After several days (and no thanks to Speakeasy and Covad) we’re connected again. I have over a thousand new email messages waiting for me, in addition to the ones that were already stacked up before. If you’ve been waiting for a response from me about something, that’s probably why.
Observations: There certainly is a lot of Pennsylvania. There’s just as much Ohio and Indiana, but it has much less reason for being. 2:00 AM is the ideal time to zoom through Gary and Chicago. And who knew that Wisconsin was so forested and geological and picturesque? Piney woods and jagged rock chimneys! I could have sworn I was out West, someplace real, instead of in one of those toy Midwestern states full of farms and stuff.
But it’s good to be home. Now to spend several days catching up. Bear with me.
The British view is that the sight of local youths dismantling the offices and barracks of a regime they used to fear shows they have confidence that Saddam Hussains henchmen will not be returning to these towns in southern Iraq.As Quiggin observes:
One senior British officer said: We believe this sends a powerful message that the old guard is truly finished.”
I thought I’d better record this before it went too far down the memory hole. When we come to allocate the responsibility for the destruction of archeological treasures and so on, it will be important to recall that this was the product of deliberate policy, not mere neglect.Oh, and the British newspaper Quiggin is quoting? Warbloggers won’t have read down this far, having already concluded that it was the wicked Guardian or the evil, Robert Fisk-publishing Independent. Unfortunately for these folks, this report appeared in the conservative, Murdoch-owned London Times.
Anyway, as Quiggin says: Deliberate policy. Remember this. You can bet that Iraq will.
Most neoconservative defense intellectuals have their roots on the left, not the right. They are products of the influential Jewish-American sector of the Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history. Their admiration for the Israeli Likud party’s tactics, including preventive warfare such as Israel’s 1981 raid on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, is mixed with odd bursts of ideological enthusiasm for “democracy.” They call their revolutionary ideology “Wilsonianism” (after President Woodrow Wilson), but it is really Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism.Notes experienced skiffologist Humphries:
They used to be Trots? Now that makes more sense, and instead of the current situation being a Tom Clancy, a Bill Gibson, or a Bruce Sterling story, it’s actually one scripted by Ken McLeod. You see, Wolfowitz is our Colonel Volkov. Volkov transforms Nova Babylonia, and Wolfowitz transforms America, in both cases Republics […] into engines to defend the State against external aggressors.I have personally felt like I was living in a Ken MacLeod future since sometime not long after 9/11, and I wish he’d CUT IT OUT. But I recommend all of his books. Brits and Europeans should start with The Star Fraction. Science fiction aficionados should begin with The Cassini Division. Everyone else should go directly to The Stone Canal.
MOST COUNTER-PRODUCTIVEUPDATE: It was bound to happen.
RUNNER-UP: SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Shortly after Richard Reid’s attempt to light his shoes, I boarded a flight from San Francisco to London on British Airways. Travelling alone, I was singled out by the computer for further inspection. The polite inspector informed me that he had to check my shoes for explosives. I dutifully removed them and handed them to him. He picked them up one by one and slammed them down on the floor with full force.
Apparently, as they hadn’t exploded, they were not dangerous, and he handed them back to me to put back on.
Let this be a warning to future terrorists. Your explosive shoes may go off in the crowded departure lounge instead of on board the plane.
The man had been dumped near the rubbish bins at the back, blood spreading across his chequered shirt. An orderly, who had been burying bloated corpses in a mass grave in the hospital grounds, recited the Muslim last rites. “Dead, dead, he’s died, what can we do?” and returned to his shovel. But the man was breathing, in slow laborious gurgles, and his flesh was warm.Not to worry, though.
Forty-eight hours after Baghdad was liberated—as President George Bush would call it—by American forces, the city yesterday was in the throes of chaos. Men with Kalashnikovs dragged drivers from their cars at gunpoint, babies were killed by cluster bombs, and hospitals that had carried on right through the bombing were transformed into visions of hell.
