Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Following this Atrios post I see that Robert George of the NY Post writes to Romanesko’s Media News in response to Michael Wolff's article and my post speculating that the unnamed "uber-civilian" is Jim Wilkinson:
Michael Wolff probably should have named who he was having trouble with -- it would hardly be the first time that a journalist has complained about how much (or how little) information that they are getting from official sources (or for that matter, how much they are being "spun"). It seems to me that the biggest problem that Wolff (and many in blogworld) have with Jim Wilkinson (if that is indeed the person to whom Wolff is referring) is his "uber-civilian" and "Republican operative" status. First, there seemed to be a hint that it is wrong for a civilian to be doing public affairs. But the simple fact is -- as has been reported elsewhere and I can confirm -- is that Wilkinson is a Navy reservist. Now, that doesn't make him active duty, but it doesn't make him a total "civilian" either.
As for Wilkinson's alleged party affiliation, well before heading to CENTCOM, he worked out of the White House press operation. I'm sure the WH people felt that the combination of military and political background made him a good pick to flack for Tommy Franks. Kinda makes sense to me. Besides, are we to be shocked -- shocked!!!! -- that a press person representing an administration's viewpoints (even those in a war zone) might have been involved in politics earlier?
I don’t know why a civilian reservist who is not on active duty would be wearing a uniform, but perhaps that’s just an odd vainglorious affectation rather than an attempt to appear to be DOD instead of White House. In any case, it is just a little bit of delicious detail and holds no real importance.
What I find really amazing is that George acknowledges Wilkinson is representing the “administration’s viewpoint” when he says:
"I have a brother who is in a Hummer at the front, so don't talk to me about too much fucking air-conditioning." "A lot of people don't like you." "Don't fuck with things you don't understand." "This is fucking war, asshole." "No more questions for you."
I always felt that the administration acted like a bunch of cheap movie gangsters, but it’s quite refreshing to see a Republican concur.
However, he still does not really understand why people object to a partisan hack like Wilkinson being influential in the war zone. It’s not just that Wilkinson characterized the bourgeois rioters as “volunteers” when everybody knows that they were virtually all paid congressional staffers. It’s because his job is to spin the war and control the message and that’s just a little bit offensive to old fashioned people who still think that the military should not be explicitly political, particularly in wartime. And it’s all the more objectionable when this very same fellow is the one who was in charge of compiling the report "A Decade of Defiance and Deception that included so many of the now disproved allegations about aluminum tubes and the like.
Here are some excerpts
of an internet cache of this archived article
from Newsweek written by Martha Brant last September:
Ladies and Gentlemen ... the Band: Selling the war in Iraq
"We’re getting the band together," White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett told the group on their first conference call last week.
The "Band" is made up of the people who brought you the war in Afghanistan—or at least the accompanying public-relations campaign. Their greatest hit: exposing the Taliban’s treatment of women.
Now, they’re back for a reunion tour on Iraq. The Band's instrument, of course, is information.
They aim to use it against Saddam Hussein, respond to his disinformation and control the message within the administration so no one—not even Vice President Dick Cheney—freelances on Iraq.
That’s no easy task. The members talk every day by phone at 9:30 a.m.
The key players are a handful of rising stars in their early 40s and under:
For starters there’s Deputy Communications Director Jim Wilkinson, 32, a fast-talking Texan who has become an unlikely but keen student of Islam. He recently got back from a trip to Morocco where he continued his study of Arabic (which he can now read and write pretty well).
It was Wilkinson who spearheaded the successful Afghan women’s campaign last year. A Naval Reserve officer, Wilkinson got his start working with Bush ally Texas Rep. Dick Armey. He’s the go-to guy when the White House needs information against its enemies.
In the last few weeks, he and his underlings have weeded through hundreds of pages of news clippings, U.N. resolutions and State Department reports to compile an arsenal of documents against Saddam Hussein. They released the first round last week: "Decade of Defiance and Deception" (a broken-U.N.-resolutions hit parade).
Then there’s Tucker Eskew, 41, a savvy South Carolinian, who will soon be named the director of the new Office of Global Communications, which will be formally launched this fall. Neither a Texan nor a lifelong Bushie, he earned his stripes during the Florida election mess by becoming the campaign’s tropical smooth-talker.
It was Bartlett, Bush’s right-hand man and the 31-year-old leader of the Band, who has insisted that this and all documents be sourced. Wilkinson spent hours footnoting the 22-page "Decade of Defiance" document released last week, for example. "We compiled every single possible bit of research we could find and then set out to verify, verify, verify," Wilkinson explains.
The White House is sending administration bigwigs to hearings this week and next to help make Bush’s case against Saddam Hussein—not just to Congress, but to the American people. It’s the Band’s job to make sure that case gets heard.
They’ll be playing soon at a TV, newspaper and radio near you.
I would have thought that once the invasion was underway that the DOD could be depended upon to handle the press. Why a costumed White House "band member" needed to be there is still not clear, George's oh-so-world weary Raines impression notwithstanding. Perhaps it is standard in all wars for the White House to have a representative at Central Command to coordinate "the message" and tell reporters "don't fuck with things you don't understand" and "no more questions for you." But, that wouldn't make it any less disturbing.
digby 4/15/2003 03:29:00 PM
Monday, April 14, 2003
Law and Order: Private Justice Squad
Boy, those police states are just awful. I'm sure glad we liberated the Iraqis from a regime that would do things like this:
...[he] witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased."
