Empty Days

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The mob-mentality in blogosphere ::

One thing that never ceases to disgust me is the way so many people are only too happy to join the chorus and form a mob of mindless cronies. Apparently this is called "militant spirit" and "popular movement". Usually this starts with folks flocking around some sort of messiah and then do pretty much whatever to feed his line - I call it "sucking up to" but there are likely other terms for that.

In the blogosphere the most visible examples of this are Instapundit and Atrios. Though my views are probably closer to the latter, I find both these phenomena equally distasteful. These sites are neither truly critical nor truly informative - their main preoccupation is cheer-leading. Mindless, slanted, careless pushing of a certain line, mainly directed at disparaging and very often slandering opponents in the interest of imposing a rather limited point of view on greatest number of people.

I guess this is the epitome of party-politics: the kind of politics that relinquish reason for ideology. Cliques, mobs, cronies. None of this is very good for any sort of independent judgment. On the other hand, it is a marvellous machine for distorting facts and fabricating outrage. I think this is called "spinning" - out of proportion, I would add.


If the blogosphere is in any way reflective of the state of things in the greater world then it's a very sick world indeed - especially at the moment. Examples abound. When the Clarke affair came up it was quickly turned into yet another contest of idiotic name-calling from both sides - as a result nothing came out of it. It's still going on but the point has long been lost amidst all the easy outrage at multiple "liars" of whatever denomination (against Rice no less than Clarke). The spectacular fact is that Atrios and his camp contributed to this no less than those who wanted to dismiss Clarke from the go. It's the agenda that matters - never the truth, especially when truth is not as clear-cut as the agenda needs it to be.

Sure enough there are voices of reason in the blogworld too. Except that in this heavy atmosphere of mobs and cliques few are those who are willing to listen to reason - it's just not as much fun as mass cheering and mass bashing, and in terms of sheer social impact it really doesn't pay to see too clearly. Consequently those blogs don't have much leverage. Either join in with the mob or stand aside - no middle ground.

It is fairly easy to distinguish a reasonable voice from a party-pusher: just look at whether dissent is tolerated or not in comments or how feedback is parsed by the blogger. Ideology-driven blogs attract unanimous mobs. People who go there want a kick from all the influx of unanimity - not thinking, least of all debate. Perhaps it's a very human thing to do. Nevertheless it's also somewhat ugly - as many human things are indeed.


Recently we've seen yet another example of fabricated outrage - against DailyKos and his misplaced remark. As a result I would offer a new word with a double-meaning: "kossers" for people who drive a tank against a fly with cries of victory, and "kossing" for those who go to all sorts of lengths to make it look as if they never said whatever they said. Both sides managed to act pretty pathetic - and it's kinda telling of the whole phenomenon.


I've been meaning to bitch about this for a while now, but it all took form today when I saw yet another budding example of the same crap in the making. Meanwhile, when you think how this type of "rutting for home team" mind-set reflects on things like Iraq - well, that's when it gets truly scary. Whenever mobs drive policy - people die, a lot of people of whatever denomination.

Fallujah overkill

Re under-reported air-raids on Fallujah. Actually, per Russian news cued from Arab media, F-16's bombed overnight and then on Friday, thus before and after brief ceasefire and civilian exodus Friday - hence prominent pictures of dead babies on Al-Jazeera. Also same sources suggest two US helicopters downed over Fallujah Friday.

It is noteworthy that not much of this is being reported in USA. The blunt reality right now is that while our tv networks count every soldier killed, over there in Iraq they're watching their folks being wasted by the hundred. While during the invasion last year there was perhaps enough hope for Iraqis that all the "collateral damage" was worth it, today this particular hope is gone. Security? Well, it never quite materialized.

Apparently US mil is denying air-strikes. At the same time Al-Jazeera reporters inside Fallujah say they've been shot at by Marines. Once again it's the logic of war we've learned last April: you're either a friendly journalist or an enemy journalist, and the US command does not always tell the truth, to put it mildly.

Either way one thing is clear: the force used against Fallujah is actually pretty overwhelming and is likely purposefully so - otherwise too many marines would die. So that's the price for every US life out there: "collateral damage". (Ben-Hur, the film: "one Roman is worth four Arabs".)

I am not sure this logic makes any sense in a post-war "liberated" Iraq...


Update. I've spent some time today looking for non-western images of what's been happening in Fallujah. Air-power brings a lot of destruction. Arab tv is zeroing in on disfigured corpses and broadcasting this back to Iraq. Propaganda, yes. We don't see any of this, not a whiff - that too is propaganda. Some radical-lefty site posted these pictures en mass and while the usual crowd at the site expressed their usual ideological outrage (too much hate in this ire at the "american zionists"), some stray poster exclaimed in shock that "it's not possible that our US troops could have done that! where are your proofs? arab tv always lies" etc.

Well, that sort of blind innocence is also kinda ugly - we never see these violent pictures here, and as a result tons of people genuinely believe that "precision weapons" are in fact designed to avoid indiscriminate killing. Absurd as it may seem, that's what lots of people actually believe. See no evil, hear no evil - believe your leaders, believe your team, they can do no harm. But a pilot in an F-16 doesn't see the people he's going to bomb, and the artillery man doesn't see where his round gonna fall. But people will die regardless. Does it matter that their death is mechanical rather than a massacre by machete?

Picturing the enemy as a sort of two-dimensional bogey-man easily identifiable by any well-meaning GI is an old military propaganda trick. And it works like a charm, always - just keep the images away and all your clinial accounts will be believed and applauded.

There are persistent reports that Arab journalists are having their cameras confiscated or broken by US troops. This is probably true - these images inflame the minds, so it's a propaganda tool. Plus Arab tv crews ar viewed as enemy by the Americans - just because they are viewed as friends by the insurgents. Simple logic - and there is no respect for freedoms of the press on the battle-field.

Yet it took the outcry of the whole Arab world to stop the bombing of Fallujah. Arab tv may lie a lot but it's better to have arab tv where it counts than to have no news at all.

US is not winning right now.


Enlightening details from BBC:
Earlier the Governing Council said the fighting should stop now.

"We call for an immediate ceasefire and for ... political solutions for situations in some parts of the country," it said in a statement.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Baghdad says the council is furious that it was not consulted about the Falluja offensive. A spokesman for the council told the BBC the crisis could have been avoided. One Sunni Muslim member, Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer, said he was ready to resign over the Falluja crisis.

"How can a superpower like the US put itself in a state of war with a small city like Falluja? This is genocide," he told AFP news agency on Friday, the first anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi interim Human Rights Minister, Abdel Basit Turki, and a member of the Iraqi Governing Council's rotating presidency, Iyad Allawi, both resigned on Friday.
Well, I guess that pretty much reveals the state of affairs - and where the discontent springs from on the ground. In other reports I've read, some IGC members said Bremer never listens. Yeah - why would he.

"We can go it alone" - who needs Iraqis?


I am not much of a news-hawk so I am not aware of who's saying what where at any given time, but I've finally noticed that the CBC has joined forces with ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corp) to give a broader perspective on international events. The daily program is aptly called Hemispheres and while it doesn't really give you any special peek into things, it does inform us of what Australian official network thinks of the world.

Well, viewers, brace yourselves: it thinks and acts very much like BBC. So now we know - it's still the old Dominion logic. Proof: today's BBC World had a special report on Saddam's prisons as well as renewal of secular culture in Baghdad (theater); curiously ABC had reports on the same subjects (Saddam's prisons revisited + instead of theater it was opera). It can't be a coincidence, I figure.


In the kindnapping spree in Iraq a Syrian-born Canadian social worker went missing and the Canadian gov is trying to address the problem by appealing to hostage-takers through... no, not embassies or "diplomatic channels" - the Arab media. Yes. That's what Iraq is right now: the true representatives of everything Iraqi are the media, and not the Western media but those bad and awful Arab networks. Satellite TV is running Iraq at the moment - at the ground level, in the absence of functional government.

Reminds me of Gaza. We were so wrong to mistake Fallujah for Mogadishu.

If this guy was taken by thugs or Jihad crazies, there's little chance he'll be released just like that. Because to those fucks it doesn't matter that he be non-coaltion and thoroughly non-military. Like the 3 Japanese - journalist+NGO kids. To them they're westerners: white fodder for wild claims. Have you noticed? The takers of the Japanese changed their demands today from withdrawl of Jap troops to lifting siege of Fallujah. Whatever. The Japs are planning a mil operation from Jordan to free their guys. Hope it works out - otherwise they'll die. Like that journalist, Pearl, died in Pakistan at the hands of Islamists when US took over Afghanistan - remember? Wild claims are meant to provoke certain death.

