Saturday, December 13, 2003

A Few Quick Notes

Meant to post a little earlier, but was having some chest pains that forced me to lie down for a bit. For the record, this is unlikely to be cardiac related--in the past, I've sought out medical attention for similar pains, and have done the stress tests, EKG's, etc.,--my heart is in good shape. However, it became difficult to sit or stand for a while, which kind of precludes typing.

CrawlingWestward has an interesting post today regarding the potential for political violence in the near future. Ricky notes:

Quiddity made a pretty outrageous prediction for the new year in a post over at uggabugga this morning...My first thought on reading this was that Quiddity's been on the drink a little too hard lately...Then I remembered that a prominent liberal has already had an attack on his life just a few short years ago. You might remember when some anthrax was sent to a certain Senate Minority (majority at the time) Leader's office. That was a sobering thought, and it nearly changed my mind about Quiddity's post, but I'm a stubborn fool.

My guess would be that President Bush stands a far greater chance of violence against his life than any of the Democratic candidates...

Timshel brought up an important point, and I'll add my concerns. Now, to be fair, on a strictly philosophical level, using violence to achieve political aims is something that I think is acceptable--after all, The Declaration of Independence makes this point. However, in a practical sense, I don't think acts of violence are effective in a meaningful way in this country anymore. The police and military are simply too powerful, and, besides, there are, at least theoretically, means within the existing institutions to achieve at least some goals that any group wishes to strive for. Sure, it can be difficult to take on the existing power structure--especially considering that we really don't have an "opposition" movement, per se. The Democrats and Republicans, at least until recently, have pretty much been two sides of the same coin, although the neo-con movement has been doing its best to consolidate power to the detriment of any other faction. Still, the two major parties have pretty much cemented their hold on effective political control for some time, provided there isn't a major crisis in the near future. The only potential for a true opposition movement, the Green coalition, is still attempting to get on its feet, while the Reform Party has pretty much fizzled out.

Now, my opinions about the United States notwithstanding, I do consider extra-legal methods of political opposition to be an effective and acceptable method of bringing about social change under certain circumstances. For instance, the Zapatista movement continues to defy the federal government in Mexico as it pursues an agenda of social justice for the poor and indigenous peoples of the country. In East Timor a popular movement kept hopes for true independence alive for years via revolutionary action against the totalitarian government of Suharto in Indonesia. Virtually the entire isthmus of Central America saw armed uprisings during the 1970s and 1980s. I consider ALL of these actions to be reasonable, because there was NO WAY for these people to effectively work within the system to see their grievences redressed.

Oh--and while I'm thinking about it--some may find this controversial, but I support what Fidel Castro has done in Cuba. Fidel is not a saint: he can be harsh on dissidents, his characteristic Latin American macho intolerance of gays is well known, and Cuba is by no means a paradise. However, considering that the most powerful military in the world literally maintains a toehold on the island to this day AND the fact that the United States has frequently attempted to assassinate El Barbo--well, I don't think this country is in a position to judge the Cuban Revolution. We should instead compare and contrast the situation in Cuba to the situation, say, in Haiti, The Dominican Republic, the nations of Central America and the Caribbean, and assess accordingly.

But, once again, I've gone off topic. My only point was to encourage anyone reading this to check out CrawlingWestward's post and reflect upon it. In the age of hate-radio, abortion clinic bombings and assassinations of abortion doctors--hell, in the age of terrorism--let's hope that the United States will become an example of political tolerance, even as we passionately debate the great issues of our day.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Baghdad Protests

I saw this initially at Ken's site, and also noticed it at a few other places. Two days ago, a large demonstration was organized in Baghdad around the theme of "Stop Terrorism." I've mostly tried to stay out of the fray on this--for several reasons. One, I'm all in favor of people speaking their minds--whether or not I agree. Two, it's been goddamned busy at work, leaving me little time to really follow what's going on. Three, I didn't want to get wrapped up in some of the progressive posting on the subject, which was primarily aimed at pointing out the irony of Glenn Reynolds showing support for the protests. You see, the Iraqi Communist Party was one of the groups at the rally. Normally, Glenn has little use for communists, and I've heard he dismissed the anti-war protests here due to the involvement of A.N.S.W.E.R. Yeah, in a nutshell, I'd say that makes Glenn a tad hypocritical.

But, back to the demonstration in Baghdad. I took a look at Heaning Iraq--by the way, call me naiive if you want, but I believe Zeyad when he says he is an Iraqi living in his capital city--and he's in favor of the invasion and occupation. Here's what he had to say:

The rallies today proved to be a major success. I didn't expect anything even close to this. It was probably the largest demonstration in Baghdad for months. It wasn't just against terrorism. It was against Arab media, against the interference of neighbouring countries, against dictatorships, against Wahhabism, against oppression, and of course against the Ba'ath and Saddam...

All political parties represented in the GC participated. But the other parties, organizations, unions, tribal leaders, clerics, school children, college students, and typical everyday Iraqis made up most of the crowd. Al-Jazeera estimated the size of the crowd as over ten thousand people.

You can find a list of some of the parties that we noticed there at Omar's blog. At one point it struck me that our many differences as an Iraqi people meant nothing. Here we were all together shouting in different languages the same slogans "NO NO to terrorism, YES YES for peace".

