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)
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Proof that I need to get a cd player for my car
Click here to read about, or even bid on, a "haunted doll" that is up on ebay.
I found out about this doll via the Coast to Coast AM with George Noory radio program, a talk show where any story about ghosts, unidentified flying objects and young female hitchhikers turning into bobcats is believed and if a caller had a dream about the humans who used to live on Mars leaving a wooden statue of humans behind before they left for Earth, it is assumed that astronauts will one day find the statue. As strange as all of this is, keep in mind that the program is still a few notches above Sean Hannity in terms of intelligent conversation.
Friday, April 25, 2003
World War IV
This may surprise some readers but I don’t think the Bush Administration’s “war on terror” has been a complete failure. There is still a threat and I certainly believe that a non-interventionist foreign policy would be the best protection, but U.S. President George W. Bush and friends have gone after al Qaeda –the only terrorist group that has the intentions of harming the U.S. and has shown that it at least had the ability to do so with great impact- with significant success and likely prevented at least several terrorist attacks against the U.S. And to the surprise of many including “micah holmquist,” they have done so without resorting to a police state.
While this is certainly impressive, it should be noted that the “war on terror” has not been solely about al Qaeda. Just nine days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks which marked the beginning of the “war on terror,” Bush was already talking about a war with “terrorism” as if it represented it was some sort of unified threat and not a tactic that could be employed by various groups with various intentions. True, Bush did focus on terrorism as growing out of Islamic fundamentalism –which hardly represents a unified entity itself- but the ultimatums were dressed in universal terms. “We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” Bush said in this speech before Congress. “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
If you doubt the universal nature of this “war on terror,” just look at the arrest last week in Iraq of Palestine Liberation Front leader Abu Abbas in Iraq. The U.S. military and Secretary of State Colin Powell have claimed this to be a significant step in the “war on terror” even though whatever else you can say about him, it is dead wrong to say Abbas was tied to Islamic fundamentalism or even much of a threat to anybody.
Even a war against “terrorism” is any and/or all forms was not ambitious enough for Team Bush, which also made the “war on terror” into a war for some level of U.S. control of weapons of mass destruction. In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union speech, Bush famously, and infamously, said states like Iran, Iraq and North Korea “constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists… We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction.”
As I argued in January 22's “The U.S. shouldn’t be preventing Iraq from possessing or developing weapons of mass destruction,” the Bush Administration was so successful on this front during the run-up to what would come to be known as Operation Iraqi Freedom that it was able to create a debate where Iraq merely possessing or trying to develop weapons of mass destruction amounted to a threat to the U.S. No evidence of intentions of using these weapons was needed. Now that victory has been achieved in Iraq, the U.S. is continuing to use this logic with regard to North Korea. “The issue for us,” State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said on Monday, “is how to achieve a verifiable and irreversible end to North Korea's nuclear programs.”
The problem with both of these angles of the “war on terror” is that they are unachievable.
The Cambridge International Dictionary of English defines “terrorism” as “(threats of) violent action for political purposes.” This has gone on throughout recorded history and will continue for at least the foreseeable future. A myriad of causes, goals and justifications can lead to terrorism and can be done by both large groups and a single person. It is for this reason that unlike say a war against communism or fascism where victory is achieved by denying state power to adherents of that ideology, a successful war against terrorism means defeating any and all individuals with the right skills and motivations. In other words, in a great big world, it can’t be done.
A war against weapons of mass destruction being in the wrong hands suffers from a similar problem. Neither the knowledge that weapons of mass destruction –which is to say biological, chemical and nuclear weapons- can be built nor the knowledge and materials necessary to build weapons of mass destruction will be disappearing and, in a world where military strength is likely to remain valued, this means that there will always be a risk that groups and states that the U.S. does not want to have weapons of mass destruction will obtain them by building them, or obtaining them from one of the myriad of countries that U.S. to not trying to deny these weapons to. For instance, France has nuclear weapons and while it is difficult to imagine France attacking the U.S. or aiding those who do want to attack the U.S., things can change. It is already to surreal to hear Powell saying, “…we have to take a look at the relationship. We have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of [France’s opposition to the U.S. taking over Iraq].” (And this is to say nothing of the possibility, however remote, that so long as the U.S. has weapons of mass destruction, it is possible that these weapons will fall out of the control of the U.S. Or that countries will actually increase their interest in developing weapons of mass destruction as a means of discouraging a U.S. attack.)
