this moment of conflict in the middle east is painful and tragic, yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region. transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. but the consequences will be profound — for our country and the world.
richard hass, bush's former state department policy director:
an opportunity? lord, spare me. i don't laugh a lot. that's the funniest thing i've heard in a long time. if this is an opportunity, what's iraq? a once-in-a-lifetime chance?
Sunday, July 30, 2006
baghdad, iraq, july 28 — the two armored vans left a branch of the warka bank on thursday around noon, loaded with 1.191 billion dinars, or nearly $800,000. almost immediately, on a busy street near the baghdad zoo, the drivers spotted an oncoming iraqi army convoy, led by a shiny new humvee. they followed standard procedure and pulled over.
but the convoy stopped, and an officer politely ordered the surprised drivers and guards to lay down their guns while his men searched the vans for bombs.
within minutes all eight drivers and guards had been handcuffed and locked in the back of one of the vans on a suffocating 120-degree day, the cash had been stolen by the men in the convoy — whoever they were — and the iraqi banking system marked another day of its slow slide into oblivion.
the only thing atypical about thursday’s robbery, which was described by bank and interior ministry officials, is that most private banks try to avoid using armored vans, because they draw too much attention, and instead toss sacks of cash into ordinary cars for furtive dashes through the streets of baghdad.
however the cash goes out, it risks being lost in the wash of robbery, kidnapping and intrigue that now plagues the system.
praised by the united states as a success story as recently as a few months ago, that system has quickly become a wild landscape of clandestine cash runs, huge hauls by robbers dressed as police officers and soldiers, kidnappings of bank executives with ransoms as high as $6 million, american allegations of tie-ins with insurgent financiers, and legitimate customers turned away when they go to pick up their savings and flee the country.
"it is a crisis," said wisam k. jamil, managing director of iraq’s oldest private bank, the bank of baghdad, which lost $1.5 million in a literal case of highway robbery by men wearing police uniforms last december.
because of that robbery, the bank lost much of its insurance coverage. even more galling for mr. jamil, the insurance policy had a standard disclaimer saying that losses due to acts of war or terrorism were not covered, and as the warka holdup on thursday illustrated, no one can say if a theft in iraq is committed by insurgents, bandits or genuine members of the security forces. so the insurance company has not paid mr. jamil’s claim ...
the times might prefer to whistle past facts aimed straight between its eyes, but it's all too crystal clear to the rest of us that iraq's highwaymen aren't just outlaws masquerading as police and military — it's far worse: they are the police and military.
(hat tip to steve gilliard.)
Saturday, July 29, 2006
tristero at hullabaloo offers some free advice — the most undervalued kind, as always — in an open letter to liberal hawks:
dear liberal hawks and other fence sitters from 2002/2003 (you know who you are),
don't even think about a "thoughtful, measured response" to this bullshit:president bush proudly declared that american foreign policy no longer seeks to "manage calm," and derided policies that let anger and resentment lie "beneath the surface." bush said that the violence in the middle east was evidence of a more effective foreign policy that addresses "root causes."this is sheer, abject lunacy of the sort that imagined the invasion of iraq would lead to city squares in iraq named after george w. bush and the invasion would pay for itself out of oil revenues. the only appropriate reaction is to very loudly proclaim this is the reasoning of madmen. no rational human being thinks like this.
your credibility has been ruined already by falling for the preposterous lies and rationalizations prior to the iraq invasion. if you take this seriously, your immortal soul is majorly on the line ...
