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Tuesday, April 08, 2003

 
The Doctrine of Infallibility

Matthew Iglesias posts the following and I quite disagree:

The other day I saw someone all upset by some kind of poll indicating that most American don’t think we need to find any WMDs in Iraq for the war to have been justified. I found myself actually agreeing with this proposition — whether or not the invasion was a good idea has almost nothing to do with whether or not we find WMDs.

For one thing, the whole WMD issue only speaks to the narrow topic of legal justification. As long as we’re on that topic, however, only one thing matters: compliance with UN resolutions. As everyone knows, Iraq was not in full compliance with the relevant resolutions and the United States did not receive authorization to enforce the resolutions by invading. You can make of that what you will (it was blogged to death about a month ago) but it has no relationship to whether or not we’re able to find any WMDs in the country. Saddam was supposed to comply with the inspectors, and he didn’t. We were supposed to get yet another UN resolution, and we didn’t.


This is truly perverse. One of the fundamentals of the Bush Doctrine is the doctrine of "preemption," stating that the US has an obligation to invade and depose any regimes that are developing weapons of mass destruction. "We can't wait for a smoking mushroom cloud." This, and the doctrine of overwhelming US military dominance, rejection of deterrence as a strategy, keeping Europe from presenting a military challenge and Mid-east and China regime change are what make up the global security guarantee envisioned as the Pax Americana. The worry about selling or giving WMD to terrorists was tacked on recently but it more or less fits with the overall construct and provides a powerful (if phony) argument post 9/11.

The threat of asymmetrical warfare and terrorists getting their hands on WMD is a real one. This is why the administration makes the argument that the preemption doctrine must be stretched to say that any existing WMD program in an unstable regime presents an "imminent" threat, merely by presenting an opportunity for terrorists to obtain fissionable material or small amounts of deadly chemicals and toxins. I don't agree that this situation presents an explicit rationale for invasion, and it seems clear that it is little more than a fig leaf for what is otherwise a doctrine of preventive war, but I can at least see some logic in the argument. But, if there is no evidence that such a program exists then we have no justification other than an arbitrary decision by our government to depose the rulers of a sovereign nation (and kill a bunch of their citizens in the process) for no better reason than that it suits our strategic objectives. (The “liberator” rationale so favored by the media is really only suitable for children and really dumb Republicans like President Bush.)This is a very dangerous concept and Americans should not accept it unless we actually believe that our leaders are all ordained by God and therefore always know what is right and just and need never present their rationale or evidence for taking action. This does not sound like liberal democracy to me.

If we do not need actual evidence of a regime's WMD development program and if this entire project relies instead on the idea that our government can be trusted to have total prescience of a regime's future intentions then the Bush Doctrine is a straight up doctrine of preventive war.

And, while the Bush Doctrine clearly backs into an embrace of preventive war, even the neocons aren’t going to openly admit that and for good reason. Their mission is to establish global military dominance to ensure American hegemony (and not incidentally ensure Israel’s security.) Therefore, even on their own terms it is in their best interest to at least appear to adhere to international norms that everyone understands.

A policy of straightforward preventive war would be intolerable to most of the world, which will justifiably feel threatened by a huge and powerful nation that believes it can reject agreed upon international law and tradition (which are far more longstanding than any UN resolutions) simply because it is powerful enough to do so. The United States does not, by virtue of its military power, really have any unusual claim to righteousness. If we do not adhere to the rules that have been designed to set guidelines of tolerable behavior for the nations less amenable to democratic values -- especially in the name of those same democratic values -- we will have become incoherent and unpredictable. We will have no allies who don't operate solely from fear and opportunism which is an invitation to perfidy. Nobody will share our "values," because our values are no longer known and predictable. And we will have taken a giant leap into creating an anarchic global system that no matter how powerful we are, we cannot hope to unilaterally control through force alone.

Even wild-eyed neocons have to adhere at least on some level to the rule of law and international norms if they truly believe in a Pax Americana. They cannot rely on a puerile notion of being selective “liberators” nor can they straightforwardly propose a policy of preventive war. Therefore, they must produce evidence of “imminent” threat (even as they elastically define it) before taking action like that in Iraq. And if they are proven wrong after the fact, the war should rightly be deemed illegal and immoral, on the terms the neocons themselves set forth.

.

Update: I see Kevin Drum has already posted a more cogent response.






 
A Thousand Flowers Bloom

Armed gangs in Najaf undermine peace plans
By Charles Clover in Najaf, Iraq
Published: April 8 2003 17:57 | Last Updated: April 8 2003 17:57


The people of Hay al-Ansar, a district on the outskirts of Najaf, were glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party rule when the city was seized by US forces last week.

But they appear to be just as terrified, if not more so, of their new rulers - a little known Iraqi militia backed by the US special forces and headquartered in a compound nearby.

The Iraqi Coalition of National Unity (ICNU), which appeared in the city last week riding on US special forces vehicles, has taken to looting and terrorising the people with impunity, according to most residents.

"They steal and steal" said Abu Zeinab, a man living near the Medresa al Tayif school. . "They threaten us, saying 'we are with the Americans, you can do nothing to us.'"

Sa'ida al-Hamed, another resident, says she has witnessed looting by the ICNU and other armed gangs in the city, which lost its police force when the government fled last week. One man told a US army translator on Monday that he was taken out of his house and beaten by ICNU forces when he refused to give them his car. They took it anyway, he said.

If true, the testimony of residents in Hay al-Ansar reveals a darker side to US policy in Iraq. In their eagerness to hand local administration back to Iraqis, US forces are in danger of losing the peace as rapidly as they have won the war, by handing power back to tyrants.

US special forces said they were looking into the complaints, which had been passed to them by US military sources. They declined, however, to discuss the formation of the group, how its members were chosen, or who they were.

The head of the ICNU, who says he is a former colonel in the Iraqi artillery forces who has been working with the underground opposition since 1996, announced on Tuesday that he was acting mayor of Najaf, and his group has taken over administration of the city. Other Iraqi exiles, brought in by the CIA and US special forces to help assemble a local government over the next few days, say the militia is out of control.

"They are nobody, and nobody has ever heard of them, all they have is US backing," said an Arab journalist traveling with a group of exiles from the US and UK in Najaf.

Abu Zeinab said the ICNU "has no basis in this city, we don't know who they are." He said the residents of Najaf, who are predominantly Shia Muslims, follow only one man, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who lives in the city.

Ayatollah Sistani has so far refused to meet representatives of US forces, according to associates, and has made no public pronouncements on co-operating with the US military. Associates say he is "waiting for the situation to become clearer".

"We only follow Ayatollah Sistani, and so far he has said nothing," said Abu Zeinab.

Hassan Mussawi, a Shia' Muslim cleric who helps lead the ICNU, said on Tuesday that the reports of looting by his group were untrue and fabricated by religious extremists to discredit his movement.[uh oh..ed.]

"There are people with guns stealing things in their neighbourhood, but they think anyone with a gun belongs to our group," he said.

He added that his group was seeking to arrest former Iraqi government officials and "collaborators" with Saddam Hussein's regime throughout the city.

"If they do not resist arrest, we hand them over to the Americans. If they resist then we take measures accordingly."

The allegations against the ICNU threaten to undermine much of the goodwill built up by US forces among the people of Najaf, who still wave and cheer at US troops driving through the city. In an effort to curb the looting, which is rampant in Najaf, US forces have begun to patrol at night. They will not be undertaking specific police functions, according to their commanders, but "if we come upon looting, we will try to control the situation and disperse those doing the looting," said Lt Col Marcus De Oliveira, of the 101st Airborne Division.

The city's political rivalries appear to be affecting humanitarian assistance to the town. US special forces have objected to allowing certain local Shia religious leaders, with ties to Iran, to distribute food aid.

The 16 truckloads of food that recently arrived in the city from the Kuwait Red Crescent Society is being distributed according to a plan drawn up by the Iraqi ministry of commerce for the United Nation's oil-for-food programme.

US forces are also trying to restore running water and power to the city, by bringing in a 2.5 MW generator from Kuwait to restart the city's power plant, which was shut off by Iraqi forces.

Hussein Chilabi, a father of six in Chilabat, on the outskirts of Najaf, said until running water is restored, his family are forced to drink water from canals, which is not healthy. "The children are sick in their stomachs from drinking this water. We need running water more than food - more that anything right now."


How very interesting. US Special forces installed a bunch of thugs nobody has ever seen before to patrol the city of Najaf. It is unexplained and unremarked upon in the major papers.

Meanwhile, in Basra, they have named a local sheik as leader, but these reports don't seem to know much about him. Viceroy Garner signed off, so I guess we have to assume it's all part of his cunning secret plan...


..The sheik was identified as a tribal leader, but his name and religious affiliation were not disclosed. Col. Chris Vernon, spokesman for the British forces, said the sheik had met British divisional commanders Monday and been given the job of setting up an administrative committee representing other groups in the region.

The sheik and his committee will be the first civilian leadership established in liberated Iraq, even as retired U.S. Gen. Jay Garner, appointed by the Pentagon to form an interim post-war administration, tries to define a new leadership for the whole country.