It was perhaps a mistake, albeit a deliberate one, for me to have called the impossibility of the U.S. winning on either of the two fronts of the “war on terror” a “problem” as it is not altogether clear if the Bush Administration sees things that way. The eagerness of at least some members of the Administration to use the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as a launch pad for unrelated actions –even if you believe that the now deposed government of Saddam Hussein was in some way connected to September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, you would have a hard time arguing that North Korea was connected-indicates that they want a series of wars and perhaps that they would be more than happy to see the “war on terror” become the norm.
I bring this up in light of a question raised by Saragon in response to my April 9 entry "Stream of consciousness rant about the war." Saragon wanted to know what I thought of the idea that the U.S. is engaged in worldwide war, that began on September 11, 2001 and/or was merely epitomized by that day- and that Iraq is merely a theater in that war against a broader set of opponents than merely al Qaeda. This idea has been popularized by John Hopkins professor Elliot Cohen, hawkish writer Norman Podhoretz and former Central Intelligence Agency directory James Woolsey, all of whom have labeled this conflict "World War IV." They say that this war will be more like the Cold War ("World War III") than World War I and World II because it will be a protracted conflict. Neither Cohen, Podhoretz or Woolsey seem particularly interested in the fact that the "enemy" in "World War IV" isn't clearly defined -isn't terrorism, terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, totalitarianism, authoritarianism or some combination of these "enemies"- whereas the enemy in the Cold War clearly was the Soviet Union and the countries allied with the Soviet Union, but it seems like an important point to me. Without a clear enemy, new and previously unrelated targets can be picked up along the way, which may in fact be the point.
The Bush Administration has officially expressed many points of this argument -most notably in last September's "National Security Strategy of the United States of America"- but has not adopted all of the terminology.
To the extent that the Bush Administration acts like they are in "World War IV," and they do act very much like is the case, the U.S. is fighting "World War IV." A country with a military as powerful as the U.S. military has the ability to start wars with just about anyone it wants and justify it in any it wants. In that sense, the U.S. is involved in "World War IV." However, it is mistake to entertain the popular notions that the U.S. is anything but the aggressor in this conflict..
Monday, April 21, 2003
"[A} day more"?
"[W]e will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more," U.S. President George W. Bush said on February 26.
"The United States is planning to establish up to four long-term military bases in Iraq," writes Toby Harnden in today's Telegraph. "Future arrangements depend largely on who takes over as leader of Iraq. However, Baghdad International Airport, Tallil in southern Iraq, the H-1 airstrip in the west and Bashur airfield in Kurdistan have been identified as potential bases."
Sunday, April 20, 2003
A note or two
I've just put up a new entry at micahth.diaryland.com. You'll have to read it to find out why.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Looking back, looking forward
"I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over," Major General Stanley McChrystal said of the war in Iraq on Monday.
With that, it is fair to say that at least the first stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom is over. There will likely still be less than "major combat engagements," but the concept known as "the war" is done, with the U.S. having prevailed far more easily than many people, including the author of this entry, thought it would.
What is perhaps most striking about this victory is how little is known about it and how many questions are in the air:
-What intelligence on Iraq did the U.S. have before the war started with regard to the weapons of mass destruction, the whereabouts of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, ties between Sadddam's regime and terrorist groups and the planned tactics of the Iraqi military? What were the sources of this intelligence?
-Why did Iraqi military fall so quickly and with so little of a fight? Is this the best they could have done?
-In the opening days of the conflict, there were reports that the White House was trying to negotiate a mass surrender of the Iraqi military. Was this actually the case? If so, who was the Bush Administration negotiating with and what were the issues raised in the negotiations?
-Will there be more reports such as this one saying that the U.S. military engaged in atrocities? If so, will they be substantiated?
-What happened to Saddam and many of those around him? If they are alive, where are they now and what did they do while the war was going on? Will the U.S. ever find out exactly what happened?
-Will the U.S. find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? If so, what will be the specifics and why did the Iraqi military not use them in the war?
-What links between Saddam's regime and terrorist groups and terrorists will be found?
-Will this war lead to a greater number of people being willing to attack the U.S. in order to get "revenge"?
-Who amongst the Iraqis, if anyone, will be tried for "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes"? What will be the specifics of these trials?
-What will be done with Iraqi oil? Who will benefit from it and in what ways?
-What sort of system of government and political culture will take hold in Iraq? What sort of civil, political and religious liberties will exist? Who will be allowed to participate in government and who won't be? How much influence will the U.S. government have? Will changes in Iraq spur changes in other countries in the Middle East?
-How long will U.S. troops stay in Iraq?
