation and despair brought about by the segmentation and fragmentation of the West Bank; the desperate poverty and malnutrition brought on by the Israeli siege, and the counterproductive spiral of suicide bombings and military reprisals it engenders.
Carter borrows from his previous book, The Blood of Abraham (Houghton Mifflin 1985), so not all of the material in this current effort can be considered entirely new. His writing style is pedestrian, although not plodding it by no means sizzles, sparkles, or snaps. He is a bit prim and patrician in his uncharitable evaluation of Clinton’s peace efforts and the current administration’s diplomatic aspirations. And his evangelical background tinges some of his perspectives with an unfortunate, and unnecessarily sectarian cast. Though imperfect, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid is a lucid, thoughtful and important book.
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (wikipedia)
A version of this article was previously published in Current Magazine and on Electric Current.
Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy