keeping tabs on the latest vileness -- get it while its hot

Keeping tabs on the vile things the Bush administration is doing is an exhausting task. LI sometimes feels that it is all too much, and we should get some sleep. But duty calls. So, this little article in the Sunday NYT about the newest initiative to destroy effective HIV programs in Brazil in the name of that morality that has made the Red States famous (for meth use) caught our attention.

Brazil has a very good anti-AIDs policy. It involves making sure that prostitutes, who have a union in Brazil, have condoms. It involves distributing clean needles. It involves rationality.

“One gauge of Brazil's success in confronting AIDS is to compare the situation here with that of other developing countries, many of which have sent delegations to study the Brazilian program. In 1990, for example, Brazil and South Africa had roughly the same rate of prevalence of H.I.V. among their adult populations, just over 1 percent.

Today, some studies indicate that 20 percent or more of South African adults of reproductive age are infected with H.I.V. or have AIDS, an estimated total of more than 5 million of the country's 44 million people. In Brazil, in contrast, the rate has dropped nearly by half, and the number of patients being treated has held steady, at about 600,000 out of a total population of 180 million.”

The Bush response is to look at this from the compassionate viewpoint. Compassion tells us that a life isn’t worth being saved if it is engaging in promiscuity and getting high:

“Mark Dybul, deputy coordinator and chief medical officer for the Bush administration's global AIDS initiative, is also taking part, and says the prostitution controversy is not only overblown, but is also an example of the many misconceptions about American policy.
"On the ground, this isn't an issue," Dr. Dybul said in an interview here on Friday. "Part of a compassionate response involves meeting people where they are and working with them."
He added, "Each country has a sovereign right to make decisions for themselves, and we respect that." But in order to receive American aid, he said, "it does require an acknowledgment that prostitution is not a good thing and to be opposed to it."”

Isn’t that sweet? And so the U.S. is yanking its support for the Brazilian system, until Brazil does the right thing, the compassionate thing, and criminalizes prostitution, making prostitutes the jolly targets of serial killers and plague, like they are in God’s own country, the U.S. Sometimes, compassion means leaving the world just a little bit more hellish than you found it.

On to the incompetence scene, where an unusual rhetorical turnabout is happening. Back in 2002, Al Qaeda was connected to all America’s enemies, and all of America’s enemies were Saddam Hussein. But now, three years later, with Al qaeda a fully operating organization in Pakistan, the new line is that nothing is connected to Al Qaeda. After all, if the London and Egyptian explosions are connected to Osama, the uncomfortable question might be, who is that Osama fellow? Bush has answered that definitively last year, when he said in the debates, very strongly, that he knew who Osama was. He’d read all about him in the back of the Little Pet Goat book. The CIA had paperclipped a 5 page cartoon book showing him and his nefarious crew. There were arrows, too, pointing to all of the players and giving their names. It was very informative. The president is very informed. The president is very resolute. The president stays the course.

Today's message comes with a little phone tune: don't worry, be happy! It turns out that nothing has anything to do with Osama, that funny little cave dweller. This is from the NYT:

But Al Qaeda's true form these days is a question mark. A majority of the officials interviewed call it a badly hobbled, barely functioning organization. Its top commanders have been captured or killed, and its two top leaders - Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri - have been in hiding for nearly four years.

One senior counterterrorism official said, "Al Qaeda is finished. But there is Al Qaedaism. This is a powerful ideology that drives local groups to do what they think Osama bin Laden wants."

Keeping up the brave tradition of Judy Miller, the article is basically propaganda for the White House conveyed via the anonymous. Good Work! Message: we did not fuck up in the spring of 2002 by arrogently letting Osama escape while we turned to an unnecessary war that we shoehorned into the legitimate concern about terrorism. Not us. Not with a secretary of War as brave and cuddly as Rumsfeld, and his merry men, oh so bright and gay. We smashed Osama way up. He has nothing, nothing to do with any explosions you may hear in the background. Although, remember, he had everything to do with Saddam Hussein, you see, in a sly, subtle, non-verbal kind of way. One of those gang terrorist handshake kind of things.

The amazing success of America’s policy is bringing freedom lovin’ to a neighborhood near you! With compassion, of course, on the side.

The WP has a different story. Must not have surveyed the same top top top counterterrorism officials. It is headlined Al Qaeda Leaders Seen in Control. How terribly bad of those reporters. They obviously were using the wrong Rolodex to survey the proper experts.

“The back-to-back nature of the deadly attacks in Egypt and London, as well as similarities in the methods used, suggests that the al Qaeda leadership may have given the orders for both operations and is a clear sign that Osama bin Laden and his deputies remain in control of the network, according to interviews with counterterrorism analysts and government officials in Europe and the Middle East.”
That is not the right message. Message should be: we are safer today more than we’ve ever been before. It gets worse.
“But intelligence officials and terrorist experts said they suspect that bin Laden or his lieutenants may have sponsored both operations from afar, as well as other explosions that have killed hundreds of people in Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Morocco since 2002. The hallmarks in each case: multiple bombings aimed at unguarded, civilian targets that are designed to scare Westerners and rattle the economy.”

So unhelpful. So uncompassionate. Luckily, we can completely turn our minds off to such articles. And put complete trust in the counter terrorism experts who run the gamut, from Douglas Feith to Karl Rove, in assuring us that there is no man with a bomb behind the curtain.