This list of questions is far from exhaustive. Some of the questions have definitive answers right now -although those answers aren't known- and some of the questions will only be answered with time. I thought about breaking up the list into two parts along those lines but decided not to since which questions are which is hardly an exact science.
Sunday, April 13, 2003
News that Tony Blair will be a guest star in an upcoming episode of The Simpsons makes me frown. Somebody should tell the BBC that George Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have not actually lent their voices to the show.
Saturday, April 12, 2003
From the no comment needed department
"...freedom's untidy," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday, "and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things, and that's what's going to happen here."
The Blog Archives of Micah Holmquist Sorted by Date:
Friday, April 11, 2003
Some things never go out of style. Stickers of Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes fame taking a piss on the name of something that you don't like are always a great addition to any man's pickup truck, for instance. Your buddies dig them because they show you aren't afraid to take a stand in a humorous manner. The ladies like them because they show that the driver is a bad boy that they love to love.
Seriously, yesterday I saw a Ford Ranger that had two of those stickers. On the right, Calvin was taking a leak on "Chevy." On the left, it was "Osama."
Take to time laugh sufficiently.
I can't help but imagine some rocket scientist on the morning on September 11, 2001 screaming about what the terrorists did to his or her country. "This is as bad as when I see a Chevrolet on the road," he or she might say.
I'd say the guy, or gal, who operates the pickup doesn't take the "war on terror" seriously enough if it wasn't for the fact that the U.S. military has distributed "playing cards" to troops with each card having a picture of a wanted Iraqi leader. The proprietor of the Ranger apparently has an attitude about the "war on terror" similar to what the military wants from the troops in Iraq.
I'm rather disappointed that these cards do not appear to be up for sale on eBay.
Thursday, April 10, 2003
I going to refrain from talking about Operation Iraqi Freedom as a done until it is a done for reasons that I hope aren't too difficult for people to grasp.
I going to refrain from responding to the most recent questions asked by Saragon in the comments responding to yesterday's "Stream of consciousness rant about the war" until tomorrow because I am really tired now and the questions deserve a well put together answer.
There are a number of interesting reports about Iraq.
Felicity Barringer and Neela Banerjee have looked at "Who'll Control Iraq's Oil?" for The New York Times.
Things are and could get even more interesting in and around Kirkuk, reports Daniel Williams of The Washington Post.
Click here for a look at the contents of Tariq Aziz's house courtesy of The Washington Post's Jonathan Finer.
Aid officials say "humanitarian disaster" could occur in Iraq if order is not soon restored, report Julian Borger in Washington and Nicholas Watt of The Guardian.
"We are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq. That the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is not in their interest," U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton reportedly said yesterday.
David Rees posted some great new get your war on strips yesterday.
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Stream of consciousness rant about the war
Some may be surprise to hear a Saddam Hussein lover like me saying this, but I'm glad that it appears the citizens of Iraq will be freer and have a better government. I figure the "war on terror" is going to end in so much disaster sooner or later that people should really try to get as much positives out of it as they can.
Americans will soon be honoring the Iraqi civilians who were killed or injured so that Iraq could be free. They will get parades and everything. Really.
Today, on his radio show, Sean Hannity was mocking those who warned that Saddam might use chemical weapons against the U.S. military if attacked. The funny part about this is if one is logically consistent and does not believe that there was any chance that Saddam would use chemical weapons against the U.S. even after being attacked, there is no reason to think Saddam was any sort of threat to the U.S. of A. And if one believes that, the best you could say about President George W. Bush on this matter is that he is wrong on his most prominent argument for war with Iraq. Hannity has not argued that point oddly enough.
Once Team Bush picks and publicizes a new target in this war without end, I have no doubt that those on the White House leash will say that this country will be at least as easy as Iraq to take over and the naysayers fail to realize how the great the U.S. is. Of course these people don' really believe that and try to apply that reasoning to their overall worldview. Otherwise they would be seeking to enlarge the military through reinstating the draft or some other means so that the U.S. could do more good around the world and they could once again say, "freedom isn't free!"
Bush has said he is going to focus more attention on the situation between Israelis and Palestinians once Iraq is taken care of. Soon he will be demanding that Israel end all settlements in Palestinian territory and grant Palestinians a state of their own or face the wrath of Uncle Sam.
You say we need a reason. "Freedom, democracy, liberty, security - take your pick," Bush would answer if he were being honest. "You realize we're making this shit up as we go along, right?"
