micah holmquist's irregular thoughts and links
Welcome to the musings and notes of a Cadillac, Michigan based writer named Micah Holmquist, who is bothered by his own sarcasm.
Please send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holmquist's full archives are listed here.
Sites Holmquist trys, and often fails, to go no more than a couple of days without visiting (some of which Holmquist regularly swipes links from without attribution)
Blogs that for one reason or another Holmquist would like to read on at least something of a regular basis (always in development)
Friday, May 30, 2003
Maybe the hunt for WMD is par for the course
Neither the Central Intelligence Agency nor the United States Army have been able to find any trace of the "bunker" that the United States began Operation Iraqi Freedom by bombing, CBS News reported Wednesday.
What the story doesn't get into is what sort of priority was put into locating the site and determining if U.S. intelligence on the site had been accurate. It is possible that this information is just coming out in the press. It is also possible that intelligence agencies and the military only recently reached these conclusions. The latter scenario might possibly explain why the U.S. has not seemed to be in any hurry to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Is there a chance they aren't in a hurry to many of the things that presumably they would want to do as soon as possible?
"A dossier compiled by the government on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction was rewritten to make it 'sexier' a senior British official has told the BBC," the BBC reported yesterday. The official was not named and according to the story said that the information in the final draft was changed so as to make Iraq's WMD programs seem more menacing. "The classic example was the statement that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use within 45 minutes," the BBC quotes the official as saying. "That information was not in the original draft. It was included in the dossier against our wishes because it wasn't reliable. Most things in the dossier were double source but that was single source and we believe that the source was wrong."
"The idea that we authorized or made our intelligence agencies invent some piece of evidence is completely absurd," British Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly said today in response to the story.
"U.S. intelligence was 'simply wrong' in leading military commanders to believe their troops were likely to be attacked with chemical weapons in the Iraq war, the top U.S. Marine general there said on Friday," writes Charles Aldinger of Reuters in a story published this afternoon. The general quoted is Lieutenant General James T. Conway, who is currently the Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force. No transcript of his comments is available as of this entry.
UPDATE: Here is the relevant exchange, from the transcript, involving Conway:
Q: It's John McWethy from ABC again, General. Back to the weapons of mass destruction. You had, we were led to believe, fairly credible intelligence indicating that some of the units that you would be encountering had live weapons of mass destruction, probably CW shells, that had been moved forward to deal with your units. At this point, understanding that the exploitation of the sites is still under way and that there are a lot of unanswered questions, do you feel that the intel was just wrong? Do you feel that the enemy may not have ever had any of these things in forward units?Whitman had this to say about securing sites where WMDs may be:
...we continue to contribute our part in the south against SSEs -- sensitive sites, if you will -- that may yield weapons of mass destruction. We've put teams on virtually every one that intelligence or local Iraqis or any other means has pointed out to us as perhaps might be containing weapons of mass destruction, or residuals of those kinds of things or whatever.I wonder when that started. 5:31 p.m. 05/30/03
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Christopher Hitchens has figured out that Paul Bremer has ties to Kissinger Associates and so figures it is now safe to critique an important part of the U.S. occupation in this week's Slate column, "Provisional Government: The disturbing extension of U.S. rule in Iraq." Actually I don't know that such is the actual chain of logic but the fact that it very well could be is funny. The column is worth reading, although I think it would be nice to see Hitchens explore the possibility that controlling Iraq was long the intention of the Bush Administration.
Max Standard hasn't been writing essays lately because he's been too busy lobbying for The Liberation of Canada. Still he wanted me to tell you that he thinks Neal Pollack is a smart guy, particularly for today's entry:
What in the world do the Red Cross and Amnesty International know about moral authority? Just look at their respective track records! OK, so their respective track records are impeccable. But they're still wrong. We were attacked on September 11, 2001. We should, therefore, be allowed to do whatever we want, in secret, for the rest of recorded history."What is most impressive about Pollack is that after this piece of brilliant wisdom, he quickly moves on to a hilarious parody of Sidney Blumenthal," Standard told me. "Pollack truly is an important voice."
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
The Iraqi colony
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld laid forth the "Core Principles for a Free Iraq" in an op/ed piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal and then spoke on the same points yesterday afternoon in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations. The basic message was that "The ultimate political outcome must be decided by the Iraqi people, within the broad principles of the rule of law, minority rights, individual liberty, and representative democracy" by which it was clear that Iraqis would have full freedom to determine the future of their country so long as participants in Saddam's regime are not involved in the control of power, a "market economy" is developed, the economy is diversified, state enterprises are privatized, the country does not develop weapons of mass destruction and the borders of the British Mandate remain in place. Using nearly identical language to that of the op/ed piece, yesterday afternoon the Secretary of Defense said, "Iraq's oil wealth will be used for the benefit of the Iraqi people" just after saying, "the Coalition Provisional Authority is developing a plan for the Iraqi oil industry that's based on transparency." Rumsfeld stressed that this would not always be a smooth process and that bumps in the road were not a sign of failure since "No nation that has made the transition from tyranny to a free society has been immune to the difficulties and challenges of taking that path--not even our own."
It comes across clearly in both documents that the Bush Administration wants control over significant aspects of Iraq and intends to exercise such control but that it does not want absolute control and wants the public of Iraq, the U.S. and the rest of the world to believe that what control it does exercise is for the good of the Iraqis and that a process of colonization is not going on in Iraq because absolute control is not sought. "In staffing ministries and positioning Iraqis in ways that will increase their influence, the Coalition will work to have supportive Iraqis involved as early as possible--so that Iraqi voices can explain the goals and direction to the Iraqi people. Only if Iraqis are engaged in, responsible for, and explaining and leading their fellow citizens will broad public support develop that is essential for security," Rumsfeld writes in a passage from the op/ed that illustrates this phenomenon. A "civil society" is sought but it will hardly be a free market of ideas as the Coalition -which is largely another way of saying the U.S. with the aid of other countries- will stack the deck in favor of those it deems favorable.