OK. But the interesting thing about the internet is that there is rarely just one side to a story. Over at Riverbend, pseudonym for a young Iraqi woman (or so I believe--see my remarks above). Riverbend has much more complicated feelings towards the invasion and occupation. I think, on the one hand, she's not sad at all to see Saddam go, but I'm pretty sure she's been more than a little unhappy over seeing her country--where Western Civilization was born--degenerating into chaos so quickly. Anyway, here's her view of the same demonstration (no permalink, but it's the latest post. Given the electricity situation, it will probably be the latest post for a while):

There was a demonstration in Baghdad yesterday of about 4,000 people. The parties who are a part of the GC took part in an 'anti-terror' protest. The roads were closed for security reasons and helicopters were hovering over head. There were a couple of women's groups I recognized some women from Al-Da'awa Al-Islamiya- Al-Jaffari's party. The Iraqi communist party and SCIRI were also involved. The irony is seeing SCIRI members hold up the "NO TERROR" banners (they could start by not terrorizing the Al-Iraqiya station because the anchorwomen don't wear hijabs).

There were other demonstrations in some provinces, and they've all been lobbed together with the one in Baghdad. The truth is that some of them were actually anti-occupation demonstrations, like the one in Khaldiya. There were large crowds demonstrating in Khaldiya, demanding the release of boys and men who have been detained for over 3 months in American prison camps.

Today (well, technically, yesterday) there was another large demonstration in Baghdad which was a peaceful anti-occupation demonstration. The demonstrators were mainly university students and teachers who were opposing the raids occurring in some colleges and universities. They were demanding the release of three women who were detained when the Technology University in Baghdad was raided. Their spokesperson, a professor, I think, said that this was going to be the first demonstration in a long series of anti-occupation activism being organized by teachers and students.

So, I post, and let you, the reader, decide. I took a look at some of the pictures, and, to be honest, the demonstration looked a little larger than the anti-war rally I went to in New Orleans earlier this year, but not a LOT larger. But, again, I'll point out that the hornet's nest that Iraq has become makes this appeal against terror a nice but basically futile gesture.

You could have 4,000, or 10,000, or 40,000, and it still won't mean anything. Why? Because many of those AGAINST the occupation aren't going to simply accept it and go home. It's clear that they have the resources to engage in hit-and-run tactics that, while not being enough to drive off the US forces, will make the price of occupation significant. Some may scoff at the "relatively" low level of US deaths--to which I'll say it's only "low" for those who haven't lost a loved one or family member. Additionally, by focusing only on those who've died, we're forgetting a MUCH larger number of wounded. Many of the wounded have survived only due to remarkable advances in battlefield medicine. In earlier wars (Gulf War I included) these soldiers would never have made it home. And while we can all be grateful for their return, let's be very clear about the severity of the injuries many have suffered. Nerve damage, missing limbs, serious burns--the cost of occupation for these individuals has been quite high.

And I haven't even mentioned the Iraqi dead. Sorry folks: they're no less human than we are. Aside: when I went to the anti-war march in New Orleans, I carried a poster that pictured a twelve year old Iraqi girl. I have no idea if she survived the battles, but I certainly hope so. The sign was given to me for the march--I have no idea where it ended up. Anyway, while in Jackson Square, someone struck up a conversation with me about the event. It became clear that this person was itching for invasion. When I showed him my poster, he literally told me that he hoped she'd blown to bits by the US Military. Why? Because she was a "future enemy."

I don't think this guy represents the mainstream view towards the war--but I can tell you that he certainly didn't look like the lunatic he is (judging from what he said). Instead, he looked like a very normal, sane person--not the variety of person you normally see in Jackson Square, to be honest. But hoping for a young kid to be blown to bits--and, that was such an insane thing to say, I asked him to repeat himself, just in case I hadn't heard, which he did--man, that to me is one step short of child molestation.

By the way--just so no one thinks I'm anti-soldier: this person was NOT in the military. He was just someone who apparently has been brainwashed into wishing the most horrific of violent acts upon people whom he has never met.

Man, that was a long tangent. Sorry to those who didn't want to follow. Sorry about the low links as well. Might try to correct this a little later with the edit function.

Back to the topic at hand: I've said this before on this site, and I'll mention it again: Iraq cannot be judged in any manner even approaching the industrial west. And I don't want to make that sound insulting to Iraqis, because it isn't. I don't think Iraqis are incapable of stable self-government--but I think that, given that Iraq as a country was cobbled together from three provinces of the old Ottoman Empire, given that the history of the region (whether called Babylon, Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Ur, whatever) goes back AT LEAST 4000 years, given that within the three major (and dozens of minor) ethnic/political/religious divisions you've got literally hundreds of political and quasi-political organizations who will DEFINITELY NOT BACK DOWN now that they literally have the chance of a lifetime--given all this, and more, I think the invasion and occupation of Iraq will be remembered in history as pretty disasterous--both for Iraq, and the United States...

Final note: might be posting much later this evening, but I couldn't pass up the rare chance to see John Prine tonight over at the Centroplex--and then there's the usual Friday night happenings here in the Capital City. If I do make it back tonight, it will probably be to add some links to my rambling statement above...
Utterly Off Topic

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching The West Wing and came up with the following modifications, if NBC ever wanted to move the show in a different direction.

West Bing

President Soprano, who shuttles back and forth between Washington and the Jersey White House, seeks professional help to deal with the stress of having to occasionally whack either a foreign head of state, or someone in the First Family.

West Ding

A documentary on the Administration of George W. Bush. Unelectable.

West Jing

Hosted by Ebay. Winning bid must be submitted no later than 11/04/04 at 8 pm local time.

West King

To hell with the constitution--oh wait, that's West Ding.

West Ming

14th through 17th century China might be more interesting than you think.

West Ping

The technogeeks running Howard Dean's campaign take over at the White House. Sponsored by Jolt Cola, Pizza Hut, and VividVideo (um--I'll have to post the link to Vivid a little later).

West Ring

West Wang

Starring Bill Clinton. Caution: some scenes may not be suitable for children.

Now back to our regularly scheduled posting.
In Class Again

Will try to post later this afternoon.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Random Thoughts

This story on Kosovo is via Ken via Instapundit, of all people.