For the canadian guy the only chance would be that his takers are thugs or improvising non-militia elements: in that case al-Sadr folks are the ones to talk to, they can get the guy out. If it's fringe Jihad fucks, then nobody can do a thing.

For all the violence out there, it is not a good idea to equate all of the uprising with pure savagery. There are structured elements who have some sort of leverage with the wilder crowd. It is just possible that the hostage-taking spree is in fact an improvised consequence of Arab TV reporting about initial kidnappings. I guess what I am trying to say is that as long as there is some structure to insurgency, there is still hope that this thing won't degenerate into a lethal and final mess.

Slim hope.


Forgot to mention that the Canadian guy entered Iraq under false identity (Palestinian from Gaza). I wonder why. Maybe I am mistaken, but I haven't heard of other Canadians joining NGO's in Iraq. Perhaps it was the only way to get in?

Friday, April 09, 2004


Lousy mood. Meanwhile in Iraq things are developping - check out The Agonist for in-depth links and Command Post for main media Iraq news.

Watching a war develop from afar is a game - as long as you can't do a thing about it, watching out for news, figuring things out and pushing analysis is an intense intellectual game. But it's got little to do with the war itself.

Enlightening detail from Agonist's Newsboard:
He was referring to the gunmen dispatched by the Hawza Al-Ilmiya, the Shia seminary in Najaf that is led by al-Sistani. The Hawza has organized protection for Shia shrines throughout Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime a year ago, although al-Sadr's men have clashed with some al-Sistani supporters guarding Shia shrines in Najaf and Karbala. [Newsday]
Recall that there is a major holiday and pilgrimage underway all over the enbattled areas (Najaf, Karbala, Baghdad) - thousands of people who've got nothing to do with current insurgency are circulating. This is very surreal but it's a fact. There are 1.2 million pilgrims in Karbala already. US forces are busy fighting Al-Sadr and can't really provide much security for pious events.

In light of this: there are reports that there are clashes between al-Sadr men and Hawza militia (al-Sistani) who are probably trying to assure security for the holidays in various areas/neighbourhoods. There are also reports that Al-Sadr militia are fighting off thug elements who are naturally joining in the mayhem and organizing lootings. Also, foreign or radicalized Jihad groups are operating in the mayhem (kidnapping of the 3 Japanese and possibly other kidnappings as well, because al-Sadr militia let the hostages go when they can - if you look closely at reports). Basically the actual situation on the ground is really confused.

Fallujah itself is now a sort of Carthago under regular seige, with women and children and older people having been allowed to leave the town during the brief ceasefire (electricity and water having been cut off by US mil for a few days now) - possibly a result of resignations and public protests by members of IGC and failed negotiations with al-Sadr.

CPA demanded that Al-Jazeera tv reporters leave Fallujah as well (meaning: we won't be sorry if we accidentally kill you in there). On the other hand there are Iranian tv crews inside. Obviously these are considered friendly journalists by insurgents and enemy-propaganda by americans. US doesn't want too loud witnesses for incoming massacres in the city (though they might be inevitable it's still a bad impression):
Fighting continued in Fallujah, with explosions echoing through the city after nightfall. Residents turned a soccer stadium into a makeshift burial ground for hundreds of Iraqi dead. Women, children and the elderly were allowed to leave Fallujah, but men of "military age'' were ordered to stay in the city by Marines.
All in all, crushing Fallujah will not look good and the victory might turn sour.


The UK left [The Independent] are mocking their very own pro-war folks "turning coat": The pro-war commentators: what do they say now?

Format: What he said then - What he said recently - What he says now. Very blog-like fisking.


Fallujah. Russian Press reports via Al-Jazeera that US mil have been air-dropping cluster-bombs inside the city (perhaps after some of the civilians were allowed to leave) . That would explain high level of casualities.

I don't want to side-track this blog into a reports-from-Iraq thing, so I'll leave some space for my own crap while keeping updates on the situation. From now on all posts re Iraq will have Iraq-n in title for "Iraq-news".


Well, we're behind events here, due to time difference among other things - while the latest news of Google announce a unilateral ceasefire by CPA re Fallujah, Arab tv is reporting ongoing combat and bombings (9 dead in US convoy).

Update on yesterday resignations from IGC (via Collounsbury):
"I heard reports that Ambassador Bremer was unhappy with my performance, so I went to see him and asked if it was true," Mr Badran [Shia Interior Minister responsible for Iraqi Police] told a surprised news conference. "He said that the problem was that the interior and the defence ministers could not both be Shia... So from now I am resigning my position and I hope that by my decision, balance will be restored to the ministries in Iraq," he added.

However, coalition officials cast doubt on this version of events. Another Shia member of the governing adminstration, Haider Abbadi, linked the move to growing disquiet over the handling of the twin insurgency of both Sunni and Shia groups now confronting US-led forces.

"There will be many resignations," said Mr Abbadi, interim minister of communications and a member of the al-Dawa party. "It's as if the US army is out of control," he said. "Their massive use of force is bringing the country to the precipice. Iraqis can no longer afford to been seen siding with the Americans."

Iraq's governing council is due to meet in emergency session on Friday.
Collounsbury also has this additional info on goings-on inside IGC and in the country:
Pachachi gave interview in re the ceasefire, calling the Fallujah operation "more than necessary" in relationship with the killing and desecration of the bodies of four Americans. Quite critical. In the interview, he called American operations, and I quote directly "ghier qanouniya" - that is one of the principal moderate actors in the Gov Council is calling American operations "illegal" and has called for their halt.

al-Arabiyah also reports US forces firing into demonstration heading for Karbala.
These tenuous tidbits are more important than big vague op-eds. It is a turning point for USA in Iraq - and we don't really know what's happening to the hearts and minds in Iraq. IGC members actually condemning CPA over US mil ops is the big news of the day.


An interesting post here on how Iraqis view the UN (negatively) and why. On the other hand, one could easily come up with the same sort of evidence as to how Iraqis don't like the americans. So.


Revealing comment from a pro-american Iraqi blogger (via Oldman1787) about slanted coverage on Al-Jazeera re kidnapping of 3 Japanese civilians:

I found it particularly interesting that while Al-Jazeera displayed most of the tape, it did not display the part where the masked men held knives to the neck of the wailing Japanese woman while screaming "Allahu Akbar!". What? too hard for Arab feelings?

Heh. We are editing, they are editing - the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Also via this post, long-expected news on uprising being called down for real:
The Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani issued a fatwa late Wednesday to "resolve the latest developments in Iraq in a peaceful manner" in order to prevent anarchy and bloodshed. "We condemn the behaviour of occupation forces in dealing with the current events, and we also condemn any trespass against public and private property, or any other conduct that may disrupt security and obstruct Iraqis from their jobs in serving the people". Sistani also called upon political parties to work together in an effective manner to put an end to the "tragedy".

Why did he wait so long before issuing this fatwa? Was it to gauge coalition and public reaction? Was it to prove that only he has the last word in clearing up the mess?

The fatwa comes after 5 days of violence and unrest in several Shi'ite cities in southern Iraq, and while it is true that traditionally a fatwa from a living Grand Ayatollah is binding to his followers, that does not however apply to Al-Sadr's supporters who point out the more radical Grand Ayatollah Kadhim Al-Ha'eri (Iraqi exile Shia cleric operating from Meshed, Iran) as their spiritual leader, despite Al-Sadr's clumsy announcement two days ago that he will follow whatever Sistani and the Hawza in Najaf chooses for him, which I think is more probably a cry for help from the elders in Najaf.
No doubt CPA and IGC weren't wasting time negotiating with al-Sadr only - or even primarily. Good work.


Meanwhile Iraq realities at a glance - Mother Homeland.

(via Oldman1787)

And here this blogger, an american humanitarian worker (conservative and generally pro-CPA and looking on the bright side), describes how his Iraqi collaborators are treated by big american corporations supposedly there to help rebuild Iraq (and who do you think is getting those billions of dollars for "reconstruction"):
They went on to tell me that KBR [Halliburton] structures their hires to go through local sub-contractors so as to avoid liability in situations like this.

