Empty Days

Saturday, April 03, 2004



Another interesting observation: Andrew Sullivan's blog seems to have become somewhat more readable and less biased/cocksure after the gay-marriage screw-up. Toned down in every area, war and Bush included. Maybe because neither war nor Bush are doing so good these days. I don't know - but there seems to be some rethinking going on behind the curtains.

And that's fine by me. People gotta be able to change their minds according to what transpires in reality rather than some ethereal pet ideology of theirs (some lefties even taunted Sullivan that he's leaning to the left - that's far from true but it picks on actual changes).

***

Things *are* changing, and it's not just Sullivan. Here are interesting speculations from Stirling Newberry of BOPnews (links omitted):
With Rice's testimony set for April 8th and more energy panel documents coming - the house Democrats - a disempowered minority if ever there was one are showing renewed assertiveness - demanding an intel overhaul.

The problem? The Republicans have been caught short of testosterone right when they need it.

From the early 1990's onward, testosterone fueled Republican outrage. It just wasn't acceptable to have it on the Democratic side of the ledger - taking up "too much space", even if you were good at it, was out out out on the left. Cooperation meant intellectual leveling. Many young men - who, to be frank, have no real political convictions, but merely want to make their mark in the world, became Republicans, got their smirks issued to them, and enjoyed the ride.

Rush, Drudge, Instapundit all share that same jet fueled "kick butt" attitude, and if they are criticized on the right - it is for not wearing steel tips on Sundays. Which is why the recent turn of events has hit the Republicans in the most important place. Not, yet, with the voters, but with the writers who for a long time pointed, like weather vanes, from where the wind was blowing. Even if it was often just hot air, political nature abhors a vacuum.

Thus, Bush hiding behind Rice's skirts, and not testifying in public - and only with Cheney at the same time - says "weak" not enough Ronald Republican "standing tall". Instead it is back in wonk territory with detailed Russert lists being drawn up.

It says weakness.
----------

When the BBC asked should the bodies have been show, immediately one self-identified Bush support wrote in that showing the bodies "gave the terrorists a platform." It shows that the right is admitting it can't allow people to see certain things. There is, underneath this, a fussy victorianism, a "they can't see that, they aren't strong enough." For a while this could be played as strong protective government holding back the demons. But now, with the hit coming close to home it is clear that people want answers.

The test of strength is not the ability to strut, but the ability to hold up others whose will is faltering. "Be a man" the admonition runs from mothers to their sons - and it means, first and foremost, being a pillar of strength. [...]
It's an essay on elections - about how everybody is unclear as to what it's gonna be and what to expect.




It's interesting. In the past days BBC has been insistently showing radical Muslim clerics preaching to a radical congregation right in the middle of some british street, calling for Jihad against the west and the whole lot - they were chased out from the mosques by the moderate clerics, you see. The totally surreal effect is the juxtaposition of these scenes of open discourse of hate and recent arrests of plotting radicals in that very same London, UK.

I suppose if such an assembly were seen in the middle of some american street there'd be serious trouble - or at least major outrage. I just can't imagine anything like that taking place anywhere in North America, and that also includes Canada - believe it or not.

Coincidentally I just saw this post by A.Sullivan on the same subject - it gotta be too obvious to miss:
"There is nothing that me and you or the British services or the Government can do about stopping an attack in this country.[...]" - a British Muslim extremist. Radical Muslims burned the British flag in London yesterday and called to resist the notiont that mainstream Muslims should prevent or criticize terrorism.
Concidentally I just heard news on tv that some plotting Islamists were sorrounded by police in an appartment in a Spanish town and blew themselves up instead of surrendering. Obviously this injured some other people besides (residents of the appartment building).

This really ressembles what happened in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) recently - surrounded, about 20 extremists blew themselves up.

Things are heating up, it seems.




To close this series of highly diatribic posts, I'd like to cite this Oldman who, to my mind, speaks somewhere from the very gut of America (without all the links which are actually quite diverse):
Presenting the opposite view is Needlenose blog, that using LAT and CBS poll information puts Kerry ahead of Bush. Stirling Newberry discusses some of the contradictory trends including Kerry's slide in a poll but the press finally turning on Bush. Some of the variation we've been seeing in polls might be due to the public not knowing quite what to think with all the accusations flying (Andy Sullivan).

Meanwhile, I fear that the left may be going too far. Katzman is able to skewer Kos for his lapse of human decency, and in so doing obscure the indecency of "hanging out guys like that in the first place to dry" (Maxspeaks) for what everyone admits are at best is a poorly executed gamble.

I understand the left being angry. I'm upset too. However, again and again I've seen the left let anger get them to act silly or stupid and turn off people in the middle or the right like yours truly who have serious objections to the Administration's conduct (via Atrios). The Economist is by no means a liberal publication it should be repeated.
Perhaps somebody will at last hear this simple truth and take cue. But I doubt it.




I am Canadian. Why would a Canadian have such strong feelings about Iraq and the state of Amerika? Really - isn't it a private US business? Well, no. I wish to God it were but it's not. It never was and never could have been. And sending in the whole of US army does not mean that it's a US-only business. Too bad the world is such a tight neighbourhood. Too bad this administration never gave this fact a second thought. Too bad it always thinks it knows what it's doing. Too bad.

Believe me - if I could just sit there, watch it all and not give a damn I would, I swear. With great pleasure. I hate politics, I avoid newspapers. But sometimes I can't avoid it - sometimes it hits too close to home. Literally.

***

Quote of reality:
"We think Nato is simply not the right place where a decision should be prepared or taken concerning the situation in Iraq after 1 July," he said, referring to the date of the planned handover of sovereignty to a caretaker government in Iraq.

Mr Powell had suggested Nato could take over a sector in Iraq or train Iraqi security forces.

But many in Nato have been insisting on a new United Nations Security Council resolution before deploying the alliance's troops in Iraq.
That's exactly how things stand. Why is Bush refusing to cooperate with the UN? No doubt because he believes that it would mean "surrendering" too many benefits - let's waste more of our troops to keep all we want to keep. That's what this means, basically.




Light under the door

I've purposefully kept out of the politico blogosphere for most of my short blogging-career (begun in mid october 2003 - apparently I am one of the many who heard the word "blog" on tv one fine day, decided to check it out and got swept in without hope of ever getting out - I hope I am just kidding here).

But this Clarke affair re-ignited in the most powerful way (for me, mostly a tv-viewer) an issue that I thought was long buried in hopeless and fated onslaught of events - and by that I mean the Iraq War, and why the hell it's even happening, and what it did to the USA of America, and the rest of the goddam world, and where is the light in this fucked up situation.

For the first time since the beginning of this whole build-up for war and then war itself and then the transparent lies and bullshit speculations about how fine it was going, and the stupid superficial bitching and bickering between Amerika and Europe, and the half-disclosures of half-truths inside USA (wmd's, bush-awol, oil-for-us, oil-for-france, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit), and the blown-out underminings (Dean-on-the-net, gay-marriage-for-Bush, Jesus-Christ-superstar, Kerry-in-Nam, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit) -- after all this endless boundless hopelessly inept yapping and shrieking, after all this stagnating darkness, muteness of big media, overpowering lies against blatant reality, after all of this - finally! - the dam of fated *untruth* has given a crack: Kerry took shape, gathered a wave and in stepped Clarke.

***

What is the significance of Clarke-effect? Is it about how Clinton was better than Bush or how Bush was worse than Clinton? Is it about how 9/11 could or could not be prevented? Is it about how the lefties were right and the righties were wrong or vice-versa? Is it about...

NO. It is about none of this combined. The only, the deepest, the most important effect of Clarke's meteoric apparition in these particular circumstances, on that particular wave of political and popular *zeitgeist* is the furry he's unleashed by throwing all his seasoned weight against the cracking dam - of the fucken big media, in the fucking big media - the epicenter of which furry is the War in Iraq as personified by Bush, the bleeding sore of all untruth and of all divisions inside and outside USA - and the question of what to do about this war-as-Bush and how. What to do about it inside and outside Iraq - NOW.

For the first time it appeared clearly, clarkely, that *something* can be done - that there is light under the door - that the media can talk after all - that there is a crack in the dam - that it can fall. That Bush and Iraq are not one and the same - that Iraq and all its dead and dying can be taken away from Bush's grip and saved - yes, saved.