"Four years after it was "liberated" by a NATO bombing campaign, Kosovo has deteriorated into a hotbed of organized crime, anti-Serb violence and al-Qaeda sympathizers, say security officials and Balkan experts."

In a comment at Ken's site I wrote that Clinton's intervention was a bad idea, and thought so at the time. I'm not a complete pacifist, but am generally reluctant to support armed intervention because, like Joe Wilson said (about Iraq, but I'll generalize it)--armed intervention has the highest risk, at greatest cost, with the least reward.

What could have or can be done? Hell, I'll admit that I'm not sure--the Balkans are complicated. I for one wouldn't mind knowing exactly how Tito, a Croatian who fought with the Serbs against (mainly) other Croatians managed to keep a lid on things during his reign--while managing to keep the Soviet Union at arm's length as well. Other than some brief biographies, a few semi-scholarly articles, and conversations I had with a Kosovar Albanian who I used to talk to at a local hangout (for the record: he hated the KLA, didn't support the intervention, and remembered Tito fondly), I don't really know that much about Josef Broz.

Channel 9 at Ten

Actually was going to post briefly about Frontline--topic, the early Christians-- which got my attention for two hours, minus a quick trip to C-Span where I caught Alan Greenspan basically saying that this country is addicted to shopping, China is rapidly going from manufacturing to assembly and export, while even cheaper labor from other South Asian nations handles the production work. Sort of a work-'em-as-hard-as-you-can-for-as-long-as-you-can policy on a global scale. But after a good show about early Christianity (ironic: the United States is a de facto Christian nation, yet our historical understanding of the Middle East is pretty lacking for the most part), I decided to tune into the local "news," which began with--what else--yet another semi wreck on the interstate. Bad enough, but then traffic going the other way backed up for miles because so many people were rubbernecking. Geez--I'm glad I DON'T have to drive the damn highway.

But, I'm closing out my posting a little early tonight--want to catch up on some reading I've been doing.

Just like in 2000...
I'm stuck in a training class all day, so any posts will come later. But--on a break, I took a quick look at some headlines, and came across this nightmare scenario:

1 dead after car hits truck carrying military munitions

CNN) -- One woman was killed Wednesday night after the SUV she was driving crossed the median of Florida's Turnpike west of Orlando and hit a truck carrying munitions for the military, setting off a large explosion, officials said.


Talk about the losing lottery ticket. Cars, wrecks, and blasting caps--ouch.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


I spent the last hour or so watching John Kerry on C-Span. I actually was somewhat impressed by Kerry's performance last night during the debate--minus his failure, like the other Democrats, to raise his hand when Ted "Waterboy" Koppel asked whether Dean could win. I agree with Atrios--all the candidates should have raised their hand, and emphatically stated that ANYONE can beat Bush--provided the media actually does their job, and treats Bush as a politician/candidate for high office, and not a teflon-coated representative of the Almighty.

What impressed me about Kerry last night was his grasp of the broader picture. While he may well have sailed over the head of the electorate with his statements regarding the position of the United States on the world stage, he was essentially correct, and I noted in some comments I made at BigLeftOutside that I finally understood why Al Giordano has had good words for Kerry in the past. Whether he can translate this into support is still an uphill climb--speaking both for myself, and, if I may be so bold in opinion, the general public as well.

Unfortunately for Kerry, his appearance tonight, which was a call-in segment, reminded me of why he's been so disappointing to this point. He talked over the callers (in his defense, he was clearly having trouble with the earpiece), but, more important, his answers were bland, broad, vague, and uninspiring--except in one instance, when he defended his use of the word "fuck," as in "I didn't expect he'd [Bush] fuck [the Iraq policy] up so badly." Without a direct quote to provide, in summary, he noted Bush himself is not averse to profane utterances, e.g., his take on Adam Clymer ("Major league asshole from the New York Times, to which Dick Cheney replied "big time"). He also rightly noted that adults sometimes use adult language--in other words, get over it.

This was an excellent response to a somewhat hostile question (I say somewhat because the caller didn't act prudish, huffy, or otherwise angry, but it was clear he was upset by the use of the word). However, I think it points to a weakness with the Kerry campaign: he can handle the hostile questions, but he doesn't inspire those who might support him. Dean, in contrast, sets the woods on fire.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not necessarily implying that Howard Dean is the northern Democratic equivalent of George Wallace (neither do I think he's George McGovern, although anyone who reads my posts would know I wouldn't consider the latter comparison an insult). But I do think Dean taps into an energy on the part of those folks who believe in the full exercise of their political rights, and reflects it back in a way that inspires his supporters. In an odd way, he's pulling the equivalent of Buddy Roemer back in 1987 (minus his slightly dirty tactic--or so I was told--of bumping his own poll numbers just a bit right before the election--showing movement on his part in essentially a dump Edwin election). Hell, I still recall Roemer's ads--wanting a revolution in Looisiana, the way he said can't (cain't--rhymes with "ain't") etc. Dean is doing much the same: having nothing to lose, he decided to make some noise, which, combined with unbelievably savvy use of the Internet, has made him the anti-Bush. Kerry, in contrast, is just another Senator.

Off Topic, but: after Kerry wrapped up, C-Span spent a few minutes interviewing Bob Kunst, who built a website (imagine!) called Hmmn, again. Just prior to the interview, they aired a television spot that's been running on several New Hampshire cable outlets. You can see the spot on the website. About the only comment I'll make is that it LOOKS like something that would run on cable tv, but judge for yourself.

While I would bet the Saints to win the SuperBowl before I'd bet on Hillary entering the race (I think she's FAR too smart to alienate her New York consitituency, especially given her recent arrival in the State, as well as the fact that Senator from NY is nothing to sneeze at--she knows this, and will stay in the Senate--maybe even through 2012)--I've got to admit this is interesting. I can't imagine Hillary Clinton financing this, in spite of her well deserved reputation for hard-ball politics, so this seems to be a genuine effort to launch a popular movement with the aim of eventually getting her to run for President.