The Coalition is to be the sole force from the outside impacting Iraq. "Assistance from Iraq's neighbors will be welcomed. Conversely, interference in Iraq by its neighbors or their proxies--including those whose objective is to remake Iraq in Iran's image--will not be accepted or permitted," Rumsfeld wrote in the Journal.
And there is no timetable for the return of power to Iraqis. This is understandable given the many unknowns and yet it is still problematic because it opens up at least the possibility that the occupation of Iraq could go on for many years, especially if such an outcome is desired for one reason or another by the Coalition. Nor does Rumsfeld discuss any specifics as to what sort of involvement of the Coalition will be needed in even the short term to help achieve the goals that have been set for Iraq.
None of this is particularly remarkable or atrocious by the standards of colonial powers and yet it would be nice if the Rumsfeld could just be honest and not over extend the reach of his argument, as he does in the part of the op/ed that reads, "Whenever possible, contracts for work in Iraq will go to those who will use Iraqi workers and to countries that supported the Iraqi people's liberation so as to contribute to greater regional economic activity and to accelerate Iraq's and the region's economic recovery."
The U.S. has a new colony. Maybe it will do a good job with Iraq and maybe it won't. But to deny what is going on is absurd.
Here is an "official" news article on the cooperation between the U.S. military and the Sudanese government.
Some Charlie Chaplin films are coming out on DVD on July 1, including a restored version of Modern Times. I guess it is a positive commentary on society that there is interest in the 1936, but the fact that it won't play in but a small fraction of the theaters that show ever forgettable Hollywood "blockbuster" of today because people aren't interested in seeing it in its original format is depressing.
They are almost three weeks old now but David Rees has published the 24th page of get your war on.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
"The nation's leading defense contractors are gobbling up small technology firms in a consolidation binge driven by the Pentagon's demand that future military conflicts be dominated by high-tech warfare," Renae Merle of The Washington Post writes in today's edition. "Underlying the consolidation is the sharp competition among the big defense companies to secure a lucrative role in the transformation of the military envisioned by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and backed by a growing Pentagon budget. Some industry observers worry, however, that the absorption of the small tech firms into the giant contractors could crimp innovation in a field that thrives on swift advances."
In related news, "The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Army formally unveiled the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, which is geared toward creating battlefield armor for the 21st century," writes Michael Kanellos of CNET News.com in a story from Friday. "The center's research can largely be characterized as chemistry in action. During a ceremony held at the university on Thursday, researchers showed off a technique for applying new types of coatings to fabrics to make them more resistant to water or capable of killing bacteria."
In news that isn't closely related, "The Pentagon's pronouncement that it would seek to 'destabilise' Iran's Islamic republic has given the country's clerics ammunition to portray their liberal opponents as traitors. Hardly a day passes without warnings in the official press against reformists accused of sowing divisions," writes Dan De Luce of The Guardian in a story published today.
All of these pieces are worth reading.
Monday, May 26, 2003
It should never be forgotten that Memorial Day isn't just about car races and a healthy helping of falafel and tomato wrapped up in a spinach tortilla. No, it is also about those who sacrificed for our freedom.
Just over two months ago our country -The Land That I Love- faced a great choice. Should we continue to allow Saddam Hussein to attack us at the time of his choosing or should we strike back and free Iraq so that certain groups can have guns that other groups can't? The Brave, Courageous, Honorable and Honest President George W. Bush made the only patriotic choice. He ordered the military to Liberate Iraq. It went splendid and the successful campaign preserved American freedom at least until Bush and friends start to publicly worry enough about Iran or some other country.
So at this time of great victory may I suggest that we all have a "Moment of Remembrance" for the Iraqi civilians who died so that, if you are a citizen of the U.S., you and I could be free. We don't know how many of them died. Maybe it was as many as 10,000, maybe it was however many Iraqi Body Count Project has tallied at whatever point in time you are reading this or maybe it was 4. It doesn't really matter what does matter is that it was likely more than zero and that right now there are mothers in Iraq who are spending Memorial Day Weekend saddened by the loss of their son or daughter, but still proud that their child gave the ultimate sacrifice for people the brave civilain didn't even know and that all that was asked for was a spot to bury the dead.
We should also thank many of the Iraqi soldiers who didn't put up much of a fight but who are nonetheless reportedly being figuratively bitten. ("This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage," after all.)
There will be new sacrifices as our War to Protect American Freedom moves on. For instance, Schools in Oklahoma apparently are already getting the shit end of the stick. While we should mourn whatever losses happen, we should not forget to, as somebody said at some point in time, "keep our eyes on the prize." President Bush appears to know this as the U.S. of A. has already reportedly moved in to militarily help the government of Sudan, which has been said to have "contributed significantly to the U.S.-led war against Al Qaida, including intelligence exchange and the extradition of suspects" along with aiding and abetting slavery.
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Summer unofficially began two days ago or, depending on which measurement you use, on May 2, the day X2 appeared in theaters. With that in mind, The Irregular Thoughts and Links Research Center has completed a study and is happy to announce that falafel, tomatoes and spinach tortillas are a wonderful combination.
I'm not hip to ice cream but I do think I will use my Family Assault Vehicle to go get some popsicles.
Saturday, May 24, 2003
-Some doctors in Iraq who had previously publicly blamed sanctions on Iraq for the worsening health conditions in Iraq are now saying it was primarily the fault of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, reports Matthew McAllester of Newsday.