You say you can' imagine the U.S. siding with the Palestinians over the Israelis. You are absolutely right and it is there that all of the lies about how the U.S. is fighting for "freedom" and against oppression become clear. It isn't about those things at all. It is about U.S. power and when a country enhances of even just does not threaten that power, it can do pretty much whatever the hell it wants.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
"defending our freedom"?
The term "freedom" is thrown around a lot in the United States. I believe this stems from the fact that "freedom" is generally understood as a positive quality in this country in and of itself and because the word has no concrete meaning in terms of policy decisions and thus is open to whatever interpretation a person's own politics give it.
The current stage of Uncle Sam's longstanding war with Iraq has given even greater currency to "freedom." Searches on Google News show it is regularly being said the U.S. military is "defending freedom," "defending our freedom," "protecting freedom" and "protecting our freedom" with its actions in Iraq. The Department of Defense even says that the military is "defending our freedom" in its form to send thanks to members of the military. Although he doesn't use these phrases, this argument was best summed up by Victor Davis Hanson of the National Review in an April 1 piece entitled "The American Way of War":
Americans always prefer to see brave young men fighting for ideals than pampered critics for a few minutes vomiting in public in San Francisco or staging die-ins on the pavement in Washington — before driving home to resume their comfortable lives only made possible by those sleeping now in the sands of Iraq.The message is clear. "Freedom" in Iraq is not the sole issue as the lives of normal Americans -which is to say the "freedom" that they enjoy- is being protected and defended by the U.S. military in Iraq.
Does this make any sense?
Obviously "freedom" would be an issue if Saddam Hussein's government had the power, either by itself and when working with others, prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom to take over at least part of the U.S. and install a more repressive government, but it didn't and nobody claimed that it did. The U.S. was going to stay free of Saddam's control so that argument is out the window.
It is reasonable to think taking over Iraq decreases the likelihood of terrorist attacks against the U.S. and that such attacks could lead to legistlation that further curtails "freedom." The two main problems with this argument is that it trusts the George W. Bush Administration to work indirectly to prevent the passage of such legislation when Team Bush is in fact firmly in favor of such legislation and it assumes that repressive legislation is a given if there are additional terrorist attacks -the possibility of which is hardly eliminated by the U.S. taking over Iraq.
A variant on the previous argument is that taking over Iraq reduces the risk of terrorist attacks and that increases the American public's "freedom from fear," which of course was one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms." This is the strongest of the arguments for saying that the U.S. military is "defending our freedom" in Iraq and yet I have a hard time taking it seriously, and not just because I suspect that taking over Iraq will create as many new dangers for the U.S. as eliminates. The U.S. is a culture where fear runs rampant hence the popularity of gated communities and private security firms despite a crime rate that is still relatively low compared to say a decade ago. Many, if not most, people in this country are so likely to give into fear that they were willing to accept the argument that Iraq having Weapons of Mass Destruction meant Iraq was automatically a threat to the U.S. that needed to be dealt with despite a lack of evidence that Iraq has tried to attack the U.S. since at least 1993. Getting rid of the Iraqi "threat" won't ease fears as the Bush Administration's plan appears to be to start talking about the "threat" posed by Syria or some other country once Iraq is considered under control. If people in the U.S. want "freedom from fear," at the very least they are going to have to stop supporting the Bush Administration's plans as the White House's goal is to have us living in fear.
None of the arguments for saying that the U.S. military is "defending our freedom" make sense but there is little doubt that the phrase will continue to be used to describe various stages of Bush's "war on terror." It sounds good and supports the individual stages of this war with no conceivable happy ending. And that apparently is enough for a phrase to become part of popular rhetoric.
After reading the three articles that Barbara Flaska links to here, I have strong doubts that humanity deserves to survive.
I bet somebody has already argued that pesticide should be considered a WMD.
UPDATE: I just found a message from TopOffers in my inbox with the subject line reading, "Show Your Patriotism...Support our Troops!" The body of the message includes an image you can here. 2:35 p.m. 04/08/03
Monday, April 07, 2003
blog note and such
I haven't been writing much about you know what here for two reasons. I've been very busy with a variety of things and just haven't had that much time to do much blogging at all. Also I have to question the value of much of the analysis that I could provide right now. Any that I give would largely be based on reports and assumptions that might turn out to not be true. That doesn't do much good for anybody and so I prefer to wait things out and comment on this stage of Bush's "war on terror" when more is known for certain. I haven't seen anything so far that makes me think my opposition to the U.S. taking over Iraq was wrong, FWIW.