The sheik's committee will be left alone by the British to form a local authority, Vernon said...


Interesting plan they have going. Locals are being chosen to lead by the US military. It looks like some, at least, aren't working so well. I wonder what will happen if it turns out that these local leaders aren't as schooled as they should be in the Enlightenment values that so animated our founding fathers and are sure to take hold in Iraq within a matter of days? Will we be forced to institute some more of that "regime change" in the name of democracy?

It's just so hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys and install a democratic beacon of lightness for the whole world to imitate when you haven't a fucking clue about anything or anyone you are dealing with. What a sticky wicket.

Surely, the new sub-Viceroys who have no experience with Iraq or the language or large organizations are sure to be able to sort all this out, though. And, although he has not been to Iraq since 1958, Mr Chalabi's vast experience leveraging his position in neocon salons from one end of Georgetown to the other will stand him in very good stead in putting together a government from scratch.

Of course, the sheik who shall remain nameless said that he will likely appoint Baathists whom he believes are tolerably good, so maybe the country won't have to start from scratch after all. Saddam's Baath party probably has some damned good administrators. And police forces, for that matter. Highly experienced. Surely they can be convinced to assume a more benign role in a post-Saddam Iraq. Maybe we don't have to engage in all that messy "accountability" mucky muck. Particularly when the ungrateful Iraqis are looting all the spoils (that we will just have to replace with our oil profits...)

I am just breathless with excitement as we watch this brilliant plan for regional, no global, democracy begin to take shape. Just like in Philadelphia circa 1787 we have gathered the finest minds of a generation, all together in one place, to ratify a bold new experiment in self-government. The names Perle, Wolfowitz, Garner, Bodine and the sheik with no name will long be remembered. Feel the magic.





 
In the Tank and Providing Sexual Favors

I just heard Wolf Blitzer argue with Christianne Amanpour that the journalists who were killed this morning were pretty much asking for it because they knew that Saddam was using them as human shields. A visibly pissed Christianne explained that the rules were very clear and that the dead reporters in Baghdad probably know a lot more about courage in warfare than any of those who were suggesting such a thing. She went on to say that this was missing the point because there was NO evidence that any shots had emanated from the building in the time before the tank opened fire and that this was the rationale being offered by the Pentagon. Wolf then said that a NY Times reporter indicated in this article that senior Iraqi officials were going into the hotel and not allowing journalists to leave as if that was supposed to mean something.

Needless to say, Wolf didn't bring up the fact that on the very same day, by pure coincidence of course, we also bombed the offices of al Jazeera. Ooopsie. Our precision weapons sure are hitting journalists today, aren't they? Damn that Saddam.

Gosh, I sure am glad that Wolf isn't let any feeling of solidarity with fellow journalists interfere with his deeply embedded gratitude at being allowed to bury his head as far up the asses of the Bush administration as humanly possible.


 
Daily Fix

Salon has a great article up today on Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. It makes the usual observations (only real liberal “news” etc.) but I think it gives short shrift to the extent to which the humor flows from puncturing the media and showing what complete whores for establishment power they are. Having said that, it does highlight one segment that perfectly nails the media’s wholesale absorbtion of the Republican strategy:

The show specializes in satires of bogus experts: No matter what the subject at hand, for example, Stephen Colbert is introduced as the show's "senior analyst." He's the senior U.N. analyst, senior media analyst, senior theater analyst, senior death analyst (commenting on a Texas execution), etc. He can always be counted on to speak utter drivel with unflappable authority.

After the war started, Stewart had the following conversations with Colbert, who was wearing his "senior media analyst" hat:

Stewart: What should the media's role be in covering the war?

Colbert: Very simply, the media's role should be the accurate and objective description of the hellacious ass-whomping we're handing the Iraqis.

Stewart: Hellacious ass-whomping? Now to me, that sounds pretty subjective.

Colbert: Are you saying it's not an ass-whomping, Jon? I suppose you could call it an ass-kicking or an ass-handing-to. Unless, of course, you love Hitler.

Stewart [stammering]: I don't love Hitler.

Colbert: Spoken like a true Hitler-lover.

Stewart: Look, even some American generals have said that the Iraqis have put up more resistance than they were expected to.

Colbert: First rule of journalism, Jon, is to know your sources. Sounds like these "generals" of yours may be a little light in the combat boots, if you know what I'm saying.

Stewart: I don't think I know what you're saying.

Colbert: I'm saying they're queers, Jon. They're Hitler-loving queers.

Stewart: I'm perplexed. Is your position that there's no place for negative words or even thoughts in the media?

Colbert: Not at all, Jon. Doubts can happen to everyone, including me, but as a responsible journalist, I've taken my doubts, fears, moral compass, conscience and all-pervading skepticism about the very nature of this war and simply placed them in this empty Altoids box. [Produces box.] That's where they'll stay, safe and sound, until Iraq is liberated.

Stewart: Isn't it the media's responsibility in wartime ...

Colbert: That's my point, Jon! The media has no responsibility in wartime. The government's on top of it. The media can sit this one out.

Stewart: And do what?

Colbert: Everything it's always wanted to do but had no time for: travel, see the world, write that novel. I know the media has always wanted to try yoga. This is a great time to take it up. It's very stressful out there -- huge war going on. Jon, hear me out, it was Thomas Jefferson who said, "Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach."

Stewart: Stephen, Stalin said that. That was Stalin. Jefferson said he'd rather have a free press and no government than a government and no free press.

Colbert: Well, what do you expect from a slave-banging, Hitler-loving queer?


I think that is a masterful take down of the entire right wing “stifle dissent” strategy while at the same time totally eviscerating the silly, self-serving press corp. (Not to mention that it is just plain, fucking hilarious.)

But the author also makes the following statement that gives me pause:

Political humor used to belong to the left, but that all changed in the 1990s, when the priggishness of political correctitude injected new vitality into a segment of the population that had been shut out of comedy's pantheon: assholes. Suddenly, a guy could flaunt his most petty and vindictive prejudices and still get to feel like a champion of truth and freedom. You could rail against "victimology" when, say, sexually harassed workers dared to resort to it, and then turn around and avail yourself of the same trend by claiming that a pack of censorious puritans was trying to shut you up. In fact, the appeal of shock jocks and other bad boys mostly lies in the idea that they're offensive to somebody else, someone you can imagine gasping in horror at each transgression. Without political correctness (and that's fading fast), a big chunk of what passes for contemporary American humor would be flapping in the wind.


I do agree that asshole humor became fashionable as a response to political correctness. The Clinton hating cabal gained plenty of currency for being “shockingly” politically incorrect with their snide humor and bitchy outrageousness (but are now looking slightly passé.) Where would Ann Coulter or Lucianne Goldberg have been without political correctness to play off of? Much of the Clinton bashing was pure attitude --- snide, gossipy, derisive --- National Enquirer style.

But, I don’t see a lot of evidence that political correctness is fading fast. And, my evidence for this is the fact that I often find myself pulling my punches because I always hear from some people who will be offended by the fact that I would use a line like “slave banging, Hitler loving queer,” even as a way of exposing the other side for the bigots and extremists they are. Most disheartening is the fact that I frequently get arguments saying that by printing those words I am contributing to the problem – as if the context of words is completely irrelevant. Some very well intentioned people seem to believe that you can eliminate bigotry and hatred by eliminating the words that people use to express them. This rule applies to all except those who co-opted the term as a way to defiantly express pride in whatever the wing nuts are saying with derision. (Which is something I wholeheartedly approve of – take their slurs and turn them into badges of honor. Use language, be nimble, don’t create a bunch of rules that limit our ability to express ourselves.)

This probably shows why I fall into the Left/Libertarian spectrum on all of those stupid internet tests. I hate the idea that certain words or phrases are banned just because they have been used by some people with ill intent. And, something in me roars with frustration that because of that I should not even laugh when these bigots’ own words are used against them. It makes no sense to me. Ridicule is one of the surest ways to puncture the self-importance of pompous right wing asses.

The author of this article believes that Stewart is creating the new satirical form that leftwing comedy will take, using Bill Maher as the example of one whose show is much better in its serious segments than its comedy bits. The Daily Show certainly seems fresh and pointed to me, and explicitly political in a new way --- using familiar media formats to expose the idiocy of the current political/media establishment --- so I very much hope that this writer is correct. (At least the fiction of the bitchy right wing being "cool" seems to coming to an end.)

But, if our side hews to the idea that pointed satire is unacceptable or that context is irrelevant when judging the intent of a writer’s use of certain words or phrases, then we are relinquishing one of the most potent tools in our arsenal --- the ability to hoist the right wing and their media tools on their own artificially inflated petards.


Oh, and I’m officially endorsing Stephen Colbert for President in 2004. If we ever needed a Sr. Analyst of everything, it is now. Plus, his name is pronounced Col-bear – tres French, don’t you know. Vive Le Steve!




Monday, April 07, 2003

 
They're About As Relevant As OJ

The "movement " conservatives have these cutsie little bitch fests, (like the "Clinton Adminstration funeral") that they think are just screamingly clever. Unfortunately it's actually becoming embarrassing. The Clinton hating coven isn't exactly cutting edge these days, is it?