So KBR is actively structuring their organization to try to screw over Iraqis who risk, and in some cases give, their lives to help us in our efforts here.

If she was killed by Coalition Forces, my understanding is that she would be entitled to some $3000. But since she was killed working with the Coalition Forces, she gets nothing.

KBR, who has contracts in Iraq worth billions, is structuring their operations to save a few thousand dollars here and there by denying benefits to those Iraqis brave enough to work with us.

I left the meeting wanting to throw up.
This attitude clearly originates from Wash.DC, not Baghdad or anywhere else in the world.

This film also drove home once again my own distrust of life - this distance and coldness that is always with me. I mean, the dreams I am having are just not good. Today it was so obscenely graphic and yet I felt neither fear nor disgust - only slight surprise upon wakening. I dreamt of a human body being sawn to pieces by a large circular saw, with meat and marrow in full view, neatly cut in large chunks as if it were ham. Where the fuck does this come from? And it wasn't even a nightmare - just a regular no-thrills dream.

Sometimes, when I forget the haze of small events populating my attention, I look inside myself and this is just such a wasteland. In some sense I wish I could genuinely feel sorry for myself, feel some regret at least, some rage or whatever. But it's all too familiar and there is nothing to look for.

There was some crap on PBS tonight from Globe Trekkers - some hip young folks travelling like mad supposedly in search of the variety of cultures. Give me a break, please - who cares about cultures? I've been long fed up with touristy adventures because in the end it's nothing but entertainment - you don't learn anything, because there is nothing to learn from that angle. But that's part of my general disgust with all the things of life - that it's not life but a sort of giant movie and I am damn tired of watching it.

I don't know where the poetry of things has gone. It's not there and without it nothing exists. It's just hollow. Thrills and frills and all that shit. Just emptiness. That's the name of my blog btw.

I lack basic lust - desire to live.

I was hoping for something good on tv today and my secret wish was finally exercised - late at night. But better late than never. I watched a very good quebecois film by Lea Pool - "Emporte-moi" (Set Me Free). About the dreamy and tragic tribulations of an adolescent girl caught up in the thick of life with a suicidal quebecois mother, an intellectual jewish father and the rest of the world on top of all that. Part of the appeal of the film (a very subtle ironic piece) is the unspoken critique of the gap between the high rhetoric of humanistic culture (intelligensia, contempt for the everyday necessities, the bombast about the Holocaust) and the hard-core realities and tragedies of life that it both ignores and stiffles out (slowly whithering, suffocating working-class mother). All this set against the background of the early 60's, which the film both parodies and brings back through its own cinematography.

And of course the fresh breath of adolescence - youth, hope, life.

I finally went to visit my parents the other day. That was interesting because, as I said earlier, my father (and by extension my mother too) are great supporters of G.W.Bush - they absolutely love the idea of overthrowing dictators in hard-pressed countries and promoting american-style democracy everywhere on the globe. Basically, they think exactly like any back-country american out there (some tidbit I heard on NBC today: some guy was saying that he doesn't feel the need to question his gov's actions because he's absolutely sure they can't possibly do any wrong - that's more widespread than critical thinking, I would say).

So we've had a discussion about Iraq of course, because they've got CNN and they watch it every day, and of course they're seeing what's happening and can't really claim anymore that everything is just perfect etc. But with all that my father's main comment was a sad remark that "if this continues" Bush won't be able to win the next election. I mean - this saddened him far more than the mayhem in Iraq per se.

Very telling, I think. There is a whole cold-war generation out there who thinks in absolute terms of good and evil - and to them America has always been a beacon of freedom and the land of milk and honey. In other words: it can never do no evil. Therefore, a president who not only promotes this popular rhetoric but also ostensibly acts on it is the best president ever (my folks also love Tony Blair to bits). That's the logic. My parents are not interested to hear that part of the blame for the mayhem in Iraq might be attributable to americans themselves - it's the good intention that counts, not the results.

Thursday, April 08, 2004


Woke up late, turned on tv to catch the last few minutes of C.Rice testimony on tv - whatever you say, madam. The next thing I know the news show a tape from Iraq where Islamists militia, hooded and waving knives and guns, terrorize three Japanese civilians they've just kidnapped. That's not Al-Sadr - that's those "Holy Jihad" fringe elements that are only too happy to join in the fray and exert their Hezbollah-like tactics. Other reports of kidnappings across Iraq. It appears that a lot of different extremist groups are at play on top of the general Sunni + Shia mayhem.

In other reports country-side people are confluating to Fallujah and Ramadi en mass to reinforce insurgency.

My best compass for events in Iraq right now is Coll Lounsbury, the Financial Guy in Iraq. He's got personal ME expertise and enough internal contacts with the CPA to voice an educated opinion on what's unfolding. Beats a lot of the fantasies we hear all over the big media and big blogs. Judge for yourself:
First, it seems very clear that the uprising has become general although not in a truly coordinated manner. Based on the news and my conversation last night with my friend, it seems fairly clear that the US was both blindsided by poor intelligence (or if my friend's characterization is right, poor intelligence triage) and by the degree to which there is serioius anger among Iraqis about the incompetence of the CPA.

Second, I am not sure what can be done. My convo last night was so fundamentally depressing. My man indicated he was thinking of resigning, said something like "Clarke, you want Clarke, I'll give you fucking Clarke times two." Not an exact quote but close enough to his words.

Third, I am not sure I can actually write a note on the conversation. I have to think about it. It was bad. We differed about whether the US should have "gone medieval" or not, my Boy is not a gentle sort, but on the current...Well, what can we say?

Otherwise, the AM news from the Arab Sats is as one would expect. One item I heard last night, we should watch for the Kurds beginning to make a move.
And his quote of the day:
"The result is that the United States is facing two broad-based insurgencies that are now on parallel tracks." [NYT]

And saddest of all, it did not and should not have to have ended up like this. This is not an inevitable result. It comes directly from the incompetence and navel-gazing that I have document in the past months in re CPA.
"Although anti-Americanism is hardly universal among Shiites, an anti-American mood has been building for months. At the Grand Mosque in Kufa, where Mr. Sadr took refuge as his militiamen were seizing control of the city on Sunday, this deep vein of anti-Americanism feeds off every rumor. At night, as they torch gasoline-soaked tires to light checkpoints guarding the approaches to the mosque, the militiamen speak of America's planning to uproot Islam in Iraq, to steal its oil, to deny Shiites a voice in the country's future governance, even to bring back Saddam Hussein." [NYT]

The deadly aspect of Arab societies, the one which no one in the American administration seems to understand is the degree to which information and knowledge passes through informal oral routes.
Meanwhile the digest service for latest discussions on politico-blogs, memeorandum, is down. Perhaps overwhelmed by too much frantic discussion of too much frantic news.

Is there anything to add? Not at the moment, it would seem.


Under Fire, Security Firms Form An Alliance:

There are about 20,000 private security contractors in Iraq now, including Americans, Iraqis and other foreigners. That number is expected to grow to 30,000 in the near future when the U.S. troop presence is drawn down after the June 30 handover to Iraqi authorities.
A week ago, four Blackwater commandos -- all former members of U.S. Special Forces working on a contract to protect a private food company in Iraq -- were killed and mutilated in Fallujah. U.S. government and industry sources believe a member of the Iraqi police helped set up the ambush of the two unarmored cars the men were using.

Interesting. That what Kos meant all along, I suppose.


Well, it seems the pro-war triumphalists are now getting a bit jittery. Not that it implies their seeing some sense any time soon, but at least it's a start when FOXchannel idiots are suddenly losing their poise (via The Agonist):

"I'm not buying this 'Iraqis are on the American side' right now," Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said on the Tuesday night broadcast of "The O'Reilly Factor." The leading conservative commentator repeatedly called the current conflict a "second war in Iraq."

O'Reilly added, "I think Rumsfeld has got a lot of explaining to do here. There's a lot of mistakes that are now killing American soldiers."

Whatever. Never mind it's as much your fault as Rummy's.


Resignations of some officials from CPA (on Bremer's behest - finally some long overdue reshuffling) and ongoing negotiations between IGC and al-Sadr. See details at Back-to-Iraq. Very telling leaflet there from Sadr militia warning followers that fringe groups are trying to infiltrate the uprising. (via The Agonist)

Etc etc etc.