My own opinion is that too many people have a pathological hatred of Ms. Clinton to ever make a national electoral victory possible. However, it's not like I've got a lock on public opinion, beyond my own.

Probably closing down for the evening--at least once a week on a weeknight I like to get out of the house.

This came, oddly enough, from Talk Left, and the post linked to the Michael Jackson pic (what he might look like if he hadn't decided to take a knife to his nose, and the rest of his face).

Otherwise, it your usual run-of-the-mill composites, forensic impressions, and the like. Won't take up too much of your time, and oddly fascinating.
More Hearts and Minds Screwups

From Juan Cole:

Hundreds of Shiites Demonstrate in Baghdad

"Hundreds of angry Shiites demonstrated in Baghdad on Tuesday, over the killing of a mosque prayer leader by US troops. They gathered in front of the Palestine Hotel, carrying placards and carrying pictures of the slain cleric, Shaikh Abd al-Razzak al-Lami, 64, of East Baghdad (Sadr City), and of his smashed auto, over which they claimed US tanks had run last Friday. They complained that after the incident, US troops had fled the scene and left the shaikh's body there. They called for the tank drivers to be punished."

Cole has another post where he links to an article by Amal Winter, an Arab-American woman who visited Iraq post-invasion under the auspices of International Federation for Election Systems as a Pre-Elections Assessment Analyst. A few excerpts:

"The IGC is composed mostly of Iraqi exiles returning
with the occupying powers. Only two of its members are 'internal' Iraqis
and only two are women. The returning Iraqi exiles, men who lived abroad
for 10 to 35 years, like Ahmad Chalabi who left Iraq as a child in 1958,
have been given a disproportionately large role in the transitional
process by the CPA but are disliked and distrusted by the local Iraqis
who had to suffer under Saddam. Local Iraqis believe the exiles enjoyed
the 'good life' in the West and returned, rich and powerful-allied with
the occupying forces-to become the new ruling elites. The fact that
Chalabi, under indictment in Jordan for embezzling $30 million dollars,
has been Rumsfeld's principle advisor does not lend the CPA-or the
IGC-the legitimacy they seek."

"It wasn't difficult to see that the Coalition Authority has
concentrated on revitalizing the oil-fields rather ran insuring the
minimal level of day-to-day security to which the average Iraqi was
accustomed. Most Iraqis have known nothing but the terrorizing Ba'athist
regime, the horrors of eight years of the Iran-Iraq war followed by the
Gulf War, and ten years of harsh economic sanctions but there was always
strict internal security. In my view as a psychologist, the violence and
looting that broke out after the bombings were predictable indications
of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the face of post-war chaos.
Without the strict security, roaming gangs were breaking into local
residences, mafia-types were extracting protection money from
shop-keeper, and politically motivated violence was increasing. Women
are staying home from work and shopping and children are being kept home
from school to escape the violence created by thugs and criminals which
Saddam released before the invasion, Ba'ath supporters who are
intimidating the populace to reduce potential support for the
occupation, personal and tribal vendettas, and foreign forces coming
through the suddenly porous borders of Kuwait, Syria and Iran."

And this informative paragraph:
When it comes to the claim that we came to liberate the country
from the oppressive, near-genocidal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, the
Iraqi's applaud our success. But, now that the euphoria is over, they
are assessing the cost to their personal day-to-day lives. They feel
their basic needs are endangered by the lack of security, social
services and employment opportunities. Many Iraqis told me that although
they expected improvement in a few years time, as far as jobs and
personal security went, their lives had been better under Saddam's

Meanwhile, in the other war, more grim news:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 10 -- Six children and two adults were crushed to death under a toppled wall Friday during an air and ground assault by U.S. military forces on a farm compound in eastern Paktia Province, U.S. military officials in Afghanistan confirmed Wednesday.

In case anyone hasn't figured it out--you won't win hearts and minds by killing civilians--even if your government tersely expresses "regret" over the "innocent loss of life" in the "fog of war."

It's kind of funny--while there are cultural differences vis-a-vis the West and the Middle East or Central Asia, this is an instance where the contrasts mean nothing--people get outraged when their children/friends/relatives/loved ones get killed. Duh. And while our mistakes in the course of "targeted assassinations" or, in this case, an attempt to destroy a weapons cache are just that--mistakes, unlike September 11th, when the murder of civilians was planned--the problem is that the victims are no less dead because we say we're sorry.

In the end analysis, though, we WILL be sorry, because our ability to project US power overseas has suffered a disasterous blow. If we can't even control Afghanistan, or Iraq, what will this tell the REAL terrorists, who have NO alliegance to ANY country, but who instead promulgate fundamentalist religious ideology, which should give any sane human being pause. By fighting this so-called 4th Generation Conflict with 2nd Generation Tactics, we engage in disservice to the entire world, which is far more subject to terrorist action as these fundamentalists will likely take advantage of the fact that we're bogged down, in military terms, we're spending foolish amounts of money abroad, which means fewer resources can be devoted to the international police effort that it would take (in combination with Special Forces Actions when necessary) to investigate then track down the relatively small number of creeps who wish to bring Armageddon from metaphysical fantasy to deadly reality--to the delight of both Osama bin Laden and freaks like Tom DeLay.

And, on that note, check this out from Billmon. Don't forget to link to the Guardian article as well. The neo-cons are so blind--even the globalists are getting afraid. After all, Armageddon might make for a short-term boon in war-related securities, but the long-term outlook is decidedly bearish.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

News Flash

Blogger is showing why it's a free service. My long post was lost in the ether. Frustrating.