...[they were] engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts."
...women and girls were handed over to bar owners and told to perform sex acts to pay for their costumes.The women who refused were locked in rooms and withheld food and outside contact for days or weeks. After this time they are told to dance naked on table tops and sit with clients. If the women still refuse to perform sex acts with the customers they are beaten and raped in the rooms by the bar owners and their associates. They are told if they go to the police they will be arrested for prostitution and being an illegal immigrant."
It is so nice that the United States has arrived to set things right.
Oh, wait a minute. These are things that were done by our All American Dyncorps Rent-a-cops in Bosnia. And guess what? We're gonna send 'em to Iraq! I'm sure they'll have some juicy stories to swap with those Ba'athist secret police we've also hired to "restore order."
Dyncorp Wants You
That plan appears to be almost ready. Half a world away from the bedlam in Iraq, just outside of Forth Worth, Texas, police recruiters are currently manning the phones for Dyncorp, a multi-billion dollar military Contractor. For Dyncorp the turmoil that is emerging in Iraq could mean a boom in business.
"When the area is safe, we will go in. Watch CNN. In the meantime fax us a resume if you want a job," Homer Newman, a Dyncorp recruiter told Corpwatch. But Chuck Wilkins, a company spokesman in Virginia, said: "The contract hasn't yet been awarded."
Yet a website has been offering Dyncorp jobs to "individuals with appropriate experience and expertise to participate in an international effort to re-establish police, justice and prison functions in post-conflict Iraq." The company is looking for active duty or recently retired cops and prison guards and "experienced judicial experts." Applicants must be US citizens with ten years of sworn civilian domestic law enforcement. The site even has a toll free number and a "email@example.com" email address for applicants.
The website explains that recruits will help "establish police stations and monitor activities determining the selection, screening and training processes for police officers, demonstrating police practices and techniques used by democratic societies advising local police on criminal investigation methods and monitoring their progress working side-by-side with police officers from around the world reporting humanitarian violation."
Cool, huh? Too bad about those unfortunate allegations of Human Rights Violations and Fraud
The company is not short on controversy. Under the Plan Colombia contract, the company has 88 aircraft and 307 employees - 139 of them American - flying missions to eradicate coca fields in Colombia. Soldier of Fortune magazine once ran a cover story on DynCorp, proclaiming it "Colombia's Coke-Bustin' Broncos."
US Rep. Janice Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, told Wired magazine that hiring a private company to fly what amounts to combat missions is asking for trouble. DynCorp's employees have a history of behaving like cowboys," Schakowsky noted.
"Is the US military privatizing its missions to avoid public controversy or to avoid embarrassment - to hide body bags from the media and shield the military from public opinion?" she asked.
Indeed a group of Ecuadoran peasants filed a class action against the company in September 2001. The suit alleges that herbicides spread by DynCorp in Colombia were drifting across the border, withering legitimate crops, causing human and livestock illness, and, in several cases, killing children. Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers intervened in the case right away telling the judge the lawsuit posed "a grave risk to US national security and foreign policy objectives."
And then there was all that unpleasantness about slavery and prostitution:
What you have here is a Lord of the Flies mentality. Basically you've got a bunch of strong men who are raping and manipulating young girls who have been kidnapped from their homes. Who's the bad guy? Is it the guy who buys the girl to give her freedom, the one who kidnaps her and sells her or the one who liberates her and ends up having sex with her? And what does it mean when the U.S. steps up and says, 'We don't have any jurisdiction'? That's absurd."
Rummy meant it when he said freedom meant people were free to commit crimes. "Course, you're especially free to commit crimes if you are a private cop working for a defense contractor who has immunity from prosecution.
I sure hope our Iraqi friends don't choke on those big old whiffs 'o freedom we're giving them.
digby 4/14/2003 06:33:00 PM
The American Death Star
Mary over at the Watch (which has a whole bunch of great posts up) sent me this analysis from Stratfor by Dr. George Friedman on the Big Picture. Their belief is that the rationale for invasion can be reduced to 2 simple premises:
1. To transform the psychology of the Islamic world, which had perceived the United States as in essence weak and unwilling to take risks to achieve its ends.
2. To use Iraq as a strategic base of operations from which to confront Islamic regimes that are either incapable of or unwilling to deny al Qaeda and other Islamist groups access to enabling resources.
The first is really just a way to demonstrate the basic logic of the Bush Doctrine and it comes down to a rather cultish worship of Machiavelli. (Check out Michael Ledeen's onanistic writings on the subject.) You know the line:
My view is that it is desirable to be both loved
and feared; but it is difficult to achieve both and,
if one of them has to be lacking, it is much safer
to be feared than loved.
Nevertheless, a ruler must make himself feared
in such a way that, even if he does not become
loved, he does not become hated. For it is
perfectly possible to be feared without incurring
hatred. And this can always be achieved if he
refrains from laying hands on the property of his
citizens and subjects.