Nobody ever learn lessons - until it's too late - and even then

CBC special report on commemorative ceremonies of the 1994 genocide in Kigali, Rwanda. The president - former leader of the Tootsie liberation army that effectively stopped the genocide and also slaughtered and chased into exile a huge lot of Hutus - flatly accused France of arming and supporting the Hutu militias that perpetrated the killings. The French delegate proceded to leave "earlier than expected".

The only foreign head-of-state present was the Belgian PM. Of course - the Belgians had the largest contingent of troops on the ground and chose to leave, and asked the americans to leave too - so as not to look like total cowards. The canadian general Romeo Dallaire chose to stay against UN orders - in command of and with accord of blue-berets from Ghana. So it's not like Canada had any of its own troops in all of this. Perhaps if we did Dallaire too would have had to pull out.

The reason the Belgian PM was present is because Belgium came to regret their decision to a grave degree - and, as R. Dallaire once remarked, Belgium is the only western country that really learned a lesson from this genocide in Rwanda.

That's probably true. Because right after this report the news anchor spoke about Sudan - how Kofi Anan is appealing to the goddam international community to act on Sudan now because the situation there is nearing on yet another genocide comparable to the one in Rwanda. But this news took about 5 seconds and had no pictures: which means that there are *no* reporters in Sudan right now. Or if there are (which I strongly doubt), for some reason their reports are not getting on tv.

Does this remind you of something? Oh yeah - that's why we never bothered about Rwanda, remember?

Late-night gloom

More from Belgravia Dispatch - hard facts, judge for yourself:
Anglo-American Discord?

This is interesting:

"The departing British envoy in Baghdad, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, had expressed concerns to his colleagues about Mr. Bremer's style in running postwar Iraq, particularly in closely controlling decision-making with minimal input from Iraqis and other voices, including Sir Jeremy's, said officials who declined to be identified because of the confidential nature of diplomatic communications.

Sir Jeremy served as Britain's ambassador to the United Nations. He has returned to England after a six-month assignment that was very frustrating for him, British officials said. He could not be reached for comment on Monday.

With his departure, Britain effectively downgraded its representation in Baghdad by appointing David Richmond as the senior British representative. Mr. Richmond, a career Foreign Service officer, served in a more junior capacity in Baghdad last year."
Too bad all of this is only coming to light when it's pretty much too late.

There is nothing anyone can do about the headless triumvirate that brought this whole thing about and continues to push its blind will without regard for reality. The tragedy is that it will likely take a total collapse of all things Iraq to break their deadly hold on things. I don't see them listening to reason in any true sense - too arrogant, too deaf to listen.

Colin Powell should shoot himself now, before he has to witness his country go down in a mire of blood and dishonor.


Dismembering the CPA: an indepth look (slanted and critical, yeah) at who runs this goddam private club. Not funny.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Galvanized - reality

Well, thank God I don't have CNN or FOXchannel or Al-Jeezira or any of those dumbass "show-me-the-blood" broadcasts. The shocked and sorrowful face of the young independent canadian reporter in the heart of Iraq is enough to gauge the straits out there - after talking to frightened young GIs overwhelmed in small towns, after talking to locals who tell of stray-bullet casualities next-door, after seeing people hiding hiding hiding in small homes from the violence in the streets.

I don't want to know what Rumsfield or any of those other masks-of-death have to say. And I don't want to know what a bunch of arm-chair internet strategists have to say. And basically I'd like to quote Belgravia Dispatch (minus the strategic fantasies thereafter) about how some things are not as bad as you would like them:
That U.N. blue helmets and/or NATO forces would be brought in during the months after the initial handover date so as to make the occupation look less distinctly American.

There may be a limited appetite for that in places like Paris, Berlin and Turtle Bay.

But the state of the Atlantic Alliance is not quite as dim as many think.

And preventing Iraq's descent into anarchy or civil war is in the interests of all these parties--no matter the previous trans-atlantic discord of '03.
Quite so. Time to forget all that idiot French-fries bashing mood. And maybe this too, as this kind of attitude has long been in short-supply:
But, on the other hand, it's certainly not time for cockiness, chest-beating, and talk of razing Fallujah, Sadr City, Najaf and such claptrap.
And may I also be permitted to quote this groung-level reaction from the Financial Guy in Iraq upset over lots of ignorance being widely broadcasted:
I may add that Safire's column in The New York Times on this is positively surreal. I suppose it is not hard to see how things have gone so poorly given people with his level of understanding are running things.
Who also has this wonderfully domestic tidbit about moods we are too far removed to appreciate:
I had another one of those chilling convos with my Iraqi Shiite maid.

Recall she is secular. I listened to a half hour rant from her about how great Muqtada as-Sadr is so great becuase he is finally teaching the Americans a lesson, and showing that the Iraqi people are gave and know how to stand up for themselves. Rarely do I bother to argue but her cheering the news of the helicopters going down (al-Jazeerah reported Fallujah and Baqoubah) really pushed things too far.

Normally I tolerate her outbursts as she's a simple woman whose political views derived from growing up in an extreme environment - and she swings back and forth. The lesson here is even Iraqis not naturally sympathetic to Sadr will, if they have to choose between as-Sadr and American troops will choose as-Sadr. Nationalist and particularist sentiment will trump reason, above all in violent, emotionally charged environments. This is a losing game for the CPA.

CNBC Arabiyah reports by the way that there was fighting between demonstrators and US forces (showed images of Bradley APCs in the street) in ... get this, Kirkuk.
If you're inclined to investigate some of Belgravia's fantasies at length, this is the light they should be read in. For he thinks strange thoughts:
It appears we lost approximately 20 U.S. soldiers over the past 24 odd hours.

That's just not acceptable.
Oh yeah? Brace yourself, good man. What is not acceptable today might just turn out to look like the norm a few weeks from now. But people adapt themselves. That's how you know you're back in Vietnam - when you find yourself getting used to and excusing things going bad. It's an easy road to take, really is.


Tell-it-all quote from Oldman's intense plan for turning things around on a dime:

41. Rename Airport from Bush International Airport to Baghdad International Airport.

I am making the necessary efforts to move out of the circle of violence that the news media perpetrate on us - I am not going to become a news-junkie, and I am not gonna prophesize about things I don't know about. And lastly I am not gonna let myself be sucked in into the incubator of politico-blogosphere which is a small wet and red monster with many eyes and a brain of a chicken :)

Of course the politico-blogosphere is actually just a club - much better organized and better connected that the great mass of blogs out there. It's got the resources to be visible and make itself more visible than it deserves perhaps. Either way, I can't take all the whiskey, I guess - it gets you drunk and then you start babbling and imagining you know what you're talking about. Yeah right. But judging by some editorials I read in the big media it's really not all that surprising - people are working with superficial infos and trying to make sense out of chaos, but the chaos prevails.

So I'll let chaos prevail and get busy with something else. Like the state of my mind, for instance. Which is absolutely rotten. Somebody please drop a bomb on my head so it may explode before I feel I am dying.

The guy at the Cancer Blog is looking at tumors popping up all over his body and he can't do a thing about it. That's life. It ends in death. Chaos with meaning.

Rwanda and why we can't care

There were many programs on tv this week about Rwanda's genocide of 1994. Most of them I found disappointing. Being a pessimist or a realist, it is too hard for me to believe that after all the butchering and the consequent exile and more butchering of the Hutus by the Tootsie liberation front or else - that after all this this country is in any way back to normal. All this cute stuff about crime-tribunals and prison for killers and confessional reintegration and how the new gov is being so fair-handed and nice. There must be a dark side to all this and I am seeing nothing of this dark side being reported. The explanation for this absurdly one-sided view of things is probably very simple: the West has not much interest in that corner of the world, journalists making investigative forrays in there are rare, they're not in sync with the local culture so they get their stuff from whoever gets their attention first (and that would be gov officials), plus the whole concept of Rwanda in the western mind turns around non-intervention by the West - which is arguably only a small fraction of the bigger picture.

The Frontline feature I found completely inane. It wasn't so much about Rwanda as about western powers, especially Clinton's WH not acting etc. Big news. No critical angle beyond that. Old tired pictures of the massacre. Yeah, we've been seeing those live when and as it were happening and nothing gave. So I guess it's not enough to show pictures - providing some perspective is more important. These sorts of documentaries (Frontline is frequently inane in that way, unfortunately) are a rehash of the most superficial stuff, and it's as if this event happened ages ago and became a mask of superficial notions, like the Holocaust or the WWII - while in fact it's quite fresh, it's still with us and everything is still ungoing.