The story really doesn't say much most, if not all, readers of this blog didn't already no. Saddam used deaths for propaganda purposes and spent money palaces and his military that could have been used to benefit the Iraqi people. I did find this paragraph interesting:
All the evidence indicates that the spike in children's deaths was tragically real - roughly, a doubling of the mortality rate during the 1990s, according to humanitarian organizations. But the reason has been fiercely argued, and the new accounts by Iraqi doctors and parents will alter the debate.So the conditions started in the 1990s, which either indicates that Saddam became a much more vicious dictator when or sometime after eight turned to nine or that there was somehow outside factor that lead to what happened. And, as arrogant as this sounds, none of what any of the doctors are quoted as saying by McAlleser "will alter the debate" as they don't make any points that haven't previously been made or provide any evidence that qualitatively supports or discredits any of the relevant arguments. And I can't help but laugh at disgust with the fact that no mention of the military damage that was done to Iraq over the last little less than 13 years is brought up.
-" Evidence is mounting to suggest that between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi civilians may have died during the recent war, according to researchers involved in independent surveys of the country," Peter Ford writes in Thursday's edition of The Christian Science Monitor. "Such a range would make the Iraq war the deadliest campaign for noncombatants that US forces have fought since Vietnam."
None of the numbers discussed are definite and Ford uses some low end estimates of civilian casualties from other conflicts involving the U.S. since Vietnam, but it is still an interesting story.
-"The American occupation authority in Iraq, apparently preserving the prewar distinction between Kurdish-controlled northern areas and the rest of the country, will allow Kurdish fighters to keep their assault rifles and heavy weapons, but require Shiite Muslim and other militias to surrender theirs, according to a draft directive," Patrick E. Tyler of The New York Times writes in a May 23 story.
-"Angry Afghan demonstrators hurled stones at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Saturday to protest this week's shooting deaths of three Afghan soldiers by U.S. Marines outside the heavily guarded compound," the AP reported today.
-"The Pentagon has proposed a policy of regime change in Iran, after reports that al-Qaida leaders are coordinating terrorist attacks from Iran," write Julian Borger and Dan De Luce in today's edition of The Guardian. "The Pentagon plan would involve overt means, such as anti-government broadcasts transmitted to Iran, and covert means, possibly including support for the Iraq-based armed opposition movement Mojahedin Khalq (MEK), even though it is designated a terrorist group by the state department."
Friday, May 23, 2003
Democrats for National Security is a new group that wants to get more Democrats elected and maybe even use these successful elections to create new policies. Reading the group's "About Us" page, it is striking that they don't have any new ideas and they don't want to engage in political, not ideological, battles for "hearts and minds." In short they want to convince people that the Democratic Party is a good steward of national defense based on the party's current stances. (BTW the site appears to be owned by Timothy Bergreen, who reportedly has worked in Democratic circles, including as a Clinton State Department staffer. An editorial written by Bergreen and Gore associate Donna Brazile appeared in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.)
Thursday, May 22, 2003
-"Hussein, we were told, had 25,000 liters of anthrax--'enough to kill several million people.' He might have had 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, good for several million more dead. He might have manufactured 500 tons of poison gas. He had 'upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents,'" writes Steve Chapman in a piece that appeared on The Washington Dispatch on Monday. Actually if you read the White House document Chapman apparently gets his numbers from, it is clear that the White House was hedging but actually only say that these materials had not been accounted for by Saddam.
-Brendan O'Neill of Spiked argues in Tuesday's "Wild weapons chase" that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq " is as much a search for America's foreign policy as it is for Saddam's illegal stockpile." O'Neill's argument has two main prongs but it is perhaps most notable for never engaging with the idea that the search might be powered by the idea that not finding whatever WMD or equipment used to develop WMD poses a great security risk. One needn't buy into the argument that this is main concern of the Bush Administration to at least acknowledge that such concerns would be a powerful motivating factor and that, without inside knowledge, it is impossible to say that this is not the primary reason the U.S. is doing the searching. O'Neill contends that political concerns can not explain the desire to find WMD because, according to an April 5 Washington Post article that he cites, the general public in the U.S. doesn't feel that not finding such weapons takes away from the legitimacy of the war and, according to an May 17 Washington Post article that O'Neill cites, Democrats say they are not planning on using it against Bush if no WMD or related equipment end up being found. What this fails to acknowledge is that Democrats are unlikely to give away from their full playbook -something the Bush Administration no doubt knows- and people too numerous to not fully, but including the hawkish Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, have in fact said that there should be fall out if WMD are not found in Iraq.
O'Neill also makes the point that finding weapons of mass destruction has become the sole positivist mission of the U.S. in Iraq. "Since 11 September, America has defined its international role in defensive terms, as standing up to evil regimes and amorphous terror groups 'over there'. In the absence of a positive mission to project around the world, US officials hope that the discovery of bad things in Iraq will be enough to justify America's international role," O'Neill writes without ever acknowledging that bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq is a crucial and undisputed part of the Bush Administration's publicly stated mission in Iraq, as evidenced by President George W. Bush's February 26 speech before the American Enterprise Institute.
-In a Slate column published on Tuesday, "Weapons and Terror: Did the Iraq war really boost al-Qaida?," fervent supporter of the war that came to be known as Operation Iraqi Freedom Christopher Hitchens makes it clear that in his mind not finding whatever WMD or WMD programs that may exist poses no great security threat. In fact Hitchens even lampoons the idea that Iraq was much of a threat. "...obviously there couldn't have been very many weapons in Saddam's hands, nor can the coalition have believed there to be. You can't station tens of thousands of men and women in uniform on the immediate borders of Iraq for several months if you think that a mad dictator might be able to annihilate them with a pre-emptive strike," Hitchens writes to make a point similar to the one I made in "Bush's Charade" from December 10.