TBOGG reports on the Media Research Center "DisHonors Awards: Roasting the Most Outrageously Biased Liberal Reporters of 2002.

Notable Conservatives (two words not often used together) who made appearances included Cal Thomas, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter. John Fund was supposed to be a presenter but instead spent the evening slapping his girlfriend around in the parking structure. Just like last year. Entertainment was provided by washed-up cracker band, The Charlie Daniels Band, who played their one hit song six times before stumbling off-stage and back into obscurity

The highlight of the evening, besides the Kate O'Beirne/Phyllis Schlafly Astroglide Wresting Smackdown, was the award for the Quote of the Year, this year delivered by Bill Moyers:

[...]


More






 
Read This

This article, Rage, Hubris, and Regime Change via Josh Marshall is one of the best refutations of the starry-eyed neocon fantasy I've read yet. And it's from a Republican who supported the removal of Saddam.

The Bush national security doctrine is a response to the likely proliferation of horrendous “wildcat violence” when state disintegration and/or the covert actions of tyrannical regimes offer movements of rage access to insidious weapons whose advanced technology demands only global reach, not global power. Largely in response to this possibility, the Bush doctrine stresses American military predominance, military preemption, and political transformation. From an historical point of view, these are extraordinary ambitions. More, they represent the practical (not necessarily successful) integration of international relations with non-Western political development in the form of an American foreign policy based on the ideological concept, and political-military pursuit, of democratic regime change.


He breaks the "Bush" Doctrine (I use italics because it is really the Wolfowitz Doctrine) into three components:

Dominance

The first “person” in the new Bush “trinitarian” doctrine is military predominance — or, if you like, dominance. In the administration’s words, “our [military] forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build up in hopes of surpassing or equaling the power of the United States.” This tenet has no immediate bearing on the international issues facing the United States because it will most likely take at least a decade for any imaginable nation to be taken seriously as a military competitor (unless, of course, Japan undergoes radical regime change on its own nationalistic terms).

[...]

If the Bush administration’s foreign policy towards countries in the “axis of evil” is “either you become capitalist democracies or we will do it for you,” then for both ideological and material reasons, the leaders of those regimes have every incentive to do exactly what the United States doesn’t want them to do: develop a nuclear capacity. The Bush administration’s fundamental solution to the danger of terrorism, regime change, has a decidedly Jekyll-and-Hyde quality — to wit, in trying to create democratic Dr. Jekyll regimes, it is likely to create enraged Mr. Hyde regimes.

Preemption

Preemption, the second “person” in the trinitarian doctrine, is indeed a radical departure from deterrence as a strategy against hostile regimes. The difference between preemption and deterrence is simple: In the former case, you attack first. You don’t wait for an attack and then counter-attack. However, both deterrence and preemption rely on evidence of a hostile power’s weapons capacity, not simply its desire or search for such. The Bush doctrine rests on something much more radical (though, if Thucydides is correct, not historically unprecedented) than preemption: anticipation. The logic behind an anticipatory attack against a country like Iraq is that its leader will never cease in his search for military weapons of unprecedented destructiveness, and that once he possesses them, he will certainly use them against us in the form of blackmail, veto, or aggression.

[...]

So the logic behind an anticipatory strategy is powerful. However, its strategic application demands the combined wisdom of Pericles and Solomon. To begin with, the premise for an anticipatory attack posits a hostile leader and regime platonically impervious to any environmental changes whether domestic or international. This is not always a mistaken premise — Hitler and Pol Pot are cases in point — but it is almost always mistaken. Over time, most regimes do change substantially if not essentially. One has only to look at the Soviet Union after 1956 and China after 1978.

[...]

Regime change

Political transformation is the third part of the Bush administration’s national security trinity. If global military domination sounds somewhat un-American, not to mention impractical, and if a strategy based on anticipation carries the extraordinary risk that international politics will become more a matter of arbitrary intuition than sober threat estimation, then regime change — that is, the forceful transformation of tyrannical regimes and non-modern societies like Iraq (and North Korea and Iran) into democracies — signifies a radical change in our idea of democratization. By making regime change the central feature of American foreign policy, the Bush administration appears to favor the “imposition of democracy” over the “transition to democracy.”

[...]

History, the Bush administration has concluded, needs deliberate organization, leadership, and direction. In this irony of ironies, the Bush administration’s identification of regime change as critical to its anti-terrorist policy and integral to its desire for a democratic capitalist world has led to an active “Leninist” foreign policy in place of Fukuyama’s passive “Marxist” social teleology.

[...]

The 9-11 attacks made it clear to the Bush administration that a belief in the inexorable unfolding of History favoring the West was both unfounded and dangerous. In a quite remarkable about-face, the Bush administration has devised a radically new American global posture.

[...]

Its rationale is sophisticated and begins with the proposition that the United States cannot simply wait and hope for internal transitions to democracy, particularly in countries whose leadership is dogmatically and hysterically intent on preventing such. Regimes of this type might acquire or develop wmd and use them to end our history. (Point well taken.)

Second, internal transitions to democracy such as in Meiji Japan or Imperial Germany in the nineteenth century are often “arrested.” They stop short of creating a “constitution of liberty” and remain dangerously unstable political, military, and economic hybrids.

[...]

...the reconstruction experiences of Germany and Japan (as well as Korea and even the Philippines) are considered pertinent or exemplary. They are not. No envisaged invasion of Iraq will produce the psychological trauma, institutional disintegration, socio-cultural dislocation, or economic destruction brought about by our successful invasions of Japan and Germany.


I urge you to read the entire article. His conclusions are fresh and compelling, most especially his cogent analysis of the probable effect of "imposing" democracy on a nation and culture which does not see individualism as a virtue. He points out the "missionary" nature of this new form of enforced democracy and dryly suggests that "one might at least consider the fate of earlier Western crusades."

He finishes with a very interesting insight:

Given enough power, a conquering authority can impose any kind of rule it wishes on a defeated society. More often than not, however, military-political imposition produces social dissimulation, not cultural assimilation of the conqueror’s way of life. As Aristotle and Durkheim knew, the types of political innovation most likely to be accepted by a defeated society must closely resemble previous, familiar forms of political life. In the case of a defeated Iraq that requires, at a minimum, the Bush administration’s recognition of and respect for the reality of ruling families as the central feature of Arab political life. Surely an easy task for what the Financial Times considers the most successful political family in American history.





 
Victories Old and New

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP)

-- Before executing the International Red Cross worker, the Taliban gunmen made a satellite telephone call to their superior for instructions: Kill him?

Kill him, the order came back, and Ricardo Munguia, whose body was found with 20 bullet wounds last month, became the first foreign aid worker to die in Afghanistan since the Taliban's ouster from power 18 months ago.

The manner of his death suggests the Taliban is not only determined to remain a force in this country, but is reorganizing and reviving its command structure.

There is little to stop them. The soldiers and police who were supposed to be the bedrock of a stable postwar Afghanistan have gone unpaid for months and are drifting away.

At a time when the United States is promising a reconstructed democratic postwar Iraq, many Afghans are remembering hearing similar promises not long ago.

Instead, what they see is thieving warlords, murder on the roads, and a resurgence of Taliban vigilantism.

``It's like I am seeing the same movie twice and no one is trying to fix the problem,'' said Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghanistan's president and his representative in southern Kandahar. ``What was promised to Afghans with the collapse of the Taliban was a new life of hope and change. But what was delivered? Nothing. Everyone is back in business.''

Karzai said reconstruction has been painfully slow -- a canal repaired, a piece of city road paved, a small school rebuilt.

``There have been no significant changes for people,'' he said. ``People are tired of seeing small, small projects. I don't know what to say to people anymore.''

When the Taliban ruled they forcibly conscripted young men. ``Today I can say 'we don't take your sons away by force to fight at the front line,''' Karzai remarked. ``But that's about all I can say.''

But progress also is a question of perspective. Capt. Trish Morris, spokeswoman for the Coalition Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force, said civil affairs teams have spent up to $13 million on projects affecting the daily lives of Afghans.

``That may not sound like a lot of money, but that's hundreds of schools and clinics and bridges and wells all over Afghanistan,'' Morris said in Kabul.

``That may not sound like a lot of money, but that's hundreds of schools and clinics and bridges and wells all over Afghanistan,'' Morris said in Kabul.

``Some might say not a lot is being done,'' but the U.S. government, the United Nations and the private aid agencies ``are all working very hard,'' Morris said. ``It's just going to take some time, because 23 years of war has destroyed a lot of things.''

From safe havens in neighboring Pakistan, aided by militant Muslim groups there, the Taliban launched their revival to coincide with the war in Iraq and capitalize on Muslim anger over the U.S. invasion, say Afghan officials.

Karzai said the Taliban are allied with rebel commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, supported by Pakistan and financed by militant Arabs.

The attacks have targeted foreigners and the threats have been directed toward Afghans working for international organizations.