I’m at a loss as to how this can possibly fit in with the Straussian views of the conservative Virtuecrats, but I guess it all just boils down to team sports or something. The more I delve into the philosophical foundations of the Bush Doctrine and those who support it the more incoherent it is. Christians for Machiavelli. Now that’s some intellectual gymnastics.
I suppose it is of a piece with a government that openly embraces fear and power as a policy while using the rhetoric of liberty and religion to sell it. This kind of cognitive dissonance is so pervasive that you have to give them credit for their superhuman ability to keep their heads from exploding.
Anyway, the Stratfor report takes a whack at examining the psychology of those we believe we can cow with our vast military prowess:
The simplistic idea that resentment of the United States will generate effective action by Arabs misses a crucial point. Two scales are at work here: the radicalism scale and the hope scale. On the radicalism scale, the level of radicalism and anti-Americanism in the Arab world has been off the chart for months. Increasing the level would be difficult. However, radicalism by itself does not lead to action. There must also be hope -- a sense that there are weaknesses in the U.S. position that can be exploited, that there is some possibility of victory, however distant. So long as the hope scale tends toward hopelessness, radicalism can be intense.
The United States was prepared to allow the radicalism scale to go deep into the danger zone, but Washington has been trying to keep the hope scale deeply in the green zone. Israel's failure after 1967 was inherent in its position: The Israelis depended heavily on outsiders for national security. The Arab perception was that the Israelis could be attacked by splitting them from their patrons. This sense of vulnerability led to an active response to defeat. .
It goes on to say that the US must now work to avoid projecting a sense of vulnerability and suggests that in order to ultimately prevail it must reduce the hatred. The hatred will cause us to lose control of Iraq and that loss of control will lead to a perception of vulnerability.
I agree that the administration believes all this, but it remains inexplicable to me. Yes, al Qaeda uses the “Americans are a bunch of pussies” rhetoric in their recruitment videos. And, they do harbor the illusion that they single handedly brought down the Soviets (a trait they share with the neocons.) But, does anyone believe that this invasion of Iraq has somehow made us seem invulnerable to anybody but a bunch of stupid Americans who missed the point of Star Wars?
Terrorists don’t have to defeat the mighty US military to win. These people already know that all it takes is a handful of fanatics killing American civilians on American soil to provoke our government into acting like a rabid dog by wildly undertaking reckless adventures abroad, invoking totalitarian measures at home and spending more and more of our money on warmaking capability. We could theoretically scare all the tinhorn dictators in the world into cowering like a bunch battered Democratic Senators before our mighty sword, but it is an extremely strange reading of psychology that says you can frighten suicide bombers.
But, the neocons think that terrorists are just agents of rogue states so they don’t spend a lot of time second guessing their decade old plan to rule the world. But even by their own logic, I fail to see how aggressive bellicosity toward Syria even before the bullets have stopped flying in Iraq is going to accomplish their goal of being both feared and loved.
With respect to the second point, there is some speculation that this saber rattling toward Syria is a sop to Ariel Sharon as an inducement to sign on to the "road map." On the other hand Richard Perle believes that since we’ve “liberated” 25 million Iraqis, we’ve done our part for the Arabs and the Palestinians can piss up a rope. So, as usual, nobody really knows what the hell they are up to.
Perhaps they actually believe they can force Assad to step down just by saying “boo!” But, if the Stratfor analysis is correct, if he stays in power after all of this in your face rhetoric we must invade Syria or risk being seen as vulnerable. And, if we do that then we will definitely create more hatred. It’s hard to see how they can finesse this one into another “liberation.”
When you open your big mouth and roar at other countries that you “expect” them to do what you tell them – no need for a UN resolution fig leaf or wimpy coalitions in Bush’s Empire --you’ve got to be prepared to back it up. And when you talk tough to a guy whose power rests entirely on his repressive authority you’ve left him no choice but to go down fighting. So, unless Assad humiliates himself and backs down or Bush backs down, thereby making the US appear vulnerable, we are backing ourselves into a corner. It's very likely that we will be invading Syria.
digby 4/14/2003 05:31:00 PM
You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!
Via Atrios this may be the best article yet about the surreality of Operation Big Swinging Manhood.
Even Kubrick and Southern couldn’t have made this stuff up:
First it was CNN that replayed my question - the CNN view was, more or less, the liberal media view: a certain hand wringing about whether the media was being used. Then it was Fox, with its extreme, love-it-or-leave-it, approach to the war, which took me apart: I was clearly a potential traitor.
And then it was Rush.
To his audience of 20 million - pro-war, military minded, Bush-centered, media-hating - lily white-Rush laid me out. I was not only a reporter, but one from New York magazine. "New York" resonated. It combined with "media" and suddenly, in the hands of Rush, I was as elitist and as pampered (fortunately nobody mentioned the Ritz) and as dismissive of the concerns of real Americans as, well, Rush's 20 million assume the media to be. Whereas Rush, that noted foot soldier, represented the military heartland.
What's more, according to Rush, that great defender of the rights of African-Americans, I was a racist. Duh. A white liberal challenging a black general. It's a binary world.
And Rush gave out my email address. Almost immediately, the 3,000 emails, full of righteous fury, started to come.