And when I say Bush I don't mean that guy who appears on tv all the time - Bush stands for something else entirely, ladies and gentlemen, and it is against this *something else* that the furry is unleashed - this something is a hydra with many heads and not all are visible, and it's no use trying to cut the god-head first - this something is to be dealt with at the source, at the root - pull the root to light and it will whither like a fucking earth-worm under the blazing sun.

***

John Dean has said that the War in Iraq in worse than Watergate and is actually an impeachable offense. This sounds literal and will be hotly disputed in its literal sense, but in truth it is a very symbolic representation - J.W.Dean's book is a shadow of Clarke-effect, it only gives real words to that *something* that's been gagging the whole country into complete and utter submission.

Deep Throat of the Watergate era is an obscene reference to the most popular porn movie of the 70's. Deep Throat means and implies exactly what it means and implies: that a whole nation has been gagged into submission and put on its knees in a sort of erotic elation over being so thoroughly dominated.

Where's Andrew Sullivan? It's his area of underhand S/M expertise and he'd write it up with much more gusto than I can - and publish it in a national review as well. And no one would as much as *squeak*. Because, hey, that's where you have it - deep down your throat, folks.

How can a government that sits proudly on its own people's face even consider to answer to its people? How can you talk to your gov while it gags you stiff? Throw it off and spit it out - then you will talk, then will they listen. That's the root, you gotta pull it out - and now you can, enough to groan and fight back at least.

***

Fallujah happened and brought it all home once more. Had it happened a month or even a few weeks ago, it would have meant something entirely different. The usual - nothing would come out of it - no resonance, no echo, no light. Today Fallujah may mean a blessing in disguise. It sends a strong appeal to the public mind that all is not well in Iraq - that all is not right in Iraq-as-Bush.

I have not words strong enough for all the lefty morons who think it's a great occasion to spit out once more how they were so right about this bad war and how they hate the righties with their "one-sided patriotism" (as if it were such a paradox) - and all the useless inane pseudo-humanistic bullshit that usually comes out of them on such occasions.

Don't you see, flaming idiots (strong words? not nearly), that this is not the moment to yap and beat your chest, but the very moment to seize so as to open the public eye on what is happening there - not to inflate your poor pundity egos and feed your ideological venom once more, but to work to reverse the horrific messy policy that is sinking Iraq like a giant Titanic, with all its locals and all its US troops. Work to overturn that policy, take away Iraq from Bush, force and pressure this iron-fist administration to cooperate with allies *for real*, loosen US-only hold on Iraq - and you will completely unravel this hydra that is speaking through Bush.

You will unravel the hydra behind Bush and you will pull Iraq back on track by the same token - can you believe that? It can be done now, I think. For real.

I'll tell you a secret: the core of Bush-power depends on US-only control of Iraq. That's what it's planted in, both feet in. That's what it means by "War on Terror" - it's no war on terror, it's war for Iraq as a dominion of USA. You can and must pressure to take it away. Loosen their grip on Iraq - and the grip will loosen at home.

***

Why am I writing all this? Because it would never have occurred to me to write anything of the kind only a month ago. Am I wrong? Am I right? I say what I think and I say what I see. I see things moving. Or maybe I am looking too closely and all this is nothing but a myopic delusion and play of shadows on the blank wall.

I say what I feel. Other people feel that too. They have no voice, they don't shriek and yap for all to hear, they're not marching in useless peacenik parades, or pounding their chest in continuous celebrations of fake victories. They sit in their homes and wait for the tide to turn, for the light to trickle in, they wait for truth.

Watergate was a moment of truth - it broke the dam of lies, opened and cleaned a festering wound. What would it take to break this dam today?




Trust, democracy and national unity

Since I've recently become a faithful watcher of Bill Moyers' "NOW" on PBS, I didn't miss the one aired yesterday where Moyers conveniently interviewed no other than John Dean of Watergate fame - who wrote a book on the formidable secrecy peculiar to the Bush WH. Of course, this is kinda too close to Clarke and one might perhaps imagine that J.Dean took less than a week to write his book. However, he finished it in January. And I am not going to read it (even if somebody sent it to me for free, heh) - because I don't need to. I don't need to read a book that tries to show just how much the current WH is opposed to any sort of transparency, let alone investigation. Because it's just too obvious. It's a book that speaks the obvious - and if you need proofs, facts and arguments to make your case for what you see pretty much every day, go ahead and spend a buck to read it or try your most honest to disagree.

The never-ending scandal is not that such a book has been written - the scandal is that such a book even needed writing. Precisely this kind of book, on precisely this topic - on stone-walling, secrecy and non-responsiveness of a government in the most powerful democracy on earth. Luckily (or unfortunately) there have been precedents - this particular democracy has been fucked over a few times already, in precisely that way, and precisely with those tactics. So it's not like you can stand there all blue-eyed and innocent, and wonder with puzzled heart how it is that your government prefers to spit on you instead of proving to you how it's doing a good job and on what grounds it thinks it's good - and let you see what it's doing, in case of doubt.

Someone somewhere has said that democracy is based on trust. Americans trust their president. Maybe they don't trust the gov bureaucracy so much but, unless you're a Waco guerrilla, you basically trust that what comes out of the mouth of your highest officials is somehow connected to some sort of truth and is supposed to be based on good intentions.

And if it's not connected to either of these fundamentals you expect it to be discovered, proved and investigated. And if you can't do that, then you're in trouble. In very big trouble - because then your gov becomes unaccountable. That's a scandal, yes. And it's damn scary too.

Here is what Moyers heard from Dean, among other things. And I'll add my own emphasis, if you excuse me:
BILL MOYERS: Vietnam and Watergate. Those were the two--

JOHN DEAN: No question that they are Watergate and Vietnam are very related in many ways. But so after Watergate, you have this very questioning media. You have a lot of investigative journalism. And this really runs right through the Clinton Years. And somehow, almost like a switch was hit. When the Bush Administration came into office somebody hit that switch. And no longer is there that doubt. No longer is that questioning.

BILL MOYERS: You say secrecy is out of hand.

JOHN DEAN: No question. It's out of hand because it's never been as severe. When these people moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, they closed the doors, they pulled the shades, and they put, in essence, a gag order out.
Of course, the FOX channel would argue that this is actually for the good - it promotes strong leadership and national unity. Who needs questioning, doubts and fears in a time of war? Let's rally behind our leaders, let's entrust our lives to them, there can be no evil in WH - that's why it's white, you know. The whiter the WH looks, the better the nation feels. Secrecy is good. Let's forget doubts, let's promote trust - by never questioning any of WH's decisions or operation. It can only be good. This is democracy. Or is it?

This blog here carries a not too lengthy except from John Dean's conversation with Moyers, and adds his own thoughts on it.

I will carry another lengthy excerpt, brace yourself :)
BILL MOYERS: You know, there is no way that we're not gonna be accused of Bush-bashing. Part of the temper of the times is that journalistically it's inevitable, I think, in this polarized country today. But what's beyond that? What is at stake here?

JOHN DEAN: Well, I'm not interested in Bush bashing. I'm really only interested in the truth getting out, people understand a very complex and sensitive issue. And that is secrecy.

In fact, I rely, if you notice in the book on every chapter I start with somebody who is of Mr. Bush's party, talking and complaining about his excessive secrecy. This isn't a partisan issue for me.

This isn't an issue of Republicans versus Democrats. This is an issue of good government versus bad government. This is an informed electorate and an uninformed electorate.

And I don't think there are any options here. And it's not to me, if the truth is bashing, I'll take the charge. If when I see people making wild and baseless charges, I find that to be bashing.

BILL MOYERS: Are there any sour grapes here? I mean could it be said that your White House career ended in disgrace, while the young Cheney and Rumsfeld went on from one success to another, not only in business, but in government? Is there something about-- of an old blood feud here?

JOHN DEAN: Not for me, anyway. Not in the slightest. Bill, this is a book I could have never planned on writing. I had written a number of columns. And it just kept getting worse and worse and worse.

And I said, "Nobody's speaking to these issues." I have no grudge against any of these people at all. I'm just I'm deeply disappointed in them. Deeply disappointed. And a bit frightened by them.

BILL MOYERS: You-- how so?

JOHN DEAN: That they absolutely won't, you know, what the world opinion is, is irrelevant to them. What the Americans' opinion, other than their base, is irrelevant.