One breach of this universal protocol on Rwanda was a BBCnews report about a woman who's been used as a sex-slave by the Hutu-militia. She's still alive - dying of AIDS, bleeding, they never kill themselves in Africa, do they. Other small documentaries told the story of ongoing hate in Rwanda. And frankly this gotta be closer to truth than the presented image of peace and quiet and good progress.

Basically what this absence of critical angle means is that, no matter all the public outcry once upon a time, we really don't care outta here. We can't be bothered to take a fresh and deeper look - it's not our story, not worth investigating. It's some african shit that happened. All we care about is whether we feel good about ourselves or not - and that's the same perspective we're being given on Iraq right now: it's all about our precious goodness, never about those other folks.

But anyway. What else is new.

One tremendous documentary I've seen recently though was not about Rwanda - it was about the "Little Angels" of Colombia: a group of 8-10 year old kids in a dirt-poor slum in some colombian town who decided to care for the old folks abandonned by their families and the government. It was on Mountain Lake PBS station. I think this documentary was done by a small French crew - the French are much better at documentaries than americans, it's a whole art with them and it's so subtle I am not sure how they even do it. It's think it's the lack of moralizing angle: cinema-verite style, where you look at reality without judging it, without editing out the odd stuff - for example, a victim may look ridiculous and pathetic, and it won't be skipped over. Or maybe it's the attention to detail. I just don't know. But this was one powerful experience - I can safely say I've never seen such obscene poverty displayed so directly. And the life of this "little angel" who decided to live for the poor like some sort of a natural saint at age 9 is really a whole Gospel come alive - it just happened.

Ben-Hur in Iraq

I've been watching the classic Ben-Hur movie tonight - this film runs at least 10 times a year on different channels and most of the time I avoid it because I've seen it too many times already. But tonight there was nothing better on tv and I have avoided it for so long I forgot enough for it to feel like a novelty - and, fuck, it totally moved me to tears.

That was probably due to the way I've been worrying about Iraq so much in the past days - and so much of this movie is so close to the situation out there now.

Ben-Hur: "You want my advice on how to deal with Judea? Move out your roman legions."

Here you have Ben-Hur, who is an educated cosmopolitan jew in occupied Judea, and his friend is a Roman, who has no respect for Ben-Hur's religion, people, and values and is convinced of Rome's utter superiority over this uncivilized people with their strange absurd religion. And this Roman childhood friend asks Ben-Hur to help him pacify Judea - he asks Ben-Hur to help him establish contact with the local leaders and then he asks him to betray those who are unwilling to cooperate with Rome, because in a Roman's eyes they are "criminals". And that ends their friendship.

You can't be friends with an occupier if he sees your people as criminals.

I mean, the dialogues in this movie are a succint transcript of the dialogues that are happening in Iraq right now between CPA and the locals. There is this same american self-importance and contempt, and the same distrust by the locals. And all of this rests on one simple thing: narrow-mindedness, stupidity, contempt, self-interest.

Isn't it strange that a movie about a jew in ancient Judea should be so reminiscent of the war in Iraq? It's a story of grave injustice and the struggle against this injustice. In this classic american film the bad guys are the all-powerful highly militarized Roman occupiers with their supposedly superior values, and the good guys are a small people who resist this violent arrogance through faith and personal honor.

Too bad the bad guys in this movie are so damn close to the american administrators in Iraq right now. It wasn't supposed to be that way.

Crying wolf when you see a dog

There has been an attack on a jewish library here in Montreal - some fucks tried to put it on fire overnight, and left a note in French promising more attacks - ostensibly over the Middle-East conflict.

For some time after 9/11 and pretty much ever since the invasion of Iraq jewish public buildings have been posting conspicuous security guards around the premises on all major holidays. I live across a synagogue-cum-school so I've observed the level of tensions in the Middle-East just from watching the relaxing or tightening of these security measures.

It is obvious that 99% of the population has no sympathy for this shit - and no interest in what's happening in Israel/Palestine and all that. There were attacks on Mosques after 9/11 - those were done by too-eager working-class tv watchers without no more politics to them than a visceral response to graphic images and simplistic rhetoric.

The attacks on synagogues and jewish schools are quite a different affair. Without knowing all the details, I imagine it's either some radicalized quebec lefties, or some french-speaking maghreb arabs (there is a bunch of those here in Montreal) trying to vent their views. Likewise we have a radicalized jewish fight group here. All of them put together are of very minor import and have no support with larger communities. That at least is clear so far.

The authorities have promised to increase police presence in the streets of the jewish-orthodox neighbourhood where the attack took place. The jewish community is claiming they are somehow in fear of walking the streets. That's bullshit of course: there is no question there needs to be security around possible targets, but nobody is gonna jump at you with a knife in full daylight.

Anyway - blowing anti-semitism out of proportion and crying wolf when you see a dog is not a novel reaction. The police know it's just the usual rhetoric so they didn't go out of their way with patroling the streets. But they will be cruising around there overnight for sure. Good.

Of course the synagogue across my street is sporting a robust private security force at the moment. And so it will remain all through Passover, I suppose. If Itzak Rabin, the true JFK of Israel, had been allowed to live I am not sure we'd be seeing any of this today. But that's just my post-humous opinion, and history is going down its deadly course. Neither anti-jewish fires nor pro-jewish rhetoric can change that now.

Legitimacy = trust = peace ::

I am running thin on nerves "responding" to this whole Iraq situation. While the bulk of the blogosphere occupies itself with either day-dreaming about "localized insurgencies that only need putting down" and the other camp happily gloats over "obvious proofs" how they were so right about this war going bad in the end, I'd rather quote this piece of "informal intelligence" from the Financial Guy in Iraq who deals with CPA on a daily basis and has real contacts in there who know where things really stand:
I was going over the list of the participants in the last Rebuilding Iraq conference I got from an internal source.

It's sad. Back in June 2003 the same event list was 15 pages, and hundreds of participants. This one: 3 pages, maybe a hundred - and very few non-CPA/USG non-Arabs.

What does that tell you?

Market speaks.
That's all you need to know. The real prestige and promise of the Coalition Authority has shrunk consistently while our tv anchors kept telling us how things were going fine and finer. Now we see very telegenic dragging of corpses through the streets, magnificent street-fights in tense neighbourhoods, and all those other hard-to-miss signs of things not going as fine as we were being lead to believe.

People are starting to wonder what might be going wrong behind the scenes. And for some reason a lot of people are starting to wonder that perhaps it's time these behind-the-scenes facts came to light, and that maybe what is really needed is not first-and-foremost more troops and more repression but better and stronger alliances with the locals, better and more trustworthy behind-the-scenes leadership.

And that's why people are once again talking about improving legitimacy with international mediators and "taking the all American face off this" (US Senator) and shedding light on the all-too-obscure dealings and deadly failures of the CPA.

I only hope all of this will become evident soon enough to permit drastic changes and prevent further deterioration. Amen.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

That's what I wake up to: Fighting on two fronts in Iraq since weekend kills 100 Iraqis, 20 Americans

''Insurgents usually fire and run. This time they're digging in, which is the first time we've seen them do that,'' Ebert said.

A U.S. official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said all American officials in Iraq, including those working for the Coalition Provisional Authority, had been told to remain inside their compounds since Monday because of security worries. It was not clear how long the rule would remained in place.

It's a long and detailed article of many fights across Iraq including Brits and Italians in the South. This is an uprising. What else do you need to know?

Meanwhile, Bremer keeps churning out the usual CPA drivel:
Top U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer conceded not all was going smoothly as the coalition approached a June 30 handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis. Bremer canceled a trip to Washington this week because of the mounting violence.

''We have problems, there's no hiding that. But basically Iraq is on track to realize the kind of Iraq that Iraqis want and Americans want, which is a democratic Iraq,'' Bremer said on ABC's ''Good Morning America.''
Right. It will probably take about a week of "insurgents digging in" to wipe this line out of his speeches for good.