Clearly marked as the rabble-rouser of the get-out-of-Doha movement, I was approached by some enforcer types. The first person was a version of a Graham Greene character. He represented the White House, he said. Wasn't of the military. Although, he said, he was embedded here ("sleeping with a lot of flatulent officers," he said). He was incredibly conspiratorial. Smooth but creepy: "If you had to write the memo about media relations, what would be your bullet points?"
The next person to buttonhole me was the Centcom uber-civilian, a thirty-ish Republican operative. He was more full-metal-jacket in his approach (although he was a civilian he was, inexplicably, in uniform - making him, I suppose a sort of para-military figure): "I have a brother who is in a Hummer at the front, so don't talk to me about too much fucking air-conditioning." And: "A lot of people don't like you." And then: "Don't fuck with things you don't understand." And too: "This is fucking war, asshole." And finally: "No more questions for you."
I had been warned.
Read the whole thing
It's pretty clear who the civilian in uniform is and he's a real piece 'o work:
Signaling the high interest in improving the military's image is the appointment of [Jim] Wilkinson as spokesman for CENTCOM. A veteran White House publicist as well as a Navy Reserve lieutenant, Wilkinson headed the anti-Taliban Coalition Information Center during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and was spokesman for the Bush campaign in Miami-Dade County during the Florida recount after the 2000 election.
Wilkinson's political credentials have aroused journalistic concerns that the Bush administration, not known for its openness, is trying to control the message and use it for re-election purposes in the 2004 campaign.
...this entire public affairs operation is headed Jim Wilkinson, one of the thugs who protested the Florida recount. Ever the good soldier, (though a civilian, Wilkinson reportedly wears a military desert camouflage uniform to work)...
He is a big believer in freedom of expression, though, so it's hard to believe he would try to muzzle the press. Why, during the Florida recount CNN reported:
A spokesman for the Bush recount team in Florida said he was there during the exchanges Wednesday and saw no violence or kicking.
"I can tell you that simply did not happen," said Jim Wilkinson.
"What you had was a lot of young volunteers who, frankly, objected to this election being decided behind closed doors, without the media having a full view and without our observers having a full view," Wilkinson said. "We executed our First Amendment rights in a peaceful manner, with full decorum."
Yes. Elections these days are so darned "untidy," aren't they?
digby 4/14/2003 12:15:00 PM
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Heads or Tails?
If there was ever any doubt as to the reason why nothing makes sense in this administration this removes it:
With strong and powerful personalities such as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney at the center of these disputes, the battles are often carried on to the last minute, when Bush makes a decision. Both sides wage spirited fights because, up until the moment Bush tips his hand, they assure themselves that the president shares their point of view.
The process, some officials say, at times verges on dysfunctional, largely because people at the lower levels make decisions without knowing or understanding the actual policy. That in turn can confuse and confound allies and foes as the administration appears to shift tactics from diplomacy toward confrontation, and back again.
That bodes well for this:
Administration officials have told the Israeli government that it is in its interest to allow Abbas to succeed. "We're talking hard, right now," an official said, about the steps expected of the Israeli government. A senior Arab official said Arabs will be watching to see whether Israel takes substantive steps such as quickly reducing the number of roadblocks and checkpoints on the West Bank or dismantling some settlements.
Yet Israel has serious concerns about the road map, and officials have indicated they want to renegotiate some aspects, a position that has some sympathy in other parts of the administration.
And this could certainly be a problem:
Asked if the United States was preparing to take some action against Syria, Wolfowitz said, "That's not a decision the Defense Department makes. That obviously . . . would be a decision for the president and Congress."
Yet, on the same day as Wolfowitz's comments, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told reporters that "in the last several days they have responded quite well to U.S. and coalition warnings and démarches about closing their borders and things of that nature and she has done so."
While the State Department is not unhappy to have Syria rattled, the rhetoric has begun to alarm some officials, as well as officials in the British government. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is frequently forced to deny in television interviews overseas that the United States has a secret list of countries it plans to attack next
So, what do you think he does? Eeeny meeny miney mo? Rock, paper, scissors?
digby 4/12/2003 11:06:00 PM
Good Cop, Bad Cop
I swear I was being facetious when I said back on April 8th:
Saddam's Ba'ath 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 honestly did not believe that the United States would actually put Ba'ath Party police back on the streets because well...you know... all that torture, killing, cutting tongues out stuff. It didn't seem like the kind of thing that would be good for that All American altruistic liberator image to put Saddam's police apparatus back in place. Call me crazy, but I think some Iraqis might find that a bit disconcerting. Iraq wasn't called a police state for nothing.
Explaining the decision to encourage the Iraqi police to return, another civil affairs officer, Major David Cooper, said: "An awful lot of these people were police officers first and Ba'athists second. If we can identify those who were not hardline Ba'athists but are hardline Iraqi policemen, we can use them to maintain order. The first thing is to find out who they are and then see if we can work with them. We are not going to put war criminals in positions of authority."
And to think I was afraid they might be using some of the bad Ba'ath police who did the electrodes on the genitals and raping kids in front of their parents thing that Dubya mentioned about 3,236 times in the last month.