They're on their own wavelength, and not listening. And they're men of zeal, while I think in their hearts they believe they're doing the right thing. This is the most dangerous kinda situation.

When you move in secrecy and you're not taking outside advice, when you get that bunker mentality, which I'm sure you saw in the Johnson administration, we saw in the Nixon White House. This is when you make bad decisions.


BILL MOYERS: I haven't seen you for many, many years. But I have noted that both of us are somewhat zealots ourselves about secrecy. And I know mine comes out of realizing too late what the price - that democracy really does die behind closed doors.

JOHN DEAN: Absolutely. Well, you know, Bill, I don't come at this as a partisan. I mean I really left those days long behind me. I'm a registered Independent. I vote for both Republicans, I vote for Democrats. I vote for the issues.

And you know, I didn't wanna get in the mix of a partisan thing. But I do think these are issues that must be on the table.

BILL MOYERS: You say in here that even more so than Nixon, they come after their enemies list, the people on their enemies list. I mean we see what's happening to Clarke. What's gonna happen to you again?

JOHN DEAN: You know, they can't hurt me at this point. I'm damaged material already.

BILL MOYERS: The book is WORSE THAN WATERGATE: THE SECRET PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH, by John W. Dean. Thank you for joining us on NOW.
True. John Dean is no Richard Clarke - but I am sure there will be enough of those who will claim his effort is worthless and a pure partisan lie - how can it not be when it's a book that doesn't say Bush and Co are great and wonderful and the sneeky author might make some cash off it? I mean, it's obvious - books on politics should never be sold but distributed for free in your local store. Like condoms in HS lavatories - for public good, you know.




There is much outcry in the blogosphere about a rather volatile comment on DailyKos' blog concerning the lynching in Fallujah - for some reason, this guy decided that it was ok since those corpses were there for money (merceneries). Gee. How does that justify hanging them from a brigde? Or diminish the effect of corpses hanging from a bridge? Civilian contractors are also there for money etc.

It's an interesting comment for it says:

April 1, 2004 at 15:08:56 GMT
Every death should be on the front page

Let the people see what war is like. This isn't an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush's folly.
That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.


What's even more interesting is that after all the outcry he deleted this comment - it's now replaced by some wishy-washy stuff. I guess Kos must be seeing some sympathy for Bush now - you make mistakes, then you scramble to hide them and say it never happened or wasn't as bad as it looked. Heh.

Anyway. What I was going to say is this, and it's something to watch for at all times - people stop feeling human feelings when something goes against their ideology. It happened to Instapundit - who had nothing to say about the massacre when it happened. Why? Because it upset his idea of how everything is pretty much ok in Iraq. Then it happened to Kos - he stopped feeling because the popular reaction to this massacre went against his idea that everybody should hate this war as much as possible instead of wanting to punish the "bad guys".

All this bullshit about mercenaries was just a clever rationalization of that "ideological conflict" - that as long as you can't exploit an event to the advantage of your cause, you just can't care.

Instapundit, Kos, whoever. It's all the same bullshit and it happens all the time and you gotta watch out for it because it does screw up people's thinking quite enormously. Watch out for ideology gagging humanity. Heil Hitler :)

Friday, April 02, 2004



The crux of the matter

The Volokh Conspiracy (which is an all-jewish neocon outlet by its own admission) doesn't understand how giving some international legitimacy to the Iraq war could improve things there. He quotes this argument from Slate:
If there is a way to deal with the insurgents, it will be fundamentally political -- and it will have to take shape in the next few months. Two things are necessary. First, the occupying "coalition" must be broadened, and the occupation authority must be turned over to some international body. The Bush administration seems to realize this -- hence Bremer's recent urgent calls for the United Nations to mediate internal disputes in Iraq. Will an international organization -- the U.N., NATO, the Arab League, or whatever -- be more effective than the U.S.-led CPA? Maybe, maybe not. But it would be more legitimate...
And comments:
I don't get this. It wasn't the French who killed the four contractors. It wasn't the U.N. It wasn't anyone who cares about "legitimacy." Would Islamist radicals behave any differently if NATO were controlling the show rather than the U.S.? Would the ex-Baathists? Would even the local supporters of the killers support them any less if NATO were in charge?

Now it is possible that the Islamists and ex-Baathists would be more open to the Arab League's running the occupation theory. (It's also conceivable that the same would be true if the U.N. were running it, but I highly doubt it.) But is there any reason to think that the Arab League will actually provide remotely effective security? That it would fairly treat the Shiites and the Sunni, and for that matter the non-Arab Kurds? That parts of it won't be infiltrated by the Baathists or the Islamists? Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe I'm underestimating the competence and reliability of Arab League. But I don't think so.

Legitimacy is not an end in itself, at least in this situation. It is a means towards effective peace-keeping, which of course means to the extent necessary, effective war-making (since even the most "legitimate" body will have to hunt down those people who keep fighting against them). I don't see how any of the other examples that Kaplan points to will be more effective.
That's interesting because that's exactly how a whole lot of people think about this. They're convinced that 90% of Iraqis are basically favorable to US presence, despite whatever reservations, and that it's only a small group of rabid insurgents who cause all the havoc and need stamping out, like a burning cigarette in a pile of hay. The logic is simple: just keep stamping out those cigarette buts and all will be well in the end.

What Volokh is not getting - or, more accurately, refuses to "get" - is that perhaps there is no such thing as the 90% popular support, however lukewarm, that the US can rely on. That the stack of hay may be too dry on trust - and it is this basic *trust* that needs restoring rather than just running around stamping out burning hate. The lack of legitimacy, which originally incited and continues to deepen that lack of trust, creates too much of an inflamable environment for that hate to propagate like a wild fire across all the disgruntled varieties of the local society.

How do you restore trust, if it wasn't really there in the first place? Sure - thanks for ridding us of Saddam, but you know what: we really don't like you, we think you are here for your own ends, you want to fight some war-on-terror that got nothing to do with us, so get the hell out. The only way to dissolve that logic is to involve the rest of the world, to show at last that you're not there only for yourself - that's what the argument of legitimacy is all about.

This is pretty fundamental. And it's too bad such a lot of people prefer to imagine that USA is at all welcome in Iraq. It's there alright - but it's not well trusted, and with good reason. If the climate was really as favorable as people here wish to believe, I don't think we'd see such a steady proliferation of hate and insurgency as we've seen in the past year. It's important to recognize that and stop acting as if all of this were nothing but an endless series of "isolated incidents" perpetrated by some misguided thugs.

(The thing about Arab League doesn't deserve much discussion - these guys won't mess with Iraq at this point for the life of them, it's too much of a messy issue, they'll rather wait to see how the UN fares in there first.)

***

Another pro-war blogger is convinced that the thing in Fallujah was an Al-Quaeda deed. I wonder who told him so. But he's dead-set on that idea and short of a massive Sunny uprising nothing will convince him otherwise, and even then - unless it comes from FOXnews or such.

In the end I have to wonder what these people even mean by "Al-Quaeda" :-0

***

Update. To my immense surprise and amusement, Volokh saw my post and then he saw red - and wrote a debunking. Apparently he thinks I am a raving anti-semite no doubt intent on destroying Israel and all its children. And what else could be expected of somebody sporting a canadian flag? Talk about vitiol:
WE JEWS are apparently a biased, untrustworthy lot -- but at least we can read. Empty Days begin its response to my legitimacy post this way:

The Volokh Conspiracy (which is an all-jewish neocon outlet by its own admission) doesn't understand how giving some international legitimacy to the Iraq war could improve things there.

Oh, that's what's important! We're all Jews (not quite accurate, but close enough), and neocons to boot. Actually I've never said that I'm a neocon (I haven't figured out the articles of faith enough to decide whether I am or not), but never mind. Here's how our Jewish biases apparently manifest themselves:
[quotes my post - see above]

As I said, we Jews are apparently evil and selfish, but we are smart, and we can apparently read better than other people. When reading my post, for instance:
[quotes his own post - see above]

we'd notice that none of it remotely relies on the notion that 90% of the Iraqis like us. Rather, the post argues that (1) there's little reason to think that Iraqis will like NATO more than they like us, and (2) even though some of them might like the Arab League and conceivably the U.N. more than they like us, being liked isn't good enough -- you also have to be effective, and the Arab League won't be.