I don't want to hear another word about how the US is on a humanitarian mission to bring peace and freedom to the world. Even the neocons, who supposedly really truly believe in spreading the American love, are obviously full of shit. If they really cared about the people in the countries we are "liberating" this would not be happening in Afghanistan.

We've spent the huge sum of 13 million dollars to help the lives of average Afghan people. Meanwhile, the Taliban are still around terrorizing the population, Pakistan is more radicalized than it was before 9/11 and is blatantly harboring Taliban and al Qaeda. Afghans are again living under the rule of fractious warlords and remain in deep, deep poverty. In other words, the Afghan campaign succeeded in sending the terrorists to another sympathetic country that happens to have nuclear weapons while leaving the people of Afghanistan living in anarchy. Victory.

Clearly, the Afghanistan campaign was just a way of letting off some of that post 9/11 steam, and letting Rummy experiment with his newfangled military doctrine, while we laid the groundwork for Iraq. And they knew nobody would care. The minute they sent Ashleigh Banfield home to cover the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping we knew the "story” had ended. Whatever happens now is a “new” story, unrelated to the story of how the Americans gloriously liberated the Afghans from the Taliban and destroyed the foundation of al Qaeda.

No matter that anti-American terrorism has been only slightly and temporarily thwarted.

It is very important to remember that the neocons do not take the threat of Islamic fundamentalism seriously. They never have, even to the extent that they have gone completely off the deep end trying to prove that the 1994 world trade center bombing was actually the work of Saddam. The first thing the claque did after 9/11 was send James "WWIV" Woolsey to Europe to root out the "evidence" that Saddam was behind it. In the rigid neocon worldview, the only true immediate enemy is a totalitarian rogue state run by a militaristic dictator (theocratic or secular.) The long term enemy is any state or group of states who would threaten American military dominance. The only danger from terrorism is the extent to which one of the rogue states gives it access to WMD. Any threat that falls outside of that paradigm is made to fit, whether it does or not.

(This is another reason why the military didn't "war game" guerilla tactics and was surprised by the paramilitary presence in southern Iraq. The Republican Guard, supposed crack troops using traditional forms of warfare would put up the biggest fight. Isn't that how Stalinist dictatorships behave?)

It has occurred to me in the last few weeks that one of the reasons these people are so stuck on this problem is because their lives were built around fighting communism and they truly believe that Reagan's large military buildup and bellicose threats were the instruments that ended the Soviet Union. They never believed in containment. Indeed, even after the Berlin Wall fell, Wolfowitz was planning for a large force based in Lithuania in order to be prepared for what he still considered the inevitable military confrontation with Russia.

It stands to reason that if you believe that threats and a massive military build up were responsible for the defeat of our rival superpower (and created a "reverse domino effect" of democracy throughout Eastern Europe) then you might believe that the same effect could happen in the Middle East. That is, if you see the entire world in stark manichean terms of "strong" vs. "weak" and view all of human behavior through the prism of your own experience and expectations.

One of the more interesting elements about this is that al Qaeda also believe that they defeated the Soviet Union when the Mujahadeen "forced" the Red Army to retreat from Afghanistan. Their arrogant assumptions of victory in Holy Jihad largely stem from the fact that they believe that action caused the USSR to break up. In their view, they took one superpower down and have one to go.

So, both the neocons and al Qaeda believe they single handedly ended the cold war and defeated the mighty Soviet Empire, but neither of them take the other seriously in the least. The Islamic fundamentalists think the US is soft, not because its military is not formidable but because its people are irreligious and cowardly. Therefore, they strike at our most vulnerable spot, the civilian population --- which in turn gives the neocons the green light to dispense with international law and initiate its plans for American Empire. The neocons believe that a show of force will intimidate everyone, including terrorists, so attacking a secular totalitarian state in the middle east is necessary in its own right and will have the salutary effect of cowing whatever rag tag terrorist organizations exist out there.

Because neither understand the other or ever really engage the other, they end up reinforcing rather than defeating each other's goals.

Each in their own way create the conditions for the other to pursue their separate ends. The neocons inflame the radical elements of the middle east thereby providing a valuable recruiting tool for terrorists and al Qaeda provide a useful excuse for the neocons to pursue their long standing goal of global military dominance. The result is an escalation of violence with little hope of “victory” because the violence of each is aimed at those who do not actually threaten them.

Both al Qaeda and Neoconservatism are built upon illusions about their own power based upon a willful misreading of their place in recent history. Their desire to be right about this delusional interpretation of recent events has made both of them dangerously ambitious.

Beware of “movements” that believe their own propaganda.


Addendum:

In response to some readers who think I've donned a tin foil "no blood for oil" hat, I don't suggest that an advance into Syria would be solely because of a pipeline to Haifa. There are many factors at work in these calculations. One of them, though, is most certainly the presence of vast amounts of oil in the region and a pipeline into the Mediterranean is certainly a benefit to both Israel and the US. In addition, I do not doubt for a second that contracts for building and rebuilding are relevant to the Bush administration both from a fund raising and a policy standpoint. They are as much carrots and sticks as any military operation as we are seeing in the refusal to allow anyone but the US and British to "share in the victory."

The problem with initiating this pipeline is that it will require a recognition of Israel by both Iraq and Syria. This is, in my opinion, a very worthy goal. But, if it is imposed by a pair of puppet governments without a Palestinian state in place, the United States will be occupying the middle east forever. Richard Perle is already out there telling anyone who'll listen that his Chalabi based dream of an Iraqi government has expressed its willingness to recognize Israel. This is such an obtuse comment at this particular time that I find it hard to believe that it could actually happen. But, with this crowd you just never know. There seem to be no limits.





Saturday, April 05, 2003

 
I'll Tread On You If I Damned Well Want To

Sadly, the United States is being run by people who believe their own hype. We've already won the war in Iraq, the occupation has gone perfectly, we have successfully scared the North Koreans and the Iranians into completely capitulating to our every whim and the entire world knows they'd better not mess with us or we will, well, we'll...you know. It won't be pretty. Welcome to the Pax Americana, mothafuckaaa.

Viewing the War as a Lesson to the World
By DAVID E. SANGER

WASHINGTON, April 5 — Shortly after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stark warning to Iran and Syria last week, declaring that any "hostile acts" they committed on behalf of Iraq might prompt severe consequences, one of President Bush's closest aides stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that his unpredictable defense secretary had just raised the specter of a broader confrontation.

Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work.

It was a small but telling moment on the sidelines of the war. For a year now, the president and many in his team have privately described the confrontation with Saddam Hussein as something of a demonstration conflict, an experiment in forcible disarmament. It is also the first war conducted under a new national security strategy, which explicitly calls for intervening before a potential enemy can strike.

Mr. Bush's aides insist they have no intention of making Iraq the first of a series of preventive wars. Diplomacy, they argue, can persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs. Intensive inspections can flush out a similar nuclear program in Iran. Threats and incentives can prevent Syria from sponsoring terrorism or fueling a guerrilla movement in Iraq.

Yet this week, as images of American forces closing in on Baghdad played on television screens, some of Mr. Bush's top aides insisted they were seeing evidence that leaders in North Korea and Iran, but not Syria, might be getting their point.

"Iraq is not just about Iraq," a senior administration official who played a crucial role in putting the strategy together said in an interview last week. It was "a unique case," the official said. But in Mr. Bush's mind, the official added, "It is of a type."

In fact, some administration officials are talking about the lessons Mr. Bush expects the world to take from this conflict, and they are debating about where the he may decide to focus when it is over.

The president seemed to allude to those lessons in his radio address this morning, saying his decision to oust Saddam Hussein was part of his plan to "not sit and wait, leaving enemies free to plot another Sept. 11 — this time, perhaps, with chemical, biological or nuclear terror."


Well yes, there is that. We will not sit and wait while countries continue the pretense of national sovereignty. If a nation does not do what we tell it to do, and I mean right now, we will simply take them out. We believe that diplomacy is always a useless first step so we will send our smoothest most diplomatic state department representatives like John Bolton, to threaten...er negotiate with these countries. If they properly and obsequiesly bow down to our omniscience we might let them off with just economic punishment and public humiliation (to serve as another "lesson," don't you know.) But, at the end of the day, rest assured that if any nation even thinks of defying the United Goddamn States of America, we will kick it's ass from here to kingdom come.

But what we really want is to liberate the people from their despotic, violent rulers. Like we liberated the Germans from Hitler.

Today, Colin Powell is quoted as saying that nobody in the American government is discussing invading Syria or Iran.

Saturday, Apr 05, 2003; 11:29 AM

CAIRO, Egypt - Iraq should be ruled by its own people and American forces will not invade Syria and Iran after liberating Baghdad, Secretary of State Colin Powell was quoted as saying in an interview published Saturday.

Powell's comments in the London-based al-Hayat newspaper come as the Bush administration faces criticism over its plans to temporarily govern postwar Iraq, and amid speculation in the Middle East that Iran and Syria would be America's next targets.

"Nobody in the American administration (has) talked about invading Iran or Syria," Powell said. "It seems that there is a constant desire by everybody to accuse us of invasion operations. That didn't, and won't, take place."


