Friday, November 12, 2004

More Than Just a Number--or a Photo

Bob Herbert's column doesn't make for easy reading:

Specialist Michelle Witmer of New Berlin, Wis., survived for nearly 10 more slowly moving months in Iraq, until she was cut down by enemy fire in Baghdad last April 9. She was 20 when she died.

The e-mail was read on camera by her dad in an extremely moving documentary, "Last Letters Home," which was jointly produced by The New York Times and HBO. It premiered on HBO last night.

In the hourlong program, grieving relatives read aloud from letters, cards and e-mail sent by troops who died in Iraq, and comment on the ways they've been affected by the loss of their loved ones. The program is not about pro-war or anti-war sentiments, or grand geopolitical visions. It just gives us a glimpse of the searing personal toll that is inevitable in war. I imagine it would be difficult for anyone to see it and not take the war more seriously. Anything that imposes such unmitigated agony should give us pause...

A theme that runs through the documentary is the overwhelming sense of dread that grips relatives when their doors are knocked upon by soldiers or marines in dress uniforms.

"It was the lightest tap on my door that I've ever heard in my life," said Paula Zasadny, the mother of Specialist Holly McGeogh, a 19-year-old who was killed by a bomb in Kirkuk.

"I opened the door and I seen the man in the dress greens and I knew. I immediately knew. But I thought that if, as long as I didn't let him in, he couldn't tell me. And then it - none of that would've happened. So he kept saying, 'Ma'am, I need to come in.' And I kept telling him, 'I'm sorry, but you can't come in.'

As much as possible, the reality of war is kept at a distance from the American people, which is a shame. My own belief is that the pain of war should be much more widely shared. That would help guard us against wars that are unnecessary, and ensure a more collective effort in those that are inevitable...

Melissa Givens was told by a chaplain that her husband, Pfc. Jesse Givens, who was 34, had drowned when his tank fell into the Euphrates River. Distraught, she insisted that the chaplain was lying. But she said that was O.K., because she would never tell anyone that he had lied. She said he could walk away and she would just forget about the whole thing.

Private Givens died on May 1, 2003, the day that President Bush, on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
Asscrossed's Parting Shots

Big John has a few beefs about judicial meddling in the war on terror:

Departing Attorney General John Ashcroft, dealt several court defeats over U.S. anti-terrorism policies, on Friday derided what he called judges' second-guessing of the president's decisions.

"These encroachments include some of the most fundamental aspects of the president's conduct of the war on terrorism," Ashcroft told the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers group, in his first public remarks since the White House announced his resignation on Tuesday.

"The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war," Ashcroft said...

Ashcroft did not refer to any specific ruling, but he warned of what he called excessive judicial encroachment into the powers reserved for the president.

"The essential constitutional understanding is that courts are not equipped to execute the law. They are not accountable to the people. And they lack the knowledge and expertise essential for the effective administration of government," he said.

"The latitude and discretion reserved for the president under our Constitution must, of course, be greatest in the areas of national security and foreign relations, especially during times of war and national crisis."

Let's see--by cozying up to quaint old standards like the Geneva Conventions, by not condoning torture, by insisting on due process--in some cases--and suggesting that at the very least some sort of administrative hearing should be held in others, Judicial Branch of government, heretofore considered a co-equal, is instead trying to usurp the divine right of one George W. Bush to, well, apparently do just about any goddamend thing he pleases.

And THAT'S causing problems with the war on terror?

Hmmm. Someone should let Asscrossed know that the decision to invade Iraq wasn't undertaken after a 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court--although, to be fair, Bush v. Gore DID set some things in motion.

Wingnut Compassion

Take a look at this transcript from an audiotape from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and then consider the following: in 2002, before we launched Operation Go Cheney Ourselves--dropping the Fallujah along the way--we could've easily apprehended this lunatic.

But that would've detracted from Dubya's quest for glory-in-a-flightsuit. So, in a gesture of magnamity, Zarqawi was ignored.

As for those charged with the task of ensuring greater glory for the dauphin, here's a 'slice of life' story from the New York Times.
Friday Cat Blogging Posted by Hello

The nice thing about cats is that they're independent. In the morning, I can just let him go outside--and he's waiting for me when I get home. As you can see, my little guy is sort of a lap cat when I'm around.