Floors were coated with stale blood, and wards stank of gangrene. The wounded lay on soiled sheets in hospital lobbies, screaming with pain, or begging for tranquillizers. Orderlies in blue surgical gowns shouldered Kalashnikovs to guard against marauders. Ambulance drivers staged counter-raids on looters to reclaim captured medicines and surgical supplies.
Amid such scenes of anarchy, it was not always clear who was responsible: US soldiers, unnerved by a spate of suicide bombings, who continued yesterday to open fire on civilian cars; the pockets of resistance by the die-hard supporters of the regime; the scores of armed Iraqis rampaging through Baghdad; or the unexploded ordnance strewn about the city. But Iraqis had a ready culprit: they blame America for toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein before it was prepared to deliver order to Baghdad.
At Yarmouk hospital, once the city’s main casualty centre, the unclaimed corpses were so badly rotted that volunteers wearing chemical warfare masks buried them in mass graves. Sixteen stinking corpses were heaved into the ground yesterday and 20 on Thursday, after collection from the local mosques. […] A sedan with two flat tyres pulled up, with an entire wounded family, and the corpse of a baby girl. Her name was Rawand, and she was nine months old.
When her family returned to their home for the first time since the war yesterday, she crawled over to a small dark oval—a cluster bomblet—which detonated, killing her outright, and injuring her mother, and two of her boy cousins.
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, dismissed the chaos as a “transitional” phase, born of “pent-up frustration” after 24 years of oppression. He accused newspapers of exaggerating the unrest and said television stations were showing the same footage over and over again “of some person walking out of a building with a vase.”Concluding our previous report:
Only one doctor was on duty at Yarmouk yesterday—it shut down at the beginning of the week—and he left the grave diggers and went to try to save the family. Rawand’s father, Mohammed Suleiman, was inconsolable. “I am going to kill America—not today, after 10 years,” he swore.
IT’S CALLED SAMPLING ON THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE
“Why are there so many personally obnoxious people on the Left?” asks Nick Denton. In his next sentence, he explains to himself why his question is mistaken. (“I happen to spend most of my time in cities which tilt Left so the obnoxious people I meet are statistically more likely to be left-wing.”) But he presses on regardless to the inevitable single data point. A couple of months ago, using the same methodology, Dan Drezner wondered why people on the left were more sensitive to insults than those on the right. So with that data in mind, we can now conclude that left-wingers are both more sensitive and more obnoxious than right-wingers.
Coming up soon, a study that attempts to explain why so many of the closets I open are full of my clothes.
Goodness, and I would have thought that if we were indeed “widening” our “hold”, civil strife would fall. Clearly I have much to learn about our brave new way of thinking here in the 21st Century.
Coming soon: “Allies Vanquish Disease; Millions Die of Plague.”
I’ve canvassed before, but always on someone else’s behalf. I’m finding it very different now that I’m asking people to vote for me. It’s impossible to take the detached attitude that I’m just performing a data-gathering exercise. This is a job interview. In fact, it’s about thirty job interviews every night.He’d have my vote. Of course, if I lived in the UK, I’d probably vote LibDem anyway. Then again, if I had a pony, I’d sell it and buy a better computer monitor.
It’s tiring, but it’s overwhelmingly a positive experience. Every night I get to chat with smart, well-informed people about local politics, to be challenged with some difficult questions, and to convince a few people that it is in fact worth taking the trouble to go to a polling station and put an X beside “Coleman”. That more than makes up for the occassional encounters which go more like this:
ME: “Hi, my name’s Iain Coleman and I’m the Liberal Democrat candidate in the City Council elections. I’m just coming round to ask you if you’ll vote for me.”
HIM: “I don’t vote, ‘cos politicians are all a bunch of liars.”
ME: “I’ve never lied to you.”
HIM: “Well, I don’t mean you personally, but politicians are all the same.”
Even there, there’s a positive aspect of self-discovery: I’ve discovered this amazing ability to not tell people to fuck off.
But, darn, this really doesn’t look good:
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says two key Baghdad hospitals, and many other smaller ones, have been ransacked, as looting spreads across the capital.As far as I can tell, most Americans are currently convinced that Baghdad is an ongoing street festival of star-spangled liberation. “OVER,” proclaims the front page of today’s New York Daily News. “Baghdad Falls; Scenes of Joy,” says the Post. It’s a happy rerun of Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War.