Meanwhile pro-war bloggers keep congratulating themselves on how valliantly the US troops fight and how soon they will crush down these "minority speciality groups" etc. Right. It doesn't even occur to them that a vast climate of suspicion is what generates insurgency in the first place - and they have no solution for that except more and more military crack-down. What an old hopeless story.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Hard-headed as ever

Some US. Senators are speaking out, finally:
Asked whether transferring power in less than three months would be too soon, Lugar said, "It may be, and I think it's probably time to have that debate."
In a Washington Post op-ed piece published Sunday, Biden urged President Bush to sponsor a summit meeting on Iraq with European allies, including those who opposed the war. He also said the United States should push a plan for the United Nations to create a high commissioner, whose job would be to manage Iraq's political transition.

"We need to, in my view, take the total American face off of this," Biden said.
Right. A bit uncertain though. Too soft to push through.

And indeed:
President Bush said on Monday that he would stick to a June 30 deadline for handing over Iraqi sovereignty, even as a Shi'ite uprising against the U.S.-led occupation stirred fears of a civil war.

Meanwhile Instapundit is stroking his pet-dream:

It's worth emphasizing that this is factional fighting, not popular uprising, and that Sadr is not particularly popular outside his own faction.

while his cronies propose to wipe out all Sunnis as a bad-bad tribe:

The sunni baathists are a special-interest minority group with a history of political terrorism -- these are the same knobs that were feeding their brothers into the industrial plastic shredders. Instead of killing them as we were expecting (and as we probably should have), we allowed them to go home to see if they would adapt to the new reality.

Heh. I suppose these strategists would have offered to wipe out all Hutus after the Tootsie genocide in Rwanda. Breathless shit.

Bush and the hydra of inequity

In light of the previous post. While I have no liking for Bush himself, I've long suspected that if this president had a different cabinet around him, things would be about as different as day and night. Recall, I pray you: the white House of Bush the Father was never so vile as it has become under the unholy triumvirate of Rumsfield-Cheney-Wolfowitz. Recall, I pray you: Colin Powell, from the first Bush administration, was never a scumbag and for all the gray hair he's suffered in this particular cabinet, has still managed not to turn into a raging scumbag.

Who is ruling the White House? Was there a price to pay for Bush to become president - did he have to sign a "secret pact" with the occult forces propping Cheney, the Gray Cardinal, to win this presidency? Who got Rumsfield onboard? Has Bush any personal power and discretional liberty to change his government - or is he, like Putin in Russia, a puppet of occult power-politics chaining his party?

It is obscure to me but through all the obscurity I can see that something vile is taking place and it is perhaps the measure of a President's weakness that his WH be so powerful in suppressing probing light and disclosure.

While the lefties of all colors rave against Bush and his bad grammar, too few of the truth-seekers are asking the real questions: is Bush at liberty to reform his cabinet?

Chirac in France has recently done just that - after provincial elections showed a steep decline of his party representatives. People vote, the King is listening. What mechanisms in american democracy may get Bush to rid himself of the goddam hydra behind him, stiffling the life out of his country?

Is Bush a blind moron or is he a gullible puppet?

The king is naked - long live the king

I'd like to cite Oldman again, because there are just not enough voices saying this loud enough, without all the creepy partisan junk. I know it's useless but the obvious is bound to burst forth at some point:
Now in practice, people win in politics all the time by senseless rhetoric and demagogery. However, even those liars in the past realized that when push came to shove, they needed to put down real policy while selling themselves using lies or else everything would fall apart. Now we have the spectacle of an Administration so disconnected from reality that the reason why they're not lying is that they're too deluded to see reality, or correct their mistakes when confronted by obvious short-comings (MSNBC).

In this story, everyone does not laugh when they finally admit they see that the Emperor has no clothes because they can obviously see that the Emperor has no intention of admitting that he has no clothes on and his loyalists perfectly willing to smear, berate, or persecute anyone who states the perfectly obvious.

Iraq is not going well. I wish that our President would finally bend to reality and decide to send some guys who really knew what they were doing to handle Iraq. Like the jobs' program it's better late than never, and it's not too late though the hour is very late to turn things around there.

The oldman reiterates his offer to personally take charge, and full responsibility, for Iraq and clean it up himself to the White House. Not that there's much chance of that happening, but I get tired of waking up in the morning and getting pale because of the headlines and moreover the implications of them for America's future. America does not need a second Vietnam to haunt her for the next few decades. America needs all her credibility, moral authority, and successful vigor from successes to meet the challenges of the future.

If Bush can bring himself to admit that tax-cuts were not by themselves enough to reform the economy, perhaps he can still be brought to listen to reason and immediately start the true reconstruction of Iraq.

Throw away those advisers consouling you to "stick to your guns," Mr. President! Listen to people who actually care about this country, and are willing to put themselves on the line to see things done right! If you want to see your ideas carried out, you have to show that your Administration can get the job done for the American people! That means throwing away ideological arguments -and advisers- that will consoul you to implement foolish programs that have no chance of success! It also means, realizing that we have to take charge and do something different (YglesiasM) if we want the future to change as well. I thought personal accountability, like in the jobs reformation program, was supposed to be part of conservative ideas. Let's stop blaming the Iraqis and realize that we got ourselves into this situation by our own choice, and against the advice of many. We have to take responsibility now for making it go right (via Nathan Newman).

Listen to those of us in the grass-roots conservative base, and not just the big-donors and foaming-rabid neo-cons! Your legacy and the future of the country depend on you abandoning the flawed policies of the past and embracing those that can get the job done for this country! If you don't, then "whoever wins in November" (Instapundit) I fear our country may be set upon a course of no return.
I don't know how it is that so many are blind enough to miss the obvious. Or should it be "ignore"? This man is not kidding when he says he's a conservative - believe it or not, he is :-0

The world of tiny words

I gotta pull out of this pundit-mood soon otherwise there is a danger of addiction: news-junkie (as per Instapundit) is not a vain concept, it can and does suck you in. The world is a big place - the place I occupy in this world is really very small. Mass plus gravity.

What does it matter what the fuck I might feel or think of distant tragedies shaking the globe? Heh. Venting - that's all there is to it. Talking to yourself - or sitting in the kitchen sipping tea, talking to a circle of helpless tea-drinkers. That's what it adds up to: table-talk.

Sudan will sink, Iraq will sink, no matter how much tea and cigarettes and words I might waste. The media are too busy being entertaining.

Big media should be saying what I would like to say - they don't need me, they don't need those other multitudes of small people talking to their tv-screens. There is this bizarre jungian unaccounted-for thing called "the collective mind". I mean, you don't need to be a raving mystic to appreciate the fact that what I think may not be so very different from what a well-known guy in some news-room out there thinks. That's what the media are for in a free-society: talking for the people, talking sense to people, mediating.

As to the blogosphere - it's all very nice and dandy, and everybody knows everybody, and it doesn't amount to more than that. It is not really such an absurdity that the story of a stupid remark by Kos is treated on par with something like Fallujah. This simply means that the blogworld is really a small place - family trifles are as hotly disputed as world-events. How is that different from fighting over pop-corn while watching news on CNN in your living room.

Some perspective.

Or the Volokh blog, supposedly important, supposedly influential - so bored they're happy to pounce on this insignificant blogger here. Not only that - pouncing on one word out of thousands. Heh - kossers :) What a tiny world indeed.

Gotta go make some tea.

Update on what's developping in Iraq:

Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, appealed for calm last night, Arabic-language television stations reported. Sistani is more widely respected than Sadr. But some of Sadr's views are widely shared, such as rejecting the US-appointed Governing Council that is making key decisions about Iraq's future government.


But as night fell, the atmosphere in Sadr City - once called Saddam City and renamed last year for Sadr's father, who was assassinated by regime agents in 1999 - was more suggestive of battle. Smoke rose over the sprawling neighborhood, helicopters circled, and Reuters television footage showed civilian cars crushed by tanks. A US military spokesman said US fighter jets and helicopter gunships were striking back in response to the Najaf clash.


Yesterday, a senior coalition official confirmed that occupation forces had detained Yacoubi, the Sadr aide whose release the protesters are demanding. Yacoubi was arrested on an Iraqi warrant in connection with the murder of a Shi'ite cleric who was killed the day he returned to Najaf from exile a year ago after US forces took control of the city. The cleric, Abdel Majid al-Khoei, was hacked to death by a mob at the Imam Ali shrine.