Looks like ole Colin's a teensy weensy bit out of the loop, doesn't it?

It makes you wonder, with all of Junior's talk about global terrorism and September 11th and protecting the American people and Islamic fundamentalism, why we are completely ignoring the countries that are actually spawning those things, like Pakistan, and instead we're concentrating on the tough guy tin horn despots like Saddam and Assad? Sure, Syria bankrolls terrorists, but it bankrolls terrorists who blow up Israelis, not Americans. Not that that is a good thing, by any means, but it does make you wonder why the street protests in Islamabad (that number a quarter million or more people, where they're burning Junior in effigy and declaring holy war on the United States) aren't seen as a concern. But Syria is suddenly looming large on the radar screen.

Is this sudden interest in Syria only about a bunch of power mad neocon conquerors with delusions of grandeur and a neurotic attachment to the right wing party of Israel, or is there some additional reason why little Donnie Rumsfeld just "out-o-the-blue" practically declared war on them?

What ever could it be?

[Israeli] National Infrastructures Minister Joseph Paritzky has requested an assessment of the condition of the old oil pipeline from Mosul to Haifa, with an eye toward renewing the flow of oil in the event of friendly post-war regime in Iraq.

[...]

Hanan Bar-On, then the deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry, confirmed Sunday that Israel was involved in talks during the mid-1980s on a plan for an Iraq-Jordanian pipeline to the Red Sea port of Aqaba. Among the participants in these talks was Donald Rumsfeld, then an adviser to U.S. president Ronald Reagan and currently secretary of defense. The American corporation Bechtel was slated to build the pipeline. According to the deal, which eventually fell through, Israel was to receive about $100 million a year via former Israeli businessman Bruce Rappaport in return for a commitment not to oppose the construction or operation of the new pipeline.


Isn't that something. What a coincidence. But, what does that have to do with Syria? Oooooh

As acknowledged by the Israeli minister, a prerequisite for the project is, therefore, a new regime in Baghdad with friendly ties with Israel. However, such a regime, if ever it comes to power, will still require Syria's consent to operationalize the pipeline. Given the overall political environment in the Middle East and Israel's continued occupation of Syria's Golan Heights, the existing Syrian regime will never grant its consent as long as the status quo prevails. As stated by the Iranian government, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) when Iraq enjoyed cordial and close relations with Israel's mentor, the United States, Israel tried, but failed, to resume the oil flow through the pipeline. Syria, a friend of Iran and an enemy of Iraq, blocked the flow of Iraqi oil.

Hence, unless the pipeline were redirected through Jordan, another country bordering Israel and Iraq with normalized relations with Israel, the pipeline project will require a different regime in Syria. In other words, regime change in both Iraq and Syria is the prerequisite for the project. As Paritzky did not mention a redirecting option, it is safe to suggest that the Israelis are also optimistic about a regime change in Syria in the near future.



Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work.





 
Rally Round The Conquest

In a testament to the intellectual consistency and personal integrity of my fellow Americans, the following article in today's LA Times shows that not only do a vast majority of the country now support the war, they also support taking huge casualties, (as long as it's somebody else, I assume) are content to stay in the middle east for years and are very open to the idea of "taking out" Syria and Iran next.

Needless to say, it will likely not be convenient to invade any of our many new enemies -- be it Syria, Iran, North Korea, France, Canada, Chile or Barbados until just a little bit closer to the election. The thrill of invading a much weaker country and kicking its ass to provide entertainment to bloodthirsty Americans makes for a helluva bounce. Better make sure we win, though. Murikans get testy when we don't annihilate our opponents.

One thing, though. It really is time to start talking about that draft. We are going to need a lot more troops if we are going to be "taking out" country after country. These reserves aren't going to be able to handle this alone forever. Since we are so dependent upon precision guided weapons and we can pretty much kill anyone we choose from miiles away, I would suggest that all those who support this war so fervently be the first to be called up. No matter what the age, Rummy's modern high tech military can find a use for them.

Support of U.S. Military Role in Mideast Grows

Americans' backing for Bush rises; many might endorse action against Iran or Syria.

WASHINGTON -- Buoyed by success on the battlefield, most Americans now express support for an expansive U.S. role in the Middle East, with a clear majority backing the war in Iraq and half endorsing military action against Iran if it continues to develop nuclear weapons, according to a new Los Angeles Times poll.

[...]

More than three-fourths of Americans — including two-thirds of liberals and 70% of Democrats — now say they support the decision to go to war. And more than four-fifths of these war supporters say they still will back the military action even if allied forces don't find evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

[...]

By 62% to 33%, those polled said the war is likely to make the world a safer place; 52% believe it will help stabilize the Middle East, while 21% believe it will seed more instability. Just under 20% think it's unlikely to have much effect either way.

[...]

Those optimistic about the war's long-term effect believe that removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could serve as both deterrent and inspiration. "Getting a foothold in creating a stable, pro-Western and hopefully democratic regime in Iraq, combined with what's going on in Afghanistan, can be a wellspring for good things to happen," Hart said.

But Americans are split almost exactly in half when asked whether the war will increase or diminish the threat of terrorism. Still, that's a significant improvement from the two-thirds who predicted more terror in a Times poll in December.

[...]

Americans are divided almost in half when asked whether the United States should take military action against Syria, which Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has accused of providing Iraq with military supplies. Syria has denied the accusation. But 42% said the United States should take action if Syria, in fact, provides aid to Iraq, while 46% said no.

More Americans take a hard line on Iran, which recently disclosed an advanced program to develop the enriched uranium that could be used in nuclear weapons.

Exactly half said the United States should take military action against Iran if it continues to move toward nuclear-weapon development; 36% disagreed. Perhaps surprisingly, women are slightly more supportive of such action than men.

[...]

In any case, most of those surveyed said they were willing to accept a lengthy commitment to oust Hussein. Among those backing the war, 60% said they would support it even if it took longer than a year, while 11% said they would back the war for up to a year. Just 17% of supporters said they would back the war for less than a year.

Few, though, expect it to run that long. About three-fifths expect the fighting to be over in six months. Fewer than one in six think it will take more than a year.

Those polled also indicated a willingness to accept relatively substantial U.S. casualties. Just 17% of war supporters said they would back it only if 500 or fewer U.S. troops are killed; 52% said they would continue to support the war even if the United States suffered more than 1,000 casualties.

[...]

Nearly eight in 10 Americans now accept the Bush administration's contention — disputed by some experts — that Hussein has "close ties" to Al Qaeda (even 70% of Democrats agree). And 60% of Americans say they believe Hussein bears at least some responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — a charge even the administration hasn't levied against him.
.

In fairness, the poll does say that Americans want the UN to handle reconstruction and that the war will not be won unless Saddam is killed or captured. But, lets face facts. If the Dauphin and his masters tell people that the UN shouldn't handle reconstruction and that capturing or killing Saddam was never part of the plan, the sheep will instantly be convinced that is what they thought all along.

There really is no excuse for this. No amount of "support the troops" sentiment can explain such a large number of Americans endorsing invading Syria and Iran based upon what they know at this moment. We are becoming a stupid and sick culture. Perhaps that finally explains why we are being led -- and so easily -- by someone as callow, puerile and mean as George W. Bush.




Friday, April 04, 2003

 
Kerry Fights Back

This is what we need to see. Give no quarter. Get right back in their faces. If the candidates don't do this now they will be hamstrung through the entire campaign.

Now, the rest of the Senate Democrats need to stand up and support an American citizen's right to run for president against the Cheerleader in Chief during wartime, and even {gasp} suggest that he should be turned out of office because he isn't doing a good job. That's bordering on treason these days, I realize. But making that claim is unprecedented. We have never before said that people could not criticize a sitting president during wartime, especially in the midst of a presidential campaign.

Jesus. Even Abraham Lincoln had to run for re-election during wartime. He faced numerous challengers even for the nomination and was second guessed in every paper by every politician in the country ---from both parties. FDR ran for re-election in the middle of WWII when Thomas Dewey called him a "tired old man." The Little Dauphin deserves no special treatment.

Kerry lashes out at Republican criticisms.

April 4, 2003 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry lashed out at top congressional Republicans on Friday after they assailed him for saying the United States, like Iraq, needs a regime change.

"The Republicans have tried to make a practice of attacking anybody who speaks out strongly by questioning their patriotism," the Massachusetts senator said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I refuse to have my patriotism or right to speak out questioned. I fought for and earned the right to express my views in this country."

Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, backed a congressional resolution last fall giving President Bush the authority to use force to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but he repeatedly has criticized the president for failing to give diplomacy more time.

In a speech Wednesday in Peterborough, N.H., Kerry said Bush so alienated allies prior to the U.S.-led war against Iraq that only a new president can rebuild damaged relationships with other countries.

"What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States," Kerry said.

Several leading Republicans said Kerry's comments were inappropriate with U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the statement amounted to "petty, partisan insults launched solely for personal political gain."

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called Kerry's words "desperate and inappropriate." Said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., "Once this war is over, there will be plenty of time for the next election."