ICRC spokeswoman Nada Doumani told BBC News Online that armed looters had stripped the al-Kindi, a key hospital in north-eastern Baghdad, of everything, including beds, electrical fittings and medical equipment.
She said another major hospital, the 650-bed Medical City, was also surrounded by armed men and was running low of water and medical supplies.
Baghdad’s hospitals have already been under severe strain in recent days as they try to cope with the casualties caused by the coalition’s aerial bombardments of the capital, as well as fighting on the ground.
But when the Berlin Wall came down, they didn’t loot the hospitals.
This isn’t victory and it isn’t freedom. Not yet. Let’s hope it’s a blip, not a harbinger.
(Just to be clear, I don’t really want a pony. But a new computer monitor would be nice.)
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.
When the long grey lines came flooding upon Paris in the plain,Read the rest. That is, if, unlike your average France-baiting warblogging mouth-breather, you can read.
We stood and drank of the last free air we never could taste again:
They had led us back from the lost battle, to halt we knew not where
And stilled us: and our gaping guns were dumb with our despair.
The grey tribes flowed for ever from the infinite lifeless lands
And a Norman to a Breton spoke, his chin upon his hands.
“There was an end to Ilium; and an end came to Rome;
And a man plays on a painted stage in the land that he calls home;
Arch after arch of triumph, but floor beyond falling floor,
That lead to a low door at last; and beyond that is no door.”
And the Breton to the Norman spoke, like a small child spoke he,
And his sea-blue eyes were empty as his home beside the sea:
“There are more windows in one house than there are eyes to see,
There are more doors in a man’s house, but God has hid the key:
Ruin is a builder of windows; her legend witnesseth
Barbara, the saint of gunners, and a stay in sudden death.”
It seemed the wheel of the world stood still an instant in its turning,
More than the kings of the earth that turned with the turning of Valmy mill:
While trickled the idle tale and the sea-blue eyes were burning,
Still as the heart of a whirlwind the heart of the world stood still.
Based on news reports, quite a number of recent anti-war protests have had many more than 50,000 participants and several, notably in New York and San Francisco, have had more than 100,000. Only about 20 events in the dataset have a reported size greater than this. […]
What does this suggest? The sheer size of a protest event is only one indicator of the vitality of a social movement and its capacity to effect social change. Timothy Burke and Dan Drezner are right to say that a successful social movement does things other than just protest in the streets. Nevertheless, getting people to turn out in large numbers remains a very useful index of popular discontent because it is so hard to do. Based on the size of the typical protest, it is just not plausible to say that there are very large numbers of people who choose to indulge their narcissism by showing up for protests. If there were, wed see them out on the streets in large numbers far more often than we actually doparticularly given that the data considered here cover what we might think of as a golden age of public protest in the United States. When set in the context of the history of mobilization for protest, the anti-war movement has generated a turnout for protests on a scale rivalled by only a very few social movement organizations on a very tiny number of occasions. Thats worth bearing in mind the next time youre tempted to dismiss it as a failure or write off its participants as out-of-touch peaceniks.
If the Seventh Infantry Regiment were storming Nessus, it would look like this.
It is possible we already have some presentiment of our future.
I would just note that theres something very odd about the neoconservative attitude to the Saudi question. The basic neocon paradox is that theyre hoping to make the Bush administration the agent of their agenda, but the entire Bush family (and the bulk of the GOP foreign policy establishment) is more-or-less a wholly-owned subsidiary of the House of Saud. Whats more, if you read the out-of-power neocons they seem to agree not only that the Saudis are bad but that Saudi Arabia, rather than Iraq or Syria, is the primary problem state in the Middle East. The solution to this has been to adopt a rigorous program of wishful thinking whereby fighting a series of wars against Saudi Arabias regional enemies with the assistance of the Saudi government will miraculously undermine the House of Sauds power despite the (apparent) support of the president of the United States for the monarchys continued rule.