I beginning to wonder, though, if he really IS a Maine Coon/Tabby mix. I mean, I know Maine Coons are pretty big by cat standards, but this one is really starting to eat an awful lot...
The Religious Right vs. The Corporate Elite

Even before I finished reading this James Wolcott post, I was thinking somewhat along the lines of three latter paragraphs:

At what point will corporate chieftains in the US, particularly those who rely heavily on exports, going to realize and acknowledge that Bushism is bad for business?

And not just abroad but domestically in the long run? In the Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida convincingly argues and documents that the ingredients for future prosperity and well-being are Technology, Talent, and Tolerance. Under the last T, he emphasizes diversity, sexual as well as ethnic. A gay-friendly community is a creative community and a creative community is a forward-thinking, open, freer, technologically cutting-edge community. "[A] place that welcomes the gay community welcomes all kinds of people," Florida writes. As a reporter friend of Florida says, "Where gay households abound, geeks follow."

Does that sound like the kind of America that reelected Bush last week? A country open to science, skepticism, dissent, tolerance, liberal values, and sexual diversity? The evangelical ascendence in America is yet another indicator of decline and sullen pouting. Unable to tell the world what to do, it's going to tell other Americans what to do, how to live, and how to get right with God.

My own take is a little more geared towards the potential for internecine conflict within the GOP coalition. Damn, I forget where I saw it, but as I prowled around the internet last night after making it home, I saw a post somewhere noting that the "red states" who vote GOP based on "values" always end up being told to wait.

Now, that's not entirely true--judicial appointments, it seems, tend to be the sop thrown to the literal truthers. And our surfeit of prisoners, not to mention the zeal with which executions are carried out (especially in Texas), attests to, well, a decidedly Old Testament view of things. But at the same time, I think there's a nugget of truth in the fact that the corporate types who've allied themselves with the religious right do so without considering the possibility that they might one day find themselves wishing they'd chosen a different ally.

I'm not big into celebrity and/or elite gossip mongering, but it hardly takes having a keen interest in that sort of thing to notice that their "values" don't exactly comport with those of Middle America. Between the Paris Hiltons, the Jenna and Barbara Bushes, and assorted sundry spawn of those running the show, I think it's evident that sex, drugs, and rock & roll haven't lost their appeal.

And, as others have said elsewhere, when pornography outsells pro sports, you can't simply dismiss it as a phenomenon limited to blue-state depravity.

So, what happens if/when the religious zanies decide that their version of morality--and public policy--will be enforced at all costs? Well, as Wolcott notes, you run the risk of generating a serious backlash in the form of lost business. Which doesn't bode well for the country when you consider that at least for the last century or so, it's been acknowledged by most who understand and follow this sort of thing that overseas markets are key to maintaining the productive base. If you can't sell your excess product there, look out.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the GOP coalition over the next couple of years. To be honest, I don't expect Jenna or Barbara Bush to be arrested any time soon, no matter how many bong hits they have at an Ashton Kutcher party. However, the possibility of lost business, particularly when the economic climate aggressively punishes even the slightest decline in revenue, could badly hurt the GOP coalition, especially if it's combined at some point with an enforced morality that corporatists have never signed on to.

When folks talk about what's "wrong" with the Democrats, they don't bring up the fact that the GOP has some serious holes in the hull as well...
Trickle Down

I'm guessing that most folks saw Atrios's posts about Lauren Rainey, a young child beset with numerous medical issues who's about to lose her Medicaid funded nursing care thanks to a bureaucratic decision by Dr. Mary McIntyre, state director of Alabama's Medicaid program.

I won't go into all the details, but this line really woke me up:

Before walking away, Dr. McIntyre did admit she makes her final decision to deny care without ever seeing the patients. "There is no ability to go out for every single one and see every single patient."

Sort of sounds like the same, lame exuse our Dear Leader and his evil second-in-command use for not going to soldiers' funerals. Out of sight, out of mind...

From the Washington Post's latest news from Fallujah:

Troops have cut off all roads and bridges leading out of the city and have turned back hundreds of men who have tried to flee the city during the assault. Only women, children and the elderly are being allowed to leave.

The military says keeping men aged 15 to 55 from leaving is key to the mission's success.

In Vietnam, the expression went, "If they're dead, they're VC." But now, it's "if they're male, and between 15 and 55..."