But the admitted Canadian (there's that little maple leaf flag on the blog, and obviously it tells us volumes) Mr. Days seems to have somehow missed this. Our flaming Jewishness must have temporarily blinded him.
Yeah, thanks for noticing the flag - though I don't see how spitting on flags would do anybody any good, but that's a matter of opinion, I guess. As to all this offended-jewishness-sos-pc-police talk, I have to wonder why the Volokh guys feel the need to explicate at length how they're all pure-bred jewish on their blog. Sorta cliquish, I figure. Oy-vey, a conspiracy! :)

Otherwise I do concede I didn't address Volokh's point directly but rather tried to understand why he sees no light in better legitimacy. Involving UN (with perhaps some support from the elusive Arab League) doesn't mean pulling out all US troops - if that's what Volokh implies by effectiveness. Creating a better climate of trust for these troops to operate for law and order can't be a bad thing - and the glaring fact so far is that the US-led CPA has not been able to do that, but not at all.

Better legitimacy simply means better communication - that's all is needed for now, better communication between Iraqis and the occupying force. Once the goodwill is there you could talk of reconstruction, nation-building and all the rest.

***

Update II: Randy and Eugene, if only you guys spent a bit less time gloating over supposed antisemitisms and spent at least a fraction of these precious lawyer-minutes talking about what's happening to America in Iraq, then this would have a more certain ring to it:
And me? Like my father, I have always considered myself American. Not Russian, German, Polish, or Lithuanian -- American. Although I am now a nonobservant nonbeliever, for some reason I still consider myself Jewish. And for me, America has always been the "Promised Land."
Thank you for your attention. Oxblog was right: a strange silence has fallen over the blogosphere (some parts of it at least).

Thursday, April 01, 2004



Iraq - insider view

Excellent post over at Collounsbury (Financial guy in Iraq). Excerpt:
Worse, however, as the author above suggests, and as an article I quote below (from a pro-war observer) suggests, the current Administration has no clue as to how to go forward. None whatsoever. Policy is at present driven by short-term political expediancy and is incoherent. It is failure in the making.
And this is his closing commentary but the whole article contains much more and is far more to the point than most of the speculative stuff we usually get on the subject:
The problem is there is no sign that this Administration has truly grappled with the changes necessary to change direction and save themselves from a Vietnam like disaster, that is a disaster created not by military inadequacy but a fundamentally flawed vision of the political and social landscape upon which they are trying to write down their macro-political theory into reality. This utter lack of comprehension of the real driving forces, the strange incoherence which seems to stem from cognitive dissonance between their theoretical structures and the reality.... it is the recipe for a mini-Vietnam for the political framework in which they are trying to operate in Iraq is a failure and always will be.
By the way - this is a man who is in danger of his life, given what happens to contractors and civilian westerners in Iraq these days. Check it out.

***

Actually, here's another post of his, on the day of the massacre in Fallujah (and more about it on his blog):
I watched the fairly graphic video of the murder of the presumed American civilians in or around Falluja. It was disturbing. As disturbing was the fact that my maid, an Iraqi Shiite was clearly happy.

Well, I warned a year ago that invading Iraq in the circumstances which the US set up for itself was opening Pandora's box. The cycle of rage and revenge I think is not breakable now - not with US troops at least. I have a hard time seeing a way out of this, ever harder. Regardless, recall I noted the oreintation for staff heading in- country.
Is that groundless pessimism? Or perhaps the optimism of the arm-chair pundits back home is groundless? Goddam know-it-all's.




From AP news (via AOL), follow-up to yesterday's incident:
In Fallujah, police retrieved the remains of the four slain Americans on Wednesday night, wrapped them in blankets, and gave them to U.S. forces, said Iraqi police officer Lt. Salah Abdullah.
...
Iraqi police manned roadside checkpoints in and around Fallujah, but no U.S. troops could be seen inside. Shops and schools were open.

Some residents vowed to repel any U.S. forces.

"We will not let any foreigner enter Fallujah,'' said Sameer Sami, 40.
"Yesterday's attack is proof of how much we hate the Americans.''
...
04/01/04 08:52 EST
Americans can't go into the city, that much is clear. I am sure they would if they could count on any sort of backing from locals - at least to get the bodies out. Rotten stuff. And if you're counting on any meaningful reporting as to what's really going on in that area, why and how it got so inaccessible all of a sudden - forget it, there is no information. The best I can gather is that the ongoing policies of the past few months contributed to radicalize that place to an unbelievable degree. Who is now controlling the minds in Fallujah?

We do not know.




Air America Radio (via Atrios) listen live. Of course that also gave me the idea to listen to Rush Limbaugh - as I never cared to hear this guy live either (as I don't drive I also don't listen to no talk-radio, ever). Update: and let's throw in NPR for good measure :-0

***

I've been going to conservative blogs a lot recently, because of Clarke thing and all. I want to know what's in people's heads and why. The most obvious thing is that there is this pile of misconceptions about what "the other camp" thinks - and this is of course a mutual thing. The interesting part is discovering why I myself think how I do - in the light of opposing convictions.

I mean, after all, why am I not a big conservative myself? "What's wrong with me?" It's true that conservative guys really love military history and "decisive action" and are impatient with too much pondering and wondering. But hey - I also have a pragmatic streak, and I also don't like too much wishy-washy talk. As to disinformation, I don't think it's such a simple thing. I am sure I am quite malinformed myself, and my preconceptions are not all my own - I catch them from thin air, and only certain things stick with me while others don't. It's a matter of perspective.

I think the biggest liberal misconception is to think of themselves as the always-superior "good guys" who are more intelligent, more truthful and better informed than the typical conservative. That's not exactly true though.

But it's late and I'll develop this another time.

***

Andrew Sullivan can't drive. He's a bike guy. Oh wow.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004



The incident today in Iraq was thoroughly edited on american and canadian tv, though CBC "dared" to show those charred bodies hanging from the bridge - for about a tenth of a second. This is nothing new, we are well-protected from too much bad news, and we really don't want to know too much either. Because, apparently, sensationalism stimulates emotion and it is very easy to manipulate emotionally disturbed viewers. I would contend that we already get wonderfully manipulated as it is, so I don't think the problem lies with the power of images per se but with the commentary that goes with it. And for that reason here are the sordid pictures that were not shown.




Click for more.

***

Instapundit has this to say about this:
BAD DAY IN FALLUJAH: I don't have a lot to say about this: it seems clear that the bad guys are still trying for a repeat of Mogadishu, unaware that the script has changed.

That's pundits for you: they think the whole world is out to impress them - or not.

My comment: in a remotely well-controlled country "the bad guys" would at least have to hide after the deed. Here you have by-standers cheering and having a feast - they didn't kill but they're damn glad somebody did. Does it look like Mogadishu? Nops. It looks like Gaza.

***

Update. OxBlog, another neocon outlet, wonders how come Instapundit et al have nothing to say all of a sudden:

HORROR AND SILENCE: The savage brutality of yesterday's murders in Fallujah has shocked the blogosphere into silence. How often does an event of this magnitude provoke only a few lines of commentary from some of the most prolific authors on the web? On the other hand, are there any words that can say as much as the images of joyous young men hacking away at a charred American corpse?

Perhaps it will become possible to think about yesterday's slaughter once the numb and shock begin to wear off.


The remark is true. But I have to wonder: why is it never possible to look facts straight in the face and at least admit that things might not be as good as you want them? Why do you have to cheer instead of giving some thought to *reality* - or fall into immediate despair instead of taking a look at what might be going wrong and needs correcting?

It seems to me that the staunch supporters of this war are simply afraid to look at the real picture - because it teaches lessons they don't want to learn. In their partisan ardor they forget that this is not a football team they're cheering for - but a messy, bloody, uncertain and saddening process called "military occupation of a foreign country". But they're too afraid the US public will act emotional and demand an immediate retreat - so they go on and pretend it's a football game that needs cheering. And when something goes too obviously wrong to conceal, they fall silent. Instead of looking at what's really happening, at what needs improvement, change, corrective - they fall silent. Only to resume cheering once the moment has passed.

Hell. I don't like this war at all. Yet I don't want the US to mess it up still further now that they're there - for themselves and the rest of us in the world. I am not cheering for their defeat. But I am not going to cheer for official stupidity either. Something is not going right and it's not just because of some "small and resilient hate-filled minority" in some small town. This needs constructive thought and pressure for change - not cheering or wailing.

And certainly not silence.