Theres doubtless some devious Strausian logic to pursuing this course of action rather than the much more obvious one of just trying to pressure the administration to distance itself from the Saudi government, but whatever it is, its far too esoteric for me to grasp.
I’ve probably gone on that ride 25 times in my life, but this time, an entirely new thought occurred to me. Forgive the flair for the obvious here, but those pirates are terrorizing that town: they’re firing on it with huge cannons; they’re setting fire to houses; they’re drunkenly chasing after local women, presumably to rape them; they’re shooting off weapons indiscriminately into open windows. If you think about people in the actual Caribbean towns hundreds of years ago, being attacked by pirates must have been just about one of the most terrifying things you could imagine. Pirates were the Al Qaeda of the 18th century. But on the ride, they’re not even supposed to be scary; it’s all played for comic relief. All of which made me wonder: in two hundred years, when we’ve all moved on to new fears (gray goo and sentient machines, no doubt) will Disney roll out a new set of rides? Suicide Bombers of the Middle East? Terrorists of New York?On a different note, Johnson has this to say about the less sanitized BBC World coverage of the war, with its higher “overall threshold of permissible violence”:
The interesting thing was that having established a stronger connection to the Iraqi point of view made the broadcasts actually more sympathetic to the American cause, because you were able to get a closer look at Iraqi soldiers explaining how they didn’t want to be fighting, and how they were hoping that the Americans would arrive sooner rather than later.
REDMOND, WA—Microsoft Corporation today announced a high-level arrangement with the U.S. State Department to restructure postwar Iraq as a Windows-based application.
The project, known as the Very Large Application Development In Multiple Iraqi Regions [VLADIMIR], would organize the country into a set of departments, or folders, linked by e-mail, instant messaging, and streaming video. The temporary occupation government would rule through a simple point-and-click interface.
The impact on the average Iraqi citizen is difficult to estimate at this time, but Xbox Live! will be made available at no charge to all citizens of Iraq, provided they sign an oath not to mod the consoles. MSN will be offered at a competitive price when the society is ready.
Former members of the Hussein government are be issued with 802.11g Personal Observational Webcams [POWs] that would allow them relative freedom of movement while providing a check for occupation forces. Rumors that this system would incorporate drag and drop functionality are unconfirmed.
Operations will be centralized at a tech campus to be known as Microsoft Iraqi Nexus Installation for Technology Reconstruction and Universal Education [MINITRUE]. This would include a massive server bank, an unspecified number of tech suppport lines, and a render farm for outgoing news. Security for this installation would be provided by a system not disclosed, presumably for reasons of security.
No precise date has been announced for rollout of the project, but Iraqi Service Pack 1 is on schedule for late 2004.
Admiral Poindexter’s PROF interoffice email system (powered by an IBM mainframe) seems pretty backward nowadays, but there was an unmistakable Enron-style genius in routing charity money and Saudi profits through Israeli arms contractors to buy munitions for Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries. John Poindexter, Oliver North, Elliot Abrams, Richard Secord, John Singlaub, Robert MacFarlane, Adnan Khashoggi, Manucher Ghorbanifar: These legendary innovators created something truly new and brilliant—an offshore, autonomous, self-financing, global, anticommunist venture-capital outfit big enough to fight a private war against a sovereign nation. Lieutenant Colonel North liked to call it Project Democracy. It ran loops around Congress the way offshore Internet porn rings dodge the US Customs Service. […]
Considering the audacity of the scheme’s challenge to Constitutional authority, its principals have done surprisingly well in the years since. […] But the real success story is the Contras, or rather their modern successor: al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden’s crew is a band of government-funded anticommunist counterrevolutionaries who grew up and cut the apron strings. These new-model Contras don’t need state support from Washington, Moscow, or any Accessory of Evil. Like Project Democracy, they’ve got independent financing: oil money, charity money, arms money, and a collection plate wherever a junkie shoots up in an alley. Instead of merely ignoring and subverting governments for a higher cause, as Poindexter did, al Qaeda tries to destroy them outright. Suicide bombers blew the Chechnyan provisional puppet government sky high. Cars packed with explosives nearly leveled the Indian Parliament. We all know what happened to the Pentagon.