Rwanda - Sudan - Rwanda - Sudan ::

Reports from something awful going on in Sudan since February. Two months ago a report said that there were 100,000 local blacks fleeing across the border in Western Sudan because of systematic attacks and rapes by Arab-militia. Now there is this:
Fighting in western Sudan has intensified in recent weeks, with Arab militia systematically attacking villages and raping women, a senior UN official said today.
The rebels accuse President Omar el-Bashir?s Islamic government of arming and supporting the Arab militia, and carrying out a scorched-earth policy in the impoverished, underdeveloped region.
The government has denied the allegations.
But Kapila said the government could ?exercise greater influence on the militia to curb the attacks on civilians?.
More than 800,000 people, mostly of African descent, have been forced to flee their homes and unknown numbers of civilians have been killed in the violence.
I would like to ask one question: what does it mean when it is said "UN should get involved"? Which countries in the UN can apply pressure on other members to send in both troops and negotiators? Which big countries are powerful enough to back such resolutions through diplomacy? Why is it that whenever something like this happens everybody turns to US and wait for it to wave its hand?

Canada has no army to speak of. Do the French have an army? What about Germans? Is it even a question of who has troops - or rather a question of who has enough diplomatic weight and political will to back up strong action?

I doubt the US would need to send any of its own troops to Sudan. Why can't the Europeans do something on their own for once? I do not understand how the UN really works and what makes it tick when it has to.

It only took three months to butcher 800,000 people in Rwanda.


Dallas Morning News (of all places) has this to say:
As a presidential candidate, George W. Bush said he agreed with the decision not to intervene in Rwanda. As president, he should realize that the United States and the rest of the world have a duty to mankind that transcends self-interest.
I had no idea Bush was such a cool dude. Oh boy. He sure won't do a thing now - he lives in Iraq.

The land of milk and honey

Amazingly, some Canadians are not aware that there is a pretty serious problem with a new brand of terrorism shaking the world - as I watched a CBC report today on gov going to tighten up its anti-terrorism effort, some viewer left a phone comment worrying that this whole idea might lead to too much loss of individual freedoms, privacy, and that Canada gotta stay as free and open as it always has been, since it's not really threatened in any way.

Oh wow. They arrest a guy in Ottawa in connection with the recent arrests in UK (pending further results, the reasons for the charges against him seem pretty bad - intercepted cell-phone convos from that UK group etc), and this "informed viewer" calls in to say he doesn't see any problem :-0

Luckily, the gov is obviously not gonna listen to this kind of wide-eyed innocence and the media won't promote that stupid line either. I mean - do we really need to see a bomb go off in some public place to get some people off their fluffy cloud?


Which brings back something I've found pretty crazy - a few months back the US announced its plan to tighten security in airports by installing eye-scan devices and finger-printing every incoming passanger, with possibility of full-body search. There was a big outcry about this in the blogs: we don't wanna "pay" for your security obsessions, it's your problem, we don't want to go through this etc.

It kinda puzzled me that people were so upset by things like that. I mean - USA is in a jam (it doesn't even matter at this point if they "brought it upon themselves" or not - that's an academic historical question), a lot of people would like to blow bombs on US soil, people come in with explosives in their shoes and all that stuff.

I'd rather be finger-printed and go through a full-body search by immigration folks than get summarily arrested at an airport and deported to Syria because US federal authorities can't be bothered to disclose on what basis they've arrested me (Maher Arar case).

You've got no business crying against finger-printing. Cry out against non-disclosure of relevant information and obstruction of basic justice. Don't confuse loss of comforts for loss of freedom - believe me, there is a *very* big difference here.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Fallujah as the turning point

It was lost on no one in the wide public and the big media (yeah, believe it or not) that the massacre in Fallujah did not at all look like an isolated incident by "some thugs" non-reflective of the general state of affairs in Iraq regarding negative sentiment against USA control. [Addenda: heh, turns out Slate's F.Kaplan also called Fallujah a "turning point" - I guess it's in the air. Voice it for us, big guys, speak the collective mind.]
Today more *very bad* news. Juan Cole draws a very detailed picture:
Shiite Clashes in with Coalition in Najaf Baghdad: Phase II of the Anti- Occupation Struggle Begins

Nine Coalition Troops Killed, Dozens wounded in Confronting Uprising

The always tense relationship between the Sadrist movement among Iraqi Shiites and the US and its Coalition partners has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Perhaps a third of Iraqi Shiites are sympathetic to the radical, Khomeini-like ideology of Sadrism, and some analysts with long experience in Iraq put it at 50%. Earlier Muqtada Al-Sadr, the movement leader, had called on his forces to avoid violence against Coalition forces. As of Sunday, he has decided that the Coalition means permanently to exclude his group from power, and has decided to launch an uprising. This uprising involves taking over police stations in Kufa, Najaf, Baghdad and possibly elsehwere. The Sadrist militia now controls Kufa, according to the New York Times, and probably controls much of Sadr City or the slums of East Baghdad, as well, though it has been expelled from the police stations it had occupied there.
So far, about 60% of clashes with Coalition troops had occurred in the Sunni heartland of Iraq. But the violent clashes in Najaf, Baghdad, Amara and Nasiriyah may signal the beginning of a second phase, in which the US faces a two-front war, against both Sunni radicals in the center-north and Shiite militias in the South.
The problem began in some ways on Sunday March 28, when Paul Bremer decided to close the main Sadrist newspaper, al-Hawza, purportedly for publishing material that incited violence against Coalition troops.
The outbreak of Shiite/Coalition violence is a dramatic challenge to US military control of Iraq. The US is cycling out its forces in the country, bringing in a lot of reserve and national guards units, but will go from 130,000 to only 110,000 troops. It is too small a number to really provide security in Iraq, but the country has not fallen into chaos in part because the main attacks have come in the Sunni heartland and because the Coalition has depended on Shiite militias to police many southern cities. If the Shiites actively turn against the US, the whole military and security situation could become untenable. The US is already losing its Spanish coalition partner. The Japanese and Korean contingents are explicitly not there to fight. The Thais may decamp. The coalition partners probably provide a division altogether, and if they pulled out, the US would have to find a division to replace them. It only has 10 itself, and nobody else is going to come in under these circumstances--certainly not the UN and probably not NATO.
If you want to know how many Coalition troops were killed in all of this, look in the news stories. Like this one from NYTimes: Violent Disturbances in Iraq From Baghdad to Southern Cities:
As the fighting raged, Mr. Sadr called on his followers to "terrorize" the enemy as demonstrations were no longer any use. Last week, his weekly newspaper, Hawza, was shut down by American authorities after it had been accused of inciting violence. The closure began a week of protests that grew bigger and more unruly at each turn.

"There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples," Mr. Sadr said in a statement distributed by his office in Kufa today.
In light of the preceding post about just how rotten and ignorant is the CPA authority, I guess the only thing to do at this point is to dismantle and reform that particular "club" in a very visible, brutal and open way. Perhaps, maybe, god help - it will appease the minds.

Juan Cole has this to say on the question:
Iraq Information or Party Propaganda?

The Guardian has a story [Bush Loyalists Pack Iraq Press Office] on Sunday about how the Iraq Information Office is not just a Coalition Provisional Authority way of getting the news out about their activities, but is essentially an arm of the Republican National Committee dedicated to reelecting George Bush. The goal is to keep the bad news from Iraq from hurting Bush in the presidential campaign.

I have for some time been wondering why the US press reporting about Iraq was so much sunnier and optimistic than what one hears from Iraqis or from freelance reporters on the ground in the country. To any extent that the mainstream Western press takes its cues from Dan Senor and Rich Galen, that would help explain it.
Maybe Bush will get impeached in the end over this mess? I'd love to see that. And Rumsfield/Cheney/Wolfowitz out of politics forever.

Winds of Change

Look who's talking - Instapundit is playing the even-handed-objective-truth-seeking-fair-n-balanced-I-never-said-that neocon act when things are really too obviously fucked not to notice... Sure - get yourself convinced since you refuse to listen when people are maybe upset about too many lies that you helped to promote, maybe? Hopefully he'll do the required-by-reality reorientation A.Sullivan is already engaged upon. Anyway, here's the first installment of that reluctant process, heh:
UPDATE: On the other hand, a reader who for obvious reasons would rather remain nameless, has this rather negative report. He's a guy I've corresponed with more than once, and he looked into taking a job with the CPA. This is what he heard from people he considers knowledgeable:

"They all came back to me with the same story. Go if you want, but know what you are getting into. And what you are getting into is a completely incompetent organization. They had a high opinion of Bremer, but other than that, nothing. In particular they highlighted the presence of political appointees - sons of prominent Bush contributors, quite often - who had absolutely no qualifications whatsoever for their jobs and were doing disastrously poor work there.