Later Hitchens writes, "Thus if nothing has been found so far, and if literally nothing (except the mobile units predicted and described by one defector) is found from now on, it will mean that the operation was a success. The stuff must have been destroyed, or neutralized, or work on it must have been abandoned during the long grace period that was provided by the U.N. debates." This is effectively the same logical fallacy that U.S. Information Minister George W. Bush has made. It assumes that if the war was fought with the stated purpose of preventing Saddam from having WMD that if Saddam now no longer has such weapons that the war caused this situation. Maybe this is the case, but it hardly a given and the flow of "logic" used here reflects a mind that is closed to finding out facts as they could only challenge the desired, and to some extent established, narrative, which in allows Hitchens to duck hard questions. "If the Iraqi regime were disarming," Bush said on March 6, "we would know it, because we would see it." If it turns out that Iraq had in fact disarmed the question becomes did the White House know it? If not, there was a huge intelligence failure that should be of great concern. If they did, then Team Bush is guilty of lying to justify a war. Hitchens has an admirable history of trying to hold the likes of Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger accountable for their misdeeds, which only makes it that much more sad that he is antagonistic to even finding out if Bush is guilty of offenses at least as great as those of Clinton.
The biggest problem with the piece, however, is that Hitchens does not answer the titular question. He does imply a link between al Qaeda and Saddam. "As to the terrorists who (remember?) had 'no connection' to Saddam Hussein, they seem moved nonetheless to take revenge for his fall. Can that possibly mean they feel they have lost a friend?" he "asks." The question would be hilarious if delivered extemporaneously. When presented as a serious point in a published piece, it is idiotic. There have been those who have said that an invasion of Iraq would lead to al Qaeda gaining new recruits and attacking the U.S. and allies of the U.S. nearly as long as a post-September 11, 2001 invasion of Iraq has been talked about. Not because al Qaeda is tied to Saddam but because they preferred him controlling Iraq to the U.S. being in charge. And Hitchens does offer a solid, albeit obvious, defense of the idea that attacks by al Qaeda do not mean that it wrong to wage war against al Qaeda. However, like the rest of the piece, that says nothing about whether or not U.S. actions in Iraq have given a "boost" to al Qaeda.
-The Wall Street Journal argued on Saturday that Poland is now a more powerful country than either France or Germany. The Wall Street Journal concedes that France and Germany have stronger economies than Poland and a look at the CIA's The World Factbook 2002 suggests that France and Germany both have stronger militaries than Poland, but is of course silly to consider such measurements in light of the fact that Poland is the side of the U.S. In related news, a prototype for a new sports publication from the editors of The Wall Street Journal came out on Monday and features a piece arguing that Danny Ferry is a better basketball player than either Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O'Neal.
-In a May 11 obituary of the underappreciated Ted Joans, Michael E. Ross of MSNBC writes, "Recordings to which Joans, a trumpeter, contributed include 'Live at the Pan-African Festival,' ..." Technically that's all true as Joans did play the trumpet and he did appear on Archie Shepp's Live at the Pan-African Festival album, but it is misleading since Joans was reading poetry on that recording of performances from July 29 and 30, 1969, not blowing notes. (FWIW, two years ago Fuel 2000 released that recording along with Blase, which was recorded in Paris studio less than a month after Live at the Pan-African Festival and features expatriates trumpeter Lester Bowie, bassist Malachi Flavors and drummer Philly Joe Jones. Nothing in the linear notes or packaging of this combined release refers to the presence of Joans save for "t. joans, a. shepp" getting credit for the writing "We Have Come Back," the track that Joans appears on.)
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Somethings, like this, I don't need to read because they state the obvious. Some things, like this, are far more enlightening.
Monday, May 19, 2003
Update on "Mass starvation in Iraq?"
Seven days ago I linked to an Observer story that said the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization was planning to publicly comment on a new study it has conducted about the food situation in Iraq "by Wednesday" of last week. A check of the FAO's "newsroom" on their website shows no indication of such comments. (It does have an interesting release where former International Monetary Fund director Michel Camdessus is quoted talking about the 1.1 billion people in the world without "safe water" and was could be done about it.) A search on news.google.com for "food and agriculture organization" "iraq" also shows record of such comments.
Someone should tell Glenn Reynolds and MSNBC that the line is "use his brains and not his hands," not "“use his brain, and not his hands.” It would be a minor issue be we are talking about Steve Earle and a piece that was edited. I could talk about the rest of what Reynolds wrote but right now I'm too busying listening to Guitar Town.
Sunday, May 18, 2003
From the "can't say that I blame them" file, Newsweek writes, "U.S. military units have been breaking Saddam supporters with long sessions in which they’re forced to listen to heavy-metal and children’s songs."
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Friday, May 16, 2003
June Carter Cash
I first got into the music of Johnny Cash in June or July of 1994 through a radio broadcast of a brief performance of his. On his own the “walking contradiction” performed “Drive On” from his American Recordings (American) that had come earlier in the year and made Cash into the Tony Bennett or Tom Jones of the moment. With sparse accompaniment Cash then performed two of his signature songs, “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire.” The latter was both sentimental and unsettling. The rage and desperation of the song wasn’t expressed as a present day reality but neither was it something shoved into the background and chalked up to an “experience” or a “mistake.” It was part of life, albeit a part of life that is better left in the past.
June Carter wrote the song with Merle Kilgore as a means of expressing the love Carter felt for Cash, a man she had just recently met. Personal issues and problems kept the two from getting together for a few years, but Cash recorded the song on March 25, 1963 and it went to be a no. 1 country hit and peak at no. 17 on the pop charts. (Date and chart positions courtesy of the booklet that comes with The Essential Johnny Cash (Columbia, 1992).) More than that it further solidified Cash as a legend who sang songs about the darker side of life.
A member of The Carter Family who first performed as child, Carter married Johnny Cash in 1968 and became known as June Carter Cash. She performed with her husband regularly in the years that followed. In 1999 she released a solo album, Press On (Risk), to warm reviews. She also played an important role in Robert Duvall's rightfully acclaimed 1997 film The Apostle.