I'm awfully relieved American soldiers can tell so easily which ones are the war criminals and which ones are the good Ba'athists. They probably have a lot of experience negotiating labyrinthine social systems in total chaos. Perhaps they'll see into their souls.
digby 4/12/2003 06:16:00 PM
Officials at the Pentagon have specific concerns about one aspect of the widespread looting -- that vandalism of government offices could destroy evidence about weapons of mass destruction.
Wouldn't you just know it?
Update: All Is Not Lost
Britain and the United States have bypassed the United Nations to establish a secret team of inspectors to resume the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The role played by the new inspectors, who set up a base in Kuwait a week before the war began, was disclosed to the Guardian by David Kay, the former head of Unscom, the arms inspections team which left Iraq in 1998 after Iraq accused it of being infiltrated by spies.
No mention has been made of the new group by ministers or military spokesmen, who have indicated that weapons inspections are carried out by military forces. But the group, headed by Charles Duelfer, a former deputy head of the Unscom weapons inspectors, has travelled extensively in Iraq.
Mr Kay described the new inspectors as a "robust group of people". "There are special forces teams that carry out [immediate] inspections. But they are not as technically based as the Kuwait team, who are heavily science-based civilians."
A spokesman for Mr Blix, Ewen Buchanan, said the US-led team had tried and failed to recruit some of his staff.
Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University, said the existence of the secret team would lead to a major dispute. "You are more likely to find what you want if you do it yourself," he said. "If this team finds a smoking gun, people will not believe it."
The disclosure is likely to embarrass British ministers, who are officially committed to allowing Unmovic a role.
Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister, would only say yesterday that Britain and the US had set up a "machinery" for resuming inspections. "It may take some time," he added.
Whew. That's a relief.
I don't know why people wouldn't believe it if our secret team comes up with a smoking gun. And, anyway, who cares what a bunch of losers think? They thought we couldn't beat Saddam either and boy are they eating their words today. They'll eat more words when our special super secret team finds all those WMD's. At least that's what Andy and Rummy and Dubya will say. And that's ALL that matters.
digby 4/12/2003 01:10:00 PM
Friday, April 11, 2003
This is so damned nuts that I'm just going to let it speak for itself. Is America really ready for this?
A strong warning to Syria
Barry James/IHT International Herald Tribune
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Perle, a Pentagon adviser, sees more preemption in future
PARIS Richard Perle, one of the chief U.S. ideologists behind the war to oust Saddam Hussein, warned Friday that the United States would be compelled to act if it discovered that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have been concealed in Syria.
Perle said that if the Bush administration were to learn that Syria had taken possession of such Iraqi weapons, "I'm quite sure that we would have to respond to that."
"It would be an act of such foolishness on Syria's part," he continued, "that it would raise the question of whether Syria could be reasoned with. But I suppose our first approach would be to demand that the Syrians terminate that threat by turning over anything they have come to possess, and failing that I don't think anyone would rule out the use of any of our full range of capabilities."
In an interview with editors of the International Herald Tribune, Perle said that the threat posed by terrorists he described as "feverishly" looking for weapons to kill as many Americans as possible obliged the United States to follow a strategy of preemptive war in its own defense.
Asked if this meant it would go after other countries after Iraq, he replied: "If next means who will next experience the 3d Army Division or the 82d Airborne, that's the wrong question. If the question is who poses a threat that the United States deal with, then that list is well known. It's Iran. It's North Korea. It's Syria. It's Libya, and I could go on."
Perle, a Pentagon adviser as a member of the Defense Policy Board, said the point about Afghanistan and now Iraq was that the United States had been put in a position of having to use force to deal with a threat that could not be managed in any other way.
The message to other countries on the list is "give us another way to manage the threat," he said, adding, "Obviously, our strong preference is always going to be to manage threats by peaceful means, and every one of the countries on the 'who's next?' list is in a position to end the threat by peaceful means."
"So the message to Syria, to Iran, to North Korea, to Libya should be clear. if we have no alternative, we are prepared to do what is necessary to defend Americans and others. But that doesn't mean that we are readying the troops for a next military engagement. We are not."
The former official in Republican administrations said the United States also has "a serious problem" with Saudi Arabia, where he said both private individuals and the government had poured money into extremist organizations.
"This poses such an obvious threat to the United States that it is intolerable that they continue to do this," he warned.
He said he had no doubt that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
"We will not find them unless we stumble across them," he said, "until we are able to interview those Iraqis who know where they are. The prospect of inspections may have had the effect of causing the relocation of the weapons and their hiding in a manner that would minimize their discovery, which I believe will turn out to mean burying things underground in inaccessible places."
He added that the speed of the coalition advance, "may have precluded retrieving and using those weapons in a timely fashion."
Asked if the United States was doomed to follow a policy of preemption alone, Perle replied that it is necessary to restructure the United Nations to take account of security threats that arise within borders rather than are directed across borders.
"There is no doubt that if some of the organizations that are determined to destroy this country could lay their hands on a nuclear weapon they would detonate it, and they would detonate in the most densely populated cities in this country, with a view to killing as many Americans as possible, " he said. Yet there was nothing in the UN charter authorizing collective preemption to avoid such threats.
"I think the charter could say that the terrorist threat is a threat to all mankind," Perle said.
Perle said resentment over France's opposition to the war ran so deep in the United States that he doubted there could ever be a basis for constructive relations between the two governments.