They also commented on a really pathological culture where anyone, anyone at all, who in any way dissented from the party line on any issue was harshly suppressed, with their careers ended on more than one occasion. So if a third of the people in the press office are connected to the Administration, then the AP has (in my opinion) started to nose around the edges of a real story.

If that's the real story, then that's what we should be hearing about. Unfortunately, the "bunker mentality" often emerges in response to slanted reporting, which is one of the reasons that slanted reporting on topics of such importance is a bad thing. I'd like to see some trustworthy journalists reporting on this subject.
Slanted? Who's talking, oh boy.

However, if we are soon going to see something like that finally being said by those folks on FOX channel, then I absolutely hope Instapundit continues to fisk his own mind some more on that subject.

Way to go, folks, time to undo all the brain-washing you've perpetrated on the poor "all-american" minds out there. The bunker mentality, yeah right.

But while Insta's conceit is pathetic and enraging, this is exactly the response and awareness - and, hopefully, resulting media pressure - that I've been looking for in the wake of Fallujah. Things need *major* improving in Iraq. USA must surrender much of its ineffective dumbass control to allies. Cooperate. Get NATO in, get UN onboard for real (not just Ghana or Zimbabwe, or whatever it is at the moment).

That's the only way: break down the dam of silence and salutary change will follow. The day will soon come when this particular reader of Instapundit who has direct acces to reality will not need to conceal his name "for obvious reasons". Cheers for that.

An open secret

Now that the the dam of silence is cracking open, a big British newspaper, The Observer, produced an article on how Bush and Blair "made a secret pact for Iraq war" nine days after 9/11. This is confirmed by an ex-ambassador who "reveals discussion".

Well, the whole world was pretty much aware that the push for war in Iraq was not exactly based on any of those supposed "legitimate pretexts" that were broadcasted to the wide public through the big media - and that's why Canada did not go along, for example. Not because it had any certain information that there were no WMDs to go after, and not because it could actually prove that there were no Al-Quaeda links from 9/11 or anything. But because in all of the diplomatic world it was clear and obvious that the true reason for that war had nothing whatsoever to do with those dubious pretexts. Something that became especially glaring after Powell demanded of the UN that the inspectors be pulled out (remember that super-diplomat Blix?) - since they were not finding anything, you know.

And our crazy and loud-mouth PM Jean Chretien just did not think that entering this "secret pact" or what not would be such a great idea.

And hell - he was damn right. The Americans tried to "punish" Canada afterwards, by some spiteful reversals of some economic decisions etc. Just like they tried to punish Europe. Fuck you, I say - first get clear on your own lies, then blame the others.

That's what Clarke did, ladies and gentlemen. That's what he did, while you're trying to channel this whole thing into a Clinton-vs-Bush retro-drama. He paved the way for the whole truth to come out on Iraq - all over the fucking world.
Details of this extraordinary conversation will be published this week in a 25,000-word article on the path to war with Iraq in the May issue of the American magazine Vanity Fair. It provides new corroboration of the claims made last month in a book by Bush's former counter-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, that Bush was 'obsessed' with Iraq as his principal target after 9/11.

But the implications for Blair may be still more explosive. The discussion implies that, even before the bombing of Afghanistan, Blair already knew that the US intended to attack Saddam next, although he continued to insist in public that 'no decisions had been taken' until almost the moment that the invasion began in March 2003. His critics are likely to seize on the report of the two leaders' exchange and demand to know when Blair resolved to provide the backing that Bush sought.
Coalition of the Willing - indeed.

Iraq - outsider insider view

From that Instapundit flourish of links, here's an interesting one (Belgravia Dispatch) by a guy whose friend is currently one of the CPA negotiators in Iraq. There are excerpts from his email on the state of affairs there and how americans are talking to Iraqi representatives. It's a long "dispatch". The man speaks no arabic ("After three weeks in Baghdad, my Arabic comprehension remains more or less de minimus") and he says he spent three years "advancing democracy in Russia". He probably never learned Russian either :) I have to wonder what he's doing in Iraq but there is every likelihood that there was simply no one more knowledgeable to send.

The man is very self-assured as to what he's doing and how to do it - from reading his email you'd think it's all going just great. But this part caught my eye:
"Of course I know what federalism means," the cleric scoffed, "it comes from the Greek root meaning unitary state." Unclear on the precise etymology myself, I let this slide, and tried to get back to the principle of our discussion. So it's a good thing, I prompted, don't you think? The room erupted again into unhappy murmers, and he stared back at me with a stony look that let me know I'd missed the apparently classic Arab double-entendre. Oh, I continued as if I'd just stumbled on the actual meaning of the word, you mean it's actually a backroom deal, reached conspiratorally, that ensures a tyranny of the minority? His face lit up and his eyes warmed considerably. The growing roar of murmers ebbed back to silence, broken only by the angry footsteps of a Kurdish participant who got up and left. Things were going badly--I should have guessed this by my translator's increasing nervousness and the growing visibility of our plainclothes security staff around the exits of an otherwise sleepy Baghdad auditorium--but I pressed on. Can it really mean both things? Why don't you just tell me what you really think? An impolitic question, sometimes, in the New Iraq.
Heh, it sure looks like there is an almost hilarious lack of communication between CPA and Iraqis at this point. With negotiators who are unclear on the most basic stuff and having to read body-language of their translators to get a clue. Sounds and looks like a bad hollywood movie about some foolhardy american promoting his glorious ideas and body-language in some wilderness to uncivilized natives.

At least you can clearly see just how much respect this guy has for those folks. They probably thought him pretty dumb too - and rightly so. I don't know: can you really achieve understanding and lasting accords without mutual respect? Not in my experience.

Let's just hope it's all nothing but an awkward dab at satire.


I recently read something by a western journalist in Iraq who, among other things, mentioned that during the three-week invasion when American troops shot quite a few civilians, full families etc, on the highways because they didn't stop their cars - you know why that happened? Because Iraqis are unfamiliar with the typical western gesture of "slow down, stop"... A little thing that can mean the difference between life and death.

Example: do you know that there are vast regions in India where folks say "yes" not by nodding but by shaking their head right-and-left, which in the West means "no". Ooops. Imagine how you gonna misread that body-language if you go in there without a clue. (I worked in a housing project once and that's where I experienced this first-hand: trying to explain some obvious stuff to a Pakistani Indian guy who obviously understood but kept shaking his head in protest:)

I can't blame the troops - I am so fucking sorry for those young GIas who had to look at the kids they've just blown to pieces. Guess who deserves that particular blame? And it's still going on big time - this same stupidity, and for that particular stupidity you cannot blame the rank-n-file, never.

Peacekeepers are trained in these little things. Because in peacekeeping that's what's important - communication. Americans in Iraq now are very far from that stage - and their commanders and officials are even farther.

Blogdex shows that the blogosphere is still spinning out the KOS controversy. A mini-mythology is currently being created around this mini-affair, and as with all such things a new word is about to be added to the blogosophere speak.

Check out this witty discussion on a Kos-bashing blog - it's about how Kos deleted his controversial comment and that the whole fishy situation deserves to be consecrated with a punchy neologism, a la "fisking". One of possible examples:

Awwwwww, quit yer kossing! :)


I think they're absolutely right - and Instapundit is probably going to propagate the new word to the small world out there.

As to Kos himself - well, who's without blame? But he really needs to learn a lesson on courage and straight-talking here, if he intends to lead minds in any worthwhile direction. And, yeah, you sure can't learn this by emulating Clinton.

As I fall deeper and deeper through the rabbit hole (cliche police - sos:) of the politico blogosphere I am discovering rather handy resources, which probably partly explain how and where all those dedicated pundits get all their links to munch on.

There is this unassuming service called memeorandum (via OTB) that functions as a digest of which news stories are currently discussed by which well-known pundits. It's really well-organized and it got all the big names on the list, though of course it rather narrows the scope of what might be going on out there.

I guess the next discovery would have to be a similarly well-organized and unassuming service for top-news in the big media, selected according certain lines - and I just hate Yahoo for that matter.

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