The possibility of war with North Korea and/or continued moping by the economy does not bring a smile to my face. Nor does a dispute over who can sell Iraqi oil and the Red Cross saying that it can not keep an accurate count of the number of Iraqis wounded in the current battle because the number is too high.
Sunday, April 06, 2003
Click here for some serious takes on America's Great Journalism Institution.
Saturday, April 05, 2003
Hope you had a good Micah's Birthday Day
Yesterday was a fine birthday. I got a card from my mom with a picture of a chicken in the middle of a road on the cover. "To someone," the preprinted material on the inside of the card reads, "who gets a lot of mileage out of old jokes!"
I burst out laughing when I read that, although I'm still not sure if I understand all of the reasons why this message is amusing.
One thing I noticed for the first time in my life yesterday was that I'm not sure how I should respond when someone wishes me "Happy Birthday." On New Years or Valentine's Day one can just respond with the same form salutation, but it doesn't make any sense to wish someone "Happy Birthday" when it isn't their birthday. So I decided to respond with, "Happy Micah's Birthday Day." Nobody I ran into seemed to get the joke.
Last night I watched The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, 1938) on Turner Classic Movies. Truly this is a fantastic movie and interesting as a work of art for a variety of reasons, two of which I will touch upon briefly. The film came out not too long after the birth of super hero comic books -in fact it came out the same year that Superman made his debut- and the film bears a great similarity to that genre both in terms of the colorful and larger than life costumes and the use of unrealistic witty remarks as a way of punctuating the climactic moments of action scenes. The Adventures of Robin Hood was also a product of the times in that it is easy to imagine audiences during the Great Depression identifying with the downtrodden and oppressed Merry Men and wishing that there was a way to right the wrongs of the day or perhaps identifying Robin Hood as the equivalent of FDR in terms of being for the downtrodden and yet still respecting legitimate authority.
Friday, April 04, 2003
Lots of things have happened on April 4. A few of them are memorable. Elmer Bernstein (1922), David Cross (1964), Hugh Masekela (1939) and Muddy Waters (1915) were born on this day as was a certain Micah Timothy Holmquist (1977).
Yep today is my 26th birthday.
Unlike 365 days ago, I don't have anything profound to say. (Yes I called what I wrote then "profound." This morning I was quite surprised by how much of my development as a person was included in that entry.) The past 12 months haven't been more bad than good, but I am still alive and I have wished for the "courage" to kill myself enough times to know that just being alive is an accomplishment for me.
Thank you for reading.
Hendrik Hertzberg's "Collateral Damage" is the most interesting commentary I've read on the Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hertzberg once was Jimmy Carter's David Frum but he doesn't cut anybody any slack in this piece.
"Collateral Damage" is from the April 7 issue of The New Yorker, which also features Seymour Hersh's "Best-Laid Plans," which is fascinating even if the skepticism expressed in it about the U.S. military's ability to take over all of Iraq with ease doesn't appear the most relevant today. Prompted by Hersh's article, newyorker.com is featuring Peter J. Boyer's "A Different War," which appeared in July 1, 2002 issue of the print magazine and takes a look at a split between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's milieu and Army brass. That former wants the U.S. to emphasize air power in military campaigns while the latter for reasons involving both inertia and principle thinks it is a mistake to not consider ground troops to be at least as important. Hersh has been talking to high level military sources for over two decades, but I wonder how many of the anonymous sources that he gathered for "Best-Laid Plans" were prompted to talk to him because of this split. A philosophical dispute over tactics is just as likely to prompt members of the argument that is on "the losing end" to be overly pessimistic and skeptical as it is to inspire them to tell hard truths that they would otherwise have kept silent.
The April 7 issue also features a dispatch from Baghdad by Jon Lee Anderson. The piece is interesting but not terribly so. I'm mentioning it mainly as a way of recommending Anderson's 2002 book The Lion's Grave, which has a lot excellent reportage about modern Afghanistan.
In the Department of Things I find Laughable, Reuters writes, "British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday the United States had absolutely no plans to attack Syria and Iran, which have been warned by Washington over their alleged involvement in Iraq."
In the next paragraph we see that Blair is denying gravity or, to use Reuters' exact words, "In an interview with the Arabic service of BBC World Service Radio, Blair also said it was every bit as important to make progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it was to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein."
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Nick Denton has received a fair amount of praise for his plan to partition Iraq in order to avoid going into Baghdad.
I find his suggestion funny because it totally ignores the issue of Saddam being a threat and all, which I do believe had something to do with the stated reasons for this war, and because Denton doesn't explain if this will "humiliate the Arab world" to the necessary level.