But something tells me the old version still stands. How many people--civilian or insurgent--have been killed? For that matter, can we trust the casualty figures for US soldiers? One thing's for sure--I don't know how anyone can watch the limited amount of footage we've seen and NOT realize that Iraq is a lost cause, regardless of how many of these "battles" we win.

Sure, we can blast Fallujah to smithereens, just like we did to Najaf a few months ago. We can pretty much destroy any part of Iraq that we feel like obliterating. And for every "victory," we'll be a step closer to either losing or making Saddam Hussien look like a piker. The "war" in Iraq is no longer a tactical struggle--it's a battle for hearts and minds, and we keep losing every time we "regretably" bring about "collateral damage."

In other words, how do you expect anybody to support us after what we've done to husbands, to wives, to boyfriends and girlfriends (for the record, Iraq--at least until we moved in--was relatively liberal by Muslim standards. It was no Saudi Arabia), sons, daughters, grandchildren, neices and nephews, and so on.

The wingnuts just don't seem to get this. Perhaps it's because they've already assigned "less-than-human" status to Iraqis. Or maybe they just never cared to begin with. But the Fallujah operation drives home a point about modern warfare, at least for those who've seen the limited footage broadcast by the US media: modern war involves tactics that might as well be genocide.

That's NOT a reflection on the men and women who've been ordered into combat. It IS a statement based on an understanding of the instruments of modern warfare, the circumstances under which they're used, and the political implications of invading foreign lands. "Collateral damage" is just candy-coating.

I've noted before (don't feel like looking it up in the archives though) that the US could possibly prevail in Iraq--but it would require killing on an unprecedented scale. And, while we might bring THAT country to its knees, the world reaction would guarantee a global version of the Palestine/Israel situation.

Until we recognize that--i.e., move back into at least the semblence of reality-based governance, sure isn't going to get any better. The question unfortunately becomes whether or not Bush really IS insane to the extent that he'll choose this route. And, considering that his invasion of Iraq was undertaken for the sleaziest of reasons--his re-election (or election, as you prefer)--I can't say I feel very good right now...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Not at all Like Vietnam

Dozens of wounded soldiers are arriving at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany:

A planeload with 53 wounded from Iraq, most of them from Fallujah, arrived Thursday morning and another with 49 more was due in later in the day at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center totaling 102 for the day, spokeswoman Marie Shaw said.

Two more planeloads of wounded were expected Friday.

The military is doing their best to spin the situation as positively as possible:

Lt. Col. Richard Jordan, a physician at the hospital's Deployed Warrior Center which assesses incoming wounded after their six-hour plane trip, said the majority of injuries were "significant, but not major."

"We've had more cases of bullet wounds than usual, though some have also suffered blast wounds from rocket-propelled grenades," he said.

There were several intensive care cases involving brain or spinal injuries or traumatic amputation of limbs, he said. Four such patients were brought in Thursday morning on the first plane and four more are expected from the second plane later Thursday, he said.

The military has reported 13 Americans killed in the Fallujah campaign, which began Monday night with thousands of U.S. Marines and soldiers and Iraqi troops pouring into the city.

Bullet wounds, blast wounds, amputations, brain and spinal injuries are somehow "not major." I guess the thirteen acknowledged deaths don't count either...

And while were slogging through Fallujah, violence escalates elsewhere--a car bomb in Baghdad kills seventeen, while police stations are overrun in Mosul.

The Times also has an article describing the nightmare of urban warfare--snipers picking soldiers off one by one, soldiers on high alert startled by the slightest of noises, and so on.

But it's not at all like Vietnam.

No, I think it might be getting more like Apocalypse Now.

Ian McGibboney links to an article in a British trash tabloid about English troops being entertained by a live sex show, reminiscent of the Playboy bunnies scene in Coppola's movie. The airstrikes in Fallujah are like the napalming of entire swaths of forest for the benefit of Kilgore and his surfing buddies. Fallujah itself is Do Long Bridge.

But, no, it's not at all like Vietnam.

Numerology continues apace. First, it's said we took seventy percent of the city, then fifty percent, it's said we've killed six hundred insurgents, then it will be one thousand, then it will be one hundred--then maybe we'll be saying we've taken "substantial" control of the city--then we'll probably withdraw and take on insurgents elsewhere...

Meanwhile, our puppet Allawi is in no way like the various clowns we propped up in Vietnam. From the looks of it, he's even worse, even as we allow him to rubber-stamp our decision to attack the city itself.

