11 things worth considering

1. Because the religious movement was inspired in France, the crusaders who invaded the Middle East beginning in the 11th century A.D. were called Franks. The supreme commander of the Coalition of the Willing? Gen. Tommy Franks.

2. Morocco offered to assist the Coalition of the Willing by deploying 2,000 monkeys trained to detonate land mines, according to al Usbu’ al-Siyassi, a Moroccan newspaper. Morocco does not appear on the White House’s list of the Coalition of the Willing.

3. The Montreal Gazette reported that the United States admitted last week that it is using antipersonnel cluster bombs, which scatter deadly “bomblets” over a 100-meter area.

4. The Web site www.iraqbodycount.net researches databases in an attempt to establish the toll of Iraqi civilians killed. As of press time Monday, the range was 899 to 1,072.

5. The mother of a member of the band Spearhead received a visit from two plainclothes Army officers on March 16, a day after the band performed at an anti-war rally in the Bay Area. Spearhead front man Michael Franti told a reporter: “They showed her a picture of her son wearing a T-shirt that said … ‘Dethrone the Bushes’ on the back. They told her that was an un-American statement. She said, ‘That’s free speech,’ and they said, ‘Well, things are changing these days.’”

6. A U.S. marshal threatened to arrest a photographer and yours truly last week after the photog was accosted while taking pictures of the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit. Bruce Giffin, a free-lancer on assignment for Metro Times, says Deputy U.S. Marshal Bradley Meng and a slew of his cohorts descended on him as he shot photos of the courthouse for this week’s cover story on the trial of four Arab terror suspects.

“I was photographing the building and had taken three or four shots when a cop in a suit with a headset walked up to me,” Giffin says. “He was followed by six other guys, and before long they were making calls. Next thing I know there were two cars there — two federal police cars. One guy called up to his superior, and the superior said he was going to confiscate the camera.”

That didn’t happen. But Meng called me to confirm that Giffin was working for Metro Times. I asked him why the fuss, and he said there was a court order prohibiting the photographing of the building during certain hours.

The court order that outlines media coverage during the trial, among other things, says nothing of the sort. It merely bars the media from “any attempt to photograph jurors while in transit.” Which Giffin wasn’t doing.

Giffin says Meng told him if Metro Times printed any pictures of the building, Giffin and I would find ourselves in front of a judge.

Unfortunately, Giffin didn’t retain any of the digital images he captured. If he had, there’d be a forbidden photo of that august building with this column.

Meng did not return my phone call. Court administrator David Weaver was not aware of the dustup or of any judicial order preventing anyone from photographing the courthouse.

“I’m personally not aware of such an order, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist,” Weaver told me.

Wouldn’t you know if there was one? I asked him.

“I would hope to,” he replied.

7. From Phoenix New Times: “Radical peace advocates are the targets and sworn enemies of the Victory Policy Center, according to the VPC Web site, www.gunpolicycenter.com. …

“The VPC describes itself as a militia coalition of 82 members, armed with ‘night vision equipment as well as illuminated low light scopes,’ provided by an unnamed corporate sponsor.

“The militia’s stated mission is to ‘Eliminate’ protestors who have stepped across the line and — in the group’s opinion — abused the constitutional right to free speech. ‘Eliminate’ is a word VPC spells with a capital E.

“Strategy meetings to determine ‘locations for surveillance and target marking’ are being planned by the VPC militia, they say. ‘The fun will begin soon,’ the Web site promises, ‘just be patient.’”

8. CIA-supported coups in Iraq during the 1960s helped Saddam Hussein consolidate power, according to Roger Morris, who wrote about it in Sunday’s Seattle Post Intelligencer. “Those plots brought Saddam Hussein to power amid bloodbaths in which the CIA, exacting the price for its support, handed Saddam and his Baath Party cohorts lists of supposed anti-U.S. Iraqis to be killed,” wrote Morris, who served on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Johnson and Nixon. “The result was the systematic murder of several hundred and as many as several thousand people, in which Saddam himself participated. Whatever the toll, accounts agree that CIA killing lists comprised much of Iraq’s young educated elite. Iraqis who would not be there to oppose Saddam’s growing tyranny over ensuing years or to help rebuild or govern Iraq, as the United States now hopes to do, after the current war.”

9. Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who commanded the “Red” (opposition) army in an Iraq-flavored war game last year, accused the Pentagon of predetermining the outcome.

Van Riper complained to the Army Times that the $250 million Millennium Challenge 2002 war game, involving 13,000 troops and intricate computer simulations, “was almost entirely scripted to ensure a Blue win.” “At one point in the exercise, Van Riper sent out small boats and civilian planes on his computer to confront the Blue fleet … and sank much of the Blue navy,” the New York Daily News reported. “To continue the exercise, the Blue commander had to refloat his fleet on the computer.”

10. George McGovern, the Democratic nominee for president in 1972, has tried to weigh in on the war in Iraq. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times rejected his op-ed submissions. The Nation didn’t, and McGovern’s moving essay is now posted on the magazine’s site, www.thenation.com. I’ll note that unlike the flock of chicken-hawks orchestrating U.S. hegemony, McGovern was a bomber pilot in World War II. Some excerpts:

“Thanks to the most crudely partisan decision in the history of the Supreme Court, the nation has been given a President of painfully limited wisdom and compassion and lacking any sense of the nation’s true greatness. Appearing to enjoy his role as Commander in Chief of the armed forces above all other functions of his office, and unchecked by a seemingly timid Congress, a compliant Supreme Court, a largely subservient press and a corrupt corporate plutocracy, George W. Bush has set the nation on a course for one-man rule. …”

“The President frequently confides to individuals and friendly audiences that he is guided by God’s hand. But if God guided him into an invasion of Iraq, He sent a different message to the Pope, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the mainline Protestant National Council of Churches and many distinguished rabbis—all of whom believe the invasion and bombardment of Iraq is against God’s will. …”

“As a World War II bomber pilot, I was always troubled by the title of a then-popular book, God Is My Co-pilot. My co-pilot was Bill Rounds of Wichita, Kansas, who was anything but godly, but he was a skillful pilot, and he helped me bring our B-24 Liberator through thirty-five combat missions over the most heavily defended targets in Europe. I give thanks to God for our survival, but somehow I could never quite picture God sitting at the controls of a bomber or squinting through a bombsight deciding which of his creatures should survive and which should die. …”

“I must tell you, Mr. President, you are the greatest threat to American troops. Only you can put our young people in harm’s way in a needless war. Only you can weaken America’s good name and influence in world affairs.”

“… Tolstoy’s observation: ‘What an immense mass of evil must result ... from allowing men to assume the right of anticipating what may happen.’ Or again, consider the words of Lord Stanmore, who concluded after the suicidal charge of the Light Brigade that it was ‘undertaken to resist an attack that was never threatened and probably never contemplated.’ The symphony of falsehood orchestrated by the Bush team has been devised to defeat an Iraqi onslaught that ‘was never threatened and probably never contemplated.’”

11. I love getting the weather forecast for Iraq.

Jeremy Voas is the editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]