Thursday, July 27, 2006
steven d at booman tribune on the neocons, their bottomless thirst for conquest, and its role in the coming midterm elections:
... a while ago i predicted we were in for a wild ride this summer in terms of a coordinated campaign by conservative supporters of president bush to generate support for war with iran, in part to bolster the republican party's prospects for the mid term elections this fall. yet even i didn't anticipate the bush administration letting israel slip off it's [sic] leash to attack both the palestinians in gaza and hizbollah in lebanon. mea culpa.
i should have anticipated such murderous manipulation from the most immoral and deceitful administration in our history. if killing a few more arabs (and israelis) is what it takes to assure continued majorities in the house and senate for republicans, the bush team is more than happy to oblige. the fact that this approach has already failed miserably in iraq is of little consequence. retaining their power, and implementing the folly of an expanded war in the middle east is all that matters to them.
monstrous as this picture of the administration is, the reality may be even uglier. while steven portrays the israeli offensive merely as a means to an end — continued domestic political domination — the offensive may be an end in itself, as an irresistible incitement to war with the archnemesis iran.
the war trolls know that they're running out of time. they know that their clutch on the body politic may be significantly weakened come november. they know that they may never again in their lifetimes get another chance to dismember and resurrect a servile middle east — a chimera which never seemed more achingly close to birth.
this administration has only one modus: raising bogeymen. it has only one note: a shrill screech. it has only one concern: its own blasphemous survival. forget about acts of governance or evidence of accomplishment from these bloodthirsty maurauders. true leadership cannot hope to thrive as long as they remain battened onto a host as torpid and succulent as america. will the world will have strength enough left in 2008 to exorcise the vampires of vietnam for once and all?
i once called this administration a potemkin government, for its perverse devotion to pretense, but i was mistaken, because a potemkin government accomplishes nothing. as the bones, sucked dry, pile higher and higher in the desert, their leavings, their real achievement, can be seen for miles and miles: it is a charnel house.
painting by alex ross © 2004.
Monday, July 24, 2006
those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities. (voltaire)
even in an age of laser-guided precision instuments of mayhem, warfare still remains an untidy business. civilians still get slaughtered, exposing the slaughterers to bad press and, more inconvenient, the risk of legal sanction. just how can an honest warmonger do what he does best — mass murder — without all the headaches?
never fear, celebrity lawyer-pundit alan dershowitz is here! and he has just the solution you need when you can't — or won't — let pesky civilians hamstring your efforts to bomb your opponent into the stone age:
just redefine the term "civilian" — no purchase necessary!
... we need a new vocabulary to reflect the realities of modern warfare. a new phrase should be introduced into the reporting and analysis of current events in the middle east: "the continuum of civilianality." though cumbersome, this concept aptly captures the reality and nuance of warfare today and provides a more fair way to describe those who are killed, wounded and punished.
... the israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern lebanon that have been turned into war zones. those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. some — those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims.
... every civilian death is a tragedy, but some are more tragic than others.
it is epiphanies like these that honestly make me wonder if it is actually embarassing to be as brilliant as alan. i mean, this is so simple! no need to retool weapons or rethink strategies. (or — god forbid — question the legitimacy of the attacks!) just relabel the dead!
of course, a nonetheless elegant solution, even one as brilliant in its simplicity as this, can sometimes be a little too simple. as juan cole explains, does relabeling really go far enough?
alan "torture is ok" dershowitz is annoyed that the israelis have been accused of killing innocent civilians. he is now arguing that there are degrees of "civilianity." he wonders how many innocent civilians killed by israel in lebanon would still be innocent if we could make finer distinctions.
(he should read the lebanese newspapers and he would get the answer. one third of those killed by the israelis are children. i'd guess they are all civilian all the time. and then there are the families, like the canadian women, children and men blown up at aitaroun. i suppose they are really civilians. etc.)
but i don't know why dershowitz stops there. let me reformulate his argument for him. shouldn't we recognize degrees of humanness? after all, isn't that the real problem? that the enemy is considered a full human being in the law of war? that horrible supreme court judgment that hamdan had to be given a trial of some sort was based on the misunderstanding that he is a human being.
israeli officials have already showed us how arabs can be reclassified away from a full "human" category that they clearly, in the view of the kadima government, do not deserve.
for instance, israeli ambassador to the united nations dan gillerman angrily denounced kofi annan for neglecting this key fact. the guardian reports,' mr gillerman said "something very important was missing" from mr annan's speech: any mention of terrorism. hizbullah were "ruthless indiscriminate animals", he told reporters.'