"He hit the post button, having managed in 45 minutes to cover topics ranging from Louisiana Web Logs (via Mary)--also a great piece she linked to by Tom Burka (how Al Gore invented Howard Dean. Quote: Al Sharpton said, "I'll tell you this. Al Gore didn't invent Al Sharpton! That's something you can't cook up in a lab. I'll let you in on a litttle secret. I invented Al Gore," to Bush on Taiwan and China (short version: money talks, unilateralism walks), the Gore endorsement (if his speeches had been that good in 2000, he'd be running for re-election), and the Democratic debate (being rebroadcast on C-Span right now. Joe Lieberman is delivering his own political eulogy, Ted Koppel scores a low C as moderator, according to Atrios readers/commentors--pun intended), the Tony Kushner interview on Fresh Air, etc. etc., and so on. Links were googled up, carefully added to comments, and he closed with a recipe for shrimp curry that a lover of Indian food would find delicious.

Then he hit the post button, as he'd done twice today already, and dozens of times before. And he waited. There would be the inevitable re-read, a few last-minute edits, he'd wonder why all the stupid little symbols appeared in place of punctuation while doing a quick erase, and then he'd quickly hit the view blog tab before closing out for the evening.

The miscellany post.

And then it happened. Cold white space. The terse apology from Blogger--"We regret to inform you that your post has been lost. Lost forever. You may report the error if you wish. The Eurasians are our Friend. The Eastasians are our enemy. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Truth are Lies. Ignorance is Strength. Sugar ration has been increased--half kilo a month. Doubleplusgood, eh Michael?"

The cat had long since run off, but approached again once the noise stopped. He raised his head up to read Blogger's message. "It really IS true," he said to himself, "it does feel better once you stop."

He loved Blog Brother."

Check out this from William Blum at Monday's Counterpunch.

Excerpt: What is most surprising about this is not the [desperation Iraqi peace] offers per se [back in March], but the naivete -- undoubtedly fueled by desperation -- on the part of the Iraqis that apparently led them to believe that the Americans were open to negotiation, to discussion, to being somewhat reasonable. The Iraqis apparently were sufficiently innocent about the fanaticism of the Bush administration that at one point they pledged to hold UN-supervised free elections. Surely free elections is something the United States believes in, the Iraqis reasoned, and will be moved by.

Other countries have harbored similar illusions about American leaders. Over the years, a number of Third-World leaders, under imminent military and/or political threat by the United States, have made appeals to Washington officials, even to the president in person, under the apparently hopeful belief that it was all a misunderstanding, that America was not really intent upon crushing them and their movements for social change. Amongst others, the Guatemalan foreign minister in 1954, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana in 1961, and Maurice Bishop of Grenada in 1983 all made their appeals. All were crushed. In 1961, Che Guevara offered a Kennedy aide several important Cuban concessions if Washington would call off the dogs of war. To no avail. In 1994, it was reported that the leader of the Zapatista rebels in Mexico, Subcommander Marcos said that "he expects the United States to support the Zapatistas once US intelligence agencies are convinced the movement is not influenced by Cubans or Russians." "Finally," Marcos said, "they are going to conclude that this is a Mexican problem, with just and true causes." Yet for many years, the United States has been providing the Mexican military with all the training and tools needed to kill Marcos' followers and, most likely, before long, Marcos himself.

While another William, William S. Lind, concludes his latest column at with the following warning:

What wins at the tactical and physical levels may lose at the operational, strategic, mental and moral levels, where 4GW is decided. Martin van Creveld argues that one reason the British have not lost in Northern Ireland is that the British Army has taken more casualties than it has inflicted. This is something the Second Generation American military has great trouble grasping, because it defines success in terms of comparative attrition rates.

We must recognize that in 4GW situations, we are the weaker, not the stronger party, despite all our firepower and technology.

You ever notice how a lot of conservatives and neo-cons repeat over and over the mantra that the world "has changed forever" since 9/11? In a sense, they are correct, even as evidence shows the PROBLEM was NOT one of lack of anticipation that terrorists would do something as sinister as use a hijacked airplane as a bomb--indeed, at least one FBI agent specifically mentioned the World Trade Center as a possible target. No, the world changed in the sense that conventional military strategy is of little consequence when in conflict against a stateless entity. So why are we continuing to bang our head against the wall with such a backwards plan? If you want to stop terrorists, you'd better come up with something better than the failed war in Afghanistan--man, we managed to screw THAT one up--and the failed war in Iraq. I mean, how dumb can you get? Iraq was a brutal police state, but NOT an exporter of terrorism, while Afghanistan was a damn theocracy until our handiwork put it in the most recent condition prior to damn theocracy--several regional warlords presiding over essentially anarchy. Great.

Why didn't we go after bin Laden as an international criminal first, using Special Forces and/or international policing tactics--then, if we thought it prudent, go after the idiots Taliban? Didn't anyone NOTICE that Afghanistan has been virtually ungovernable since--well, since we began funding the immediate precusors to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in a vain-foolish attempt to give the even-then-imploding Soviet Union a bloody nose (while it was suffering the imperial equivalent of terminal heart disease).

Bin Laden is STILL at large, Iraq is a chaotic mess, and I'm convinced that Civil War in Iraq is not a question of "if" but "when."

Meanwhile, the general public is still merrily riding the carousel, seemingly unaware that the situation overseas is a serious threat to American security. The so-called Free Press has abrogated its responsibility to provide the people with the whole story, apparently having got caught up in the social lifestyle of the rich and famous, and reluctant to give that up in exchange for honest reportage. George W. Bush either doesn't care or doesn't know just how bad things are. The PNAC stubbornly clings to the thoroughly discredited notion of Pax Americana, apparently because they weren't mature enough to consider that there were limits to American military power. And our soldiers in Iraq are getting killed as a result.