I will quote this and be done with the subject for now because already a few days ago I saw Iraqi by-standers jump and dance on the burning car while two white-men bodies lay next to it. A Canadian and a Briton security guards for GE engineers have been shot (one point-blank to the head). The hot-potato 6-o'clock news showed blatant close-ups of the corpses - the 11-o'clock news cut that out. They're editing like hell in those newsrooms.
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) - Jubilant residents yanked the bodies of four foreigners - one a woman, at least one an American - out of their burning cars Wednesday, dragged the charred corpses through the streets, and hung them from the bridge spanning the Euphrates River. Five American troops died in a roadside bombing nearby.

The brutal treatment of the four corpses came after they were killed in a rebel attack on their SUVs in the Sunni Triangle city about 35 miles west of Baghdad, scene of some of the worst violence on both sides of the conflict since the beginning of the American occupation a year ago.

It was reminiscent of the 1993 scene in Somalia, when a mob dragged the corpse of a U.S. soldier through the streets of Mogadishu, eventually leading to the American withdrawal from the African nation.

In one of the bloodiest days for the U.S. military this year, five American troops died when their military vehicle ran over a bomb in a separate incident 12 miles to the northwest, among the reed-lined roads through some of Iraq's richest farmland.

Residents said the bomb attack occurred in Malahma, 12 miles northwest of Fallujah, where anti-U.S. insurgents are active. U.S. Marines operate in the area, but it was unclear whether the slain troops were Marines.

Chanting ``Fallujah is the graveyard of Americans,'' residents cheered after the grisly assault on two four-wheel-drive civilian vehicles, which left both in flames. Others chanted, ``We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam.''

Associated Press Television News pictures showed one man beating a charred corpse with a metal pole. Others tied a yellow rope to a body, hooked it to a car and dragged it down the main street of town. Two blackened and mangled corpses were hung from a green iron bridge across the Euphrates.

``The people of Fallujah hanged some of the bodies on the old bridge like slaughtered sheep,'' resident Abdul Aziz Mohammed said. Some of the corpses were dismembered, he said.

Beneath the bodies, a man held a printed sign with a skull and crossbones and the phrase ``Fallujah is the cemetery for Americans.''

APTN showed the charred remains of three slain men. Some were wearing flak jackets, said resident Safa Mohammedi.

One resident displayed what appeared to be dog tags taken from one body. Residents also said there were weapons in the targeted cars. APTN showed one American passport near a body and a U.S. Department of Defense identification card belonging to another man.

U.S. military officials in Washington said the situation was still confused but they did not think the victims were American soldiers and believed the SUVs were not American military vehicles.

Witnesses said the two vehicles were attacked with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades.

Hours after the attack, the city was quiet. No U.S. troops or Iraqi police were seen in the area.

Fallujah is in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where support for Saddam Hussein was strong and rebels often carry out attacks against American forces.

In nearby Ramadi, insurgents threw a grenade at a government building and Iraqi security forces returned fire Wednesday, witnesses said. It was not clear if there were casualties.

Also in Ramadi, a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. convoy, witnesses said. U.S. officials in Baghdad could not confirm the attack.

On Tuesday in Ramadi, one U.S. soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside bombing, said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt.

Northeast of Baghdad, in the city of Baqouba on Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew up explosives in his car when he was near a convoy of government vehicles, wounding 14 Iraqis and killing himself, officials said.

The attacked convoy is normally used to transport the Diala provincial governor, Abdullah al-Joubori, but he was elsewhere at the time, said police Col. Ali Hossein.

On Tuesday, a suicide bombing outside the house of a police chief in Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, killed the attacker and wounded seven others.

A bomb exploded late Tuesday in a movie theater that had closed for the night. Two bystanders were wounded by flying glass, said its owner, Ghani Mohammed.

The latest violence came two days after Carina Perelli, the head of a U.N. electoral team, said better security is vital if Iraq wants to hold elections by a Jan. 31 deadline. The polls are scheduled to follow a June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government.

Top U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer said Tuesday he had appointed 21 anti-corruption inspectors general to government departments to try to prevent fraud. More will be named in coming days, he said.

The inspectors will work with two other newly formed, independent agencies. Together, they will ``form an integrated approach intended to combat corruption at every level of government across the country,'' Bremer said.

03/31/04 09:01 EST
That's from AOL top news, so no links. Recently OTB reported that a bunch of american MPs in a detention-center there were charged with cruelty and indecent assaults against inmates (reported by their colleagues, OTB proudly noted). Right.

What I am saying is that the climate is rotten in Iraq. And this is not lost on either the american troops there or those Iraqis who are intent on causing havoc. They gotta change that climate before they can even begin doing something constructive in there.




Was just wondering...
Fisking

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Fisking, or "to Fisk", refers to the act of deconstructing, often in minute detail, an article, essay, argument, etc. with the intent of challenging its conclusion or theses by highlighting supposed logical fallacies and incorrect facts. The practice was named in honor of British journalist Robert Fisk after he issued a dispatch from Pakistan describing his savage beating at the hands of Afghani refugees and expressing his opinion that, if he were in their position, he would have treated any Westerner the same. The term first appeared on either of the web logs http://www.instapundit.com or http://www.andrewsullivan.com and has to an extent retained its original ideological associations in that "Fiskings" are usually performed by conservatives on their left-wing opponents, especially those with strong Third worldist sentiments.
Umm, I'd say it is of sullivanite origine, with occult homoerotic reference to "fisting" and everything it implies thereafter (subcultural echo: Mapplethorpe). I was indeed wondering how it is that everybody is gladly using such a barely veiled obscenity :)




Once again I am experiencing a total information overload (actually, I wouldn't call this informed information but it's a lot of stuff to take in). TV + internet and I have something like 20 pages opened at any given time. And I can't just skip through - I actually read these things, which is probably a stupid idea. Honestly, I don't know how those pundit-guys do it, dishing out so many links - maybe it's an energy thing and I just get tired while they go on and on like that Duracell rabbit (where is he, btw?).

In retrospect I almost regret I learned English well enough to understand everything that is being said and written. Jesus - if I stayed with French-only my picture of the world would be so less torn than it is now. But I wanted to flee Europe in my mind. And I got my desert.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004



There will be many documentaries about Rwanda coming up. It's started already.

This is instrumental in two ways - reminding "the world" (is that us, the stupid helpless viewers?) what happens in a country after half of the population kills the other half and then both have to live together despite the so-recent past and so many orphans and killers; but also reminding the world what is wrong with concentrating exclusively on some popular issue while horrible things are brewing elsewhere but are of no direct concern to "us" (today that might be War-on-Terror vs Sudan, for example).

I don't think it will do much good though. But it's better than complete oblivion.

***

Update. Apparently people are noticing Sudan. However just look what FOXnews proposes as solution. I've always suspected that Instapundit was low on brain material but never knew to just what extent :-0




Some interesting comment I read on BOPnews - as to what's really happening in the american back-country regarding Bush, Iraq etc:
As I'm an ex-urban living in a rural area that qualifies as a "Bushburg" (Greene County, Ohio) I welcome any encouragement. This am going to work, I overheard two typical former Bush voters expressing disgruntled opinions, and I was surprised to hear one say something regarding how "we want world domination" - I had not as yet heard criticism of this aspect of foreign policy from these types of people! He did not say it as a "yeah, go team" type remark, but more as one of our problems as a nation. I would not before now have given such a person credit for speaking the term.

Posted by: francoise at March 29, 2004 10:34 AM
Not bad, hein? I might have to revise my opinions yet. It is pretty hard to figure out what's going on in the larger world when you have to rely on blogosphere + media exclusively. But the previous excerpt from Buzzmachine still stands - and this is a very urban type speaking.

***

In other news it appears Afghanistan has been so thoroughly forgotten as a country still in dire need of reconstruction that it's once again threatening to fall apart. I just hope Americans will not let this country down after they finally get the oh-so-symbolic head of Osama on the silver plate. (CBC)

***

Big arrests of plotting Pakistani-born terrorists in and around London, England - with explosives attached. (BBC)

Not so big arrest here in Ottawa. The family of the arrested man claim the accusations are misguided. We'll see. After Maher Arar mess-up the accuracy of canadian intelligence efforts is really suspect. (CTV)

Simultaneously, Canadian gov is promising better performance in terrorism-prevention, this being a country wide-open so far. (CTV, CBC)

Simultaneously, in Philippines 4 arrests are made, also with explosives attached. (CTV, CBC)

***

Islamist women cornered in a building blow themselves up in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent; only a day ago other suicide-bombers killed 30 people there in a successful attack. So far it appears these folks were not local. We'll see. (CBC)

***

C.Rice + Bush + Cheney are all rushing to appear before the 9/11 Commission. (all newsources)

***

As an alternative they're playing the Wizard of Oz movie on one channel and another technicolor movie about witches on another channel. Is this some secret wicca holiday or something?