Kerry dismissed the attacks, telling an Atlanta political gathering Thursday that patriotism is not mutually exclusive with questioning the war. One day later, he delivered an even sharper rebuke to the GOP complaints.

"If they want to pick a fight, they've picked a fight with the wrong guy," Kerry said in a telephone interview.

The lawmaker said this round of charges and countercharges is not the first time Republicans have made a "phony issue of patriotism." He cited last year's campaign against former Georgia Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in the Vietnam War.

As part of a broader GOP campaign, Bush and other Republicans criticized Senate Democrats for holding up legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security over a labor provision, suggesting that the delay reflected weakness on national security. Republican Saxby Chambliss unseated the first-term Cleland in the November elections.

"I watched what they did to Max Cleland last year," Kerry said. "Shame on them for doing it then and shame on them for trying to do it now."

Kerry also mentioned recent GOP criticism of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who said Bush's diplomatic efforts had failed "miserably" because he didn't secure a U.N. resolution for the war.

Following a speech to the New York State United Teachers convention in Washington, Kerry said, "I'm not going to let the likes of Tom DeLay question my patriotism, which I fought for and bled for in order to have the right to speak out."

Neither Hastert, Frist nor DeLay served in the military. In response to Kerry, DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said, "There's a difference between loving your country and leading it. Demanding regime change in America isn't unpatriotic -- it's vile."

Kerry said Republicans have no right to criticize him when they are cutting funds to veterans hospitals.

Kerry's comments come on the eve of a trip to Iowa, where rival Howard Dean's strong anti-war stance has played well with the state's Democrats. Dean also has been critical of Bush and Kerry, suggesting that the senator waffled in his position on the Iraq war.

Dean also addressed the New York Teachers group Friday and said although he probably would not have used the words that Kerry did, "I have not criticized Senator Kerry for that, nor am I going to.

"It certainly would be unusual for me to line up with Tom DeLay, and I don't intend to start now," said the former Vermont governor.

Kerry's arrival on Sunday in Iowa also comes as another presidential primary rival, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, takes part in a town-hall meeting.






 
End Run

If the GOP congress, Colin Powell and Tony Blair cannot change the administration's mind on this, I think that Colin Powell may have to finally resign. I don't see how he can continue when it is obvious that Junior is completely in the hands of the neocon zealots who are intent upon pursuing their imperial fantasy. It was bad enough to insist upon this invasion on its own terms, but they now seem to be dead serious about rendering the UN permanently impotent, even when it comes to humanitarian action. It would seem that they are also intent upon completely gutting the state department's functions as well.

And, in typical Rumsfeldian backstabbing fashion, they did it while Powell was overseas trying to mend fences with the UN and the EU.

Tony Blair will rue the day he ever took up with these crazy bastards. They just cut him off at the knees, too.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday ruled out a leading role for the United Nations (news - web sites) in immediate post-war Iraq (news - web sites) and said Washington and its allies had earned top-status having given "life and blood" to the war effort.

Washington promised to include Iraqis in the decision-making process from the beginning, and said it hoped to get an interim Iraqi authority [can you say, Chalabi?]quickly up-and-running, possibly in parts of the country even before the government of President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) is toppled in Baghdad.

"It would only be natural to expect that ... having given life and blood to liberate Iraq, the coalition would have the leading role. I don't think anybody is surprised by that," President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told reporters.

She also made clear that the Pentagon would oversee humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, while other agencies play supportive roles. That puts the Bush administration at odds with Congress, where this week both the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate gave the State Department control of the purse-strings.

U.N. involvement in post-war Iraq is expected to be one of the issues to dominate next Tuesday's meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Northern Ireland


These people are now just blatently employing strongarm tactics all over the world:

Sounding like a third rate movie thug, a snarling Otto Reich threatened tiny Barbados of all places:

Reich responded to Caricom’s decision not to support the war and subsequent statements by regional leaders.

“It is not the kind of support that we expect from friends,” he said. “We listen very carefully to what our friends say and we’re very disappointed by some of the statements. We’re not violating international law, neither is Great Britain or any of the other countries and I would urge Caricom to study very carefully not only what it says, but the consequences of what it says.”

The US official, who is in the island to attend a conference on Competitiveness in the Caribbean sponsored by the Caribbean Latin American Action, noted that his country was at war and that Americans were being killed in the attempt to disarm Iraq and liberate it from president Saddam Hussein. With that in mind, he stated that the US would appreciate “a little support” from its friends, or at least not to be criticised in public.

He also made the link between support for the US-led war and access to that country for Caribbean goods.

Stating that the region must be more helpful to those who have to approach the US Congress on behalf of the Caribbean territories, he said: “What do I tell a member of Congress if I go asking for increased access for Caribbean products, for example, and he says, ‘well they didn’t support us in our time of need’?”


Godwin's Law be damned. It's looking more and more as if Iraq is our Czechoslovakia.





 
GUEST BLOG

Thumb, the Comment King, has some thoughts on why we are all feeling discombobulated by this administration. The psychos are making us psycho:

Are psychopaths running our government?

Throughout the 90's we employed anywhere from 6-15 people at any given time. Of all the destructive traits we had to contend with the sociopath was both the most destructive and the most difficult problem employee to identify. After several near ruinous encounters with this type of employee I developed a simple test; if someone made me psycho, they were a psychopath. On the small scale that is our company this has worked fine for years but now I find this same curious effect occurring with our present administration; they're making me psycho.

Greater luminaries than I have declared this group to be Psychotic Personalities (Kurt Vonnegut recently caught flack for suggesting as much) but I wanted to know if there was any means by which to make a more serious medical diagnosis than "because they make me crazy." There is. Giles Whittell, writing for the Times On Line, interviewed Dr. Robert Hare, who, along with his colleague Dr Paul Babiak, will publish a book called Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work later this year. Hare defined psychopathy for modern scientists with an exhaustive questionnaire called the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R). Introduced in 1980 it has become an internationally recognized tool for identifying psychopaths. From the article:

. . . the PCL-R revealed that psychopaths are everywhere. Most are non-violent, but all leave a trail of havoc through their families and work environments, using and abusing colleagues and loved ones, endlessly manipulating others, constantly reinventing themselves. Hare puts the average North American incidence of psychopathy at 1 per cent of the population, but the damage they inflict on society is out of all proportion to their numbers, not least because they gravitate to high-profile professions that offer the promise of control over others, such as law, politics, business management ... and journalism. [emphasis mine]

[...]

Hare and Babiak will also produce a new diagnostic tool based on the PCL-R but designed to help businesses to keep their recruits and senior management psychopath-free.

Enter the B-Scan. It won't be available to everyone, and it won't be free. If you are B-Scanned, it won't be you answering the questions. It will be your colleagues, grading your personal style, interpersonal relations, organizational maturity and antisocial tendencies according to 16 buzz words, none of them uplifting. They include the following: insincere, arrogant, insensitive, remorseless, shallow, impatient, erratic, unreliable, unfocused, parasitic, dramatic, unethical and bullying.

Yikes. Who isn't most of these things, at least some of the time?

I meet Dr Hare in a London hotel and find him used to such anxieties. I know, I know, he says. People read this stuff and suddenly everyone around them is a psychopath. They pick up on three or four of the characteristics and say "yeah, he's one". But it's not like that. It's a medical syndrome. You've got to have the whole package.


Not having access to the specific B-Scan test or the ability to personally interview administration colleagues I'm going to use the next best thing, a recent article in USA Today describing Bush by those close to him that can be run through the filter of The serial bully: Identifying the psychopath or sociopath in our midst.

He rarely jokes with staffers these days and occasionally startles them with sarcastic putdowns.

- is frequently sarcastic, especially in contexts where sarcasm is inappropriate and unprofessional

''He's got that steely-eyed look . . .'' says a friend who has spent time with the president since the war began.

- often reported as having an evil stare, sometimes with eyes that appear black rather than colored

He's infuriated by reporters and retired generals who publicly question the tactics of the war plan. Similar complaints continue, and some people outside the administration are pressing current Bush advisers to urge him to retool his war plan. The president's aides say he's aware of those efforts but ''discounts'' them.

- displays a compulsive need to criticize whilst simultaneously refusing to value, praise and acknowledge others, their achievements, or their existence

His history degree from Yale. . .

- often fraudulently claims qualifications, experience, titles, entitlements or affiliations which are ambiguous, misleading, or bogus

. . . makes him mindful of the importance of the moment.

- has a short-term focus and often cannot think or plan ahead more than 24 hours

He's a critic who sees himself as the aggrieved victim of the news media and second-guessers.

- feigns victimhood when held accountable, usually by . . . claiming they're the one being bullied and harassed

- presents as a false victim when outwitted

Bush, who was drilled in corporate style while earning his MBA at Harvard, prefers his days to be structured.

- is fastidious, often has an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness or orderliness

Bush has imposed an almost military discipline on himself.

- finds ritual important and comforting, and frequently indulges in ritual and ritualistic activity

He understands that he is the one person in the country, in this case really the one person in the world, who has a responsibility to protect and defend freedom.