Military power should ALWAYS be used as a LAST resort. While the world may be ever shrinking in a figurative sense, it is foolish to think that military invasion will always result in achievement of the desired diplomatic aim. War is expensive, dangerous, and frought with heavy risk. Like Solozzo said in The Godfather, blood is a big expense.
Bring Em On

Once again, I tip my hat to Today in Iraq. Today's news includes reports of at least 30, maybe 41 injured in a suicide bombing (fortunately, the reports I read indicate no deaths in this bombing, although the overnight was deadly for at least three soldiers).

Al Giordano adds some perspective to the Iraq situation by linking to an article at Submerging Markets. Al adds his two cents, already confirming that he has far more weight in the web log world than myself--I think I'm around .000002 cents worth--and I hope he forgives me for adding his entire post regarding James Henry's essay:

"There is far more evidence that James Baker and George Bush, Sr., backed what George, Jr. calls a terror regime in Iraq - during a time when it was openly pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction - than there is evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the September 11, 2001, attacks or was developing WMDs in recent years.

Thus, if the same logic with which Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein's sons were made military targets were to be applied where there is, in fact, hard evidence of support for terror regimes, the U.S. military would have to invade the Bush family estate in Kennebunkport... Bush, Jr. would have to offer a large cash reward for the arrest of his own father... (and, if consistent policy were applied to the sons of terror supporters, he and his election-robbing brother Jeb would become U.S. military targets).

If that sounds absurd, well, apply the same standards to what Dubya has done in Iraq.

There is one consistency though in the results of Father and Son's policies: failure to catch the alleged perp.
Saddam and Bush, Sr. are both still at large."

Bull's eye. Don't forget to check out the James Henry article (link above). Shorter version, also courtesy of Giordano, who cites this quote:

"...if Iraq's foreign debt had been restructured in the late 1980s, when Baker was Secretary of State, many of our difficulties with Iraq -- including Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the prolonged embargo, and our most recent invasion of Iraq -- might well have been avoided entirely."

Instead, what we've got is chaos. Once again, Nightline carried a report about the war--it appears that the insurgents will be able to harass the occupying troops more or less indefinitely. The "solution" for our soldiers will be substituting in Iraqi "militia." Folks, what you've got is the engineering of the Iraq Civil War, which will be anything BUT civil. Sadly, that might be the ONLY thing that will keep more of our soldiers from getting killed, but, in the final analysis, the ONLY people who haven't yet admitted to the disaster that's become of our Middle East policy are those who implemented it, and their political supporters.

We'll be paying the price for this foreign policy fuck-up for a long time.
Am a little busy this morning handling my little corner of the I.T. issues of the Division, but I managed to make stops at several sites this morning to catch up. Ken offers his POV on Al Gore's endorsement of Dean--and Gore in general. Shorter Ken: Gore is a 20 year old hanging with the high schoolers. Winning the popular vote in 2000 just shows that Gore will do anything to be popular. Hmmn. Uh--I thought elections were about winning the vote. Yeah, I know about the vagaries of the Electoral College--but I also know about the vagaries of the great snuff-out-the-vote in Florida, brought to you by Diebold and Katherine Harris. But check it out if you want a conservative perspective on this issue. Ken also has a good post about racism in Europe, which is a BIG problem, as anyone familar with Continental politics knows. Ever heard of Jean-Marie LaPen ?

CrawlingWestward has a number of good posts, as always. Three that caught my eye were a review of a World War I book review, a good post and link to an article about whether or not fault line slippage is contributing to coastal erosion, and a third regarding the state of roads here in Louisiana--with links to the Pic and the Advocate.

I'll digress just a bit to talk about the roads down here--the articles are accurate in stating that the major road conditions here are horrible. Speaking for myself, I can confidently aver that the non-major roads are in pretty awful shape as well. One reason, sure, is because there is such a soft foundation upon which to build slabs of reinforced concrete and asphalt--and you won't be able to change this. However, there is also the never stated situation that Louisiana, like most of the other areas of the country, has more or less abandoned the idea of public, mass transit. Which is a shame. Baton Rouge--otherwise a middling sized college town, has air quality problems of the type normally experienced only in cities the size of Houston. Interestingly, Baton Rouge is trying to BLAME Houston for our shitty air. Truthfully, there is a SMALL bit of truth to that--weather tends to travel west to east in this country, and air from Houston follows this path. That doesn't account for the entire problem--but I digress.

I meant to point out that in most areas of the country, we've got a Soviet Style system of transportation choice, which is to say NO CHOICE. You either have a private car--or you don't get around much. I'm actually pretty lucky--I have a car AND a bicycle, although taking a bicycle ANYWHERE in Baton Rouge is like playing with matches in front of an open propane flame. Sure, there's a city bus line, but the system is not adequately funded, there are not nearly enough offset bus stops, and there's the fact that without a right-of-way, buses cannot be competitive--all this and more factors into the system being one stop away from dissolution.

And I haven't even mentioned the lack of interurban transit. Hell, if there was a train service running between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, for instance, I'd travel to the Crescent City AT LEAST twice a month, and probably more often than that. Funny--every time I mention to someone how nice it would be to have something like this, they ALWAYS agree. And yet, nothing--even though there is track between the two cities that is suitable for passenger trains.

Lastly, if real choice was offered, and at least some additional people got out of their cars, the true automobile worshippers would have fewer cars on the road competing with them for space. Imagine--fewer instances of having to deal with the car equivalent of flotsam and jetsam slowly plying their way around town and between cities--at least some of which are driven only because there is no alternative to the private vehicle. You'd think true, hard-core drivers would WANT alternative transportation systems, if only for this reason. Also, you could put some real teeth into enforcement of impaired driving laws. Right now, even convicted drunk drivers often get "special" licenses to allow them to drive "back and forth to work only,"--and if you believe these folks "only" drive to work and back, well, there's some swampland I'd like you to take a look at.