June Carter Cash passed away yesterday at the age of 73. Amidst all of her husband’s accomplishments hopefully history won’t forget her talents as a songwriter and a singer with a voice of energy and passion.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Joe Rexrode of The Lansing State Journal has interviewed the legendary Mateen Cleaves. It isn't exactly the greatest interview ever but it is Mateen.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Some Echoes of September 11 [,2001]
The “war on terror” is not yet two years old –it entered its 21st month just three days ago- and already seems to be losing momentum in the public's mind. In the last two months the United States has taken over Iraq with relative ease due to little resistance, but "Criticism," in the words of Alan Elsner of Reuters, "is mounting at the failure of the United States to find Iraqi nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs, with some experts raising questions about U.S. intelligence as well as the way the Bush administration justified the war." (Even Andrew Sullivan is bothered by this.) The Iraqi capital of Baghdad is experiencing what could be reasonably be called chaos and U.S. troops have reportedly been authorized to shoot Iraqi looters.
Yes North Korea and Syria might soon be targets but there doesn't appear to be much public or official enthusiasm for actions either and while anti-terrorism and terrorism prep work, such as this "dirty bomb" exercise that could possibly soon become all too relevant for reasons the Bush Administration probably isn't proud of, continues, they are decidedly not the glamorous side of the "war on terror."
Arguably nothing of late has invigorated the "war on terror" as a popular, or at least popular in the media, endeavor more than a shot from the other side - Monday's bombing in Saudi Arabia, which is suspected to be an al Qaeda operation and killed at least 34 people including nine bombers. Officials of both the Saudi and U.S. governments are reportedly wondering if this is the first in a new round of attacks. Mark Huband of The Financial Times reported yesterday that some in Saudi Arabia are speculating that Osama bin Laden may have played a key role in the attack. "Does terror ever end?" asks Nicholas M. Horrock of the UPI in a column published this afternoon.
Much of this is likely the shop talk of a culture where every five seconds requires a superficial explanation every five minutes, but there also can be no doubt that the impetus -an apparently highly organized attack against Saudi Arabia and the U.S.- is hardly fiction. The reality of the attack can be seen in the words of President George W. Bush. "We mourn the loss of life. These despicable acts were committed by killers whose only faith is hate," Bush said yesterday. "And the United States will find the killers and they will learn the meaning of American justice." This is good old fashion fire-and-brimstone you-hit-us-we'll-destroy-you material represents what I term the Revenge Impulse and a dramatic change from Bush's recent speeches about "war on terror," which have largely been filled with I term the Empire Impulse, as they are about using military force to achieve the relatively abstract goal of gaining greater security from entities that are implicitly assumed to not currently be a threat to the U.S.
Bush and those around him will likely milk the current atmosphere for all it is worth and, if they do, can pretty much count on increased support for whatever new action in the "war on terror" they decide to push.
Not everybody became focused on this bombing. Glenn Reynolds, for instance, has posted surprisingly little about it over the past few days. Amongst the more interesting of such posts are this one which links to this entry where Andrea Harris argues that discerning between terrorists is a mistake in a manner that should cause a collective smile from the Bush Administration. "One of the rubes bought it!"
In another post, Reynolds offers a assessment of the attack:
I think that this is a desperate effort by Al Qaeda to show that it can still do something. And the target audience is largely in Saudi Arabia and the Islamic world, not here. But the world has changed to their disadvantage. Against the backdrop of (false) security in the 1990s, stuff like this was big news. Now -- next to the war in Iraq -- this looks like small potatoes by skulking losers.Hey it worked on the Wizard of Oz.
At no point does Reynolds bring up the fact that he might be hoping that the Saudi Arabian government "fall to factions sympathetic to Al Qaeda" or his support last August of the idea that a U.S. victory over Iraq would "humiliate" Arabs and Muslims into submitting to the U.S.
Mass graves near Hilla, Iraq have been found, reports the BBC, which says, " Local volunteers say the remains of up to 3,000 people had been found so far, but estimates suggest there could be as many as 15,000 buried at the site."
"The U.S. government has known since May 3 about the existence of a mass grave in Hilla but has not taken action to protect the site," Human Rights Watch said in a statement released today. "On May 3, the mayor of Hilla requested assistance from U.S. marines to guard the site. On May 5, investigators for the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid (ORHA) reported to authorities in Washington that the grave had been inadequately protected, and recommended the creation of mobile forensic teams that could visit the site. On May 7, ORHA reported to Washington that the mass grave might contain several thousand bodies."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair says this finding justifies the war, reports Philip Webster of The Times.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
New act of terrorism
"Up to 10 Americans were among at least 29 people killed when suspected al Qaeda suicide bombers shot their way into housing compounds in the Saudi capital in the first big attack on U.S. targets since the Iraq war," writes Jonathan Wright of Reuters in a report from a couple of hours ago.
Terrorism "is a threat to the entire civilized world, and even in this moment of sadness, we will commit ourselves again to redouble our efforts, work closely with our Saudi friends, and friends all around the world to go after Al Qaida, to go after terrorists, to go after those who would kill innocent people, and to make sure that the scourge is lifted from the earth." Powell said today from Saudi Arabia where he was conducting official visits with Saudi officials. "The President has made it clear that terrorism is the number one priority for all of us. We will not rest until we have dealt with this threat to all of us."
And in a story from Saturday that is somewhat related and which I didn't see till FrontPage linked to it today, Patrick J. McDonnell of The Los Angeles Times reports that Saudi consular official Fahad al Thumairy was expelled from the United States when he tried to enter the country on Tuesday because he is believed to be tied to terrorists.
Then there is this news from Chechnya.
Monday, May 12, 2003
Mass starvation in Iraq?