- is selfish and acts out of self-interest, self-aggrandizement and self-preservation at all times; everything can be traced back to the self

- is convinced of their superiority and has an overbearing belief in their qualities of leadership but cannot distinguish between leadership (maturity, decisiveness, assertiveness, co-operation, trust, integrity) and bullying (immaturity, impulsiveness, aggression, manipulation, distrust, deceitfulness)

- wraps himself or herself in a flag or tradition and usurps others' objectives, thereby nurturing compliance, reverence, deference, endorsement and obeisance; however, such veneration and allegiance is divisive, being a corruption for personal power which exhibits itself through the establishment of a clique, coterie, cabal, faction, or gang


Of course this is all simply anecdotal evidence that our Commander in Chief is certifiable, but there is one more distinguishing test that Dr. Hare uses to determine if someone is indeed a psychopath:

Babiak certainly counsels caution. Being psychopathic is not a sin, let alone a ground on its own for dismissal. But underpinning the PCL-R is hard science, hard to ignore. Before he published it, Hare performed two now-famous studies which suggest that psychopaths really are different from the rest of us. In the first, subjects were told to watch a timer counting down to zero, at which point they felt a harmless but painful electric shock. Non-psychopaths showed mounting anxiety and fear. Psychopaths didn't even sweat.

Could Bush's jocular demeanor, his "Feel good" as he prepared to declare war fit this description?

In the second, the two groups had their brain activity and response time measured when asked to react to groups of letters, some forming words, some not. Words such as "rape" and "cancer" triggered mental jolts in non-psychopaths. In psychopaths they triggered precisely nothing.

In the absence of such word association games lets instead look back to the morning of 9/11/01. The president is reading to a class when one of his aids approaches and whispers to him that the WTC towers have both just been struck with hijacked airliners. The towers are burning out of control and thousand are presumed dead in the worst terrorist act ever committed on American soil. With zero visible reaction, from a man who is serially unable to hide his emotions (think smirk), the president immediately goes back to and spends the next half hour reading to the class.

People read this stuff and suddenly everyone around them is a psychopath. They pick up on three or four of the characteristics and say "yeah, he's one." But it's not like that. It's a medical syndrome. You've got to have the whole package."

[...]

Being a psychopath is not something that ordinary people aspire to, but neither does it have to involve face-eating cannibalism (Hannibal Lecter probably wasn't a psychopath at all). The central qualification is to show no conscience; to fail to empathize.

[...]

They reveled in risk, took no account of its potential cost to others or themselves, and rose to power during a time of chaos and upheaval.

Are we there yet?



 
Rolling Democracy and Other Illusions

Junior's government is hurtling out of control and I don't know who is going to stop them. This is truly unbelievable:

Rumsfeld sent two memos to Bush calling for the United States to "support those Iraqis who share the president's objectives for a free Iraq" and arguing that Iraqi and Kurdish expatriates, with some experience of democracy, are better equipped to take over the country than Iraqis living under Hussein.

[...]

Sources confirmed that the memos probably would be discussed in the next day or two by Bush, Vice President Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and CIA Director George J. Tenet. But they cautioned that the ideas expressed by Rumsfeld were more in the form of suggestions than fixed plans. The sources said Rumsfeld had not specified how authority would be divided between the exile leaders and the U.S. postwar administration.

A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the memos, saying, "We have nothing for you on that."

Even if there were agreement on the advisability of a U.S.-installed interim Iraqi authority, its composition probably would be disputed. The Pentagon's civilian leadership and other prominent hawks close to the administration have long supported Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress.

Chalabi is particularly close to former CIA director R. James Woolsey, whom Rumsfeld has proposed for a prominent position in postwar Iraq, and Richard Perle, a key Pentagon adviser. He is also backed by a group of influential Republican senators, including Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who this week wrote a letter to Bush asking him to clear "roadblocks within the State Department" for increased funding of Chalabi's group.

In public comments last month, Perle suggested that installing Chalabi in power in Baghdad would alleviate any Muslim fears of U.S. imperialist aims. It would also improve the chances for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Perle said, because "Chalabi and his people have confirmed that they want a real peace process, and that they would recognize the state of Israel."


Can anyone think of a move more likely to create a total middle east meltdown than to instll a puppet government and then recognize Israel right off the bat? And, call me crazy, but I don't remember the recognition of Israel as being one of the 412 ever changing reasons set forth for going after Saddam these last few months. For those of you who do not understand how important this is to certain neocon nutballs, please spare me the accusations of being anti-semitic. It is simply a fact that many of the neocon claque have concentrated a huge amount of their time and energy on Israeli politics and are very closely aligned with the Likud party. Their hard-on to invade Iraq, which goes back many years, is intrinsically tied to that issue. And, just as they are putting Americans into more danger at home, their puerile, simple minded world view is actually going to make things much, much worse in the middle east, and that includes Israel. If I were Israeli, I would want these guys as far away from me as possible. It would only make my country even less secure than it already is.

And, I must ask again, why wasn't a post war plan finalized and approved before we invaded, particularly since they assumed we were going to win within the first 2 or 3 days? It's not like Saddam had actually launched one of his non-existent nuclear armed drone planes. We actually did have the time to present Junior with a coloring book version of various plans and let him play pin the tail on the donkey. It's amazing that we are surrounding Baghdad and nobody knows exactly what constitutes victory or what we plan to do once we declare it.

It's looking as if, in true EnronBush style, we'll just keep scrambling and scrambling, covering up one mistake after another, digging deeper and deeper until the whole damned thing just falls apart.

Meanwhile, over on Daily Kos, there are a number of exceptional posts today by his pinch hitters Billmon and Steve Gilliard. In particular, I was struck by Steve's post asking "who is the president?" I have also been taken aback by the fact that the actual illegitimate president is wearing cute little jackets and cheerleading before adoring military crowds while the functional illegitimate president, the secretary of defense, is threatening the entire middle east and setting up an amateurish and dazzlingly foolish post war government in Iraq without any real authority to do so. WTF?

We all know that Junior is incapable of holding a real press conference and answering questions with
anything other than repetitive, programmed bumper sticker phrases, but he should be worried that Rummy is running out of control and making policy on the fly. Particularly since that policy is absurd and dangerous. As Gilliard points out:

The PNAC Cabal are the most naive people to run US foriegn policy since Woodrow Wilson sailed to Paris in 1919. The expectation that the INC exiles can run anything in Iraq is as amusing as the Cuban-American Foundation being allowed to run a post-Castro Cuba. I always figured the Angolan vets would meet them at the dock and send them packing. So that was never serious.


This is an excellent observation. These guys live in a tight little echo chamber of reinforcing delusions, enhanced by their own sense of victimhood. The movement conservatives operate on the same principles as "exiles" which explains their frantic determination to check off every item on their agenda at record speed. They feel as if they were exiled by a virtual coup for 8 years when Clinton illegitimately seized power and they will never let that happen again. It's why they hated Clinton with the same fervor that the right wing Cubans hate Castro and it's why the "exiled" Iraqis hold such a place in the hearts of the neocon armchair warriors. They all believed they were unfairly denied their rightful positions as leaders.

What is so frightening about our new spokesman-in-chief is that his threats don't scare anyone. The Iranians and Syrians don't care, the Turks laugh at him, yet he keeps blustering. Rumsfeld is the Chainsaw Al Dunlop of international affairs. Dunlop was a CEO who had the reputation of firing people and cutting costs until he ruined Sunbeam. [He also turned out to be a crook, surprise. ed]

Rumsfeld and his deputies may think they're running the world, but the surprise they're going to get is due directly to their naivety about the Middle East. Tilting towards Israel? Are they kidding? Yes, the Shia clerics will agree to that. Just before issuing the fatwa to kill every American and their Iraqi quisling allies. Think car bombs are a problem now? Just wait...........


And, oh please, somebody explain to me how they can even dream of getting away with this shit, as reported in the Washington Post:

"The objective is not necessarily to take buildings or occupy areas," said a senior military officer involved in endgame planning. "It's the people. It's getting them to accept the fact that the regime is gone. That's the essence of the thing. It's not going to be a geographic piece."

The timing of declaring victory is important in military and psychological terms, and would be up to the president after a recommendation from military advisers. The administration is set on intimidating Iraqi leaders and seizing power, yet it would risk its credibility by declaring itself in charge while significant resistance remains.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday that Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, would not need to be under U.S. control for the administration to establish an interim Iraqi administration. When Baghdad is isolated from the rest of the country, he said, the city is "almost irrelevant."


But, but...what about holding Saddam and his regime accountable with war crimes trials? Not to mention shutting down all those al Qaeda cells hiding in Baghdad? And, how can we say we have "liberated" the fucking country if we haven't "liberated" the 5 million people in the biggest city? And, most importantly, what about the vast cache of WMD he's keeping in his underwear drawer? Don't we need to "control" the whole country to be sure they are all accounted for? Wasn't that the whole goddamned point?