Here is a concise formula of the all-american psyche as per 9/11 and Iraq. Comes straight from the mind of your former-liberal WTC-surviving currently-traumatized socialite going by the name of BuzzMachine:
Oh, fercrhissake, this is not about feelings! This is about life and death! This is about finding bad guys and killing them before they kill us. Enough with apologies and emotions and psyches. This is war. Let's go win it.
You can't take it away from Bush - he reads that psyche like an open book.

Yeah sure, Iraq was an odd target for all that anger, but it was the next best-n-biggest target on the list. And yeah, nobody ever cared about those "official pretexts", and the UN mess-up, and all that unnecessary political fluff. And who ever cared about consequences? It was such a cum-shot, felt so good - how can it ever go wrong?

That's a deep-felt rationale here. Can't go against that tide, folks. It's plain blind.

(there are 115 comments accompanying that little post - don't know what's in there: another view of the polarized country, no doubt)

***

Clarke is right on Iraq and Bush. But he can only look as the ultimate evil in a country that wants to feel good - as per that tide.




Yes, indeed - politics is a crime-scene. And you, the regular joe, no matter what you may imagine of yourself, are actually Inspector Cluzot - because you're always right, as long as you're not proven completely wrong, and even then.

That's the game aspect of punditry and what draws people to play it so fervently. It gives you some imaginary ground to stay on and defend with your teeth and claws. There are a lot of naive fools (like myself, I am proud to admit) who don't get it - that being right is the best part. Or maybe I am lying here. At least it's very hard for me to seriously imagine that my opinion on the matter might matter. I honestly don't see why and how it would :-0

But then I've always had a problem identifying with larger-than-life issues. At the moment I am really greatful to this Clarke-scandal that it keeps me away from my own dreary existence. I mean, really, this is one big benefit and totally free-of-charge too.

***

I keep thinking about those classic cafe types spending their long summer days chattering and fighting hot over some newspaper canard - that's so retro-French and mediterranean. The inanity of it. I've seen quite a bit of this in France where these things are taken to extreme in all seriousness. Every shop-keeper in France is an accomplished verbal pundit - who needs typing and writing and even sex when you can have such a grandiose time over at the corner-cafe? Oh my. What a lot of crap. And they honestly believe France is the most up-to-date country in the whole wide world. Give me a break - these people are insane :)

But it's a social thing. You can't escape social things. If you're in France and you're not totally up-to-date on all the newspaper shit raging over there, you are really out of it. This is required. Ten-year old kids are formidably informed - it's actually scary, because if they could vote I don't know what would happen to that country. I am not kidding you - you've never seen such politicized kids. The funny thing is of course the fact that they could talk the hell out of you and the next thing you know they want to play nintendo or something. Because it's all the same to kids - it's a game, politics or nintendo. I don't really see how grown-ups are any different in that way though.

Revealing stuff.




original Manifesto ::

For the record, here is a comment I dished out on OTB blog the other day. Just to get an idea where I come from with all of this. So some reader there pointed out that the main issue with Clarke was his credibility, whether he contradicted himself etc. And this is what I said:
________

Ever since the appearance of the FOXnews transcript (released by White House, how nice of them) it's been clear to me that this is just not enough because the underlying assumption is wrong.
The 9/11 commission (excerpt I've seen on McLaughlin Group panel, on tv) explicitely questioned Clarke in no uncertain terms on "which is true - your book or this 2002 transcript?" to which Clarke gave the obvious response: that a public servant will say whatever is needed to promote the line of whatever administration he's serving at the moment (the moment in question being 2002).
Pat Buchanan agrees with me on that (ha, no my hero to be sure) and a lot of other less than-willing people do too. Look here.

Wrong assumption: public servants in office don't lie. Hard fact: they do and they do it with flourish.
That's why we are always in such a dire need of ballbusting investigative journalism.

Which is also why pitting that 2002 background-briefing-to-reporters against the current rather rabid pronouncements of this former bureaucrat is a bit of a lame move. And I think it's past history already.

On the other hand: the more I listen to pro and cons, the more obvious it becomes that there is a substantial *difference of emphasis* (rather than substance, please note) in Clarke's book and Clarke's pronouncements in various interviews this week, including whatever was said on the 9/11 commission.

This difference of emphasis seems to be as follows. In the book he seems to give a lot of credit to the Clinton policy on terrorism as opposed to Bush's, and to himself as its highest executor. In the interviews the emphasis is decidedly on something else: the way Bush cabinet was dead- set on wiping out Iraq way before 9/11, how this blurred their attention to other "detals", how they subsequently *used and doctored* 9/11 events to implement that preconceived strategy.

This is very important. For one thing, this is what eventually caused the incredibly *bad* handling of world-opinion prior to action in Iraq. The capital of sympathy the US had after the 9/11 attacks and the strike against Afghanistan was squandered and outright trampled by the messy and bully-like push for war in Iraq.
I remember rather vividly how ambivalent the "rest of the west" was about that war - ambivalent and not at all "decidedly and resolutely opposed". And I have to wonder: was there really no way on earth to *bring it about* without alienating everybody else in the process? Or perhaps it simply wasn't of any consequence to the present administration? Poisoned seed - the fruit is rotten.

Inside the USA this bullying was typified through relentless, blind media propaganda leading up to the war. Yeah, I think americans were *fooled* into that particular war under those particular claims - all of them were proven false and more of this falseness is coming to the surface every day, and Clarke's allegations are in line with this, and for a reason - because that's the truth for you.

Does this mean that the war on Iraq should not have been? Does it mean that Saddam was such a cool dude and should have been left to do his thing in peace? Hell no. But if this administration had any sense it would have handled it *way* differently, and perhaps would have had the good common sense to *wait* and do it in *good time*, with proper support - both military and diplomatic.

That's what this whole Clarke thing is about in no small measure. And he certainly deserves to be listened to - beyond all the bickering bullshit.
_________

The thing with comments is that sometimes the context of discussion provokes you to something inspired and concise enough. And then you're too lazy to reiterate the same stuff on your own blog - but in your head you keep thinking that you said it already. Right. But you're the only one to know.




For example. I watched that 60 Minutes interview with C.Rice on this past Sunday (btw - there was this odd thing happening: there were *two* different 60 Minutes programs running at the same time - because this is Canada and CBS only kicks in at primetime after local Global's programming on its usual channel, but on one really-really local channel they only broadcast the 60 Minutes pre-recorded at exactly 7pm no matter what basketball game is still being played on the CBS-appointed channel - but normally those two 60 Minutes broadcasts are one and the same; I mean - what happened here? It was some stories about Russian military and Eric Clapton.)

But anyway. I was just going to say: everybody is damning C.Rice for being a liar and all. But have they forgotten Clarke being as much of a liar in 2002 ? Because, yeah, of course - you gotta play the game. In fact, looking at that woman in the interview, with those red eyes and haggard face after a week of "lying", I thought - jesus, what kind of super-human toll these high offices take on people. I mean, Clarke being a seasoned bureaucrat and a pitbull by character, sure made this Rice woman suffer this week.

If you want to get an idea of what The Passion of The Christ is like, just watch all those public floggings out there on tv - and that goes as much for Clarke (who also got red-eyes by midweek) as for Rice.

Bush escaped untouched, at least physically. Unless he was madly rutting for Rice all week long - that's exhausting too, you know.




Ah, those people. I mean - lefties hate Instapundit and call him a lying liar; righties hate Atrios and call him a lying liar. And I hate to say - both are right :-0

These two are barometers of partisan take on whatever torrid issue. If you want a vintage idea of how one (and only one) side views this or that, those are pretty telling places - they don't tell the whole story let alone the truth, but they certainly give you all the spin they can. That's probably the secret of their enduring popularity with their respective camps. But - after that you're on your own.