Would this cost money? Yes, it would. And not just a little bit of money. But, it would be money well spent--because it would be going to pay salaries (which are spent on goods and services, which provide an incentive for such needs to be met, i.e., MORE jobs, etc. etc.), it would be money going to provide a genuine service that people have real needs for, there would be safety benefits (I hope no one wants even MORE automotive related fatalities, which are the equivalent of a 9/11 every MONTH--how do you factor the cost of death into a benefits analysis?), and there would be a benefit for car drivers, who could use a road under the conditions it was designed for--instead of dealing with the morning headache of rush hour, a misnomer if there ever was one.

Didn't mean to make this post mostly about cars and mass transit, but my editor couldn't control me. Of course, my editor IS me--one of the nice things about self-publishing the blogger way. The downside is the pay is lousy, but probably commiserate with my writing skills at present. Free means you never get cheated, but always get your money's worth.

Monday, December 08, 2003

So Sorry--Carry On

Have to do a couple of things over here, but I mean to write a quick post about this:

Afghan Villagers Torn by Grief After U.S. Raid Kills 9 Children

Seven boys and two girls died here on Saturday morning in an American airstrike, and their bodies were still lying in the dust when American soldiers arrived by helicopter to assess the results of the attack three hours later, villagers and American soldiers at the scene said Sunday.

A 25-year-old Afghan man was also killed, the villagers said, while the intended target, a Taliban suspect who lived here and bragged about attacking foreign aid workers, might have gotten away, contrary to official accounts that he, too, was among the dead. Some villagers said the suspect and his family, whose house was unscathed in the attack, had not been seen for weeks.

The attack has raised questions about the quality of American military intelligence and the effectiveness of using air power to kill fugitive members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda who are hiding in villages

It seems as if "targeted assassination" works just about as well in Afghanistan as it does in the Occupied Territories of The West Bank and Gaza, which is to say poorly or not at all.

I doubt a single pro-war individual will make note of the tragedy, except maybe with some sort of ridiculous musing about the "fog of war" or like nonesense. Fog of war my ass. War is all about killing people. Yeah, sometimes you make a mistake and blast kids or other noncombatants to smithereens--and sure, the people who did this are probably as sorry as old Bill Janklow is these days--which is apparently very sorry--in tears, in fact.

But crying won't bring back the kids who've been killed in Afghanistan--nor will it bring back the dead non-combatants in Iraq (Nightline had a good story last week on a Marine Company deployed in the war. I don't expect ABC to be anything but blindly supportive of the troops--which they were--but they did report the fact that this company killed a number of non-combatants at a checkpoint early on in the conflict).

Right Wingers gloss this stuff over--apparently because it doesn't fit their preconceived notion that everything the United States does is inherently blessed by the Almightly. But I don't think dead kids are part of God's plan.

You know, Resident Bush often simplistically proclaims that "it's obvious that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein," which is ridiculous at least in part because Saddam is still around, even as I wonder whether he really is as elusive as it appears or if Bushco is merely waiting until next October to gun him down. But I really began to think about Bush's conviction--no not the DWI conviction from back in '76, or the time he did community service in Houston, apparently to keep a drug conviction from getting on his record, or the college theft thing--no, his apparent conviction that utter chaos in Iraq is somehow better than a known threat. Consider: we knew Hussein was a vicious thug. That's why he was isolated, cut off from doing business with the rest of the world (except for a rather pathetic amount of smuggled commodities coming in from Syria), and otherwise shunned.

Yeah, Hussein was a punk. But at least ordinary Iraqis had a degree of civil order in their lives.

Today, there is chaos, with a strong potential that the next "civil" authority in Iraq will be anything but civil--speaking of civil, if I was a betting person, I'd lay odds that civil war will erupt sometime soon, probably as soon as Bush makes a political move to withdraw some soldiers, with an outcome of either religious theocracy, a new Saddam-like thug--or an Afghanistan-style system of regional bigwigs. As far as whether or not this is "better" than Hussein, I'll let the Iraqi people decide. After all, they're the ones who live there.

Andrew Card, Pointillist

Overall intelligence has been "very, very good," Card said, but added, "Intelligence is a collection of dots, and then an analysis on how those dots might be connected. Some of those dots may not be what they appear to be, and some of the connections may not have been what people would have suggested." (my emphasis)

Link via Today in Iraq
First, thanks to Timshel for pointing out to me how to post images. Second, wow, this pic is good--it's a composite of four separate images, but captures the essence of the eclipse in Antarctia last month. Given the horizon illusion, a total eclipse at the bottom of the world must have been intense.

When I was young, before I learned how rare a total solar eclipse was, I witnessed the one that occurred on the east coast in 1970, which I guess gives away my age. Well, witness might not be the right term. My mom was petrified that we kids would go blind looking at the sun, so she pulled us into the house just before things got dark.

My memories are of the neighbors across the street holding up a bedsheet, which presumably had a hole through which they projected an image onto another sheet on the ground. And I recall it getting dark--that actually bummed me out, as I figured my folks would put me to bed. Birds lit in the trees. Then, oddly, the sky rapidly brightened.

To this day I regret not being able to get outside during the totality phase. But--that's life, I guess. One of these days I'll get to see a total solar eclipse again--I hope.

Mary SaysYar

Please read and reflect on this post by Mary. Wake up. This cannot be tolerated. In fact, this should be front in center as to why the quagmire in Iraq is so stupid. We've got to work on our own problems, instead of trying to be cops of the world.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Other Stuff I Came Across Today

Al Giordano and Josh Marshall have different interpretations of the Democratic Race for the nomination. Shorter Marshall: It's Dean's to lose. Shorter Giordano: Don't count Kerry out--Clinton overcame similar circumstances in 1992.