"When you have both the government and the opposition agreed on one thing, which is that they are not sure whether they want Saddam Hussein to win, that is a shocking development and Americans have been shocked. The freedom fries and all the rest is a pretty deeply held sentiment. I am afraid this is not something that is easily patched and cannot be dealt with simply in the normal diplomatic way. because the feeling runs too deep. it's gone way beyond the diplomats."
Perle said he had no doubt the world is safer than it was a month ago. "The idea that liberating Iraq would spawn terrorists all over the Muslim world I think will be proven to be wrong, and it will be proven to be wrong by the Iraqis themselves . We are about to learn what life has been like under Saddam Hussein. Even in the tough world we are living in, people are going to be shocked about the depravity and sadism of the Saddam regime."
Perle said there were good reasons to support the Middle East peace process, but not in a way that suggests the United States has caused damage by the war in Iraq. "The sense that we somehow owe this to the Arab world only diminishes the essential truth about what we've done in Iraq," he said. "We have not damaged Arab interests. We have advanced them by freeing 25 million people from this brutal dictatorship."
Now I don't know if this guy is a certifiable psychopath, but he is obviously completely fucking demented. This kind of talk scares the hell out of me now that it's quite clear that this freak really does speak for the administration.
digby 4/11/2003 08:31:00 PM
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Calpundit makes a small point in his post today on Michael Tomasky's excellent call to arms in The American Prospect. He has said this in so many words a number of times in the ongoing debate about extremism vs. moderation etc.
My problem is with extremist liberals who seem to go out of their way to alienate Middle America — highly public vomit-ins, tree spikings, trips to Baghdad — without ever thinking about what effect this might have on acceptance of the liberal agenda in general.
Every political party has its fringe. In a two party system, the coalition in each is huge and represents a wide range of opinion. There are also always those who will use dramatic and over the top actions in the name of politics. However, they rarely signify with the public unless a concerted propaganda campaign makes it appear that these people represent a mainstream view and then closely ties them to elected politicians.
White supremecists, Christian Reconstructionists, militias, neo-confederates and anti-immigrant bigots represent the extremist fringe of the Republican party and I would suggest that their activities would be far more repulsive to most middle of the road Americans than some theatrical kids at a protest rally --- if they heard about them constantly. If there were a non-stop barrage of criticism coming from talk radio and cable television against comments like this, many of Kevin's ordinary Americans would begin to see these people for the rude, immature bigots they are.
But, the fact is that the only "extremists" who are pointed out and regularly lambasted in the media are from the left. And, it is part of a long standing, organized effort to portray the entire democratic party as being out of the mainstream. Even if we could persuade every single theatrical liberal that it is in the best interest of the liberal agenda to behave in a more politic way, it would not make one bit of difference. They already call Tom Daschle an ultra liberal spawn of Satan and Howie Kurtz says that's mainstream partisan discourse. If the "extremists" of the left didn't exist, Rush would just make some up.
The problem for Democrats isn't our cultural nonconformists who embarrass and disconcert the bourgeoisie. Our problem is the GOP extremists who are now directing the government and buying up the media while dishonestly presenting themselves as moderate middle of the roaders. The Republicans have successfully convinced a lot of people that kooky gay guys "shocking" the straights or removing the word God from the pledge of allegiance are more of a threat to them than a series of expensive unilateral wars while bankrupting the government and discarding the safety net and all consumer protections.
We have to recognize that the other side will demonize us no matter what we actually do so there is no margin in trying to tailor our image. The other side won't let that happen. We have to depend upon our ideas and our candidates making a better case. And we have to finally go after the other side with everything in our arsenal. Worrying about our own extremists instead of exposing theirs is playing into their hands.
edited slightly for clarity
digby 4/10/2003 05:55:00 PM
This is too rich. The FBI “handler” of Johnny Chung in the hysterical Chi-Com fundraising scandals in the late 90’s turns out to have been sleeping with a Chinese double agent – and well known Republican fundraiser – for many years.
If you have forgotten the sad and tawdry story of Johnny Chung, let me remind you what all the breast beating was about:
MARGARET WARNER: Last year, Senator Fred Thompson, Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, opened his investigation of campaign fund-raising abuses...
...but the hearings ended last October without establishing a Chinese government connection to various illegal contributions made during the 1996 election season.
Then, last Friday, The New York Times reported that Justice Department investigators believe they have established such a link, based on testimony provided by California businessman Johnny Chung. Chung, who made hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable contributions to the Democratic National Committee, began cooperating with the Justice Department after pleading guilty to campaign-related bank and tax fraud charges in March. Chung reportedly told investigators that a significant portion of his 1996 contributions came from China's People's Liberation Army by way of Liu Chao-Ying, a lieutenant colonel who also is a top executive of Beijing's state-owned aerospace company, China Aerospace. That same year, the Clinton administration was making it easier for American commercial satellites to be launched by Chinese rockets--a move that benefitted Liu's company. Such launchings had been tightly restricted in the past out of concern that they would give China access to technology that could be used for military purposes.
The Justice Department is also investigating whether the administration's decision was influenced by domestic campaign contributions from executives of two American aerospace companies that had been lobbying to get the restrictions eased--Loral Space Communications and Hughes Electronics. Loral Chairman Bernard Schwartz gave the Democrats more than $600,000 before the '96 elections, making him the party's largest single contributor that year. President Clinton insisted that contributions had not influenced the decision to let China launch American satellites.