Have I ever seen a true fair-n-balanced blog or something? Certainly not - that doesn't really exist, not in the natural world at least. There are odd blogs/odd takes. I like those best because they have an uncommon slant which sometimes reveals an uncovered side of the story - but those are hard to find because, well, they're naturally unpopular :)

Politics is like a crime-scene: everybody is a suspect, and every shred and twig is evidence. And it gets manipulated like hell. What a riot.




Stalwart soldiery

This is not necessary but it I found it interesting of a certain mindset and how this affects perspective - a letter from some american lieutenant-colonel back from his tour of duty in Iraq (from Poor-and-Stupid blog, where I don't go anymore because it's just too insane):
My mobilization tour has ended, and I am back from Iraq. Two quick observations pertinent to Iraq and liberal lies, whether propagated by Krugman or others.

If Spain was attacked by Al Qaeda in revenge for Spain's support of the US in the toppling of Saddam Hussein, then Al Qaeda and Saddam must have been much closer than the liberals tell us. They claim that Saddam had no connection to worldwide terror. Or when confronted with Abu Nidal and Abbu Abbas, or Saddam's payments to families of the Palestinian homicide bombers, they respond that at least he had no connection to Al Qaeda, our real target in the war. Then comes Al Qaeda, vaporinzing their arguments along with 200 Spanish commuters. Of course, they could have maintained their "no Saddam-Al Qaeda connection" argument, and simply recognized that Spain was a target because they support the US in Afghanistan and in the secret intelligence efforts, and because Spain is now also a bastion of liberal democracy, thus an anathema to Al Qaeda and the other Islamic extremists.

But, that would have meant admitting that Bush has been right about the threat that the islamo-fascists pose to the entire civilized world. So, they would rather stick to an illogical argument that derives into easier sound bites: "Spain was attacked because they supported Bush in his failed policy in Iraq. Don't support Bush."

Congressional Democrats have latched on to certain phrases that no doubt have come from focus group reactions. The most used are "Bush and his go-it-alone strategy," or "Bush and his unliteral approach," or something similar. I had just landed in the US heading to McDill AFB when I heard Rep. Jim Davis (Democrat, 11th District, Florida, home of McDill) on the radio saying that he, too, had just returned from Iraq, and his primary concern was the go-it-alone approach, and that this seem to come from SecDef Rumsfeld. If one looks at Rep. Davis' website, he made the same observation about unilateralism after a trip last October. Now, if Rep. Davis, who supported the war, visited the palace where the Coalition Provisional Authority is headquartered, and where I spent much of the past two months, then he simply could not have missed the representatives of dozens of our allies who are readily apparent in the hallways and offices. There are 34 other nations with troops officially on the ground, plus a couple of others who are not official members, but nonetheless have personnel directly engaged. The coalition divisions controlling all of Iraq south of Baghdad are composed entirely of non-US troops. The only conclusion I can reach is that such Democrats, who could not have missed the evidence, have chosen to lie out of political expediency. My only consternation is that the facts and the truth are not readily available, nor do journalists, who should have an obligation to the facts, ever challenge such assertions. Mostly, these lies insult our allies who have placed their citizens in harm's way for our common cause.
The take on Spain is not really surprising and is a beautiful example of the logic involved. But it's interesting how he chooses to support Rumsfeld's claim of "the biggest coalition ever with 90+ states" etc. So - those troops south of Baghdad, I wonder why we never hear any reports whatsoever of their casualities. Are they too few and far between to ever be targeted by those random attacks? We hear reports of civilian western workers (not just americans) getting killed - if you buy into "liberal lies" scenario then the more killings reported the better, I would think. So, what am I to make of this - I'd love to be convinced, I am not. Or maybe it's just a canard produced by a giddy Luskin or a giddy reader of his? I mean - this is blogland, people are so not accountable, and really, fairness is so not on the frontpage most of the time. Ah well.

On the other hand I would still like to know why indeed we never ever hear of any of those not-so-many coalition members in there - at the very least I'd like to know how many "non-western" troops are deployed in there. If I find some infos, I'll post it here. I am not sure it even exists officially.




Poetico-pedestrian reflections ::

Yes, politics is one mighty hot chess-game. Not even football - football is just way too straightforward. But imagine a chess-board with more than two sides. And everybody is trying to think 15 moves in advance - that's what the whole pundit obsession stands for, prognostication.

In chess the ability to think 15 moves in advance usually means victory - or "see, I told you so". The difference is of course concealment. You can't conceal pieces on the chess-board and how they relate to each other, but you do have a lot of unknown stuff going on in the politico-land. The game is played with only some of the pieces revealed. It's not just strategy - it's also guessing which existing positions are still hidden and trying to flash them out. The "gotcha" factor of journalism. When the media slack on that front the game becomes double-blind. Prognostication out of thin air takes precendence. This is hype.

So I guess if you're not a pundit or a wanna be, but just an observer in the empassioned crowd surrounding the players, what are you to make of all of this - and is it of any benifit to imagine yourself playing the game? That's where most people are when they read the papers - "not in the loop" by far.

What interests me is where the wind is drifting. The general impact of changing tides rather than the convoluted minutiae of pointy developments. Details don't move people - tides do.

The principal danger of too much detail is that it deceives you into believing that you are "well informed" and are therefore capable of making enlightened judgements. That you are a pundit. The whole punditry entreprise is based and rooted in this particular delusion. By contrast, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to claim that most game-makers, the ones who constitute the pieces on the politico chess-board, are probably quite less "informed" than the all-knowing pundits. Yet they act. They act and ride the waves - without too much detail.

How are tides created? What sets the zeitgeist? The central experience of democracy is that you cannot go against the tide - you gotta ride the wave. Many smart people forget that. Bowing to error is sometimes inescapable - trying to reverse the tide is not done through details (alternatively known as "more information") but through trying to plug into whatever undercurrents might be in existence, and create a new wave.

This involves mythology. You have to sense where the wind is blowing, what breath moves vast masses. There is truth and there is truth. The truth of details and the truth of tides. You gotta know who you're talking to - not just what to say.

This is both a dire and a fascinating spectacle. It is not that people are easily deceived - people are easily deceived only when it sits well with them to be so deceived. Remember Nazi Germany or any other such spectacular example - this is not really a story or good and evil, this is a story of willingness to ride a certain wave. Sometimes you cannot escape error - sometimes it just looks too good not to give in.


Clarke and the tide of times

I look at the Clarke debate and it reveals some of these tides. Noam Chomsky called his new blog "Turning the Tide" - there is nothing in it that supports that name but I can see the intention - bound to fall flat. I look at the democrats campaigning over in the USA and I cannot understand how they expect to win while insisting to go against the tide. What is this tide?

Look at the Clarke debate again. He tried to point out some things about Iraq and how Bush and Co relate to it. Who listens to him? Those who think the war was wrong to begin with; those who think Bush was wrong to begin with. Yet look where the tide is - people do not think the war is wrong; many do not think Bush is wrong. Why?

Forget the details - look at the big picture. In the big picture USA is at war with vicious killers and it has a clear enemy it can fight with all its weaponry. What's more, it is once again perpetraiting its image as the "beacon of freedom" in dark places of the world. It doesn't matter how true or untrue it is - this is at the heart of popular mythology, "it brings the nation together". Sure does - why else would you be willing to die overseas? Why else did millions of Germans march to their death in the hope of winning over the world? Willing heros or willing executioners - it never mattered.

No, I am not saying that americans are somehow being fascist at the moment. I am just saying that you can't very well spit at those things that "bring a nation together" - it's no use spitting on it, you have to work with this somehow. Bush, in the aftermath of 9/11 did just that - and many americans love him to bits just for that fact. Those who are not so sure about Bush, are still pretty sure about the war. That's what the Clarke thing revealed once again. What it also revealed is that too many Bush-detractors are not up to that fact - they still wish it were otherwise, they think they can still change that. They can't.

"Beacon of freedom" and "bringing the nation together" are one and the same thing. The only tide that could still be reversed is the one that equates Bush with these things. And I don't see too many detractors working on it. Perhaps because they're too averse to the whole idea - too convinced that war in Iraq was/is/will always be "a very bad error" (examplified by Ed Bradley's misguided questions to C.Rice on the latest 60 Minutes). Perhaps they will be proven right - after another few years of Bush. They'll say - "see, I told you so". And they'll say - "gotcha". And many other things beside.

***

The way this whole Clarke episode has developped shows once more what you can't change, where the tide is, where people stand, who is losing, who is winning and why.