By the way--has anyone besides myself been wondering why we don't see casualty figures for say, Poland? Italy? Or any of the other twenty-five or so countries in the grand coalition pResident Bush managed to cobble together?

No, this isn't like Vietnam at all. It's worse.

Note: this will be a slow post day. I'm heading out to Timshel's part of the state to pay a veteran's day visit to my father, who, in full disclosure, was a career military officer. I will honor his bravery, heroism, and courage--as a Naval aviator, he routinely took off and landed on aircraft carriers. No, he wasn't a fighter jock--the planes I remember him flying were the E-1b Tracer radar plane (the Navy equivalent of an AWACs), and the C-2 Grayhound--but the kind of flying he did took considerable skill.

Here's to all veteran's on this day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Democracy in America

Bernestine Singley reports on voter intimidation in Florida.

I haven't posted a whole lot about this, and yeah, I agree with Atrios (not that Duncan Black even knows who the hell I am, but...)--however, it speaks volumes as to the tactics of the GOP when they openly espouse denial of the franchise, which they did throughout the final weeks of the election. Now, the Rethuglicans will counter that they're actually trying stop fraud, not suppress voting--demonstrating that nuance, heretofore a term scornfully applied to Democrats only, is an integral part of their lexicon as well...sort of like how they rail about "trial lawyers," but not GOP lawyers...

Anyway, between this and the numerous reports I'm sure all of y'all have seen regarding Ohio--not to mention the odd fact that, for the first time EVER, exit polls weren't accurate--well, I'll just say that something smells a bit. Was it enough to change the election results? I have no idea. But something just doesn't seem right.

Is election fraud the exclusive domain of the GOP party? Of course not. Anyone with a sense of history knows that Democrats can and do stuff ballot boxes.

---side note: in addition to congratulating Oyster for lasting six months, he's also got some wonderful stuff about landslide Lyndon Johnson and the 13th precinct--check his archives. To follow along the same line, I remember reading about Joe Kennedy talking about the razor thin margin in Illinois that put his son in the White House. Kennedy supposedly said, "I paid for a win, not a landslide."--

However, the use of intimidation tactics--whether or not it significantly affected the final outcome--is treading on dangerous ground. To me, it smacks of nothing more than Jim Crow, the KKK, the White Citizen's Councils, and the other homegrown American terror organizations. And the GOP party should be called upon to repudiate it. Publicly.

After they do that, perhaps the GOP party can also explain why it was more important for Bush and Cheney to attend fundraisers and go campaigning than to stay in Washington attending to the business of America, which happens to include two wars and a faltering economy. And perhaps they can also explain why it's ok to lie about Weapons of Mass Destruction, being greeted as liberators, making bin Laden the highest priority, and making Ahmad Chalabi their primary source of information about pre-war Iraq.
The Color Purple

First, sorry for the slow posting--I'm trying to simultaneously take care of personal items and do a few work related it's taking me a while to catch up on all that's going on.

However, in the course of catch-up, I came across this at TalkingPointsMemo--a letter to Marshall:

What makes me uncomfortable in all this red state/blue state talk is that people like me who happen to be liberal in a red state just don't seem to count. We get written off because we're surrounded by conservatives.

I live in Kentucky. Kentucky went 60/40 for Bush. But 40% is a fairly sizable minority.

Yes, it is. People keep forgetting that. I laff a bit at sites like this, but at the same time I wish folks like the person(s) who wrote it would realize that we're doing what we can down here. Fighting ignorance isn't easy in the best of times, and these aren't the best of times.

Here's another way of looking at it (and I'm guessing you've already seen it, but...). In a word, it's nuanced--and the term "nuanced" ain't all that difficult to understand--even for a Red State True-believer.

How about a web site saying "Fuck Stupidity" instead?
A Good Idea

The punch line to the joke "What are 500 lawyers at the bottom of a swimming pool?" is what I think about Musing's musings's idea for Alberto Gonzalez's confirmation hearing--for the few of y'all reading this who might not be aware, Gonzalez helped draft the memos that offered the opinion that torture wasn't really torture, per se:

Perhaps, during his confirmation hearings for the new post, Mr. Gonzalez could volunteer to subject himself to some of the techniques he argued were perfectly legal to use on prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder if his opinion as to whether or not those techniques constitute torture would then change.