Remember now? Clinton had supposedly knowingly taken money from the Chi-Coms and two aerospace companies and then, acting as the Communist agent we always knew he was, eased regulations allowing the sale of extremely sensitive satellite secrets to his comrades. It was, of course, never even slightly proven that anybody in the White House had the slightest idea that the money Chung donated came from Chinese sources, the money was returned immediately upon hearing that it may have been, and all the scandal really managed to do was nail some low hanging fruit for violations unrelated to the screaming headlines charging espionage and treason. The investigation of Loral and Hughes continued but it was determined that the easing of restrictions had nothing to do with the kind of sensitive information the companies were suspected of sharing with Beijing.
Fast forward to March 28th of this year as we entered Operation Neocon Wetdream:
While he led an influential Pentagon advisory board, Richard N. Perle advised a major American satellite maker, Loral Space and Communications, as it faced government accusations that it improperly transferred rocket technology to China, administration officials said today.Officials at the State Department said that the senior official considering how to resolve the rocket matter, Assistant Secretary Lincoln P. Bloomfield Jr., was contacted by Mr. Perle once or twice in the second half of 2001 on behalf of the company.
At the time, Mr. Bloomfield, who heads the State Department's bureau of political-military affairs, and other officials were investigating accusations that Loral turned over expertise that significantly improved the reliability of China's nuclear missiles...
"We have an office, our political-military office, led by Assistant Secretary Linc Bloomfield, who did receive queries from Mr. Perle," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in response to a question during an interview today. "And quite appropriate, since Richard was, I guess, authorized for Loral to ask. In conducting our regular business I know that Linc and members of Linc's staff did have conversations with Richard Perle. We would do that with anybody who is authorized to call and ask of such matters."
Mr. Perle said this afternoon that he was retained by Loral seven months before his appointment by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to head the Defense Policy Board and was given a one-time retainer at the outset of his work. "I was retained by Loral in January 2001 to assist the company in assessing its dispute with the government concerning transfers of technology to the Chinese, to recommend approaches to settling that dispute including new security arrangements to assure against any further technology leakage," he said. "At no time did I urge any government official to settle the case."
He said any conversations he may have had with Mr. Bloomfield or his staff "related to the licensing" of other Loral satellites for the Chinese and that he was "not compensated by the company in connection with that activity."
The government accused Loral of providing Chinese officials with confidential materials from an American panel that investigated the February 1996 crash of a Loral satellite, which was built for Intelsat, the international consortium, and was launched by a Chinese Long March rocket.
The inquiry into Loral and other companies resulted in restrictions that have prevented the industry from seeking new business with China.
… people involved in the case have said Mr. Perle was retained on the instructions of Mr. Schwartz, who came under criticism by some Republicans during the Clinton administration for being one of the largest political donors to Democrats.
Mr. Schwartz retained a prominent team to defend the company in the investigation. Among those who worked on the matter were Douglas J. Feith, who is now under secretary of defense for policy. Mr. Feith is also an old friend and former colleague of Mr. Perle. When Mr. Perle was an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, Mr. Feith was his special counsel.
And now we find that one of the FBI agents who was heavily involved in the Chi-Com fundraising scandal was also heavily involved sexually with a Chinese double agent who also happened to be a well known Republican fundraiser. Meanwhile, the company that was portrayed as a treasonous Chi-Com front for Bill Clinton and his commie brethren hires a bunch of neocon heavyweights in the Defense Department to get it out of its mess.
Oh congressional committees, where art thou? Anybody? No treason? What about the “smell test?” As Senator Specter (R-Gasbag) said at the time, “… these matters may be coincidences, but they raise an unsavory inference and ought to be investigated.”
digby 4/10/2003 04:12:00 PM
Offers They Can't Refuse
Chris Anderson has some criticisms of my newfound friends, the neocons. He says:
This is a foreign policy in which America's primary role is that of a protection racket. People can go about there business, just so long as they don't do anything that we don't like. Then they better watch out! Look what we did to Sadaam!
And I say, what's wrong with that? There is a lot wrong with the Mafia, as we all know, but they did bring order to unruly neighborhoods by selling their protection. We too will bring order to the world by laying out the rules under which nations may behave and then taking only the resources we absolutely need to maintain our hegemony. If they fail to behave (or give us these small tokens of respect) we will have to make an example of them. This is the very essence of the Pax Americana. Sometimes a little "knuckles de sandwich" is the price 'o freedom, my friends.
digby 4/10/2003 01:46:00 PM
Ich Bin Ein Neoconer
"In removing the terror regime from Iraq, we send a very clear message to all groups that operate by means of terror and violence against the innocent. The United States and our coalition partners are showing that we have the capacity and the will to wage war on terror-and to win decisively." Vice President Cheney 4/9/03
Ok. I’m a convert. I have been studying the neoconservative movement for some time and thought them to be little more than crass imperialists who couched their will to power in a delusion born of discarded leftist radicalism. But, after seeing the American flag draped over the statue of Saddam’s ugly mug, the cheering people getting their first “whiff ‘o freedom” I now know that all that talk of weapons of mass destruction and support for al Qaeda was just a clever ruse by the Bush administration to convince wimpy Americans to support the first in a series of wars against those who operate by means of terror and violence against the innocent. I now believe, like most Americans and good people everywhere, that it doesn’t matter if Saddam had WMD or supported terrorists. It was never about that.