so you see, one reason that you can just bomb the hell out of the lebanese in general is that they aren't human beings at all. they are "animals." you might quibble that gillerman is only referring to members of the hizbullah party as animals, not all lebanese. but most shiite lebanese, some 45 percent of the population, support hizbullah. and the lebanese government, made up of christians, sunnis and druze, let hizbullah into the lebanese government and gave it cabinet posts. so probably those who tolerate hizbullah are at most half-human. this has yet to be worked out. it might be possible to declare them .66 animal. or maybe they are just all animals. they speak arabic, after all, right mr. gillerman?
there is a problem with stopping here, however. it is not enough to reclassify some human beings as animals. after all, you have to treat animals humanely. you can even be fined for mistreating an animal, though probably you would not go to jail.
the staff of us secretary of state condi rice has made a suggestion for another, more convenient level, that of snake. thus, a senior white house official referred to the massive israeli bombing campaign and destruction of lebanon's civilization and killing of hundreds and wounding of over a thousand as "defanging" hezbollah. i am pretty sure that language is meant to suggest that the shiites of lebanon, although apparently human beings, are actually snakes. i suppose it is possible that another sort of reptile is is intended, but i suspect that "snake" is the intended classification.
but some snakes are protected species. we need a lower category. it is clear that some human beings are neither human nor animal. hamas and hizbullah members, for instance, are actually not even full organisms, just diseases.
israeli deputy consul general for san francisco, omer caspi, said of the lebanese and palestinian publics concerning hamas and hizbullah members, "we say to them please remove this cancer off your body and soul before it is too late."
caspi did not specify whether members of hamas are leukemia and those of hizbullah melanoma, or the reverse.
the good thing about finding out that some apparent human beings don't have to be treated as well as whales (which have almost been wiped out) is that it allows us to put behind all wimpy hesitancy just to do what needs to be done.
i mean, a cancer. everyone knows what you have to do with a cancer. it requires chemotherapy. it needs to be just exterminated, before it kills the snakes, animals and humans.
so we have the human beings, like israeli prime minister ehud "bomb'em back to the stone age" olmert and torture defender, attorney alan dershowitz.
then we have the animals, like the "persons" who vote for hizbullah and hamas.
then we have the level of human-appearing snakes, who need to be "defanged," which apparently involves killing their wives and children with air strikes.
then we have the cancers, who need to be "wiped out" immediately.
i understand that president bush is appointing alan dershowitz to be head of the "human-non-human metrics" commission that will decide which people are full human beings, and which fall into other categories, such as "animal," "snake," and "cancer."
it is rumored that that dershowitz intends to create a special category, of "cockroach," for the human-appearing creatures who dare to criticize him.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
when president bush was asked at the end of today's joint presser with russia's president vladimir putin — in prelude to the weekend g8 summit in st. petersberg, russia — about his "concerns about russian democracy", bush responded:
... i talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and i told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that russia would do the same thing ...
um, nice setup, dubya. his iraq comparison allowed putin to deftly close the session with this quip:
we certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in iraq, i will tell you quite honestly.
all dubya could do amid the laughter was helplessly blurt: "just wait — !"
but i have a feeling no one, especially putin, will be holding their breath.
man, that vladimir can be a tough act to follow ... especially when you try to pretend iraq isn't an ungovernable disaster.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
to celebrate the 230th birthday of the united states, juan cole is having a little holiday contest. can you identify how many of the complaints which thomas jefferson and his fellow signatories leveled against king george and britain in the declaration of independence could be leveled against george bush and his administration by current american and/or iraqi citizens?
the first one on jefferson's list is easy:
he has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good
this complaint against the department of homeland security is oddly comical in its archaic construction:
he has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance
while these offenses of the military occupation should be familiar to the iraqis:
he has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
- for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us
- for protecting them, by a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states
and these offenses familiar to the anonymous captives at guantanamo bay and hidden elsewhere in once-abandoned gulags scattered around the globe.
- for depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of trial by jury
- for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences
jefferson's list is quite long. for now, the rest of king george's crimes i leave to you.