The anti-Bush crowd is clearly losing - because they can't capitalize on the very obvious. Rather they want to ignore it so they may continue to promote a losing cause.

Yet, it's pretty clear cut by now: you can go after Bush, but you can't go against Iraq. You can undermine Bush's grip on that war (and that's what Clarke tried to do sharply enough) but you cannot go against the war itself in the same breath - by doing so you're going against a huge tide, what "brings the nation together", the goddam "beacon of freedom".

In short you're just yapping.

I haven't been very thorough and exhaustive in discovering who had to say what and where, but so far I haven't heard/seen anything clear-sighted enough to carry Clarke's thing to the next level. It's probably forthcoming - when it will be way too late in any case.

Perhaps what it shows also is that there's little unity of voice among anti-Bush people. The left sings the loudest - but they're pretty much useless by being too self-serving. Or it can be seen this way: the true unity here is the anti-war conviction, which is the most self-defeating thing imaginable at this point.


My father, Bush, and I

All this has actually a rather personal meaning for me. Because my father (who is something the opposite of your imaginary redneck rancher) is an ardent Bush-supporter, he loves the man, and I want to understand him on this. I also want to understand why I myself can't stand Bush and his rhetoric. It's a family thing - it's also a question of how to talk (and listen) to people who hold diverging ideas.

Well, one thing I know about my dad is that he's been a crusader-for-justice all his life. The world is black-and-white to him, it's either all good, or all bad. He's not a hater, but he can work himself up into a holy anger over something he sees as wrong. Basically, he's been a fool all his life - and paid the price. At the same time, he's a kindly generous passionate guy. I can't talk of wisdom in respect to my father. He's too young at heart for that. I think his best shot at wisdom is his inborn kindness and natural love of people. But he won't listen to wishy-washy arguments. It's always either all or nothing.

And in this Bush is certainly and very much his man. There's evil in the world and Bush stands firm against tyrants by going directly after Saddam, the bad guy. America is uniformly good and americans are inherently good and wonderful. Canada is also uniformly good and all canadians are wonderful though maybe not tough enough. The worst insult for my dad is to hear any evil against those people or things he holds dear.

Because my father doesn't really understand either english or french he gets most of his information from images and "the general gist of it". Basically, he is blissfully "uninformed" - and in this he is probably closer to the heart of America than I am, or most people I consort with.

In many respects I am a bit like my father. But I am of another generation and my education has been far more international and even a bit too multicultural to hold such clear-cut beliefs. My father is well aware of that and looks up to me as a sort of info-digest in case of doubt.


Iraq as the holy Mecca of America

We've had conversations about Bush and the war on Iraq, which he supported of course. I am satisfied that it is properly impossible to make him waver on the good-cause of this war - because "Saddam was evil". But when the Maher Arar affair came up, I scored a point with him by appealing to his sense of justice - by showing that authorities, even in America the land of liberty, can and do abuse their powers through bureaucratic stupidity and that this stupidity should be supervised and kept in check.

The biggest problem with people like my father is that when they believe that when something is good (America) they automatically believe that all of it is good and should be trusted without fail. This is comparable to the cult of the President in the United States. Which is no different from the Good Tsar syndrom of old Russia, that went right over to the times of Stalin - who was the Good Father and whatever evil there was came from "evil advisors" (american analogy: the President was badly councelled...). Btw - this is also why the purges went so well with the vast majority of people, since all evil came from evil servants.

These are core beliefs. Very hard to shake. The beacon of freedom doesn't really exist, but it sure exists in the hearts of millions of people - and it's really no use to try and rip it out. It can be used for greatest inequity and it can be used for greatest benefit. Quite a lot of harm can be done in its name, but it doesn't affect the core ideal. No use bitching against it.

So taking my father as an example, I sometimes wonder, hypothetically, what would it take to make him change his mind about Bush - if not the war in Iraq. It seems an impossible task. He finds the man warm, honest, straightforward and a great defendor of all good against all evil. By contrast, what irritates me about Bush is his stupidity and narrow-mindedness - something that doesn't bother my father at all, perhaps because of certain affinities.

So what it is we really differ on? Is it Bush, Iraq or rather a certain system of beliefs? It could very well be the latter - in which case our disagreement is unbridgeable. My father believes in universal good and universally good leaders - he looks for comfirmations to his beliefs. I don't believe any such thing exists and find no arguments to the contrary. But most people are not pessimists - and I don't want them to adopt my point of view.

But while I can't find enough good, I certainly want at least a basic measure of truth. This is the fundamental difference between me and my father - different priorities. He gladly lies and accepts lies in the name of perceived good - just as Bush does. I can't really stomach that sort of approach, perhaps because I view most good as "perceived".

Sure, I get fooled too. Often. I am not all-knowing. I err and miss out on stuff. And I wasn't cheering for this war not because of Bush or because I was genuinely sorry for the coming death and destruction. It was the rashness and blatant unwillingness to pave the proper way for this massive deed that bothered me most. Still bothers me in fact.

As the war went on I surely did not want USA to lose out and run. But I don't like the way they manage it so far and I think the reason they're having such a hard time in Iraq is a direct consequence of that initial rashness - they set out wrong and they keep doing it wrong. I think there is massive room for improvement. Which would require some serious change of policy - involving the international community, changing the perception of this war in the world, all of the things Bush doesn't want to hear about.

Casting a different light on this war is far more important than just pumping loads of cash into a devastated country. Hope is a fantasy - it must be created. My father is currently content that his man Bush has won the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The news do not reach him that neither of these two places is anywhere close to a done deal. I do not discuss it with him these days because it's useless. It's useless for me, for my father and most obviously it is perfectly useless for both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The truth is - nothing is settled yet. Obviously, being a "good american" is just not enough. You also gotta be smart. It would really help a lot to be smarter here. Hopefully this will sink in at some point and people start thinking how to do it better, instead of bitching about or congratulating themselves on non-existent triumphs or lamenting over horrible defeats.

It's just my opinion. I don't press it on my father, I don't press it on others. Because it doesn't matter. That's the bottomline, ladies and gentlemen.

Sunday, March 28, 2004



Funny quote from some elections-rally story, but I agree with the observation at hand:
Anarchists are funny people; I enjoy how they claim to be non-conformists yet all dress the same way. And they claim to hate the government, yet they join the communist A.N.S.W.E.R. protests. When they all stood together, it looked like one big pissing contest�who was the most radical?
Exactly. But a lot of the young are dumb in that way and hanging out in cliques sort of does this to you. But at least they go out there and get wet in the rain. I don't :)




About Iraq. You know how nobody is really sure whether it's going well or not so well in there. And blaming media for skewed information (whether alarmist or triumphalist).

And a simple thing just occurred to me (I am slow, I know) - how can you possibly expect any objective reporting from that place since it's under a certain military control right now and military will *never* tell you the truth, and locals are so not organized and don't want to see any western journalists around. I mean, it's downright *impossible* to get any sort of remotely true idea of what's going on in such a situation. Forget it - wait for the USA to move out troops, you won't see any light before that.

Here is a things-are-bad report - and its obejctivity is partial, because any other report is just as fragmentary and comes god knows whence. Here:
The taxi driver explained that I was not an Iraqi. "He's a foreigner!" they shouted to each other, and all the men came to the car. "They are all Israelis and Jews," shouted one man in a slurred voice. We tried to explain that I was a journalist, but they had never seen an American passport or a press ID before. Why was I here? What did I want? It was clear from the fear in their eyes and the anger in their voices as they barked orders that they wanted to find somebody to kill. [Impression: a crazy lawless place - it's a pretty vivid report, btw]
Iraq is a politico basketball right now - it's being played like a fucking balloon. Forget objectivity, let alone truth.




Now it's not only warm - it's sunny too :-0 Maybe I just need to saddle my bike and go for a very long ride.

But I'll freeze on the way.

Every fucking day I wake up and I ask myself - what am I gonna do with my life? And then I remember who I am and it becomes clear that whatever I do it won't do me any good. Because I can't break through to people. My fault. And there is nothing I can do about that. It's simple - I am just too low on myself, for no other reason than the whole sum of my experience. Can I lie and say it will change? Like hell it will. The sum of experience will increase to prove even better what I know already only too well.

What's the point. The question then is this: what can I do to get a break and find some good in myself? Can't find no answer so far.





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