It has now been established that America boldly defied the cowardly Europeans and the perfidious United Nations and put its own blood and treasure on the line for purely altruistic reasons --- the liberation of a repressed people from a cruel and heartless dictator and all that talk of threats to ourselves were forced upon us by cynics who refuse to see that we are a country that operates solely out of humanitarian concern.
You see, Americans have also been liberated today.
We are liberated from the restraints of Realpolitik, the need to consider issues of stability, economic interests or the outmoded concept of the “sovereignty” of nations. No longer will ideology or politics or “strategic interests” play a part in our foreign policy calculations. It will not be necessary for our government to set forth thinly veiled rationales for our actions, paying lip service to silly notions of international law that only serve to protect the guilty. We will not have to provide evidence that the United States or an “ally” (whatever that is) is itself threatened and therefore we are operating out of self-defense. We have openly declared ourselves liberators of oppressed people everywhere. We will use our vast military power to back up President Bush’s words in his State of the Union speech:
“America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.
Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.”
Our President was clearly chosen by God to be his instrument. We are going to free the world. This, then, truly is moral clarity.
To that end I would like to suggest that the following nations be considered for invasion immediately.
We should start with almost all countries in the middle east (except Israel, which is as devoted to freedom as we are.) Every single regime needs to be changed. We have a small fraction of the troops we will eventually need already in the area and I think it would be a grave mistake to do as Bush’s father did and leave the innocent people of the region in the clutches of what can only be deemed repressive violent governments. We must not repeat the mistakes of 1991.
We can give them warning, as the neocons and the defense department are now doing, but it simply must be backed up with a willingness to invade when a given deadline for reform and/or exile has passed. Only cynical naysayers could object now that we’ve established our sterling motives for invading Iraq.
And, even if they do --- so what? This is about bringing freedom to oppressed people everywhere. We cannot let outmoded notions of casus belli stand in the way of our crusade.
Our “ally” Turkey, for instance, is a known violent repressor of its Kurdish population and is documented to employ torture tactics against innocent people. The most frequently reported methods included severe beatings, blindfolding, suspension by the arms or wrists, electric shocks, sexual abuse, and food and sleep deprivation. Many Kurdish politicians have “disappeared” and political prisoners are numerous. Extrajudicial executions are common.
There is no excuse for this. We must liberate the Turkish people from the yoke of its government’s use of terror and violence against innocent people.
Every other country in the region is guilty of even worse. No political freedom, no democracy, torture, extrajudicial executions, repression of women and ethnic minorities. The list of crimes that must be stopped is so huge as to be overwhelming. We simply cannot allow this to go on.
And, that’s only the beginning. Countries throughout Africa are in even worse shape. Amnesty International reports, “whether in Angola, Burundi, Central Africa Republic (CAR), Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan or Uganda, thousands of unarmed civilians suffered some of the most egregious human rights violations in Africa -- illegal arrests and detention, kidnapping, torture and ill-treatment, rape, murder, "disappearances" -- by both government forces and armed opposition groups.”
Is that any less of a horror than that which we saw in Iraq? Are those people any less deserving of liberation? I think not. And through the generosity and altruism that has been released in the American people by their neoconservative leaders, I have little doubt that we will soon begin the planning to bring freedom and democracy to Africa.
There is so much more work to be done, however. Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Chechnya, Russia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, North Korea, Tibet, Nepal, China and many more all have horrific human rights records. We must systematically prepare to take them down.
We will issue warnings, much as we did with Saddam Hussein, but if they do not capitulate before the deadline, we will invade them, depose their despotic rulers, liberate their people and do whatever it takes to build democracy. Our military is unbeatable and our people are willing to do whatever it takes to bring freedom to the oppressed.
John F. Kennedy told us more than 40 years ago:
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Unfortunately he went on to say:
To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do—for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.
To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom—and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support—to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective—to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak—and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.
So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
Thankfully, we’ve learned some lessons since that time. Our oldest allies and newly freed states have proved to only be useful to the extent they agree to do exactly as we say and the United Nations is irrelevant. Civility is counterproductive. Threats backed by guns are what works. American sincerity is unquestioned. We do not negotiate.
But, thankfully, the larger point --- our commitment to bear any burden for liberty --- has now been engaged with all the weight of our vast wealth and power. We are on a crusade for freedom and we will invade, occupy and democratize any country that tries to stop us.
Long live the neocons.
Long live the Pax Americana.
digby 4/10/2003 01:12:00 PM
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.
digby 4/08/2003 11:07:00 PM
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.
digby 4/08/2003 05:56:00 PM
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.
digby 4/08/2003 03:23:00 PM
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!
digby 4/08/2003 01:35:00 PM
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:
digby 4/07/2003 09:10:00 PM
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:
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, 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.
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.
digby 4/07/2003 06:31:00 PM
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.
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.
digby 4/07/2003 03:35:00 PM