And if somehow Gonzalez doesn't make it to the top post at Justice, then he could perhaps find a home here in Louisiana, where, as I understand it, the casino in New Orleans was approved by saying gambling wasn't gambling.

But I still wish Dubya had nominated Neil...

Is it just me, or is there a stange numerical coincidence to the various examples of "catastrophic success" that define the Bush administration. US forces are claiming to hold 70 percent of Fallujah, while there's the ongoing claim that "75 percent of Al Qaueda 'leaders' have been captured," then there are the oddities people noticed with vote totals in certain Ohio counties--ah, I dunno, maybe it IS just a coincidence...

All kidding aside though, catastrophic success continues in Iraq--regardless of how much of Fallujah we can "control" at present, it really doesn't matter in the scheme of things. The war is not a matter of simply controlling territory, although we aren't even doing that all too well (for every massing of soldiers for an assault on a city like Fallujah, we're opening holes elsewhere big enough to drive a truck bomb through).

And, just to make it clear that Iraq is synonymous with "chaos" these days, we hear that three relatives of Iyad Allawi were kidnapped. I have no love for "president" Allawi--he's nothing but a puppet--but I feel for these three individuals as well as the hundreds if not thousands of others who've been abducted in the New Iraq.

You know, I really wish SOMEONE in the sheeplike media would ask the administration to explain how kidnappings and beheadings--not to mention massive assaults on cities--amount to "progress."

Oh, wait, that's right--it's all in the numbers...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Asscrossed Declares Victory, Goes Home

The New York Times reports on the newly resigned A.G.:

The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved

Hmmm--who'd've thunk that the objective could be achieved without capturing bin Laden? Or dealing with Al Qaeda in any meaningful way? Geez, if this is victory, what would Asscrossed call defeat?

Oh, wait, that's right--he'd call it "Clinton's fault."

Well, I for one would consider it fitting if Dubya stepped up to the plate and nominated his brother Neil to take the top position at Justice. Neil seems to have a working knowledge of certain legal proceedings. And the whole yin-yang element might be ironic. Mr. Minister of Morality is replaced by Mr. "Hey, where-can-I-score-a-teenage-Thai-chick-and-an-eight-ball?"

But I dunno--maybe the objective DOESN'T require Osama--sort of a "compassionate conservative" victory...there are no losers in the war on terror...well, except for Fallujah.

Fallujans will receive a parting gift of mostly depleted uranium and lead--and a thank you for participating...even if they really didn't want to.
Riverbend: The Rule of Assassins Must End

Baghdad Burning has a new post up--excerpts:

Eid is less than a week away but no one is feeling at all festive. We're all worried about the situation in Falloojeh and surrounding regions. We've ceased worrying about the explosions in Baghdad and are now concerned with the people who have left their homes and valuables and are living off of the charity of others.

Allawi declared a "State of Emergency" a couple of days ago... A state of emergency *now* - because previous to this week, we Iraqis were living in an American made Utopia, as the world is well aware. So what does an "Emergency State" signify for Iraqis? Basically, it means we are now *officially* more prone to being detained, raided, and just generally abused by our new Iraqi forces and American ones. Today they declared a curfew on Baghdad after 10 p.m. but it hasn't really made an impact because people have stopped leaving their houses after dark anyway.

The last few days have been tense and heart-rending. Most of us are really worried about Falloojeh. Really worried about Falloojeh and all the innocents dying and dead in that city. There were several explosions in Baghdad these last few days and hardly any of them were covered by the press. All this chaos has somehow become uncomfortably normal. Two years ago I never would have dreamed of living like this- now this lifestyle has become the norm and I can barely remembering having lived any other way.

Dozens of civilians have died these last few days in Ramadi, Falloojeh, and Samarra. We are hearing about complete families being killed under the rain of bombs being dropped by American forces. The phone lines in those areas seem to be cut off...

How do people feel about the Iraqi troops? There's a certain rage. It's difficult to sympathize with a fellow-countryman while he's killing one of his own. People generally call them "Dogs of Occupation" here because instead of guarding our borders or securing areas, they are used to secure American forces. They drive out in front of American cars in order to clear the roads and possibly detonate some of those road mines at a decent distance from the American tanks. At the end of the day, most of them are the remnants of militias and that's the way they act...