It really is a bloody pageant. If we say we've won, then we have won. If fighting goes on for the next 10 years and we are forced to have tens of thousands of soldiers on the ground getting blown to bits by suicide bombers, we will still be the "victors" because we say we are the victors. But, hey, it worked in Florida, didn't it? Call yourself a victor and everyone, even the U.S. Supreme Court, will stand for your right not to be "irreparably harmed" by any assertion that you aren't. Good strategy.

If this is a recipe for democracy then I'm afraid we'd all better get ready here at home for a suspension of elections. After all, we have now reached the point where the Republicans are explicitly telling the Democrats to refrain from even putting up a candidate while we are at "war" (which James Woolsey says he doesn't expect to last quite as long as the cold war, thank goodness.) Via Atrios Marc Racicot said yesterday, in response to a call for "regime change at home" by John Kerry:

"Senator Kerry crossed a grave line when he dared to suggest the replacement of America's commander-in- chief at a time when America is at war..."


And finally, this piece in the NY Times struck me as being right on the money. The starry eyed neocons seem to be under the illusion that all Arabs and Persians are of the same frame of mind as the American founding fathers in 1776; that our notions of liberty and democracy are as clear and compelling to the average Iraqi worker as they are to the guest list at the AEI Christmas party. This is just stupid.

To Imagine Iraq After Saddam Hussein, You Must Think Like an Iraqi

We are running seriously off the track and somebody besides a bunch of blogging nobodies has got to start speaking up. Kerry made a good start and if he refuses to back down may give some of the others the will to speak up as well. If they don't, we're in trouble.



Thursday, April 03, 2003

 
Blowhard Mussolini

On CNN just now Tom DeLay told Judy Woodruff that Wesley Clark is a "blowdried Napoleon." Look for that phrase to be repeated.

Delay said that Clark was running for president and using his job at CNN to undermine the war for political purposes. He claimed that he (Delay) gets briefed every day and knows a lot more about battle planning than any ex-General.

He would have been one too if all the negroes and wetbacks hadn't ruined his chances by taking all the good slots in Nam. So, he spent the time huffing D-Con and puking in the hot tub, pre-requisites for assuming power in Dubya era Republican politics.



 
More Perles of Wisdom

Speaking of Perle, why do they send him all over the world to alienate every single one of our allies in the most rude and condescending way possible? It must be part of their cunning plan or they would tell him to shut his pie hole and stop doing things like this:

OTTAWA, April 3 (Reuters) - An influential adviser to the U.S. administration used an interview published on Thursday to write off Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien as "a lame duck" who was giving support to Saddam Hussein, and said Ottawa would pay a price for not sending troops to Iraq.

The comments by Richard Perle were the strongest attack yet by Washington on Chretien and underline how seriously relations between the world's two largest trading partners have deteriorated in recent months.
Officials say the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush is irate over Canada's refusal to send troops to Iraq and a series of anti-American comments by members of Chretien's ruling Liberal Party.
Perle, a prominent neoconservative who sits on the Pentagon's influential Defense Policy Board, told the right-wing National Post newspaper that Washington felt Chretien -- who plans to step down in February 2004 -- was being irresponsible.

"The Prime Minister is a lame duck. So that may help explain the failure to appreciate the disappointment that would be caused not only by the Canadian government policy on Iraq, but by the cacophony of criticism -- much of it ill-informed and much of it simply name-calling," he said.

"There is simply no other way to describe the positions of some countries -- not many, but some countries -- which is to lend far more support to Saddam Hussein's regime than they may have intended by the positions they have taken."

According to the Post, Perle said the White House was looking forward to dealing with Chretien's replacement. One member of Chretien's cabinet said Bush had failed as a statesman while one Liberal legislator said she now hated the "damned Americans" and called them "bastards".

[...]



Seriously, this continuing modus operandi of publicly proclaiming to the world that our policy is "my way or the highway" and that we will punish any country that dares to defy us is starting to get completely out of hand. I never thought William Kristol was completely blind and stupid, but apparently he is. If he weren't he'd put a stop to Perle. He's the only one who can.





 
Quisling Chalabi

I may have been too hasty in believing that the government had no plan. Wolfie of Arabia and his cohorts most certainly did have a plan, one that they had on the drawing board for many years. Barbara Bodine, by the way, was the choice of the State Department and the Pentagon hawks don’t want her near their little fiefdom. (Of course, she is a piece of work in her own right…) It is still unclear whether she will be part of the occupation. The problem, as usual, is that the government has more than one plan and it remains for President Junior to make a decision as to which faction he’s going to favor today. I hear he's feeling testy so who knows which way the wind is going to blow.

If today’s reports are to be believed, it is quite interesting that while the GOP congress has decided to give the State Department the purse strings, the Pentagon is still calling the shots on the post war planning. This promises to be another battle royale for the soul ‘o Dubya, and the ongoing and endless quest for control of American foreign policy. If the congress takes a stand as well, this could get very interesting.

Joe Conason has more to say about the post-war occupation cock-up and points to this editorial from the Washington Post that names names and points fingers. In particular, he discusses the neocon pet Ahmed Chalabi, the putative head of the Iraqi National Congress

I had been under the impression that Chalabi had been effectively sidelined some months back when the state department declined to give him any more “covert” money that he could not account for. But, I should have known better. He’s a member of the in-crowd and I mean the super-in-crowd --- the Wohlstetter/Wolfowitz/Perle nexus of true believers. They will fight for him:

This article from The American Prospect gives the lowdown on Chalabi:

In Washington, Team Chalabi is led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, the neoconservative strategist who heads the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. Chalabi's partisans run the gamut from far right to extremely far right, with key supporters in most of the Pentagon's Middle-East policy offices -- such as Peter Rodman, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Michael Rubin. Also included are key staffers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, not to mention Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.


And here’s more evidence of the wooly headed, think tank insularity of the neocon claque:

What makes Chalabi so attractive to the Washington war party? Most importantly, he's a co-thinker: a mathematician trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago and a banker (who years ago hit it off with Albert Wohlstetter, the theorist who was a godfather of the neoconservative movement), a fellow mathematician and a University of Chicago strategist. In 1985, Wohlstetter (who died in 1997) introduced Chalabi to Perle, then the undersecretary of defense for international-security policy under President Reagan and one of Wohlstetter's leading acolytes. The two have been close ever since. In early October, Perle and Chalabi shared a podium at an American Enterprise Institute conference called "The Day After: Planning for a Post-Saddam Iraq," which was held, appropriately enough, in AEI's 12th-floor Wohlstetter Conference Center. "The Iraqi National Congress has been the philosophical voice of free Iraq for a dozen years," Perle told me.


The Plan:

Almost no one, not even the INC itself, thinks that Chalabi has any cachet inside Iraq. Entifadh Qanbar, the earnest, young ex-Iraqi officer who heads the INC's office in Washington, says that Chalabi represents Iraq's "silent majority." Asked whether people in Baghdad have even heard of Chalabi, Qanbar says: "They may not know the man. But he represents their views."

Others scoff at even that notion. "It's a formula for setting up a puppet regime," says David Mack, vice president of the Middle East Institute, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and ex-deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs who's dealt extensively with Iraqi opposition politicians and military officers. "And we will have responsibility for propping them up for a long, long time to come, possibly with the blood of American soldiers."

But indefinitely propping up an INC-style quisling regime might be exactly what the United States wants, as it would mean that U.S. troops would be occupying Iraq's oil fields for years to come.


Now, at least according to the NY Times article discussed below, it is unlikely that they will set up Chalabi as the head of government, at least right away. But, all of those newly minted neocon idealists who truly believe in their shiny little hearts of gold that America will bring peace and democracy and love for all the little children to the middle east with Operation AEI Wetdream need to take a closer look at the history of the people who have been planning this war for decades.

I do believe that some of this neocon madness is starting to seep into the mainstream. The W. Post has been single mindedly pro-invasion and yet they are starting to sound very skeptical of the occupation planning (something you’d think journalists would have found the time to investigate before now fergawdsake.) Perlegate drew some unflattering attention to one of the premiere architects of the Neocon Pentagon faction of the administration. Their loudmouthed assurances of Iraqi defections (predicated upon “intelligence” by none other than Ahmed Chalabi) have seriously damaged their credibility.

If Democrats operated like Republicans, every single Dem would be pounding the neocons at this moment. Salon would do a story a day. Bill Press would enlist Pat Buchanan in a rousing denunciation on each show. The backbench firebrands in the congress would hold press conferences. Oppo researchers would distribute literature about the wacky neocons to every journalist on the beat.

They would shrug off “anti-american” criticism saying that they are not concerned about the war effort itself. No matter how badly Rumsfeld planned it, we have complete faith in our most respected and competent military. What we are worried about is the aftermath which is being poorly planned by a cabal of radical ideologues who have duped the poor over-his-head President into supporting their crazy plans. They would not care if they were thought of as tin-foil hat wierdos because all that matters is getting the word repeated and talked about. They would build the whispers so that when the war (not likely to really “end” for some time) moves into the occupation phase, this information is already churning in the media sludge.

But, all we’ve got is this lousy Casio. A story like this will fade away in the white noise of flagwaving, yellow-ribbons and Jessica "Old Shoe" Lynch.





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