But one thing to remember about Clinton in 1992 is that the Northeast wasn't his natural base. Even if Clinton had really lost badly in New Hampshire, he still had the fallback position of being far from his home turf. His strong second place showing made that kind of damage control unnecessary.

Kerry's campaign, on the other hand, will be mortally wounded if he does poorly in what is essentially his home base. Sure, there's still time to turn things around--but he'll have to be fucking awesome over the next few weeks, and Dean will have to do something stupid. Neither looks likely right now.

Note: BigLeftOutside provided the link to the Rolling Stone interview. His post regarding John Kerry, fuck, and the Democratic nomination is worth looking at:

Excerpt: Furthermore, what Kerry said was objectively true: When it comes to Gulf War II, George W. Bush did "fuck it up badly." He's not talking about sex, there.

Bad Attitudes has posts regarding sleazy campaigning tactics--Bob Beckel describes how anonymous email becomes a weapon in the hands of conservatives--and also provides a link to a Molly Ivins piece in Mother Jones, which deconstructs Dubya's West Texas roots myth. Good Sunday reading.

There is also a post at Bad Attitudes with a link to a TruthOut editorial by Doug Bandow, who Doolittle notes is a conservative associated with the Cato Institute. This could be interesting: if Bush manages to alienate the hard-core conservatives, he could be in real trouble. Trouble that you can't spend your way out of over the course of the campaign.

And, in unfortunate news, I couldn't find anyone with HBO to tape Angels in America, Millenium Approaches, for me. Oh well. Given the scope of the HBO project, it's reasonable to assume it will air again. Maybe by that time I'll have overcome my aversion to anything but the cheapest cable television package (lots of religious stations and the networks here in Baton Rouge--no public access, either). For the record, I was fortunate enough to be a high school student of Tony Kushner's. For a time in the late 1970's and early 1980's, he taught humanities and ran the theater program at a summer school I attended in Lake Charles, Louisiana. At the time, he clearly seemed to be a genius, in my mind, but I figured his politics would prevent him from hitting the big time. Fortunately, that was not a correct assessment.

As a teacher, Kushner encouraged his students to think critically, and to express their opinions without fear of negative consequences. As far as being in charge of the theater program--he did phenomenal work on a very limited budget. I considered myself fortunate to be cast in the final work he did for the summer school, a production of The Tempest--yeah, I was Caliban--and I really liked the role.

I last saw TK roughly ten years ago when I was up in Wisconsin. Tony delivered a lecture for the Distinguished Speakers series, which was followed by a reception--of the variety that ordinary folks like myself are routinely turned away from (as they did). Not only did Tony insist that I be allowed in, he likewise insisted that a large number of young theater students be admitted--and he proceeded to spend most of his time at the reception speaking to these folks, offering advice and observations. I think that speaks volumes as to his character, which is impeccable.

But, oh well, I won't see the HBO show tonight. No big deal. Saw the live performance of Millenium Approaches on a trip to NYC a while back, and, like I said, it should be back on the air some other time. Besides, I have some other stuff I have to get done tonight. Which is at least one reason why I should end this post here.

Pearl Harbor Day

Blogger was down--for me at least--most of the day. But individual web logs could be read, and I came across some stuff on Today in Iraq. As noted last week, I came across the site wandering around the internet--wish I could remember where I stumbled across the link--and it's now on my daily must-read list.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from a New York Times op-ed piece by Lucian K. Truscott IV

"It's really not helpful when people down in Baghdad and politicians back in Washington refer to the `disorganized and ineffective' enemy we supposedly face," said one young officer, as we walked out of a battalion battle briefing that had been concerned largely with the tactics of an enemy force that is clearly well organized and very, very effective. After spending more than a week with the soldiers of Bravo Company, I know that they resent not only the inaccuracy of such statements, but the implication that soldiers facing a disorganized and ineffective enemy have an easy job.

No matter what you call this stage of the conflict in Iraq — the soldiers call it a guerrilla war while politicians back home often refer to it misleadingly and inaccurately as part of the amorphous "war on terror" — it is without a doubt a nasty, deadly war. And the people doing the fighting are soldiers, not the civilian employees of Kellogg, Brown & Root, or the officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority, or the visiting bigwigs from the Defense Department.

There are three other articles that I strongly encourage everyone to look at: in this one, a series of letters from the online version of Stars and Stripes give a range of opinions on the conflict. In particular, the last letter (scroll to the bottom) offers a perspective on the Thanksgiving Dinner attended by Bush last week. The Telegraph UK reports that money earmarked for reconstruction in Iraq is instead being used to finance attacks on US soldiers:

One senior commander in the Sunni Triangle - a stronghold of Saddam loyalists - believes that his own money has come back to him in the form of rocket-propelled grenade and mortar attacks.

Lt ColAubrey Garner, of 1-68 Armoured Battalion, based near the northern city of Balad, said: "If I go and rebuild a school I am convinced that a certain percentage of the money we put in will be diverted into paying for attacks on the coalition."

And then there's this from Reuters, describing how Operation Win-Hearts-and-Minds is pretty much a bust:

MOSUL, Iraq, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Heyil Qundis watched the U.S. general in charge of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul appear on television to insist U.S. troops were liberators and friends.

Qundis was unimpressed, the memory still fresh of U.S. soldiers recently raiding his house at dawn.

"I opened my door to see a gun pointing at my face and four American soldiers. I thought they were going to arrest me," said Qundis, a taxi driver.

"They had no interpreter or policeman. They came in and turned everything upside down looking for weapons. My wife was terrified -- how are we supposed to like them?"

I'll be adding a permanent link to Today in fact, I'll post this now and move to other topics after I republish.