Every time I see Allawi on tv talking about his regrets about 'having to attack Falloojeh' I get so angry I could scream. He's talking to the outside world, not to us. Iraqis don't buy his crap for a instant. We watch him talk and feel furious and frustrated with our new tyrant.

I was watching CNN this morning and I couldn't get the image of the hospital in Falloojeh being stormed by Iraqi and American troops out of my head- the Iraqis being made to lay face-down on the ground, hands behind their backs. Young men and old men... and then the pictures of Abu Ghraib replay themselves in my mind. I think people would rather die than be taken prisoner by the Americans...

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld is making his asinine remarks again,

"There aren't going to be large numbers of civilians killed and certainly not by U.S. forces,"

No- there are only an 'estimated' 100,000 civilians in Falloojeh (and these are American estimations). So far, boys and men between the ages of 16 and 60 aren't being counted as 'civilians' in Falloojeh. They are being rounded up and taken away. And, *of course* the US forces aren't going to be doing the killing: The bombs being dropped on Falloojeh don't contain explosives, depleted uranium or anything harmful- they contain laughing gas- that would, of course, explain Rumsfeld's idiotic optimism about not killing civilians in Falloojeh. Also, being a 'civilian' is a relative thing in a country occupied by Americans. You're only a civilian if you're on their side. If you translate for them, or serve them food in the Green Zone, or wipe their floors- you're an innocent civilian. Everyone else is an insurgent, unless they can get a job as a 'civilian'...

He's right. It is going to have a decisive affect on Iraqi opinion- but just not the way he thinks. There was a time when pro-occupation Iraqis were able to say, "Let's give them a chance..." That time is over. Whenever someone says that lately, at best, they get a lot of nasty looks... often it's worse. A fight breaks out and a lot of yelling ensues... how can one condone occupation? How can one condone genocide? What about the mass graves of Falloojeh? Leaving Islam aside, how does one agree to allow the murder of fellow-Iraqis by the strongest military in the world?

The second thing Rumsfeld said made me think he was reading my mind:

"Rule of Iraq assassins must end..." I couldn't agree more: Get out Americans.

Even though that a lengthy excerpt, I encourage anyone with the time to read the entire post. I have a strong feeling that Riverbend is writing what A LOT of Iraqis are thinking at this point. The idea that we will somehow create democracy out of the mess we've created in Iraq is just as insulting to the Iraqis as suggesting that Poland is a full fledged member of "the coalition" is to US troops (and I've been wondering why John Kerry didn't hammer that point home during the first debate).

Anyone who seriously thinks the assault will do anything beyond guaranteeing continued violence in Iraq needs to have their head examined--and that's no joke. At this point, the invasion of Iraq is no longer the equivalent of beating on a hornet's nest with a baseball bat--it's like using flame throwers to play Whack-a-Mole at a nightclub in Providence, Rhode Island.

And they call themselves moral...
But Don't Call it a Draft

From Today in Iraq, this is how the volunteer army keeps up with force requirements:

David M. Miyasato enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1987, served three years of active duty during the first Gulf War and received an honorable discharge in 1991. He remained on inactive status for five more years, until 1996. Since then, the Kaua'i resident has married, started an auto window tinting business and this year, he and his wife had their first child.

But in September, Miyasato received a letter from the Army recalling him to active duty and directing him to report to a military facility in South Carolina on Tuesday.

"I was shocked," Miyasato said yesterday. "I never expected to see something like that after being out of the service for 13 years."

Miyasato is now suing the Secretary of the Army, asking a court to prevent the Army from ordering him to active duty. He is also asking for a court judgment declaring that he fulfilled all his obligations to the military.

Miyasato's lawyer, Eric Seitz, said Miyasato earlier asked for an exemption, but never got a response.

But after the lawsuit was filed, Seitz said they received a faxed letter from the Army's Human Resources Command saying Miyasato's request for an exemption from active duty has not been finalized. It said his Tuesday report date has been delayed for up to 30 days, but warned new orders "reflecting your new report date" will be mailed and that he must comply with them or risk being declared Absent Without Leave or a deserter.

If I was Miyasato's lawyer, I'd suggest to my client that he find himself a political candidate he can work for--I wonder if there are any in Alabama?--and begin staying out late immediately. Then stagger into said candidate's office, bragging about how much, um, beer you got last night.