The next Iran-Contra is waiting, because the contradictions that created the first have never been resolved. Iran-Contra wasn’t about eager American intelligence networks spreading dirty money in distant lands; it was about the gap between old, legitimate, land-based governments ruled by voters and the new, stateless, globalized predation. The next scandal will erupt when someone as molten, self-righteous, and frustrated as John Poindexter uses stateless power for domestic advantage. That’s the breaking point in American politics: not when you call in the plumbers, but when you turn them loose on the opposition party. Then the Empire roils in a lather of sudden, indignant fury and strikes back against its own.
Noah posts an overview of responses here, none of which are awfully impressive. Surely Electrolite’s readers can do better. Remember, Electrolite is actually a fence-sitter on this issue, neither an advocate of the kind of “gun control” that means Dianne Feinstein can own a pistol but Teresa Nielsen Hayden can’t, nor entirely unsympathetic to inner-city neighborhood activists desperate to reduce the amount of firepower on their streets. Electrolite has also long observed that The Gun Issue tends to rapidly degrade both the IQ and the integrity of all participants. But hope springs eternal. What about it? If gun rights are so all-fired important, why is Canada a free society and Iraq anything but? (Via Ignatz.)
“Cease fire!” Johnson yelled over the radio. Then, as he peered into his binoculars from the intersection on Highway 9, he roared at the platoon leader, “You just [expletive] killed a family because you didn’t fire a warning shot soon enough!”That’s from “embedded” Washington Post reporter William Branigan’s account of Monday’s awful scene on Highway 9, where US forces wound up killing five adults and five children packed into a Toyota van.
Fifteen Iraqi civilians were packed inside the Toyota, officers said, along with as many of their possessions as the jammed vehicle could hold. Ten of them, including five children who appeared to be under 5 years old, were killed on the spot when the high-explosive rounds slammed into their target, Johnson’s company reported. Of the five others, one man was so severely injured that medics said he was not expected to live.Liberal Oasis notes that Branigan’s eyewitness account contradicts the official line that warning shots were in fact fired. Who’s right? I don’t know. But score one for independence even among “embedded” reporters.
“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen, and I hope I never see it again,” Sgt. Mario Manzano, 26, an Army medic with Bravo Company of the division’s 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, said later in an interview. He said one of the wounded women sat in the vehicle holding the mangled bodies of two of her children. “She didn’t want to get out of the car,” he said.Then again, as LO points out, the New York Times and the AP both followed the official line, so score one, debit two.
God knows the soldiers have reason to be scared; the innocent-looking vehicle full of apparent civilians could indeed be the next suicide bomb attack. But these rules of engagement (from the London Daily Mirror) seem pretty scary in themselves:
Troops were told that if those in cars or trucks do not obey orders within five seconds they can open fire.Okay, that’s the Mirror, not the most completely reliable source. Corrections or amplications welcome. Back to Branigan’s Washington Post account, there’s this:
To try to prevent a recurrence, Johnson ordered that signs be posted in Arabic to warn people to stop well short of the Bradleys guarding the eastern approach to the intersection.That might be an idea. You know, actually communicating with terrified civilians in their own language, before you kill them.
Medics gave the group 10 body bags. U.S. officials offered an unspecified amount of money to compensate them.Before anyone starts: This isn’t about how US soldiers are evil monsters or something. This is just about how war really, really sucks.
“They wanted to bury them before the dogs got to them,” said Cpl. Brian Truenow, 28, of Townsend, Mass.
The Pentagon has not released any details about her rescue yet, and I suspect they will not release much because doing so would compromise the sources and methods used to gather intelligence about PFC Lynch’s location for this raid. (It’s highly possible we want to use those tactics, techniques and procedures in the future.) I’m going to follow that logic and refrain from speculation on the way this rescue operation went down.