"Iraqi agriculture is on the brink of collapse, with fears that many of its 24.5 million people will go hungry this summer, according to a confidential report being studied by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation," write Helena Smith and Ed Vulliamy in yesterday's edition of The Observer.
The report says the problems facing Iraqi farmers range from the destruction of irrigation networks to a lack of seed to plant to a lack of parts for the machines necessary for producing food, and looting has contributed to the situation, according to Smith and Vulliamy. Unfortunately the reporters do not address how bad the FAO thinks the situation could get and under what scenarios.
Smith and Vulliamy do say that the FAO is planning to publicly comment on these findings "by Wednesday." On April 28 the FAO said at least a third of Iraq's spring grain crop was "unscathed" by Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was presented as good news even though the organization warned of future problems.
The FAO has previously said that nearly half of the arable land in Iraq was located in the regions that were controlled by the Kurds before Operation Iraqi Freedom, and technically still are controlled by the Kurds, even those the distinction is nowhere near as important now. It will therefore be interesting to see what steps, if any, the "Occupying Power" takes to distribute the food produced on that land throughout the rest of Iraq.
(Iraq is by no means the only country that the FAO is worried about. For instance, last Wednesday they issued a report detailing the dire situation in much of sub-Saharan Africa.)
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Call it a comeback?
The Taliban is making a not exactly insignificant comeback in Afghanistan, reports Tony Karon in a May 6 piece for Time.
Hopefully this will work out for everyone involved.
I hope everyone who reads this had a good day today, which just happens to be Mother's Day.
Saturday, May 10, 2003
Although I hardly have a perfect record on that matter, I do believe that honesty is one of the most positive qualities a human can possess and that dishonestly with the intention to mislead is one of the most negative. This probably comes through in my entries where I critique the mendaciousness, or perhaps merely idiocy, of the Bush Administration.
It is with that in mind that I want to give them credit for acknowledging yesterday, in a draft resolution for the United Nations Security Council, that the United States and the United Kingdom are an "Occupying Power" in Iraq. In the lead up to this war the White House worked hard to avoid referring to what they wanted to do in Iraq as an "occupation" or saying that the U.S. was going to "occupy" Iraq. Instead they used the no doubt intentionally selected terms "liberation" and "liberate." While the idea that "liberation" of Iraqis was even one of the primary concerns of Team Bush is laughable, it may in fact happen as a result of their actions in a way no more imperfect than any "liberation" is. Still the “liberation” is undoubtedly coming through an “occupation” where the Iraqis have less control over at least some of their natural resources and media outlets than the “Occupying Power” does. In fact the draft resolution wants to institutionalize control by the “Occupying Power” over Iraqi oil and take that away from the U.N.
Friday, May 09, 2003
A few things need to be said about this.
First of all Schuett uses numbers that Matt Welch has argued were probably always too high and certainly have been two high for the last few years. And the figure that Schuett uses for the number of civilian deaths as a result of this war have been called into question by Josh Chafetz for overestimating the number of such deaths.
Additionally Schuett implies that the continuation of sanctions was the only alternative to war when in fact many opponents of the war were also opposed to sanctions.
Behind this assumption, is an idea that Schuett expressed in a response to yesterday's mth.blogspot.com entry and which is very popular in hawkish circles; that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein alone bears responsibility for the effect that sanctions had on the Iraqi people. Howard Fienberg of Tech Central Station expressed this idea relatively succinctly in a November 18 commentary:
If Iraqis' ill health, poverty and environment are merely the results of "war" and "sanctions," then it becomes the United States' fault, since they imposed these twin boogeymen on Iraq. But what if the boogeymen were just resulting from the actions of one person (whose last name does not end in Bush). Well, that would be too simple, wouldn't it?There is a major problem with this. Sanctions were first imposed on Iraq by the United Nations Security Council on August 6, 1990 in response Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. After Iraq had been repelled from Kuwait, the Security Council decided in an April 8, 1991 resolution to continue to place sanctions on Iraq for an undetermined amount of time and demanded that, amongst other things, Iraq eliminate all of the weapons of mass destructions it had, cease the production of such weapons and stop sponsoring terrorism. Although sanctions were supposed to be up for review based on Iraq's compliance with the demands placed on it, the U.S. made it clear that so long as Saddam was in power they would support the sanctions. "My view is we don't want to lift these sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power," President George H.W. Bush said in a much quoted comment from May 20, 1991. Similar views were expressed by officials in the Clinton Administration, and keep in mind that, as a permanent member of the Security Council, the U.S. could veto any move to lift sanctions. There appears to have been no way that sanctions could have been lifted so long as Saddam remained in power.
The removal of Saddam might seem like a reasonable demand and one that the U.S. and other members of the U.N. Security Council were forced to make, but in reality there was nothing qualitatively or quantitatively unique amongst his misdeeds. In fact, all five of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -the People's Republic of China, France, the Russian Federation (which on April 8, 1991 was the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom and the U.S.- have arguably engaged in similar activities at one point in their histories and certainly many other countries have engaged in similar activities since the founding of the U.N. and not been subject to such treatment. The implementation and continuation of sanctions on Iraq should therefore be understood not as something that had to be done but rather as a choice that was made by the Security Council and therefore that the U.N. Security Council bears much, if not most, of the responsibility for the effects of the sanctions.
Even if one believes that sanctions on Iraq were a necessary response to the misdeeds of Saddam's regime, it is nevertheless important to place responsibility for at least some of the effects of the response on those who responded as a way of ensuring an appropriate response to the misdeed. A response that is "proportional to the injury suffered" is one element of "the just war doctrine." While some may not agree with all elements of that theory, the fact that responses should "proportional" is generally accepted hence most societies do not believe execution is an appropriate punishment for petty offenses and country X would hardly be justified in attacking country Y with nuclear weapons because Y had violated an element of a trade agreement by X and Y. Similarly if the Security Council is not held responsible for how it responded to Saddam's misdeeds, then any response at all would be appropriate. The Security Council could have authorize the killing of every Iraqi and Saddam would have been responsible.