Then start thinking about your inauguration speech.

Perhaps soon to become a term not all that different from "Cheney'ed", Fallujah is presently experiencing liberation, American-style. However, as Patrick Cockburn points out, even a "successful" taking of the city is little more than a mirage when it comes to judging the success of Operation Stuck-in-the-Desert:

The belligerent trumpetings of the US Marines bode ill for Fallujah. Sgt Major Carlton W Kent, the senior enlisted marine in Iraq, told troops that the battle would be no different from Iwo Jima. In an analogy the Pentagon may not relish, he recalled the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968 and added: "This is another Hue city."

American voters last week never seemed to take on board the extent of the US military failure in Iraq. The rebel control of Fallujah, half an hour's drive from Baghdad, was the most evident symbol of this. It was as if a British government in London had been forced to watch as an enemy force occupied Reading for six months.

If you're more comfortable with analogies closer to the United States, Fallujah is about as close to Baghdad as LaPlace is to New Orleans. Fallujah is closer to Baghdad than Baltimore is to Washington D.C.

It's as if you had armed resistance in Durham or Chapel Hill taking on North Carolina's state government in Raleigh.

The recapture of Fallujah is likely to be as disappointing in terms of ending the resistance as was the capture of Saddam Hussein last December or the hand-over of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government at the end of June. Each event was billed as a success which would tip the balance towards the US. Instead the fighting got bloodier and more widespread.

There should be no mystery about why this is happening. All countries object to being occupied. Foreign invasions provoke nationalist resistance. This has happened with extraordinary speed in Iraq because of the ineptitude of the US civil and military commanders, but in the long term it would have happened anyway.

"Extraordinary speed..." Cockburn is the first major journalist I've seen who's expressed the same feelings I've had for some time regarding the invasion--it was doomed to fail eventually, but the fact that it fell apart so rapidy is surprising. I was of course expecting Team Bush to adhere to a rough approximation of the so-called "Powell Doctrine," i.e., overwhelming numbers, limited objective, definite exit strategy, etc. If we HAD done this, I don't doubt Iraq would be more stable at present. But the wheels would eventually have come off--because, as Cockburn notes, no one likes being occupied.

Cockburn closes with a final analogy, comparing the US situation with that of the French in Algeria (and with our experience in Vietnam):

The French failed to hold Algeria against a nationalist revolt despite fielding an army of half a million. With similar numbers the US failed in Vietnam. With a much smaller army in Iraq, it will fail again. As in Algeria and Vietnam, the war in Iraq will only cease when an end to the occupation is in sight.

As I've mentioned, I'm still plowing through my "summer" reading project about the French experience in North Africa. It's not an exact match, but the very unfortunate fact is that the French stood a much better chance than we do.

Finally, like in Algeria, insurgents can continue to engage in acts of violence--it doesn't matter if such acts are "random" or "targeted." The population of Iraq will rightly accuse us of not providing the internal security we are OBLIGATED to ensure as the occupying force. And, as we all know, the Iraqi insurgents have plenty of ordinance. Bush's policies did everything short of literally handing explosives, ammunition, and other such supplies over.

Even if we take the city over the next few days, when it comes to Iraq, we're Fallujah'ed.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Bit of Good News

Between analysis of the election, the Fallujah assault/tragedy, and other such things, I didn't see that Arundhati Roy won the Sydney Peace Prize--maybe not as glamorous as the one offered in Nobel's name, but nothing to sneeze at.

The link goes to the full text of her acceptance speech.
If They're Dead, They're VC

As'ad Abu Khalil updates that adage for the 21st Century (irony and sarcasm not coincidental, but intentional):

So whenever you see pictures of women and children injured and killed by US bombs, remind yourself that they are all part of the Zarqawi network, or they could be part of Zarqawi's extended family, and that they all deserve to die. Whoever is killed by US troops worldwide deserve to die; such is the American doctrine in post-Vietnam America. This is why liberals before conservatives have to preface anything they say about war by the refrain: "I want to make it very clear that I support the troops." Support them in what, I have always wondered? Support them in Abu Ghrayb? Or in Fallujah now? But the civilian victims, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, also belong to an inferior race, and their killing does not, and should not, displease the members of the higher civilization who have been wanting to see Fallujah burn for several months now. Watch all those Democrats in Congress come out in support of the brutalization of Fallujah, and watch them cheer the heroism of US troops. To have some 130,000 US troops (aided by 28 Macedonian soldiers) pitted against some 2500 insurgents is real military heroism and courage.
Tell it to the Judge, Part II: Less Crime, but More Inmates

Even as crime is stastically dropping, we still like to lock 'em up and throw away the keys.