However, I will speak to an issue which has percolated up during the last several days because of the capture of SPC Shoshana Johnson and other American women in harm’s way. Some have questioned the role of women in today’s military. Make no mistake about it — America’s military sends its women into harm’s way. Current DoD policy keeps women out of only the most direct of combat roles, such as the infantry. But in today’s style of warfare, those distinctions are basically meaningless. Army Lieutenant Carrie Bruhl flies Apache helicopters deep into enemy territory, further than any American infantryman save the Special Forces. Other women fly deep combat missions in the Navy and Air Force. Female MPs fight as infantry just behind the front lines, hunting down and killing Iraqi guerilla units. America’s daughters fight hard and they fight well. It’s disingenuous and wrong to say that women like SPC Johnson and PFC Lynch don’t belong at the front lines. They’ve earned the right to be there, and so far in our war, they’ve proven their ability to stay there.
Befor skool dinner of super sossages, pies mash potatos dougnuts pork chops trifle jely roast sucking pig ect ect, all new bugs must attend Sorting ceremony where there FATE is decided. Tremble tremble chiz the battered and frankly unsavory hem-hem sorting hat is lowered upon my beetling brow and after a pregnant pause (coo-er posh prose molesworth) it SPEKE:
“Huflepuf. Also you hav a face like a squished tomato.”
I can’t wait for the right-wing peanut gallery’s explanation in my comments section of how this all A-OK. And, no doubt, the fault of those perfidious French.
Neil is, of course, uterly wet and a weed. The masters larf they are in stitches.
UPDATE: Broken link to the newspaper story, my fault, fixed now.
De Genova is an idiot, and discredits stupid people everywhere. I think the stupid portions of our society should be made to take greater responsibility for extreme statements made by their individual adherents.
Hoping for a Mogadishu has elements of the perverse, since the episode entailed mutilation of American servicemen. It’s also kind of stupid from a radical standpoint, since more than a few hundred Somali bystanders were killed in the murderous crossfires (for which I do not blame U.S. troops). Nor is it possible to interpret the event as any sort of victory for any sort of progressive force. Somalia had no visible sign of a progressive movement and continues in a wretched state today, the absence of U.S. occupiers notwithstanding. De Genova has attempted to explain what he meant, but basically what he says he meant is what most people thought he meant. They just don’t take it the same way he does.
Does the “hard,” “far,” or “extremist” left hope for a thundering U.S. defeat in Iraq? Should it? As far-left HQ in Blogovia (truth be told, Blogovia is a pretty pale shade of red), MaxSpeak would like to argue the contrary. It makes no sense for someone of the further left to look forward to a U.S. defeat. Does that mean we roll over, wag our tails, and assure everyone we want the quickest victory possible? Nope. Wrong again.
Fast forward to how a U.S. defeat would unfold. There would be a protracted war shading into volatile occupation, with many U.S. casualties. Of course, this would also mean many more Iraqi casualties, not to mention the destruction of the country. Iraq would come to resemble the West Bank. Does the degradation of the West Bank confer any sort of victory upon its oppressed inhabitants, much less the Left? Is there any bonus there for the Israeli working class? I think not.
The consequences of an agonizing, protracted U.S. presence in Iraq might provide schadenfreude to those who really hate America (like those right-wing militia people who praised the WTC attack). But it also promises a much less congenial political environment in the U.S. than we have now, which is no walk in the park. Continual war in Iraq means pressure for rising repression at home; we don’t have much yet, but Ashcroft has a lot of potential. Fury over casualties translates into violent, racist, reactionary movements that we see the seeds of already. […]
My response to the “now that we’re in, let’s hope for a quick and painless victory” is fat chance. “Victory” is nearly a non sequitur, since we are defining victory as presiding over a grateful, liberated population. The likelihood is not victory, but destruction, followed by decades of insecurity fueled by the extremists’ fair share of hundreds of millions of Muslims. My hope is for an exit, the sooner the better. I don’t want the U.S. to lose, and I don’t want it to win. I want it to leave. How this can happen I’m not exactly sure, but it will involve declaring some kind of victory and effecting some kind of withdrawal.