For the sake of the argument, let's say Saddam is responsible for the effects of sanctions on Iraq. It would seemingly also be true that he is responsible for putting the U.S. in a position where it needed to invade the country and depose of Saddam's regime. If that is true, then the "free Iraq" President George W. Bush has promised is also the work of Saddam. I doubt it is presumptuous to assume readers of this blog see the problem with such thinking.
None of this necessarily means that sanctions on Iraq were not just or that Saddam did not act in ways that prevented as much possibility relief for the Iraqi people as was possible. Those are issues for another time. However just or unjust the actions of the Security Council or Saddam were, the responsibility for the sanctions does rest with the Security Council.
After arguing that Saddam was to blame for all of the effects of the sanctions, and saying, at another point is the same entry this post is responding to, saying, "I don't understand how any can blame anyone but Saddam for those deaths," Schuett does in fact blame opponents of the stage of the war that would come to be known as Operation Iraqi Freedom for delaying the war and furthering hurting the Iraqi people. I'm not positive he is being sarcastic, but I will assume that he is, since it is at odds with what else he has said, unless I hear otherwise.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
U.S. Information Minister George W. Bush
Former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf has become the butt of many a joke in the United States due to his daily briefings during Operation Iraqi Freedom that didn’t correspond to reality. welovetheiraqiinformationminister.com, for instance, is filled with both actual quotes from Sahaf and pop culture parodies that have him denying that Enron has ever engaged in wrong doing and stating that Microsoft software don’t contain any bugs.
But while Americans like to laugh at the falsehoods peddled by the former government of Iraq, many seem perfectly willing to accept misleading and illogical statements from their president.
“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” George W. Bush declared Thursday evening on board the USS Abraham Lincoln, at sea off the coast of San Diego, California. In theory this announcement would be a significant event but it seemed more motivated by political considerations that on the ground conditions since nothing resembling “major combat” has been seen in Iraq in weeks and just hours before Bush’s speech Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a similar announcement about Afghanistan, a country where victory by the U.S. is generally seen to have been accomplished nearly a year and a half ago.
Just as the Bush Administration feels that it can declare wars over when it is convenient, they also apparently feel free to talk about when wars based on what serves their interests. Team Bush has alternated between saying that the war that is now known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is a continuation of Operation Desert Storm, as Bush did on March 17 amongst other times, and saying that Operation Iraqi Freedom is a continuation of the conflict that started on September 11, 2001. “The battle of Iraq,” the president said on Thursday, “is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on.”
Despite having said that the U.S. is still at war, Bush also talked on Thursday about how “we will defend the peace.” In an odd way, perhaps this makes sense in the context of Bush’s vision of a “war on terror” where the U.S. is constantly attacking other countries but expects no attacks against it.
Bush also talked at length about the precision capabilities of U.S. weaponry. “Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent,” Bush said while neglecting to mention the sanctions that the United Nations imposed on Iraq in a move the U.S. could have blocked, which last year were conservatively estimated to have played a role in the premature deaths of 100,000 Iraqis. I guess most of those deaths don’t fall under the timeline that Bush was using at the time, although by that standard it is hard to see why Bush thinks former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime was “aggressive.”
Although it goes without saying that the U.S. could never be aggressive, one has to wonder why Bush said on March 6 that “Across the world and in every part of America, people of goodwill are hoping and praying for peace” yet in this victory speech talked about how this was a war for freedom in Iraq and how “Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air.” If this is true, it seems impossible to imagine how a person “of goodwill” could not only oppose this war but not be pushing Bush to be using the U.S. military to “liberate” the people of all sorts of countries from oppressive governments, even if the Bush Administration has ties those governments.
Bush came across as nothing short of idiotic during a passage when he tried to assure whoever was paying attention that the U.S. did not aim to be an empire. “Other nations in history have fought in foreign lands and remained to occupy and exploit. Americans, following a battle, want nothing more than to return home. And that is your direction tonight,” Bush said to soldiers who cheered in response. I would like to believe they were just happy to be returning to the U.S. and didn’t actually fall for this logical fallacy, since the idea that some U.S. soldiers are returning form a foreign land mean the U.S. doesn’t have imperial goals makes as much sense as a prison warden saying, “We don’t incarcerate people. Just this morning two prisoners left here.” If that weren’t enough, Bush even talked earlier in the speech about the U.S. would be remaining in Iraq for at least a fair amount of time. None of this proves that Bush wants an empire, but it doesn’t do anything to disprove it either.
The president didn’t neglect to mention the weapons of mass destruction that may or may not have ever existed in Iraq. “We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated,” Bush said at one point. Later he added, “No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more,” which would be impressive if there was any reason to think Saddam’s regime had any intention of doing that.
Almost everything Bush said on the aircraft carrier was affected by how vague his administration has defined the “enemy” in the “war on terror.” The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on,” said the 43rd president of the U.S. on Thursday. ”That terrible morning, 19 evil men -- the shock troops of a hateful ideology -- gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions.” What this “hateful ideology” is exactly was left unclear in a way that makes it possible for just about any government or group the Bush Administration dislikes to be included. Quite possibly that is intentional.
I doubt the Bush Administration actually believes its own rhetoric. Bush may or may not be intelligent enough to figure out the problems with it, but surely some of those around him can. If they do believe it, they are idiots. If they don’t believe it, they are manipulators of the highest order.