The report doesn't even mention the appalling game of lottery that the prison system seems to be, with reports almost every day of folks being released--sometimes after years behind bars--once it's been determined they were wrongfully convicted. It does, however, note that prisons are populated by minorities in percentages greater than one finds in the general population. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
Tell it to the Judge, Part I

The New York Times reports on the Bush Administration's definition of what constitutes a legal hearing for detainees at Guantanamo:

Each day, several shackled detainees are marched by their military guards into a double-wide trailer behind the prison camp's fences and razor wire to argue before three anonymous military officers that they do not belong here.

One, a 27-year-old Yemeni, spent more than an hour on Saturday telling a panel that he was not a member of Al Qaeda or a sympathizer, saying that he had never fought against the United States and should never have been detained here at Guantánamo as an unlawful enemy combatant.
These briskly conducted proceedings, which have received little notice, constitute the Bush administration's principal answer to the Supreme Court's ruling regarding the rights of detainees who have been imprisoned since the administration began its fight against terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks. The court ruled 6 to 3 in June that the detainees had a right to challenge their detentions in federal court, saying that even though the base is outside the sovereign territory of the United States, federal judges have jurisdiction to consider petitions for writs of habeas corpus from those who argue that they are being unlawfully held.

The hearings here have come under heavy criticism because they do not meet the traditional standards of court proceedings. For one thing, the detainees are left to argue their cases for themselves, without assistance from lawyers.

Capt. Charles Jamison of the Navy, who oversees the tribunal proceedings here at Guantánamo, said he expected to have them completed for all 550 remaining prisoners by the end of the year. So far, some 320 detainees have appeared before the tribunals, and so far, the Pentagon has passed final judgment on 104. Of that group, 103 were found to have been properly deemed unlawful enemy combatants and properly imprisoned; one detainee was released

Kangaroo Court would look good in comparison...
Hypothetical Red State Strategy

James Wolcott offers his own:

It won't be enough for a candidate to execute a retarded black man in the future to prove his or her bona fides. It would smack of unoriginality. One must make bolder gestures, draft a broader, more inclusive message. To appeal to the reddest of the Red States and thrill Bob Novak in his old age, Democrats could campaign to rescind the Martin Luther King holiday, but I fear this would backfire, since everyone likes an excuse to take a day off from work and would resent having to drag themselves that particularly Monday.

No, something ballsier is needed for a turnaround in perception. A taboo or two needs to be smashed.

Therefore I am proposing that the official Democratic slogan for 2008 be "Shoot a Fag for Jesus."

It's a simple, catchy slogan that will look good on a bumperstickers, yet carry a multilateral strike: pro-guns, anti-gay, and unashamedly Christian.

Since abortion is so problematic for Democrats, "Shoot a Babykiller for Jesus" might do the trick in some of the battleground states as a supplemental bumpersticker.

Obviously this is all still in the brainstorming stage, and will need to be focus-grouped, but I believe it nudges us further along the path to success gently lit by Kristof's lamp of wisdom.

Winning Hearts and Minds with Lead and Depleted Uranium

The New York Times reports the assault on Fallujah has begun.

Whatever else happens, this much is clear: with every tactical victory in Iraq, we will suffer a strategic defeat. The real problem is that the Iraqis don't want us around--and how can you disagree? Reports of upwards of 100,000 deaths attributed to the conflict, the Abu Ghraib abuses, the complete breakdown of what was already a shaky civil society...and now you've got the very distinct possibility of an entire city being razed to the ground.

We'll see what happens in terms of overall destruction--it's possible the insurgents will simply cede Fallujah and move elsewhere, like they did in Samarra earlier this year. Otherwise, welcome to a miniature version of a 21st Century Stalingrad--in the desert.

I don't doubt the United States can score a tactical victory, and they might even do so with a minimum of US casualties. But war is a bloody business. The death toll will be high among civilians, i.e., the people we were supposedly liberating--and then what happens after we win? If we stay, welcome to truck bomb derby. If we leave, then what the hell is the point?

"I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."