This manipulation of logic and reality by an executive administration to fit the political needs of that administration is just the sort of thing U.S. citizens like to laugh at, if it comes from the government of another country. When it is coming from the President of the United States of America, however, a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that a majority of people in the U.S. have no problem with it.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Hard to believe
In the previous entry, "Team Bush got me," I wrote that I no longer believe the Bush Administration knew that Saddam Hussein's government possessed and/or was developing weapons of mass destruction before the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom but that I still suspected such weapons would be found.
Now it appears that the Bush Administration might not even expect to find them. "The Bush administration has admitted that Saddam Hussein probably had no weapons of mass destruction," writes Neil Mackay in Sunday's edition of the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Herald. "Senior officials in the Bush administration have admitted that they would be 'amazed' if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were found in Iraq. According to administration sources, Saddam shut down and destroyed large parts of his WMD programmes before the invasion of Iraq."
Nobody in the administration is quoted on the record and the report is a bit sketchy since it veers from news reporting to analysis in an awkward manner, so it is a bit early to take this report as the unqualified truth. Still if it turns out to be true, the Bush Administration should have a lot of explaining to do.
While verifying off the record comments is not an easy task to do, determining t.v. ratings and audience demographics is, which meant that Noy Thrupkaew of The American Prospect should be embarrassed for writing:
In this almost literally black-and-white world (Latinos, Asian Americans and other minorities don't seem to figure as strongly in TV execs' demographic obsessions), UPN looks the most poised to bridge the gap. The network already appeals to African Americans with sitcoms such as Girlfriends. And many of its shows -- Enterprise, [sic] WWE Smackdown! and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer -- probably draw some of the whitest audiences around.Actually there is reason to believe that Smackdown! gets plenty of viewers of color. In a March 11 press release UPN writes:
WWE SmackDown! continues to be UPN's highest rated show among total viewers and across virtually all key adult and male demographics. With an original SmackDown! 52 weeks a year, UPN ranks as the number one network on Thursday among male teens, and a solid third among persons 12-34 and young men, behind only CBS and NBC. It also has regularly made UPN's Thursday night one of the top destinations for African Americans and Hispanics, and is the most watched English-speaking television show among Hispanics.Now maybe everything in that paragraph isn't true but the idea is out there, and found with ease through a site you might have heard of called google.com, and Thrupkaew should not be casually making statements about things that could easily be looked up when he in fact probably doesn't have first-hand knowledge since I doubt the author has regularly watched television with even a sizeable chunk of the viewing audience in the United States.
Monday, May 05, 2003
Team Bush got me
As regular readers of mth.blogspot.com no doubt know, I don’t trust much of what the Bush Administration says when it comes to the “war on terror,” and I don’t understand how any intelligent person who has studied the situation can trust them even though many do. That said, up until the comment by Secretary of State Colin Powell that I noted on March 25, I has little doubt that the Bush Administration knew that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s government was in fact developing weapons of mass destruction and had solid intelligence on where such weapons were being developed, as President George W. Bush and friends implied and even sometimes said outright many times. I believed that falsely claiming to have such information was just too big of a risk for them to take, as the fallout would likely be very great if Saddam’s government was not in fact developing and/or possessing weapons of mass destruction.
I no longer believe the Bush Administration had such information.
It has been weeks since “major combat” in Iraq has occurred and the United States has been able to roam the country at will. If they had good information on where weapons of mass destruction were held and/or developed in Iraq, they would have been able to find some evidence by now. And if they had such evidence, they would be telling the world. At the very least they wouldn’t be leaving the “Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility” unsecured and in fact would make securing such facilities a top priority.
I still believe that Saddam’s regime was more likely than not developing and/or in possession of weapons of mass destruction and, if that was in fact the case, evidence of such programs will show up sooner or later. If and when such evidence is found, Team Bush will no doubt claim it as vindication and sadly most people in the U.S. will most likely agree.
Sunday, May 04, 2003
Yet another pointless title
A nice quiz has told me that I am the following Ralph Wiggum quote:
Saturday, May 03, 2003
It is true
Yesterday, in Santa Clara, California, President George W. Bush promoted his plan to boost the economy cutting federal taxes in a speech before employees of United Defense Industries Ground Systems Division, who produce a number of products for the military including the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
In related news, Bush plans to announce a new program of substance abuse treatment centers during a speech on Tuesday in front of the patrons at the legendary bar known as Cheers.
Friday, May 02, 2003
Most U.S. troops will be leaving Saudi Arabia
All U.S. troops besides some training personal are to be leaving Saudi Arabia, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday. Most will be going to Iraq.
Over the long term I believe that this will make the U.S. safer, or at least safer than it would be it had troops in both Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Still this will not eliminate al Qaeda's hatred of the U.S. as Saragon seems to think I should believe.
Saragon has argued that those who have said that removing troops from Saudi Arabia would lead to less hostility towards the U.S. should now believe "we've won the war against Al Qaeda. Completely and totally." This distorts the full argument that Saragon is countering. The presence of troops in Saudi Arabia has not been the sole grievance of al Qaeda against the U.S. The group is also opposed to U.S. actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel, and presumably would be opposed to the U.S. taking over any other country it sees as being an Arab and/or Muslim country. Furthermore the U.S. continues to support the Saudi Arabian government, which won't be very endearing bin Laden and those around him, if in fact bin Laden is still alive and/or in charge of al Qaeda. Furthermore the proverbial cat is already out of the bag. Al Qaeda already hates the U.S. Making the case for anything else is the equivalent of wondering why a person who smoked for 40 years has damaged lungs even though they quit five years ago.
Thursday, May 01, 2003
May Day Notes
There is a "road map" for "peace" in the Middle East. " Details of the plan have been made public," says the AP. "It calls for a ceasefire, a crackdown on Palestinian militias, an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and the dismantling of Jewish settlements erected since 2001. A Palestinian state with provisional borders could be established by year's end."
Whatever the situation, it doesn't look good to have U.S. soldiers killing Iraqi demonstrators.
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